So the first Naruto movie has finally made it to UK shores. It comprises of an original plot, some new characters, a few great fight scenes and that classic Naruto humor; but is it as great as we hoped it would be? Well… Not really.
The movie starts with Team 7 (Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura) being assigned an A-Rank mission by their sensei, Kakashi – to protect Yukie Fujikaze, a famous actress playing a Princess, as her film crew journey to the Land of Snow to film the climatic ending to their latest blockbuster. Early on, it is revealed that Yukie is, in fact, a real Princess. When she was young, her Uncle (a man called Doto) murdered her father the King, and in doing so took the throne. Yukie was rescued and taken far away (the ninja that rescued her will look familiar when you see him) and lived all those years since, without once returning to the Land of Snow. The movie revolves around Yukie, the several ninja trying to capture her, and her people, who are urging her to overthrow Doto and take back the throne.
The animation was great. I could really see the difference in quality between the series and the movie. It was 3D too, which definitely made some parts seem a lot more realistic. At one point towards the end, the ‘camera’ pans out, and shows fields of countryside at different levels, allowing you to see the full effect of this. The film crew humorously shout, ‘Hey! We’ve filmed this movie in 3D!’
Sound-wise, some people are annoyed by the fact that there are only a few original songs in the movie, with nearly all the music being ripped straight from the series soundtracks. I didn’t really notice though. The music in Naruto is awesome, why change it for the movie? I think the fact that they left it as it is makes for a greater effect.
At the cinema I went to, they gave us the choice of seeing it in English or Japanese, and as most of the audience was made up of 12 year-old girls, they of course went for the English dub. I think that on the whole, the Naruto English dub is pretty decent, although in the series I do have problems with the voice-actors for one or two characters (*ahem* .. Bushy Brows.. *cough*) -I didn’t have any problems at all with the film dub though, it was fine.
One big problem for me was that it just didn’t feel like the series. Sure, it has the music and the humour and everything, but it still felt a bit… separate. It felt more like a Christmas Special than a movie. It is set in the unfamiliar Land of Snow, with almost a completely new cast of characters. The only characters we’ve seen before are Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke and Kakashi. The rest are all new and, sadly, only two or three actually develop. One of the ninja trying to capture Yukie is pointed out as an enemy from Kakashi’s past, and a big deal is made out of this but we never actually learn his significance. There are two very short fights between him and Kakashi and that’s the end of it.
In my opinion it would have been so much better if it had featured more ninja from the Hidden Leaf village. At one point in the movie Naruto recalls the other ninja (Rock Lee, Shikamaru, Kiba, etc), and when we see that flashback for a second it really feels like true Naruto. It’s such a shame they weren’t included, this film could have been great if they were. On the plus side, the relationship between Naruto and Yukie is very interesting, and there is a strong personality clash between them, which develops as the plot goes on. At the start Yukie is depressive and pessimistic; but after a while, just as it has done so many times in the series, Naruto’s determination begins to rub off on her and their relationship deepens.
The fight scenes are one of the best things about Naruto. They’re full of action, they last ages, and they’re just… awesome. But sadly, although the movie is quite action-packed, there are only about three big fights in it – and the one-on-one battles are so short it’s not funny. In the film trailer we see Kakashi performing his Chidori, and Sasuke performing his fire jutsu; and on the movie poster we see Naruto performing his Rasengan – and that’s the three main fights right there. Although they are totally awesome, they’re just too short! Where are the breathtaking one-on-one battles the Naruto series is recognised for?
Overall, I found the Naruto movie very enjoyable, although it does have some setbacks. Like I said at the beginning, the classic Naruto humour is definitely there, and no doubt, if you’re a Naruto fan it’ll make you laugh. Yukie’s character is developed brilliantly as the movie goes on, and although most of the new characters didn’t really develop, Naruto was kept in character and he really owns the stage in this movie. Naruto the Movie is entertaining, but it’s short-lived, which is a real shame because it could have been so much better – but it’s just not as good as the series. Ah what the hell, if you’re a fan you’ll buy it anyway.