The Last: Naruto the Movie ReviewPosted: April 23, 2016
The Last: Naruto the Movie (commonly misread as “The Last Naruto Movie“) is not something I was expecting to do a review on. I’m not that into Naruto to begin with (I don’t really actively hate it, I’m mostly indifferent), but I knew I wanted to see this movie when I found out that it was going to be very largely about Hinata, because Hinata Best Girl. So I had an inkling I was probably going to like the movie since it was essentially built to cater to my preferences.
Here’s the thing though: after watching the movie, thinking about it, and then watching it again, I think the movie is actually pretty good even disregarding my biases. So I wanted to do a review to talk about some pretty neat things a Naruto movie did.
Never thought I’d say that sentence, but life is just full of surprises.
I should also mention that I’ve read a decent amount of the Naruto manga (mainly the ending arc to see how it all wrapped up), but there are bits and pieces that I missed, skipped, skimmed, etc. If I get anything wrong when I talk about the main series, feel free to correct me.
If there’s one thing this movie excels at, it’s the character development and relations, mainly with Naruto and Hinata. By the end of the movie, you can completely buy into their relationship, though I’d say the pacing on that front is better in the first half of the movie much more than the latter. That might be because the end goal was sort of already reached by that point, it was just that the villain got in the way. The plot in general does more harm than good in this movie to be honest, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
I would however say the villain’s intervention was somewhat necessary. While it doesn’t do anything on the relationship angle since at that halfway point Naruto and Hinata are on the same wavelength, what it does do is give some nice strength to Hinata’s character. Her feelings for Naruto were a huge part of her character throughout the series (some would argue the only part), so presenting a situation where she has to put that aside, especially when it’s handed to her on a silver platter is a pretty huge deal.
Likewise, Naruto also develops as an individual throughout the movie. At the end of the series, he had become a hero, but he still had bits of immaturity to him that didn’t make him fit to be a strong leader. A lot of this growth is shown through his budding relationship with Hinata in the movie, which was clever.
Although, to be entirely fair, a chunk of his character growth was also already done between the series ending and the start of this movie. Naruto acts notably a bit more mature from the beginning. Regardless, the movie still portrays that new maturity well. The way he carries himself through a lot of his actions have noticeably more thought to them rather than before where he acted largely impulsively. Not that he doesn’t still immediately rush into some things, but you can tell there’s more going on in his head now than just “must stop bad guy from doing bad things. Also, Sasuke”. It’s a nice change.
If only the plot were portrayed as well as the characters.
It actually manages to be bad on two completely different levels. First of all, any plot at all was largely unnecessary to begin with. It’s pretty clear that the romance between Naruto and Hinata was the core idea of the movie, but it’s like they figured just that wouldn’t be enough to appeal to enough people so they decided it was necessary to have a villain with world-destroying ambitions in order to keep people’s attentions so they wouldn’t fall asleep in their chair.
To be fair, you can make a big plot work in a romance-focused movie, but what they came up with is the second level that it fails on. There is literally a Giant Enemy Crab at one point. Yes, literally. I wish I was exaggerating.
There’s also a bit where the villain traps Hinata in a literal cage, which I guess he made from his raw power or something because it happens while they’re on a random part of the moon. Honestly the whole “being on the moon” aspect of the movie is also kind of weird, but at least they bother to set that up throughout the movie. Anyway, cage, right. The idea of it is obvious and all, but it’s just so blunt visually that it was jarring. Some creativity would have done wonders there. Even the classic “strong attack that knocks the character unconscious for a bit” would have been a better choice.
Lots of little bits like these where you just do a double-take and wonder if you really saw what you did. Honestly, outside of their absurdity they’re not a huge problem, but because of how well-handled the character side of things is done they stand out more than they normally would. Mainly because these parts are indicative of how slapped together and just not very well thought out the plot was. Need half the team distracted from helping Naruto and Hinata? Throw a Giant Enemy Crab at ’em. Need to keep Hinata out of a fight between Naruto and the main antagonist? Materialize a cage out of the air and toss Hinata into it.
I mean it’s already weird enough on a general level. Who looked at the concept of a movie about the budding relationship between two characters and decided “You know what this movie needs to spice this up? A moon-ninja who wants to crash the moon into the planet!” If they had to have some kind of plot for this movie, it should have at least been a much more subdued mission rather than something on such a big scale. After all, the climax of this kind of movie isn’t beating the villain, it’s the resolution of the relationship between Naruto and Hinata.
Outside of the glaring issues, there are also parts of the plot that are somewhat weak on their own, but then end up getting used for neat things, so I’m conflicted on whether I like them or not. Like how there’s a scene at the start where the younger versions of the main characters are in class and are asked who they would spend their last day with if the world were to end. “For example, if the moon were to start falling.”
It’s foreshadowing so blunt it doesn’t even really count as foreshadowing anymore. That’s just straight-up telling you what’s going to happen. It’s one of those lines where you can just sense the nudging and winking from the writer, but you just want him to go away so you can watch the movie play out. On the other hand, this scene then set up one in the memory sequence where, after the same scene happens, the moon actually does fall on the classroom.
The moon isn’t to scale, but the scene, perhaps ironically, has some nice weight to it. It’s presented in a way that might actually make you recoil in shock a bit. To be fair it’s also done in a way that somewhat fits a comedic-timing sense so there’s also a chance you might laugh, but hey.
There’s also the whole deal with the scarf. Right from the beginning of the movie, it’s made pretty damn obvious how it’s going to play a part in Hinata and Naruto’s budding relationship. It’s another situation of being pulled out of the movie because of how absurdly blunt it is that you can practically see the lines written in the script. I don’t want to be too hard on the whole scarf thing because tons of people already poked fun at it conceptually before Kishimoto explained that it’s actually based on him and his wife, but it’s introduction into the story just doesn’t feel natural. This opening supposedly happened a really long time ago, yet only now is Hinata making a scarf for Naruto.
On the plus side, the scarf is then used in the memory sequence to link together Naruto and Hinata’s memories. The redness of the scarf is emphasized as it leaves Hinata’s backpack and wraps around Naruto because it’s meant to draw reference to the whole Red String of Fate idea where people connected by a red string are destined to be lovers.
Unlike the introduction of the scarf itself, this feels a hell of a lot more clever, mainly because it’s making use of something that has already been established in the story. I mean, if there had been no scarf brought up in this movie until that scene happened, then it would have been annoying because it would feel like its sole purpose of it was just for that one scene.
Lots of “this part wasn’t too great, but it did let them do that thing at that other part” kind of writing. Though speaking of that opening scarf scene, I should mention there is one giant issue I have with the movie which is actually on the character side of things. It seems to change the basis of Hinata’s feelings for Naruto.
It was probably unintentional seeing as you still get the original speech she makes during the Pain fight, but the movie almost makes it seem like she started liking Naruto just because of that opening scene since he was nice to her when everyone was making fun of her eyes. Which is a really odd switch to make considering it’s almost the exact opposite of how it starts in the actual series: nobody likes Naruto at all but Hinata sees how hard he tries despite the world being against him which inspires her in turn given her different, yet also similar situation and also plants the seeds of affection.
I mean correct me if I’m wrong and the opening scene isn’t actually brand new that was made just for this movie, but as far as I’m aware of, it is. Though even if it isn’t it doesn’t change the issue of the scene relying on the scarf a bit too hard to tie the two of them together when there’s already a much more interesting basis for her feelings.
But while the negatives tend to be largely minuscule (except for the one I just went over), the positives are, perhaps shockingly, quite good.
One aspect I really enjoyed – which, admittedly, I’m probably the only person who even cares about something like this – is how whenever the villain of the movie would show up, it was always preceded with a shot of the moon or something that looks very moon-like. The first shot of the movie that shows him is of the moon through a hole in a rock, which then pans out slowly to reveal him standing on top of said rock. When Hinata is in the park on the swing, the camera is at an angle that has the nearby lamp positioned so it looks like a bright, full moon in the sky. Before he shows up in the passage between the planet and the moon, there are a ton of floating circular rocks everywhere with some of them glowing in a way similar to the moon. Right after Naruto confesses to Hinata, there’s a shot of the moon reflected in the nearby water before it ripples and distorts the image because the villain has shown up on his weird floating platform thing.
That last one can even be taken a bit further if you want. Naruto having confessed to Hinata should have created something beautiful, like the full moon, but the villain’s appearance has caused a ripple in that perfect image. Or the moon could represent Hinata (since she’s also apparently a descendant of this moon clan or something), and the villain is causing her to waver.
I’d also be remiss to mention that the animation in the movie is pretty great when it wants to be. While there were multiple different animators that worked on the movie, I should probably draw special attention to Naoki Kobayashi. For reference on who he is and what he’s done, if there have been any scenes in recent Naruto movies or the final story arc of the show that made you go “damn, that was awesome” on a visual level, there’s a very high chance Naoki Kobayashi was the guy who animated it. Know that popular fight that everybody likes to link around where Madara pretty much solos an entire army? Naoki Kobayashi did around three of the cuts in that.
In this movie, he did most of the final fight between Naruto and the main villain, which included a final, overpowered punch that’s so visually awesome you’d be forgiven for thinking you accidentally loaded up a One Punch Man episode. In fact, it was so similar I actually checked to see if he did anything for OPM, and the one scene he’s credited with is that bit in the OP where Saitama beats the shit out of a bunch of weird monkey-things. He could have also done work on actual episodes for all I know, but it can be tough to figure out who animated what in things since all you get is a list of names at the end of an episode. It’s largely learning specific animators’ quirks and noticing them, which is admittedly something I still need to learn to do, I’m getting all this specific animation credit from sakugabooru.
Also, hot damn the intro to the movie is an example of great use of CG. You’d be surprised how great CG can actually look if some artistic flair and attention is paid to it.
By the way, you may have noticed that I keep avoiding saying the main villain’s name. That’s because honestly I don’t remember it. Like I mentioned before, I didn’t care for him at all. I will say, however, that it was nice to hear Jun Fukuyama voicing him. I’ve always liked the guy, and it’s nice when he voices a character that goes a bit loopy since he has a great crazy laugh.
There’s also a great bit from Junko Takeuchi, who voices Naruto. When the villain shows up and Hinata decides to leave with him, Naruto is in a bit of a daze before he yells out her name so loudly that Shikamaru back at the camp can clearly hear it. It’s not a case of “the voice acting was good because yelling”, you can actually hear Junko’s voice get shrill as she almost screeches out the name. You can hear the pain as the girl Naruto just confessed to left him standing there and went with the villain. When voice actors can convey aspects about a character in ways that only they can, they’re doing a good job.
Something I repeatedly mentioned earlier is the dream sequence, which is one of my favorite parts of the movie. At it’s most basic, it’s really just a sequence of flashbacks, but the way they make the individual scenes flow into each other – especially around the end – is often really clever. A certain shot of a character or a line of dialogue which then transitions into the next scene. And it’s not just the scene-to-scene bits that are great, it’s the way it manages to convey Naruto learning what it means to really love someone – at least conceptually – with how it plays around with the dialogue and who’s saying what or who’s talking with who.
But easily the best thing about this movie is how it manages to show Naruto’s entire journey from seeing Hinata as any other friend to falling for her without him saying a single thing about it. That’s pretty damn impressive, although to be fair I would say it does happen a tad too quickly. Like I said, it’s done by the halfway point of the movie.
You can see after the dream sequence that the way Naruto looks at Hinata is different. At times he even has trouble keeping eye contact with her because he’s getting confused about what to think of her. It then leads to a point where they’re taking a break in the abandoned city, and they actually lose themselves in each others company for a bit. They have a nice moment together before Hanabi’s kunai falls out of Hinata’s pack and they snap back to reality and what their mission is.
After the slightly creepy graveyard scene, Hinata is pretty clearly conflicted afterwards, and just wants to be alone. Naruto respects her wishes, but is quite noticeably bothered by the whole thing. Then all of this buildup comes to a head when they’re both overlooking the abandoned city, and Naruto glances over at her. She has a sullen look on her face as the wind blows her hair, and something clicks in Naruto. His eyes quiver and he gulps. Then in the immediately following scene, he tells her he loves her.
The movie just managed to show a character go from normal friendship to loving someone in a completely believable progression, and it didn’t have him say a word about it or let you hear his internal thoughts. A Naruto movie. A series infamous for characters saying (or shouting) the most obvious shit. Honestly, I’m pretty damn impressed.
Moreover, it did something incredibly clever with that last part. When they’re looking over the city and Naruto looks at her, the sounds quiet down and the soft, dramatic music starts to play. This track plays from Naruto realizing his feelings, right up until the words come out of his mouth. It’s simple, but actually kind of brilliant. It even then leaves it nice and quiet for when Hinata reacts to his words.
If you want to take it even further, only one instrument is playing during that track, which sounds like a harp (I’m actually pretty bad at recognizing instruments outside of the piano and guitar so I could be horribly wrong), and then either the same song or a similar one plays near the end when they’re both leaving through the passage to head back from the moon, and it’s got what sounds like a harp and a violin, along with the occasional vocal chanting. You could say it’s because when Naruto confessed his feelings, it was one-sided: Hinata couldn’t reciprocate at the time, as much as she obviously wanted to. But at the end, they’re both on the same wavelength so the full version of the song plays.
You could also make an argument for how only one instrument plays during the confession scene, but two play for the end one. Though I’m probably the only person who notices let alone cares for that kind of observation.
What I’m trying to say through this review that turned out way longer than I expected it to, was that this isn’t just a good movie by Naruto standards. It’s actually a pretty solid movie. The plot is a bit of a mess to say the least, but it’s actually pretty interesting on a character front. I didn’t even cover the clever way they managed to explain Naruto’s original affection towards Sakura.
However it’s probably a movie that you need to have at least passing knowledge of Naruto to get more out of it. You don’t have to be a trivia expert or anything, but the movie does seem to expect you to at least have a brief understanding of the relationships between characters going into the movie. The vast majority of people – well, anime fans – will already meet this requirement though.
And if there’s one thing you should get out of the movie, it’s this:
Hinata Best Girl.