ANIME REVIEW: “Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Rasengan Collection” – Animation Scoop

ANIME REVIEW: “Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Rasengan Collection”

With more than 220 million books of the manga in print—about half the total of the “Harry Potter” series, sales of tens of millions of DVD and Blu-ray discs, as well as countless consumer products, Naruto has become a global phenomenon.

In Japanese folklore, some evil spirits grow multiple tails as they age and their powers increase. Twelve years before the story opens, a terrible nine-tailed fox demon nearly destroyed the ninja settlement of the Hidden Leaf Village. Minato, the Hokage or village leader, gave his life to imprison the demon in the body of his new-born son Naruto. As a result, Naruto Uzumaki grew up an orphan and an outcast: Troubled and troublesome, he nearly flunked out of the ninja academy.

Masahi Kishimoto, the creator of the original manga, said in an interview, “Perfect heroes are cool, but no one can really empathize or identify with them. Naruto often makes blunders, and he has weaknesses…I think readers see themselves in Naruto and that’s what appeals to them: They can empathize with him and his weaknesses.”

The first Naruto TV series (2002) ran for 220 episodes. In the sequel, Naruto Shippuden (2007), which ran twice as long, Naruto matured—a little. A classic come-from-behind kid, he learned difficult jutsu (magical techniques) and how to draw on the chakra (spirit-energy) of the demon imprisoned within his body. If he remains something of a grinning goof-off and self-proclaimed knucklehead, he’s also generous, valiant and devoted to his friends.

The four features in this collection, which are tied to the later Naruto Shippuden program, are more entertaining than the earlier films, offering adventures that wouldn’t work as television arcs.

In Naruto Shippuden–the Movie (2007), evil ninjas employ black magic to resurrect the spirit of the demon Moryo. If Moryo’s body is similarly resurrected, he will destroy life on Earth as humans know it. Shion, the priestess of the Land of Ogres, must keep Moryo’s body sealed within a hidden temple, with Naruto and his friends protecting her. Director Hajime Kamegaki uses CG to create a terracotta army modeled on the statues found in Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. The battle with clay automatons provides real visual excitement, although the media don’t always blend seamlessly. Kamegaki balances the dire threats with plenty of physical comedy.

Of the four films, Bonds (2008) has the most complicated plot. The film opens with the Hidden Leaf Village under aerial assault by ninja from the Land of the Sky, a group that was nearly wiped out many years ago. Their attack in chakra-powered, one-man flying machines recalls sequences in several of Hayao Miyazaki’s films. Naruto, Sakura and Hinata are sent to aid Shinnou, a skillful doctor, and his apprentice, Amaru. At the same time, the evil Orochimaru, whose body is failing, sends Sasuke after Shinnou. The story grows increasingly baroque as Naruto faces off against a megalomaniacal king; No-Tails, a dark beast that feeds on anger and hatred; and the flying fortress of Ancor Vantian. Although director Hajime Kamegaki presents some exciting visuals, the film feels overly talky and needlessly complex.

In The Will of Fire (2009), the sinister Hiruko strives to achieve virtually limitless power. His plot involves kidnapping Naruto’s nutty mentor Kakashi-Sensei. Ignoring the plans of his commander, Lady Tsunade, Naruto charges into action. His unwavering belief in the ninja tenet, anyone who disobeys an order is scum, but anyone who deserts his friends is worse than scum, causes problems for his responsible friend Shikimaru, who’s supposed to stop him. Shikimaru struggles over whether orders or friendship take priority, but Naruto’s Will of Fire carries the day. Director Masahiko Murata pits Naruto and his friends against chimeras, monsters and evil ninjas in a spectacular finale.

The Lost Tower (2010) sends Naruto to Loran, a ruined city built over the Ley Line, a powerful stream of chakra energy. Mukade hopes to use the energy from the stream to power a puppet-army that will conquer the Five Great Ninja Nations. When Mukade unseals the Line, a chakra explosion sends Naruto into the past, when Loran was a mighty city-state. To defeat Mukade, Naruto joins forces with Sara, the Queen of Loran, and four warriors from the Hidden Leaf Village: Minato, Choza, Shibi and a younger version of Kakashi-sensei. The ensuing battle is spectacular, although Mukade’s puppets recall the clay army in the earlier film. Once Naruto and his allies re-seal the Ley Line, time begins to correct itself. As they part, Naruto realizes Minato is his father, a man he never knew. The Lost Tower has less humor than the other Naruto features, so Murata adds the slapstick short Naruto and the Three Wishes.

For Naruto’s myriad fans, the Rasengan Collection is a must-have—and an excellent holiday gift choice.

Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Rasengan Collection
Viz: $27.16 4 discs, Blu-ray

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen, and The Making of Peanuts Animation. Solomon's "The Art of Toy Story 3" will be published by Chronicle this spring.
Charles Solomon
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