Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Movie Review

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Theatrical/Character Poster. Image (c) Warner Bros. Japan

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Theatrical/Character Poster. Image (c) Warner Bros. Japan

“Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno” is the first of the two live-action installment sequels on the continuing saga of Himura Kenshin – the wanderer, or otherwise known as “Battosai”, and is loosely based on the “Kyoto Arc”, which is undeniably one of the most-celebrated arcs from the manga and eventually on anime material created by mangaka Nobuhiro Watsuki.

“Kyoto Inferno” basically covers the story of an ex-assassin – Shishio’s foundation and his evil plan to overthrow the current Meiji government. While there are few alterations in the live-action adaptation, the writers clearly established that Kenshin is a changed man, repenting for his sins by protecting Tokyo. This is why Kaoru got worried when she heard of the looming war because she fears that Kenshin might go back to his old self again in the form of killing – this, if you didn’t know is basically the whole point of Kenshin as a wanderer, armed with a reversed-blade sword to protect and not to kill.

When Sojiro Seta, Shishio’s right-hand man was introduced in the anime, he easily became one of my favourite villains that’s known for not displaying emotions and always smiling even when fighting and possesses swordsmanship skills at par with Kenshin. So, it was rather disappointing that it felt like their fight scenes were rushed but boy, those fight sequences were choreographed perfectly.

Telling a good story is one thing, but the real challenge here when adapting an anime or manga material would be the execution. The anime, of course, works like magic because you can do almost anything, there is no limit (except when it’s a total fantasy genre) long as it is believable. One can easily jump from one rooftop to the other; suspend oneself up in the air; and other tricks that you can recall from your favourite anime or manga. But having that shown in a live-action film was a different level and it brings some guts to do that (let us not talk mess here that is “Dragonball Evolution”). Having staged the fight sequence on a dry surface is really challenging, so kudos on the last few minutes when Kenshin is fighting Shishio’s team on a wet surface/ship. Suffice to say, those equally hard fight scenes were choreographed really, really well that I couldn’t help but ask for more!

Couple of things: these are subtle but as a hard-core fan I really enjoyed that part when Kenshin is fighting with Shishio’s thugs, the fight sequence is way moving too fast, but it didn’t escape my eyes when the camera focused on how Kenshin “tilt” his reversed-blade sword. Another one was during his fight with Cho when his blade cuts Cho’s hair. There’s also this particular scene that I’m a bit worried at first because I thought people in the cinema would find it over-the-top and would just laugh over it, but they didn’t. It was when Kenshin thought he killed Cho, and he remains in his fighting stance – this is a recurring theme in any anime/manga and I’m glad that nobody reacted on the scene (or perhaps they didn’t care too much?). And lastly, during Aoshi and Nenji’s fight where the latter had to say his parting words (while in his fighting stance) to the former before he fell off his knees and dies. These are just some of the feats that I got to love from the original material that the producers successfully injected on this film.

What I like about this whole Rurouni franchise is that the producers were able to pick-up the right materials. The first Rurouni film back in 2012, I thought, was really the beginning of the saga. Takani Megumi’s back-story was rather complicated and it fits perfectly on that category to build up the conflict without trying too hard on the narrative side. While on the other hand, villains like Udo Jin-e and Takeda Kanryu sits really well too on the “villainous” category: one that spells power/influence, and the other with strength/skills. Having said that, it’s a good thing that the producers picked-up the “Kyoto Arc” from the original material because this was really the highlight of Kenshin’s post-assassin life.

What’s ahead? I won’t mind if the writers would have a different approach on how to end the whole Shishio story via the second installment “Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends” but it would be a feat for me seeing a four-way battle between Kenshin-Aoshi-Saito-Shishio. We’ll also see if Kenshin will finally succumbed on killing again to save the people that are dear to him. And as Shishio said, “the strong will live and the weak will die” so, who will live? And who dies?

Rating: 10/10


Hunter × Hunter: The Last Mission Movie Review

Hunter × Hunter: The Last Mission Theatrical Poster. Image (c) MADHOUSE

Hunter × Hunter: The Last Mission Theatrical Poster. Image (c) MADHOUSE

Inquisitive and enjoyable fights – these are just some of the legacies that mangaka Yoshihiro Togashi sets on his manga, Hunter × Hunter, which is also rumored to return this April (so take this news with a grain of salt). It is confirmed that H×H will be back this June joining Weekly Shonen Jump line-up. Unfortunately, these legacies weren’t mirrored on the movie version, at least in my opinion. The first movie, “Phantom Rogue”, was a total let down and “The Last Mission” is competing on that same level too. It is worth noting though that Togashi didn’t contribute anything on these two feature films. Heck no, the guy can’t even finish the manga material and was on indefinite hiatus since 2012 for unknown reason (aka laziness) .

Revenge is a recurring theme on most of the shounen anime movies and even on mainstream TV/movie. I have no qualms about it but there’s a better way to put it on story-telling. Look at One Piece Film: Z, how Eiichiro Oda managed to put a huge amount of depth on Z’s character that I actually developed an emotional attachment with him, and yes, he’s the antagonist of the story. But with “The Last Mission”, BLEACH’s Grimmjow Jed’s (the antagonist) story just didn’t work out as they expected. The back story was so shallow, everything was boring. With the first movie, they hardly explain “nen” (a technique that lets you manipulate your own life energy known as aura) and I was surprised that on this new movie, moviegoers were suddenly introduced to “on” (a technique that drawn from your hatred). Okay, I’ll let this one slip.

If I’m not following the manga/anime, I will immediately get lost when they introduced Bisky, Wing and Zushi, like who are these guys? They even flashed Kaito’s image, who is Kaito? Suffice to say, the overall narrative was really bad. I’m guessing that moviegoers that doesn’t follow the manga/anime knew nothing about these four. Too bad. I also didn’t get the sense that Chairman Netero, if not the strongest in the world, maybe, at least from Hunter Association, can’t do anything when bound by Rengoku’s power. Seriously? You’ll let Jed blow the Heaven’s Arena, because again, if I’m new to Hunter-verse, I’ll view Netero as a useless old-geezer which is actually NOT. Then the bad guys dumped Leorio on the sewer but ended up on the “higher levels” of the Heaven’s Arena… okay, let’s not be silly in here. But the major letdown for me was when in the end, it was still Gon on super saiyan mode that defeated Jed. I would have preferred Netero and Jed settling their issues as they basically represents the two faces/sides of the coin.

On the plus side, MADHOUSE’s animation this time was crispier and there’s noticeable change on the characters’ illustration which I really don’t mind. And if there’s anything good that happened in this film, it’s probably the ending theme: “Hyōri Ittai” by Yuzu at the epilogue which is also the current ending theme of Hunter × Hunter anime which is nearing its conclusion for the “Chimera Ants” arc.

If the writers can’t come up with a decent non-canon story-line, then I hope “The Last Mission” would be Hunter × Hunter’s “Last Film” because it’s really a shame.

Rating: 6.5/10

Man of Steel Movie Review – the not-so triumphant return of Superman

Man of Steel Character Poster. Image (c) Warner Bros.

Man of Steel Character Poster. Image (c) Warner Bros.

I’m a lifelong Superman fan. As a kid, I used to mimic him with something improvised that would resemble to a Superman cape (and Batman too for that matter) like towels or bed sheets. I’ve read some of the comics, enjoyed all the previous movies, faithfully followed Lois & Clark and literally watched all the 218 episodes from 10 seasons of Smallville. Needless to say, I had high hopes.

The movie opens with Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) giving birth “privately” to Kal-El, the first naturally born child in years on Krypton. As explained by Jor-El (Russell Crowe — your horrible performance from Les Miserablès still lingers…) a natural birth is a crime because babies are engineered not conceived. Each Kryptonian is created with specific destiny and Jor-El’s resolve is for child to freely choose their own destiny. Moments later, we see director Zack Snyder’s space opera interpretation of the Krypton, a planet that is on the verge of collapsing due to General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) coup attempt, thanks to Jor-El for single-handedly defeating some of Zod’s minions. They then let Jor-El wears this really bulky Iron Man-ish costume only to get stabbed by General Zod (*laughs*) and shoots-out the young Kal-El to planet Earth and raised by Ma and Pa Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) at Smallville.

While the fight sequences are indeed awesome – awesome enough that it felt like I’m watching a Batman movie (from Christopher Nolan’s  franchise reboot *coughs*), I quite didn’t get the sense that Kal-El/Clark (Henry Cavill) actually cared for either earthlings or his people to that matter, suffice to say, it was so blank. Can I just comment on this particular laughable scene when Kal-El’s about to fight Zod’s minions and tells the townspeople to “go inside (the building) because it’s dangerous to be hanging around”? They even locked their doors. Few minutes later, Kal-El ended up destroying almost every building around with his fights with the Kryptonians. Poor townspeople (*shrugs*).  The Batman trilogy writers focused too-much of the fight scenes and missed the opportunity of letting the audience connects with him. Yes, he lost Pa Kent but still, how do we map his character? What are his ideals? He was only willing to surrender on his term that Kryptonians won’t hurt Lois Lane (Amy Adams), but at the end of the day, it is General Zod’s rule that’s going to matter. With the Superman reboot, I’m sure guessing that Nolan and Goyer are trying to copy the same formula that they did for Batman trilogy.

Given Snyder’s professional credits, I didn’t expect him to throw off some humors, witty dialogues and whatnots but I didn’t see something special between Clark and Lois, it didn’t happen for me, there is no connection between them.  I clearly remember when Lois (played by Erica Durance) was first introduced in Smallville TV series. She instantly clicks with Clark (played by Tom Welling). And in that timeline, Lana Lang (played by Kristin Kreuk) was still the love interest of Clark but you can feel and see the “love/sexual tension” between them. I’m not saying that they should copy that but it just didn’t happen, something is amiss, hence it is a failed love story for Lois and Clark.

Zynder’s “Man of Steel” was set on a different timeline where Clark Kent has no working relationship with Lois Lane and he hasn’t moved yet to the Metropolis. The movies focuses heavily on Kal-El’s Kryptonian origins and on the side, Clark Kent’s childhood was presented on a series of flashbacks. He also abandoned the idea of “big blue boy scout”. But one of the biggest disappointments here is when the whole team abandoned the iconic Superman’s trademark theme song. I needed that one last final scene where nerdy Clark is inside the elevator; dons his tights and flies out of the Daily Planet to save the world (insert Superman’s trademark theme song here). Sounds passé but it works.

“Man of Steel” also hinted possible shared DC universe crossovers and this could really be the “Justice League” movie. In the movie, we’ve seen (1) The Wayne Enterprise logo found on the satellite that Zod destroys, (2) LuthorCorp logo can be spotted on the truck as Clark emerges from the building while fighting Zod; and (3) Blaze Comics (Booster Gold) – it can be seen when Zod and Clark race towards each other with the collapsing buildings at the Metropolis.

DC's Superman vs Marvel's The Avengers

DC’s Superman vs Marvel’s The Avengers

Superman is perhaps the most popular superhero around the world so Warner Bros. is betting on “Man of Steel” big time, especially with the worldwide success achieved by their arch-rival Marvel who successfully launched their league of heroes, be it: “X-Men”, “Wolverine”, “Iron Man”, “Hulk”, “Thor”, “Captain America” and “The Avengers”. While Christopher Nolan was able to successfully revived “Batman” and expanded it into a trilogy series, Warner Bros., on the other hand, struggled and failed to launch its franchise on its own backyard with the mediocre reception for “Superman Returns” back in 2006 and with the lackluster performance of “Green Lantern” back in (sorry I forgot… the film was totally forgettable). The rumored “Justice League” movie has to happen otherwise, they’ll be overrun by Marvel which on the other note, I guess Marvel has already did. They have to do it now or Marvel will twist the knife deeper.

The movie left a rather ambiguous impression to me when Kal-El explained to Lois that the iconic “S” stands for “Hope” (yeah, yeah… at least in Krypton); so if “S” doesn’t stand for “Superman” then I hope “Man of Steel” who’s obviously having an identity issues finds himself on the sequel… hopefully. While “Man of Steel” didn’t meet my high expectations, it was still a good movie. My mind says I love it but the “inner Superman” in me says it could have been done better.

My rating: 8/10

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Man of Steel – Official Nokia Exclusive Trailer

Nokia and Warner Bros. Pictures have teamed up for a global co-marketing partnership with one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated movies: Man of Steel.

Man of Steel is presented by Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, and directed by Zack Snyder (“300”, “Watchmen”). The film stars Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s adoptive parents, and Russell Crowe as his Kryptonian father. Man of Steel is produced by Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas, and Deborah Snyder. The screenplay was written by David S. Goyer from a story by Goyer & Nolan, based upon Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster and published by DC Entertainment. Thomas Tull, Lloyd Phillips and Jon Peters are serving as executive producers.

Man of Steel, in theaters from June 14th.

©2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. MAN OF STEEL and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © DC Comics.

Sources: Nokia | MoS

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Star Trek: Into Darkness – The Promise of Awesomeness (minus the Greatness)

Star Trek: Into Darkness Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Paramount Pictures

Star Trek: Into Darkness Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Paramount Pictures

Star Trek at its core is about explorers and their encounters with life outside planet Earth, new civilizations, suffice to say – new worlds. The previous movie (“Star Trek”, released 2009) focused on Kirk’s personal dilemma of losing his father and Spock losing his world.

I found myself raising my brows (already) at the first few minutes of “Star Trek: Into Darkness”. The film opened when the NCC-1701 aka USS Enterprise was sent to a planet in the Nibiru system to “observe” a primitive civilization but Kirk (Chris Pine) and his fleet ended up saving them. This event directly violates the “Prime Directive” – twice! First, when Kirk decides to expose the USS Enterprise to the people of Nibiru when Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) life was put on jeopardy. But actually, this is the second offense not first, since this very mission is a direct violation to that very “Prime Directive” which states:

“As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.”

— Articles of the Federation, Chapter I, Article II, Paragraph VII

While the crowd went gaga on that shot of the Enterprise rising underneath the water, I was scratching my head. What in the world was the Enterprise doing underneath the water? Enterprise is a “starship” and not a “submarine vessel” and there is no need to hide from a pre-warp civilization underwater when the ship can be perfectly hidden in space. Correct me if I’m wrong but unlike Voyager, Enterprise does not have the capability to land on a planet surface nor does it operate underwater. And going back to that argument, the ship have shuttles and transporters so why exposed the whole fleet?

This whole Nibiru arc was beyond forced and is totally forgettable as it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film. They probably added this to compensate to the dying drama scene (and exchange of vows) of Kirk towards the end of the film.

Another letdown for me was the addition of Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) touted to have this incredible scientific mind and yet I will only remember her on “that underwear” scene with Kirk. But brace yourselves, for Dr. Marcus will be the mother of David – Kirk’s son (ooops, spoilers). That ending was laughable too when McCoy (Karl Urban) ordered Spock not to kill Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) because of his regenerative properties that could reanimate Kirk. If that’s the case, wouldn’t the other 72 genetically engineered superhuman lying on a sleeper ship have it too? Not the mention that those capsules are with their possession? Writer Roberto Orci reached out and said “everyone is frozen, they could die if awakened improperly”.  Hmmm, okay, so the bigger question now is, should there will be a sequel, can anyone from the Starfleet die now because there are 72 sleepers + Khan on board that they could use to literally revive the dead?  And don’t go back to what Orci said because I would assume that by then (should there’ll be a sequel) alt-McCoy was already able to create a technology to wake them up.  They obviously kept the sleepers for a reason.  And furthermore, they can’t create a tech that would wake the superhumans and yet, they were able to build an extra cyro-tube for Khan that fast given the “complexities”?  Or was there an extra tube to begin with?  I don’t think so and I would assume that Khan’s tube was destroyed at Section 31 HQ.  And where did they put the extra body when McCoy asked the staff to make room for Kirk?  They can’t just put it somewhere given the complexities of the superhuman body.

On the plus side: it’s fast-paced and the visuals are absolutely engaging and outstanding. I think the casting was smart but special shoutout goes to Simon Pegg (as Lieutenant Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott).  I love it when he said: “You don’t rob a bank when the getaway car has a flat tire!”, probably one of the most memorable lines if not the best in the movie.  And Benedict Cumberbatch did a very good job on playing the role of Khan (let’s not dwell on his back story anymore as he was described to be an “Indian” descent as depicted both in “Star Trek: Original Series” and “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”) and at one point, I guess he overshadowed Chris Pine.

There are so many callouts and Easter eggs to the Trek pop-culture too. One notable scene (if you are a Trekkie/Trekker) was when Kirk leading the shuttle to the Klingons and jokes on his crew and says: “take those red shirts off”. The “red shirt humor” refers to the characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms and winds up dead. Having said that, I won’t say that Abrams lifted the story from the remnants of “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan” (and a couple of references from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) but I hoped his team explored other unexplored villains because there is a sheer volume of materials sitting out there.

New fans (from year 2009 after they saw “Star Trek” franchise reboot, *laughs*) will absolutely love this film but for me the overall story don’t fall together as coherent narrative because of the inconsistencies whether it’s Trek canon or non-canon. The promise of “awesomeness” from Abrams is there but it falls short of “greatness”.

I am a huge fan of Abrams + Orci + Kurtzman, having said that, I don’t think the addition of Damon Lindelof helped with the story. Here’s hoping to an EPIC “Star Wars: Episode VII” in 2015. Please don’t disappoint me J.J. Rating: 8/10

Check out my other Movie Reviews: Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rouge | One Piece Film: Z | Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie | Les Misérables

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Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rouge – Movie Review

Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rouge Promotional Poster. Image (c) Madhouse

Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rouge Promotional Poster. Image (c) Madhouse

I am totally new to the whole Hunter × Hunter (read without the “×”) verse so I have to read the manga and catch-up with the anime too in a short-span of time to give justice on my movie review. I intentionally didn’t follow this manga for the sole reason that the mangaka Yoshihiro Togashi just came from a cult phenomenon YuYu Hakusho (localized as “Ghost Fighther”, and he also did “Level E”) so I was bit hesitant because I’m not sure if this can equal his previous works.

Shortly after reading the first 10 volumes of the manga, I found myself connected and invested with both the story and characters. More than Gon, Killua, Kurapika and Leorio‘s dreams, the story highlights the tight friendship between the four of them more specifically with Gon & Killua and Kurapika & Leorio. They have different stories to tell, different personalities, dreams and pains but the four of them came to understood each other.

Now, as for the movie, it focused heavily on Killua’s psychological struggle from his brother Illumi that’s been torturing him, that as an assassin, he can’t afford to have friends otherwise, he’ll end up killing them (this is a recurring theme from manga/anime). It is weird because the movie based on the synopsis, posters and trailers that were released was about Kurapika’s back story who wanted to take revenge from a notorious group known as the “Phantom Troupe” who massacred his entire clan, and yet in the film, it was largely all about Killua and Gon – one wanted to abandon the newly forged friendship while the other willing to fight for it at all costs. I didn’t expect that and it was a major letdown for me, for someone that is new, who is already attached to the story.

What separates this movie from Road to Ninja and One Piece Film Z is the story and that is the downside when the original creator of the manga is not involved or doesn’t have any creative inputs. Since this is the first movie for Hunter × Hunter, I understand that writer Shoji Yonemura wanted to show the “core” of the whole Hunter × Hunter journey which is about “friendship” but tha manga has been around since 1998 and it’s very disappointing that I didn’t see any major character development from any of the four protagonist and Leorio is totally forgettable in this film too. Hisoka, on the other hand, got his spotlight. H×H is also known for its enjoyable and inquisitive fights and yet, I didn’t see that either. We’ve only got mediocre and forgettable fights.

Overall, the movie was a letdown. It’s weird because we’re getting high hopes since the re-animation of Hunter × Hunter back in 2011 and the anime was finally on Chimera Ants arc.

Probably the weakest among Road to Ninja and One Piece so I’m giving this film a 7.5/10 rating! But hey, I’m sticking with the manga/anime!

Apparently, there was an extra scene after the credits (I stayed until credits and I didn’t see any) which hinted that the next movie could cover the Ants arc.

Part of SM Cinema and Movie Punch’s “Animation Domination” this summer, Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rouge is now showing and exclusive to SM Cinemas nationwide. For the complete schedule and ticket price, click here!

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One Piece Film: Z sails at #2 at the box office! First week gross higher than Road to Ninja’s total gross receipts

One Piece Film: Z Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Toei

One Piece Film: Z Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Toei

Toei Animation’s “One Piece Film: Z” debuted at #2 at the Philippine box office according to BoxOfficeMojo beating the gross receipts of Trance ($89,217), Identity Thief ($84,068), and Dark Skies ($59,045) for the week of May 1-5. With a strong start of an estimated $127,197 (PhP 5,184,269) via 42 screens, One Piece’s first week alone gross higher than Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie’s total gross receipts of $123,613 (PhP 5,068,627) on its nearly three-week run.

Distributed locally by Pioneer Films and is exclusive to SM Cinemas, One Piece Film: Z is the twelfth overall film of One Piece. Original manga creator Eiichiro Oda executive-produced the film and features “Z”, as Luffy’s strongest opponent yet.

The movie is still being screened on select SM Cinemas. Check the schedule and ticket prices here. Next week, May 15th, sees the premiere of “Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rogue”, pitted against “Star Trek: Into Darkness”

UPDATE 2: One Piece Film: Z on its second week (May 8-12) earned a total grossed amount of $141,886 (PhP 5,820,631) and dropped from #2 to #10 spot according to BoxOfficeMojo.  The film saw a significant drop based on its 2nd-week box office ticket sales but still managed to outperformed Road to Ninja.  On the other hand, Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rouge debuts last Wednesday and is exclusive to SM Cinemas. For the complete schedule and ticket price, click here!

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One Piece Film: Z Movie Review – The Opposing Ideals, Fan-service and more!

One Piece Film Z Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Toei

One Piece Film: Z Theatrical Poster. Image (c) Toei

After manga creator Eiichiro Oda’s story contribution on “One Piece Film: Strong World” (2009), he’s back once again via “One Piece Film: Z”, this time, to oversee the overall production of the twelfth feature film from his long-running and fastest-selling manga in Japan – One Piece. The movie which revolves around the main antagonist, “Z” (also known as “Black Arm Zephyr”) and dubbed as the strongest opponent yet is non-canonical, meaning to say, this is a stand-alone story arc so everyone who hasn’t been following the manga journey can have a grasp of the story and will need not to worry.

The premise is simple. Former Marine Admiral Zephyr with the aide of his henchmen Ain and Binz want to destroy the world by blowing up three volcanic islands identified as the “End Points” with the help of stolen “Dyna Stones” – thought to be comparable to ancient weapons and are the marine’s “trump card”. But every story has a hero – The Straw Hat Team: meet Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, Franky and Brook.

For me, the opening fight scenes between Z and Kizaru set the mood of the whole movie and I kind of hoped that it won’t disappoint me until the very end because some movies tend to have this rich and amazing opening scenes but the story-telling dwindles and got lost along the way. While I found the cherry blossoms party screen time a bit long, I think it’s necessary to show to the new audiences how close are they to each other and as a group – and also to validate Luffy’s action towards the end of the film.

I’m not quite convinced though why blowing up three volcanoes would lead to destruction of planet Earth. But other than that, I like the film and totally bought the whole Z’s back story. I felt the justification on his character as a good-hearted navy man who worked so hard to protect the government he trusts; turned into an exact opposite of himself when his wife and son was killed by a pirate which leads to his creation of Neo Marines organization. Oda incredibly managed to put a huge amount of depth on Z’s characterization that I actually developed an emotional attachment with Z given that he is the villain of this story. Need I say more why the film was titled after him?

One Piece Film Z Character Posters. Image (c) Toei

One Piece Film: Z Character Posters. First row: Luffy, Nami, Zoro, Sanji; Second row: Robin, Chopper, Usopp, Brook; Third row: Franky, Ain, Z, Binz. Image (c) Toei

As for the other characters like Nami, Robin, Brook and Chopper, they are basically there for the comic relief while Sanji, Zoro and Luffy had their moments on their respective climactic battles. On the animation part – it’s technically flawless, the camera angles, and the fight scenes; as expected from Toei. They did a really good job back there and you’ll immediately notice it on the opening scene, the texture, and the tone, kudos to the art director of this film.

The last few minutes where Z fights to his death and eventually came to his senses is just tear-jerking while showing a series of flashback from his childhood, where he plays the role of “Hero of Justice Z” – his own creation of a super hero. It’s a bitter-sweet but a fitting ending to bring closure to Z’s character.

To summarize, the movie isn’t about saving the world from volcanic eruptions; it’s about: your dreams versus principles – doing what you want, no matter what anyone says.

With an enjoyable battle and a well-done exposition, I’ll give this movie a 9/10 rating!

This review was also published and featured on PinoyExchange.
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Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie earns $91K on its 1st week; Blu-ray and DVD on sale now

Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie promotional image

Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie promotional image. (c) Toho

UPDATED: BoxOfficeMojo reports that Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie (check out my movie review here) grossed an estimated amount of $91,014 (PhP 3,754,292) in 41 screens for the week of April 10-14. The movie which is exclusive to SM Cinemas debuted at #6. Competing against local and US titles, Road to Ninja didn’t do well at the box office as I hoped. and was already pulled-out of the cinemas after its 2nd week. The movie is still being screened on SM North EDSA’s Digital Theater. I’m just saddened that the movie lacked promotion, there is no single TV ad or any tie-ups with media industries, there’s only Facebook to promote the movie. Rurouni Kenshin even had a red carpet premiere and major sponsors back then. I’m not quite sure though why they didn’t come to ABS-CBN or HERO for a possible tie-up (or if they actually approached the network). The fact that ABS-CBN is struggling with its anime line-up, they could have used this opportunity to establish and connect with new breeds of anime fans out there. Note that NARUTO Shippuuden Season 5 premiered two weeks ago on ABS-CBN’s anime block and this film could have been the perfect vehicle for that, it’s a win-win for both parties.

Rurouni Kenshin certainly open doors of opportunity to other Japanese films (anime) when it was shown in the Philippines back in December. But without proper promotion, this “Animation Domination” promotion from SM Cinema and Pioneer Films could be its last. If they don’t do well at the box office then there’s no point of bringing again this well-loved animes to our local theaters and anime fans will continue to patronize torrent sites offering free episode / movie downloads.

It is interesting to see how One Piece Film: Z and Hunter × Hunter: Phantom Rogue which are due on May 1 and May 15 respectively, fare at the box office with some tough competitions. But more than the numbers, I am thankful for both SM Cinema and Pioneer Films and actually appreciate their move of having this shown on an earlier date to avoid the Blu-ray / DVD release date (originally planned to premiere on May 15th, Blu-ray and DVD was released April 24th) otherwise, less-people will watch this and they will obviously just settled on subbed version from fan sites. But fret not because that number is for Philippine screening only. The movie is now being screened on other countries and will soon hit US for its official English dubbed version.

Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie is now the highest-grossing Naruto film, making 1.46 billion yen (about US$18.3 million) between its opening on July 28 and September 23 last year in Japan. The film was seen 1.25 million times. Mangaka (manga creator) Masashi Kishimoto was personally involved with the movie, creating the story and providing character designs. Blu-ray and DVD are out now, I’ve already got mine on time. Check my photos below.

UPDATE 2: Road to Ninja on its second week earned a total grossed amount of $123,613 (PhP 5,068,627) and dropped from #6 to #8 spot according to BoxOfficeMojo. One Piece Film: Z on the other hand, debuts tomorrow, May 1, exclusive to SM Cinemas. Check the schedule and ticket prices here.

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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.