Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie – the ‘Menmastic’ Review-ttebayo!

Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie theatrical poster © Masashi Kishimoto; TohoRoad to Ninja: Naruto the Movie theatrical poster © Masashi Kishimoto; Toho

Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie theatrical poster. Image © Masashi Kishimoto; Toho

If you are a newbie to the whole Naruto-verse then worry not because the movie itself basically covers some of the highlights from the 14-year-old manga (the anime on the other hand, is on its 11th year) suffice to say, you won’t feel like an outsider and you’ll definitely enjoy this film.

To quickly summarize, Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie, starts off with a flashback sixteen years ago when the nine-tailed demon fox or simply, the Kyuubi, was summoned by a masked man as the beast went on rampage and nearly destroy the whole village of Konoha. But the village was saved by the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki, the current host of the nine-tailed demon fox, at the cost of their own lives. The Kyuubi was then sealed to Naruto and the village live at peace. Through the years, (not shown in the film) the Akatsuki went after the jinchuurikis (hosts) to extract the tailed beasts (there are nine ten) to create an ultimate weapon known as the “Infinite Tsukuyomi” that will allow Madara to manipulate every living creature. The Akatsuki did managed to collect the one-tailed up to seven-tailed beasts but were killed one by one in the process (not shown in the film too).

The movie then cuts to the present day, where Naruto and his batch mates along with his teachers fight against the Akatsuki which bothers them since they’ve already killed most of them. They battled and Akatsuki eventually retreated but unbeknown to them, Kakuzu left Naruto a seal on his leg. Apparently, it was just a test from Madara and the dead Akatsuki members are actually white Zetsu’s clones. They came back at the village and everyone’s raving for the jonin recommendation (jonin is an elite ninja taking high-rank missions; most of them are still chunin while Naruto is still a genin – lowest level of ninja). Sakura’s parents’ poked on her and felt embarrassed. Naruto, on the other hand, went to Ichiraku Ramen to meet up with Iruka, his first sensei which he considers a family, and desperately try to get a recommendation from him, but the latter said it has to go on proper channel which made Naruto upset. He also hated that there are no “Naruto fish cakes” on his ramen and instead Teuchi puts menma (bamboo shoots) on his ramen — take note of “menma” alright?

Later that night, Sakura had a feud with her mother and stormed out of their house and came across with Naruto and the two went to the park. Sakura keeps on complaining about her life and wishes to have a different parents while Naruto feels otherwise because he’s been longing to have one ever since and tired of being alone to which Sakura lamented that if only Sasuke was around he’ll probably understand her. This is where Madara comes in to continue his “real” plan reference to the first attack earlier.

He wanted to get the Kyuubi out of Naruto and believes that by sending him to an alternate universe that he “created” will give him the advantage not knowing that he only “created” the universe but cannot “control” it as it will depends on the people living out there. He activates the seal on Naruto’s leg while casting the “trial version” of Infinite Tsukuyomi. It was revealed that people under this genjutsu (spell) will get exactly what they want deep in their hearts. For Sakura’s case it’s Sasuke and getting rid of her parents while for Naruto is the family that he long dreamt of.

Real Universe (main characters with “Naruto fish cakes” on the background) VS the Alternate Universe (main characters with “menma” on the background). Image © Masashi Kishimoto; Weekly Shonen Jump

Real Universe on top (main characters with “Naruto fish cakes” on the background) VS the Alternate Universe, bottom (main characters with “menma” on the background). Image © Masashi Kishimoto; Weekly Shonen Jump

In a blink of an eye, they were transported to an alternate universe where Sasuke and Naruto’s parents exists, Sakura living on her own and to make it even more exciting, peoples’ personality and behavior here are the exact opposite from the real universe. Let me quickly rundown the personality from the alternate universe because I really found this funny:

  • Sakura’s dad was the 4th Hokage, hence she is the daughter of the hero that saved the village but bad news — she’s still flat-chested, haha!
  • Sasuke is such a playboy, a very straight guy! (no, not what you’re thinking what is his characterization on the real universe, lol!)
  • Sai, who excels on art from the real universe, sucks big time in this alternate universe. He’s passionate yes, but you can’t call his work a masterpiece since his work is a disaster!
  • Tenten, based on the patches on her kimono seems she trains really hard
  • Lee and Neji are pervs!!! Can you believe that? I can forgive Lee but the “genius” Neji! This is crazy and what bothers me is that scene on the bath house where he’s peeping on Hinata, aren’t they cousins? Hahaha!
  • Ino is timid; Shikamaru is a glutton while Choji is the smart guy and he’s thin!
  • Kiba and Akamaru aren’t in good terms since Kiba yearns to have been a cat person
  • Shino hates bugs even his main jutsu uses bugs. It’s funny when he tries to kill his own bugs with an insecticide!!! That is something, I couldn’t stop laughing on that scene and on Sai’s painting.
  • Hinata – TOTAL BAD@SS
  • Tsunade is old; Shizune got the chest size of Tsunade while Tonton seems scary!
  • Gai lost his “power of youth” motivation and keeps on complaining about him getting older while Kakashi seems to be the one that’s full of energy.
  • Menma, this universe’s Naruto is the “masked guy”
  • It couldn’t get any weirder as Naruto was called Menma in this universe. So the very thing he hated from real world, he hated it all the more here in the alternate universe.

Though I’m not ecstatic on the series of flashbacks like when the Kyuubi attacks Konoha which leads to the death of Naruto’s parents as I’ve already seen them on the anime, I believe it is an integral part of the story because as you move forward watching the film, you will be able to understand and sympathize with Naruto.

While the drawings are outstanding, thanks to the original creator Masashi Kishimoto as he was personally involved with the movie, creating the story and providing character designs, the coloring on the other hand, was poorly done. Just like on previous Naruto movies, where we can clearly see a brown instead of a black headband cloth, Road to Ninja had its fair share of inconsistencies. Right from the opening scene, I can’t help but notice the very pale color of the Kyuubi. It got even worse towards the end of the movie when two Kyuubis are fighting. For me, they could have done it better as the Kyuubi was described as a demon and that color tone certainly didn’t leave me with an impression that he’s strong and should be feared. By the way, it was revealed on the manga that the Kyuubi’s name is “Kurama” (yes, even the tailed-beasts got their own names).

For the story, I don’t know why Kishi chose to have Sakura’s parents’ debut on the film instead on an episode of Naruto Shippuuden (note that Bleach’s creator Kubo Tite also opted to reveal Rukia’s very own “bankai”on Bleach: Fade to Black, I Call Your Name Movie) but for whatever it’s worth – it worked and though he gave us a rather quick introduction on Sakura’s parents on the real universe; it’s a good twist and quite moving when we learned that on the alternate universe they are the heroes that saved the village of Konoha.

I just wanted to say this: Kishi seems to be listening to the rabid fans of Naruto. Since the early years of Naruto manga, fans are constantly doing fan arts of Naruto wearing the Fourth’s cloak and when we finally witness this as it comes to life, that scene just blew me away, it was epic. I took it as Kishi’s simple, subtle, little way of saying “thank you” to the fans. But wait there’s more! It’s quite a feat also to see how Naruto defeated Madara (possessing Menma’s body) exactly the same way his father Minato defeated him back in the real world.

"Thank you very much everyone for watching the film! And and please always support our protagonist Naruto!". Image © Masashi Kishimoto; Scott / Shueisha

Special message from Kishi: “Thank you very much everyone for watching the film! And and please always support our protagonist Naruto!”. Image © Masashi Kishimoto; Scott / Shueisha

Road to Ninja became the highest-grossing Naruto film as it surpassed the first ever Naruto movie “Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow” which was shown back in 2004. So, to celebrate this achievement, Kishimoto drew a picture of Naruto and Menma. I strayed myself from the internet when this movie debuted in Japan July last year because of possible spoilers, so it all makes sense to me now because when that picture was first released, I thought it was just a random artwork from Kishi, and actually thought that the other character is Sasuke.

I’m a little bit disappointed though with so little screen time given to Sasuke, but overall, I enjoyed watching the movie because there is a balance of comedy (humor) and drama (emotional ties with each characters). Is this the best Naruto movie? No. While I believe the story-line is far better than previous Naruto movies where you have to save the Princess or rescue a friend, I think they could have done this one better. The fight between the two Kyuubis was kind of boring and we’ve only got mediocre fight scenes throughout the movie.

Certainly not my favorite but absolutely on my Top 3 Naruto Movies.

  1. Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow (2004)
  2. Naruto Shippuuden The Movie: Inheritors of the Will of Fire (2009)
  3. Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie (2012)

I’ll give Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie an 8/10 Rating. BluRay/DVD out on April 24th!

This review was also published and featured on PinoyExchange.