Hot on the heels of the first series set, Naruto Shippuden gets its first theatrical outing (I believe there are four, so far), and it's one which follows a familiar format - which is both a blessing and a curse...
What They Say
When a rogue ninja unlocks the secrets of a powerful and ancient evil, the inhabitants of the Hidden Leaf Village are mobilized into action as a seemingly unstoppable army of animated terracotta warriors marches across the land decimating everything in its path. Naruto and the rest of Team 7 are given the unenviable task of acting as bodyguards assigned to protect a brash and arrogant young princess named Shion, the only one with the powers to overcome and seal away forever the malevolent forces.
Audio in both English and Japanese is provided in 5.1 surround tracks, not that the movie makes all that much use of them. I listened to the Japanese track for this review, and to be honest a stereo track would probably have been sufficient - the movie makes decent use of the front soundstage to provide direction to on-screen events, but there's only minimal use of the rear channels. There were no obvious encoding defects.
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect. Being a theatrical release, there's been a decent amount of money spent on the movie to ensure that it looked good on the big screen, and that of course also ensures that it looks good on the little screen, too - although to be fair the TV series is no slouch in the production values department either. Colours are bright, there's a good level of detail to the animation, and the encode is free of any obvious problems. Thumbs up all round.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
Another menu that ticks all the right boxes for me - the main menu is a static screen, with Naruto and some of his compadres striking action poses, with options provided for Play, Setup, Scenes and Extras. The theme music plays alongside. There are no transition animations between the screens, which makes it all quick and easy to use.
There's a decent selection of extras with this release. First up there's the original Japanese trailer for the movie, along with a trailer for the Shippuden TV series. Add in two 90-second music videos featuring songs from the movie, and a 30-image gallery of production artwork, and you have enough to keep you distracted for a few minutes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
So. There are two things that I've noticed that Naruto movies seem to do every time: on the good side, the time restrictions that a theatrical release imposes on the story mean that you get combat scenes that are short, to the point and very enjoyable; on the bad side, the 'lead' guest character - Shion in this case - always seems to go out of their way to be as obnoxious as possible at the start, before allowing Naruto to somehow warm their cold hearts. On both fronts, Shippuden the Movie follows the format.
On the combat front, that's 100% a good thing - my greatest annoyance with the TV series is the battles that go on for episode after episode, and the quick & brutal fights we get here are like a breath of fresh air. Shion, on the other hand, is more of an issue. The intention with the ice-queen trope that she plays to is to show the character developing and becoming someone more mature, but the problem with the way that these movies always do it that they're so obnoxious and uncaring at the beginning that you're turned against the character so much that, by the time Naruto begins to turn them around (and he always does) you're past caring about what happens to them. For me, that ended up being the case here, too - and if you're not enjoying some of the characters on-screen, then you're enjoyment of the movie as a whole can't help but be affected as well.
Things aren't helped by the movie not quite turning out to be what it's pitched as, either. From the opening scenes, it's not unreasonable to expect a pitched battle between Team 7 and the Big Bad, Moryo, a demon from another world who has plans to create a kingdom for himself that would last a thousand years using his Ghost Army. Don't count on it, though - once Moryo is summoned into his human host, he retreats to his hiding place and sends three of his lackeys to deal with Shion, the one person who could seal him away again. It's not until there are only 25 minutes left of the movie that Moryo again plays any significant part - for the most part it's his sidekicks that Naruto and the gang have to deal with, and after being introduced to Moryo they just don't seem as threatening.
There are other aspects of the story I could nitpick with, too, but I don't want to spoil too much of the story - suffice to say I didn't enjoy the movie as much as I was hoping and expecting to. There are a few lighter moments to the story that managed to bring a smile to my face - Lee with his special, use-in-desperation-only alcohol-laced biscuits was probably the highlight - but not enough to really change my opinion of the movie.
Overall there just wasn't enough here that was memorable or out-of-the-ordinary, even by Naruto standards, to make the movie stand out much from the ton of other anime that I get through each month. Shippuden the Movie is fine as far as it goes, but ultimately doesn't go far enough. One for completists.
Japanese Language 5.1, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, Original Japanese Movie Trailer, "Hero's Come Back" Special Movie Version, "Michi" Special Movie Version, Line Art Gallery, Naruto Shippuden Series Trailer
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.