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ANIME REVIEW: “The Last: Naruto the Movie”

ANIME REVIEW: "The Last: Naruto the Movie"


The Last: Naruto the
Movie
(2014) is the seventh and most effects-heavy feature based on the
popular Naruto Shippuden series (it’s
the 10th film in the overall Naruto
continuity). Naruto Uzumaki (Maile Flanagan), everyone’s favorite ninja and
knucklehead, has grown up. Now in his early 20’s, he’s teaching at the Academy
where he used to goof off and cut class. The lonely orphan has adoring students
and fans. While Naruto may have grown older, he hasn’t exactly matured. He’ll
never be the sharpest kunai knife in
the arsenal, but he retains his kind heart, his mastery of arcane Ninja skills
and his ferocious loyalty to his friends.

All those qualities are put to a monumental test when the
ghostly Toneri (Robbie Daymond) kidnaps Hinata’s younger sister Hanabi (Colleen
O’Shaughnessey). Toneri plans to destroy the Earth, which he sees as the corrupt,
debased embodiment of the failed plans of the Sage of the Six Paths. Toneri interferes
with the orbit of the moon, causing meteors to bombard the ninja villages,
presaging a collision between the celestial bodies. To complete this grandiose
plot, Toneri needs the Byakugan, a magical power that resides in the eyes of
members of Hinata’s clan.

Naruto and Hinata (Stephanie Sheh) set out to rescue Hanabi,
joined by three of the Hidden Leaf Village’s most skillful warriors: medical
ninja Sakura (Kate Higgins); Sai (Ben Diskin), who creates magical creatures
from his drawings; and Shikamaru (Tom Gibis), who can use shadows as weapons.
In the course of their mission, the ninjas travel to the moon via a
supernatural cavern. During that voyage, Naruto revisits many of his memories
of Hinata and director Tsuneo Kobayashi uses flashback sequences to fill in the
backstory of Toneri’s mad plot.

While the inhabitants
of the ninja villages try to destroy and/or escape the terrible rain of
meteors, Naruto and his friends are fighting to block Toneri’s machinations. Kobayashi
pulls out all the stops in a series of over-the-top battles that involve
explosions, murderous dolls, bursting meteors, a stone warrior, explosions, blasts
of chakra energy, moonquakes, Sai’s magical brushstroke figures and more
explosions.

Naruto and Hinata combine forces to destroy Toneri’s
formidable weapon, the Tenseigan. Toneri’s boast that Naruto’s attacks can
never touch him is disproved when one of Naruto’s punches blasts him into a
stone wall. As is often the case in the
Naruto
adventures, his enemy is reformed, rather than destroyed: A humbled
Toneri declares he will remain on the moon to do penance for his evil actions.

The struggle against Toneri provides a flamboyant backdrop
for the development of the awkward romance between Naruto and Hinata. Hinata is
painfully shy about her feelings (as anime heroines often are), and a hand-knit
scarf becomes the embodiment of long-suppressed love. Many fans objected when
Naruto ended up with Hinata, rather than Sakura, on whom he nurtured a crush
through scores of episodes, just as J. K. Rowling received complaints when
Harry Potter married Ginny, rather than Hermione.

Despite the romance, The
Last
doesn’t pack quite the same emotional punch as the last Naruto feature, The Road to Ninja. That film explored Naruto’s loneliness as an
orphan rejected by the people of his village, and his complicated feelings for
his heroic parents who saved the Village Hidden in the Leaves—but at a terrible
price. His maladroit courtship of Hinata feels genuinely warm and completely in
character; Sakura and his other friends lament that he’s “so dense” about
Hinata’s obvious feelings for him. But serious romance is a late addition to
the Naruto story. His feeling for
Hinata didn’t forge the character audiences know and love: his troubled
upbringing did.

Viewers should be sure to watch the short tailpiece that
follows the credit crawl on the disc: It sets up the next feature Boruto: Naruto the Movie, which is slated
for North American theatrical release later this fall.

The Last: Naruto the Movie Viz:  $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD combination

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