ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:00 - 5th October 2013, by David West

Naruto Shippuden: Movie 3 - The Will Of Fire

The very existence of the Hidden Leaf Village is at stake when a rogue ninja called Hiruko kidnaps ninja from four other villages who possess the Kekkei Genkai - powerful jutsu passed down within particular clans. To complete his scheme, Hiruko needs one more Kekkei Genkai, and he has set his sights on Kakashi Sensei's Sharingan.

The Will Of Fire makes no concessions to any possible newcomers to the franchise. It jumps straight into the plot without worrying about providing background information to the world of Naruto. The regular supporting cast of the series all make appearances, so anyone unfamiliar with the roster will likely be overwhelmed by the number of characters darting in and out of the proceedings. The biggest weakness on this front is in the failure to provide any depth to the members of Hiruko's squad of villains, none of whom are ever referred to by name in the script. They are more plot devices than characters, existing to provide opponents for the Hidden Leaf ninjas to fight. Their designs are rather generic as they all sport bondage style outfits - which is anime shorthand for evil.

While the designs are lacklustre, the production values and animation are excellent, noticeably a considerable step up from the TV series. There is plenty of attention to detail in backgrounds and locations. A particular highlight on the animation front is a nocturnal scene in which the light changes as clouds cross in front of the moon. But while the movie looks great, the script is not watertight. Besides neglecting to name Hiruko's lackeys, the movie relies on having Hiruko explain his villainous scheme without the slightest prompting to set up the plot. He has an unfortunate habit of launching into monologues. The script retro-fits the character into the history of the Hidden Leaf and viewers would be forgiven for thinking, 'Why haven't I heard of this guy before if he was childhood friends with Tsunade, Jiraiya and Orochimaru?' Mind your own business. That's why.

Naruto has always been a show that likes to add a moral to every story and this is no exception. One of the series recurring themes is the importance of friendship and that is played out as Kakashi undertakes what appears certain to be a suicide mission to defeat Hiruko. While the Hidden Leaf ninjas are ordered not to interfere, Naruto refuses to stay at home while his friend and sensei is in danger because he knows that while breaking the ninja code by disobeying Tsunade is bad, abandoning his friend is worse. So the message here is that friends are great. News to no-one.

The action scenes, always a staple of Naruto and a reliable highlight of the series, benefit from the improved production values with smooth animation, fun monsters to battle and plenty of exotic jutsu powers on display. Finally, we have to note it is always a treat whenever Sakura gets to kick butt. There's something amazing about a girl with pink hair in full on 'Hulk Smash' mode.

The Will of Fire looks sharp and has plenty of action, including an all-too brief Naruto versus Gaara rematch, but the script rushes along a little too quickly to pack a really hefty emotional punch. It is fun while it lasts but, like villain of the week Hiruko, it may not linger in the memory very long once over.
SCORE: 3/5
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