ANIME & MANGA - Review
10:57 - 14th January 2016, by David West

Naruto The Movie: Road To Ninja

Following a confrontation with the villainous Madara Uchiha, Naruto and Sakura find themselves in an alternate version of the Hidden Leaf Village where no one is quite how they should be. The normally shy and sweet Hinata is ferocious and aggressive, while the usually stuck-up Ino is kind and friendly. Tactical genius Shikamaru is a goofball and the always irrepressible Guy Sensei has absolutely no get-up-and-go at all. More confusing still, Sakura’s parents are dead but regarded as heroes by everyone in the village, while Naruto’s parents Minato and Kushina are very much alive.

It’s an unspoken rule of franchise movies that they have to make sure to put the status quo back the way they found it by the time the credits roll. Previous Naruto movies have always been fun and entertaining, but careful to never rock the boat. Road To Ninja is not the exception to the rule, but might well be Naruto’s finest feature to date, thanks to an interesting concept that really gets to the heart of the character. Naruto has always been defined by his outsider status within the Hidden Leaf community and by the loss of his parents. In this alternate world where they never perished fighting the Nine Tails, Naruto has the chance to experience the family life he has always wanted, even as he knows it is all an elaborate trap set by Madara. There is a particularly effective scene when, following a near-miss during a battle, Kushina rushes to embrace her son and try as he might, Naruto can’t resist the urge to return the hug. The heartstrings are well and truly plucked. Kushina is a great character, a fiery redhead with an explosive temper of epic proportions; the scene when a sulking Naruto refuses to come out of his room for supper is definitely a comic highlight. Sakura, meanwhile, finds herself in a world without her parents who, in the tradition of teenagers everywhere, she has always considered deeply annoying and embarrassing. No prizes for guessing what arc her emotional journey follows, but it’s still refreshing to see a Naruto movie that puts so much emphasis on exploring what makes these characters tick, rather than just introducing a new villain of the hour and having lots of noisy fight scenes. That’s not to say there is a lack of action; the script by Yuka Miyata from a story by creator Masashi Kishimoto serves up regular doses of ninja combat, and there is a particularly explosive climactic battle that involves an unexpected twist in the identity of Naruto’s opponent. It’s a shame that Sakura is reduced to being held hostage during the big showdown. She is always at her best when she’s smashing things, not waiting to be rescued by Naruto.

Director Hayato Date is a franchise regular who directed the feature Ninja Clash In The Land Of Snow, and he keeps the pace lively while the animation is clear and crisp. But for the next movie, more Sakura butt-kicking please!

Road To Ninja may not advance Naruto’s central plot – and Madara is still on the loose, free to hatch more evil schemes by the tale’s end – but this is a great exploration of both Naruto’s and Sakara’s personalities. And it offers a warning to the two young ninja – be careful what you wish for…
SCORE: 4/5
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