ANIME & MANGA - Review
13:54 - 25th February 2015, by NEO Staff

Naruto Shippuden The Movie 5: Blood Prison

The newest of Naruto’s not-quite-canonical adventures sees him being incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit – a daring attempt on the life of the Raikage, leader of the Cloud Village. Despite Naruto’s protestations, he gets locked up in the supposedly impenetrable Hozuki Castle. Guarded by a fearsome warden and with his chakra sealed away, it’s up to the noodle-loving ninja to clear his name and beat up the scoundrel who framed him.

Previous theatrical iterations of the Naruto world have often felt like low-stakes adventures with little to grab the viewers’ attention, and in some ways, that trend holds true with Blood Prison. Anime viewers young and old alike know that, when it comes to a movie from a long-running manga adaptation, there’s little to no chance of anything happening that’s going to add to the story in a lasting way, and in this regard Blood Prison is no different.

Despite this, it does avoid a lot of the pitfalls that non-manga-based storylines have plummeted into before. The story moves quickly, establishing the premise within the first few minutes of the movie, and getting straight into the main events. The mysterious characters grab your curiosity as soon as they’re introduced, the villains prove their menacing ruthlessness right off the mark, and there’s no stalling for time before Naruto and his new allies among the inmates begin trying to make their escape.

Blood Prison definitely has a more developed plot than some of its predecessors, with more twists and turns than the usual ‘defeat the flavour-of-the-month evil ninja’ storyline. All of the new characters seem to know more than they’re letting on, and ulterior motives run rampant. Most of these revolve around a mysterious magical box, which is said to grant any wish, or (in typical shonen style) simply give the one who opens it unimaginable power. Unfortunately, after this aspect of the story is revealed, the intriguing ninja prison break shenanigans seem all but forgotten, and what could have been a fresh new type of adventure for Naruto rapidly goes back to familiar ground, the last third of the movie being nothing but a single – though incredibly spectacular – battle scene.

That said, the climactic clash benefits greatly from the movie’s length. It’s much easier to get invested in an action sequence that isn’t divided into 20-minute chunks aired over the period of a month, and it keeps the pacing as swift towards the end as it was at the beginning. Although a lot of the formerly well-rounded plot goes out the window as soon as the fighting starts, it’s still a very well-choreographed set of scenes, and practically the whole cast of Konoha ninja pitch in to lend a hand, so you’re bound to see a favourite character or two doing something awesome.

However, Naruto devotees might find themselves spending much of the movie attempting to figure out just when exactly this movie is supposed to take place. Major plot points from the main storyline seem to be ignored or just made non-existent for the sake of convenience, and though it does mean that the movie can bring all the characters into the action whenever it would be most exciting, it ends up being a little puzzling when trying to fit it into the series as a whole.

It doesn’t quite match up to some of the huge events currently taking place in the series, but Blood Prison certainly gets points for trying to do something new. What could have easily turned into a drab and uninspired excuse to spin another movie out of a popular franchise manages to tell a story with a few surprises and a compelling scenario. If you’re a fan of the series but you’ve yet to try any of the movies, this would be a good one to start with.

It sometimes promises a little more than it delivers, but Blood Prison is a step in the right direction for the Naruto movies.
SCORE: 3.5/5
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