ANIME & MANGA - Review
10:22 - 24th February 2016, by David West

The Last: Naruto The Movie

Love is in the air in The Last: Naruto The Movie. And so is the moon, which is about to crash into the Earth and cause the annihilation of all mankind. Unless of course Naruto can save the day.

The Last takes place two years after the conclusion of the Fourth Great Ninja War. Naruto, a little older, none the wiser, is hailed as a hero in the Hidden Leaf Village, where he finds himself the unlikely object of adoration for many of the Leaf’s young ladies. But there’s one girl who has always carried a torch for the brash younger ninja – Hinata has adored Naruto from afar ever since they were children. Now she has knitted a scarf to present to Naruto as a token of her hitherto unspoken feelings, if only she can muster up the courage to hand it over.

Unfortunately, her declaration has to wait when a stranger appears and kidnaps Hinata’s younger sister, Hanabi. Naruto, Hinata, Sakura, Sai and Shikamaru head out on a rescue mission that becomes a race against time as the villain behind the kidnapping, Toneri Otsutsuki, is using his powers to propel the moon towards the Earth. He wants to cause a cataclysmic event to wipe out every ninja on the planet, believing they have sinfully used their chakra to spread war and suffering. When the moon’s in the sky, like a big pizza pie, that’s a-ninjaaaa!

Naruto always has been, first and foremost, a series about action and comedy but the romance was ever there, just bubbling away quietly in the background so it doesn’t feel unnatural or forced to put love in the spotlight now. The status quo has been that Hinata liked Naruto, who liked Sakura, who liked Sasuke, who liked being moody. Many fans had assumed that Naruto’s longstanding crush on the pink-haired shinobi would eventually evolve into something more substantial, but with Sakura’s heart unshakeably set on Sasuke, it’s clearly not to be. But Hinata’s infatuation is well documented and The Last takes several opportunities to remind viewers of that fact with flashbacks to key moments in their relationship, including the time that Hinata leapt in to defend Naruto during his epic fight against Pain.

As romantic leads go, Naruto is a dunderhead. Dense as granite and extraordinarily impervious to hints, he’s lucky that Sakura is on hand to not-so-gently prod him in the right direction. Fortunately, director Tsuneo Kobayashi and writer Maruo Kyozuka (working from a story by creator Masashi Kishimoto) allow Naruto and Hinata to be awkward in their clumsy courtship, so everything that happens feels true to their characters. Naruto is never going to be Cary Grant, but at least he can be his own wonderful, dorky self. In that regard, The Last feels very much like the natural successor to the preceding Naruto movie, Road To Ninja, which likewise explored key facets of the personalities of two lynchpin characters – in that case Naruto and Sakura. However, The Last has another key role in the franchise’s canon as it not only marks the 15th anniversary of Naruto, but simultaneously wraps up this chapter of Naruto’s life. What happens next, beginning with Boruto: Naruto The Movie, will fall under the umbrella of The New Era. As such The Last makes a fitting conclusion to the events that culminated in The Fourth Great Ninja War and sows the seeds for whatever follows next as Naruto shakes off the last trappings of his youth and moves into adulthood. Suffice it to say, make sure you stick around for the credits and post-credit sequence.

So, all the romance and personal life stuff works a treat – what of the action and adventure elements of The Last? First up there’s the bad guy, Toneri Otsutsuki, who comfortably joins the ranks of the rent-a-villain opponents who populate the world of franchise spin-off films. Toneri is not a bad character by any stretch, but given the amount of screen time devoted to the Akatsuki and key series enemies, he’s almost inevitably going to feel a little lightweight just by comparison. His best scenes are when he menaces Hinata with his creepy, ‘We’re going to get married’ stalker routine and every time he taunts Naruto by saying, ‘Your fist will never touch me,’ he’s practically crying out for the trouncing that both honour and convention demand Naruto deliver before all is said and done.

The only thing that’s not really clear is why he needs Hinata for his diabolical scheme, as he seems to have everything he requires once he has abducted Hanabi, who share her Byakugan powers. The script does a good job of gradually increasing the stakes, and commensurately building up the intensity of the action scenes. It’s slightly frustrating to see Hinata cast in a “princess locked in the castle waiting to be rescued by Mario”, role but she does have some action scenes of her own when she gets to wallop Toneri’s minions, and her team-up with Naruto gives her another chance to prove she is much more than a damsel in distress.

The Last continues the run of good production values on the Naruto movies. The animation is generally smooth, backgrounds are rich in detail, and the design work, particularly on Toneri’s castle in the sky, is striking. There is some smooth blending of CG and traditional animation when Naruto chases Toneri’s agents through the Hidden Leaf with a sequence that effectively captures the speed and thrill of the chase.

The Last is not the end of Naruto’s story, but makes a fitting conclusion to this part of his saga. It’s fair to say that the relationship between the hero and Hinata has been nothing if not slow burning over the course of so very many episodes, but all credit to director Kobayashi for making its resolution so satisfying.
SCORE: 4/5
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