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DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden The Movie 2: Bonds

Naruto continues to battle deep and meaningful themes!

The popular television and Manga series Naruto, originally written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto has had five films in all, two of which have taken place in the Shippuden years or ‘Hurricane Chronicles’. Naruto has often been hailed as the ‘ninja Harry Potter’ with its coming of age themes mixed in with magic, responsibility and a wide range of young relatable characters.

Naruto Shippuden The Movie 2: Bonds begins with a team of flying ninja attacking the Hidden Leaf Village, Konoha, with a surprise aerial assault to devastating effect. During the attack, our protagonist Naruto, a young ninja, meets a traveling doctor, Shinnō, who gives the injured townspeople emergency medical aid before sending them to the local emergency hospital. A young boy, Amaru, has traveled a long way to find the doctor, who turns out to be his sensei and is desperately looking for him to help his own village, which has been injured in the attack.

Naruto, Sakura and Hinata are sent to accompany the boy and his master to the village and encounter many difficulties along the way, including poisonous fish, traps and monsters. Naruto also learns some unexpected things about his new travel companion and begins to respect the role of a doctor in combat. When they eventually reach the village they discover that all of the villagers are missing and Shinnō is fatally wounded, resulting in Amaru’s devastation and sadness. This break down allows an evil monster known as ‘Zero-Tails’ to possess her and feed on the darkness in her soul. This incident reminds Naruto that he failed to save Sasuke in a previous story-line and his anger causes him to transform into his jinchūriki form.

(Image courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

 After the encounter with ‘Zero-Tails’ the ninja decide to decide to split up, Amaru and Naruto going in search of the missing villagers. They soon discover ancient ruins in which they find Shinnō alive and well, but they soon see that something is not right. Shinnō has harnessed the power of dark chakra and uses it to transform into a giant, muscled man of great strength and power. After Naruto attempts to defeat Shinnō, Sasuke suddenly appears and they continue the battle in the belly of the ruins where the true potential of the structure becomes apparent.

Despite being a sequel, as well as a part of a long running and well known television series, Naruto Shippuden The Movie 2: Bonds works well as a stand alone film. The introduction of new characters in the form of Shinnō and Amaru allow the audience to follow their plot-line closely and relate to them as unique individuals rather than worrying about all of the back story and prior narrative of the Naruto audience. However, for Naruto fans, this may seem a needless distraction from the protagonists, especially Naruto and Sasuke about whom the story is said to centre. Both characters are very rarely together on screen and even in the final battle, they rarely converse, answering no questions and refusing to deal with the theme of the film which is apparently meant to be their ‘bond’.

(Image courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

The centre bond between Shinnō and Amaru, however, is well displayed and mirrors well with Naruto’s own master-apprentice relationship with Pervy Sage. The love between Amaru and Shinnō is also well represented and is in no way sexualized or demeaned by her revelation as being a woman. This purity of love allows for her to take the role of heroin to her village as well as showing Naruto that dark chakra is not unbeatable.

The background stills animation is gorgeous, utilizing a realistic, painterly effect. Sadly this is marred by the often rushed or inferior forefront animation. The anatomy of Shinnō’s behemoth form is badly drawn, with muscles and bones often appearing at awkward angles and ‘squashed’ into his form and there are one or two moments where the animators have left out in-betweens making the animation seem jilted and amateur. For such a well followed series as Naruto, these mistakes seem glaring and possibly a result of rushing the film into production.

(Image courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

The secondary characters of Sakura and Hinata are very rarely used and some well-known fan favourites are relegated to cameo status in preference to the new characters of Amaru and Shinnō. While this works well for a stand alone film and does not overcomplicate the universe into which new viewers are thrust, it is also disappointing for those expecting a Naruto-friend-centric story arc as may be implied by the title.

The English dubbing is lacking but not overly painful, though it would be recommended to watch the film with subtitles so as to achieve the intended emotional effect. Although the Western voice actors are talented, there are certain words which deflect from the emotions on screen when translated into their English counterparts. Naruto’s final battle, for example, which is powered by his memory of Pervy Sage referring to him as ‘gutsy’, shows him reciting the word ‘gutsiness’ over and over again to un-intended comic effect as the word seems inadequate for the emotions being shown. There are also several points where the dubbing is actually left out all together while the music plays through the outro. Apparently a common technique for some manga in an attempt to keep the films regionalized.

(Image courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

An interesting note on the Sky-ninjas who we see at the beginning of the story, is their attacks similarity to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in the 2001 film of the same name. From the bombings to the aerial acrobatics; even certain camera angles; this scene is too close for it not to be an homage. An interesting choice of filmic mimicry considering the Japanese vs. The West themes it may evoke. However, as the overall theme of the film seems to be forgiveness and working together, especially when Sasuke and Naruto fight together against a common enemy and Amaru’s forgiveness of her master for the sake of her fond memories and to honor his goodness, perhaps such an homage is intended for some greater theme or purpose.

Naruto continues to battle deep and meaningful themes such as forgiveness, the overpowering effects of mourning, fear and anger and relationships between masters and apprentices and the effects of such relationships on the personality whilst remaining entertaining and not losing any of its action-packed charm. Although this film is sadly lacking in content for fans of the Naruto series, it is still an exciting and well formed stand alone film that fans should appreciate for its storytelling and the themes it presents.

(Image courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

Label: Manga Entertainment

Release date: 2nd April 2012

Certificate: 12

Running time: 85 mins

Genre: Anime

Director: Hajime Kamegaki

Stars: Junko Takeuchi, Noriaki Sugiyama, Sotshi Hino

Language: Japanese/English (Dubbed)

Author profile:

Anastasia Catris is a freelance illustrator, writer and actress based in South Wales. After graduating in English Literature from Royal Holloway, University of London she studied for a year in comic book art and design in The Kubert School where she nurtured her love of Japanese animation and cartooning as well as its cinema, video games and culture. You can keep up to date with Anastasia’s activity via her website www.anastasiacatris.wordpress.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/acatris. You may also follow her on Twitter at @acatris.

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