ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:00 - 19th April 2014, by David West

Naruto Shippuden: The Movie 4

On the trail of a rogue ninja called Mukade, who uses a powerful puppet jutsu, Naruto and Team 7 pursue their target into the ruined city of Laron. There, Mukade activates a Ley Line that channels a huge stream of chakra, creating an energy vortex that sends both the villain and Naruto back in time. Arriving in Loran before the city fell to ruin, Naruto comes to the aid of young Queen Sara, whose life and reign are under threat from her ambitious adviser Anrokuzan. But Naruto is not the only shinobi from the Hidden Leaf Village in Loran.

Director Masahiko Murata returns for another feature length outing with Naruto following on from The Will Of Fire, which is cheekily referenced in the script. The Naruto movies always benefit from higher production values than those found in the TV series, but while the films are always solidly entertaining, they tend to be good rather than great. The Lost Tower looks terrific. The design of the city of Loran is marvellous, which huge towers reaching up to the sky linked by elevated walkways. The architecture is richly detailed, showing gothic and byzantine influences and a dash of Fritz Lang's Metropolis that make the city a delight to explore. The animation is excellent and the script affords a glimpse of several key characters in their youth, including Guy Sensei and Kakashi. Perhaps the biggest hook for Naruto fans will be the appearance of his father, Minato Namikaze, who is leader of a trio of shinobi on a mission inside Loran that brings them into contact with Naruto. Will father and son recognise each other?

Queen Sara narrowly avoids being reduced to 'Damsel In Distress' status by taking an active role in the defeat of the villain's nefarious plot, but there are several scenes in which Naruto has to leap to her rescue. The franchise has always been big on action and The Lost Tower doesn't skimp on that score. If anything, the fight against the big bad guy goes on perhaps too long, as he lumbers doggedly after Queen Sara while the Hidden Leaf shinobi struggle to halt his advance. Naruto gets knocked down so many times, and with such force, that it starts to beggar belief that he is able to keep on fighting. He's always been tough, but seems almost invulnerable here.

Team 7 only have very peripheral roles, appearing just at the very beginning and conclusion of the adventure, so fans of Sai and Sakura may be disappointed by the brevity of their involvement.

The release includes a 14-minute short called Naruto And The Three Wishes. This takes place pre-Shippuden, so Naruto is still a young lad hanging out with Sakura and Sasuke. Enjoying a day at the beach, they find a bottle containing a magical genie who will grant three wishes and soon everyone is fighting over who gets one. It's all played strictly for laughs, and despite being terribly silly, it is still undeniably fun.

The wait continues for a truly epic Naruto movie, but these offshoots to the main series are big on spectacle, cool design work and plenty of action. The meeting between Naruto and his dad is surprisingly underplayed - there is no heart-string tugging 'You're my father!!' reveal - instead Naruto is characteristically unaware of the significance of the moment. Aww, bless.
SCORE: 3/5
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