As loyal fans of the 15-year-old manga mourn the end of an epic Shinobi journey, writer Masahi Kishimoto announced the release of yet another Naruto movie – The Last: Naruto the Movie. Despite featuring stunning animation, a brilliantly crafted soundtrack, and a hilariously love-clueless Naruto, perhaps the crowning achievement of the tenth Naruto movie was its efforts to fill the ‘vacuum’ of the unexplained relationship between Naruto and Hinata – an unprecedented attempt to weave a meticulously sketched love story into the typical ninja conflict.
Set in Konoha two years after the Forth World War, The Last: Naruto the Movie centres around an approaching Armageddon – the moon approaching dangerously near to Earth.
The Shinobi nations stand in the eye of the storm. Efforts to counter the phenomenon are hamstrung as the Five Kages struggle to unravel the cause. Following the kidnap of Hanabi Huyga, Naruto and his team are deployed to hound the enemy’s trails and investigate an unusual underground space where a strange curse mark is inscribed.
The movie follows Naruto’s dogged pursuit of the antagonist Toneri Otsutsuki whilst an extraordinary masterplan threatens to turn the Shinobi world into an unmitigated disaster.
For me, The Last: Naruto the Movie saw its fair share of setbacks. While it is understandable why the producers would prefer a lucid storyline to accentuate the protagonists’ love story, I failed to appreciate the simplicity of the conventional ‘save-the-world’ theme. It was dry, draggy and almost too predictable. The poor development of the antagonist’s character also resulted in an underwhelming portrayal of what could have been a noteworthy villain in the Naruto series.
Furthermore, I found myself laughing in exasperation at the amount of screen time dedicated to Hinata’s endless and overzealous knitting of a scarf for Naruto – whether it was at home; in search of the enemy’s territory; in an abandoned village; a forest camp or right in front of an oblivious Naruto, the poor girl knitted on and on.
In contrast, remaining key characters of the Naruto manga were apportioned significantly less screen time. Given that the movie marketed itself as an account of ‘the blank period’ for the key characters, the lack of emphasis on their character development was disappointing for me. Against the backdrop of a manga draped in a glorious cloak of epic battles, moving friendships and enduring storyline, the movie paled drastically in comparison.
In the end, what truly redeemed the movie for me, albeit these flaws, was the overwhelming sense of nostalgia as I watched the characters come to life before me once more. Admittedly, I am one of the recalcitrant fans reluctant to see the manga come to an end – after all that daily refreshing on online manga websites in hope that a new chapter was released, it almost felt as if I lost a friend. Coming at the cusp of the manga’s end, the movie undoubtedly stirs fond feelings of familiarity.
As I watched the movie’s skilful portrayal of Naruto’s development from an unruly, reckless child into a mature and heroic Hokage, I found myself leaving the theatre with very affectionate recollections of how far Naruto has come, and an irresistible urge to space out some free time to re-read the manga.
The Last: Naruto the Movie implores its audience to find a measure of reconciliation, recognising the overarching theme of love, and that warm fuzzy feeling as one indulges in the original manga. I can’t say that I loved the movie, but I am definitely looking forward to more Naruto productions.
Check out the movie’s trailer below:
Special thanks to ODEX for the media screening invite! You can book your tickets for the general screening this 12th March HERE.