Review

by Amy McNulty,

Boruto -Naruto the Movie-

Synopsis:
Boruto -Naruto the Movie-
Over a decade after the Fourth Shinobi World War, a new generation of genin has followed in its parents' footsteps, and Naruto has fulfilled his dream of becoming the Hokage. Set in the same time period as the Naruto manga's epilogue, Boruto: Naruto the Movie introduces viewers to a surprisingly metropolitan, technologically advanced and relatively peaceful Village of the Hidden Leaf. Uzumaki Boruto, Naruto's 12-year-old son, never lived through war and thus never saw his father as a hero. Instead, all he sees is an overworked, distant man who spreads himself too thin—and even uses shadow clones as stand-ins at important family events. With the advent of new technology—Kote, a wrist device that draws power from chakra-infused mini-scrolls—that allows shinobi to use virtually any ninja technique without proper training, Boruto questions the value of hard work. As he prepares to take part in the Chūnin Exams, the headstrong youth is eager to show his often-absent father how strong he's become. However, unbeknownst to the exams' participants and judges, powerful and dangerous foes are headed to the Hidden Leaf to collect Kurama's chakra from the Hokage.
Review:

Boruto: Naruto the Movie expands on the manga's epilogue, presenting the story of a young genin disenchanted with his hero father. Living in a peaceful world with a loving family, Boruto's childhood is starkly different from his dad's. Since he never experienced the same hardships as Naruto, he's unable to appreciate just how good he has it. Whereas Naruto was optimistic as well as eager to prove himself to fill a hole in his heart, Boruto zeros in on the only area in which he doesn't feel fulfilled: his strained relationship with his too-busy father. To a point, his bitterness is justified. Despite being given multiple chances to redeem himself, Naruto continues to prioritize work over family obligations, culminating in him sending a shadow clone to his daughter's birthday dinner. This prompts Boruto to remark that Naruto was luckier than him, reasoning that a dead father is better than a perpetually-disappointing one.

Despite their differences, Boruto shares 12-year-old Naruto's desire for recognition. In Naruto's case, he'd accept attention (even the negative kind) from anyone, but Boruto only wants to be acknowledged by his dad. When Uchiha Sasuke, the vagabond father of Boruto's fiercely driven teammate Sarada, returns to the Hidden Leaf to warn Naruto of the impending threat, Boruto latches on to him and begs to become his student. He finds Sasuke, a man not tied down by anything, more impressive than his own father, who sends shadow clones on any errand that involves leaving the office and is constantly buried beneath comically large stacks of paperwork. Fully aware that Sasuke was his dad's old rival, Boruto hopes his new teacher can educate him about Naruto's weaknesses. He also wants to see the look on Naruto's face when he discovers that his son has become a disciple of his eternal frenemy. Sasuke agrees to take Boruto under his wing, provided he can master the Rasengan, an attack that even Naruto struggled to perfect.

Just as Boruto idolizes Sasuke, Sarada holds Naruto in higher esteem than her dad, driving home the film's theme of strained paternal relationships. She doesn't exactly hate Sasuke, but she clearly admires Naruto's accomplishments and his follow-through on becoming the Hokage, an office she hopes to one day hold. In many scenes, Sarada is shown to be capable, smart and even cognizant of how strange it is for her mother, Sakura, to go to pieces just because Sasuke decides to return to the village for a while. She and Mitsuki, the third member of the Konohamaru-led team, serve as interesting counterparts to Boruto's jadedness. Ghost-white and reserved, Mitsuki exhibits the same propensity for limb-stretching as a certain villainous figure. Although he doesn't have a lot to say, it's clear he enjoys a close relationship with his teammates. Obvious hints aside, Mitsuki's parentage isn't outright revealed until a humorous post-credits sequence. The segue leading up to the reveal is clunky and random, but it leaves the audience eager to learn more about this mysterious youth.

Children of other ninja from Naruto's generation can be found throughout the film, but many of their appearances are limited to blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos. However, their character designs make it pretty easy to discern which parents they took after, and I wouldn't be opposed to seeing them receive more attention in future installments. Although a full-on series set in this time period would have a hard time presenting a conflict as high-stakes as the Fourth Shinobi World War, there's at least enough teased here to make viewers open to seeing a bit more.

Unaccustomed to intense training, Boruto doesn't want to put in the time and effort to master the Rasengan. Before Sasuke is able to point out that his would-be pupil actually mastered the technique's basics in record time (and even put his own spin on it), Boruto storms off in a huff and conspires with Katasuke, the scientific mastermind behind the Kote. Desperate to have his work recognized, Katasuke wants Boruto to pass the Chūnin Exams with the help of his invention. Despite Naruto declaring the invention to be illegal during the Chūnin Exams, Boruto decides to use it because he's tired of relying on his teammates and wants to achieve victory with his own hands. With the Kote's help, Boruto passes the first two exams with relative ease. However, when his parents discover his trickery during the final round, a disappointed Naruto confronts his son in front of the entire village, confiscates his forehead protector and bars him from becoming a ninja. Boruto is devastated.

Otsutsuki Kaguya, the progenitor of chakra and a resurrected goddess with no qualms about ending the world, set the standard for Naruto villains. Though by no means the most intriguing antagonist Naruto has faced, she was far and away the most powerful—and any who came after her would have to be just as mighty to rate a comparison. (That's likely why the villain in The Last: Naruto the Movie was also from the Otsutsuki clan.) In keeping with the theme of fighting near-omnipotent entities, Boruto: Naruto the Movie introduces two new survivors of the god-like Otsutsuki clan: muscle-bound Kinshiki and brains-of-the-operation Momoshiki. Like Kaguya, their goal is to resurrect the Divine Tree and partake of its all-powerful chakra fruit.

To bring their plan to fruition, they need to collect the tailed beast chakra. After targeting Killer Bee first, the duo makes its way to the Hidden Leaf to get Kurama from Naruto—and their timing couldn't be worse. Kinshiki and Momoshiki commence their attack during Boruto's public chastising. Boruto even makes things worse by using his Kote since the Otsutsuki absorb chakra-based jutsu. With that power boost, they're able to pull Naruto into another dimension after leveling the exam arena. Fearing the worst for this father, Boruto finally regrets envying Naruto for growing up without a dad. Determined to make things right, Boruto accompanies Sasuke and the visiting Kage as they venture into the other dimension to save him.

The ensuing battle against Momoshiki and Kinshiki further emphasizes the film's central theme of hard work. Just as Boruto used Katasuke's invention to utilize techniques he hadn't truly learned, the villains receive all their power from others' chakra. Momoshiki even chides the ninja for wasting their lives on training. The Kage gain the upper hand by limiting themselves to taijutsu to avoid the chakra theft. Things seem to be going well until Katasuke and his assistant, who rushed into the dimensional portal at the last second, arrive on the scene and bombard the enemy with Kote attacks. This, along with absorbing Kinshiki, gives Momoshiki the power boost he needs to once again pose a substantial threat. Naruto and Sasuke have to pull out all the stops to keep him at bay. After a fierce struggle, Naruto is weakened, prompting Sasuke to suggest that Boruto and his father combine their Rasengans. Together, the Uzumakis form a Rasengan so large that it obliterates the super-powered Momoshiki in seconds. Boruto gains a new respect for his father, Naruto starts spending more time at home, and peace returns to the Hidden Leaf.

As is often the case with Naruto films, bland villains are this movie's primary weakness. Yes, they needed to be as powerful as Kaguya to pose any real threat, but their master plan is essentially the same as hers, and their personalities are paint-by-numbers. Since the relationship between Boruto and his father is the core of the story, the villains are basically background noise—and to an extent, this is excusable. Still, their personalities are indistinguishable from other feature film antagonists, and despite being capable of destroying worlds, they ultimately go down pretty easily.

Following the pattern of Naruto's other theatrical outings, the animation is heads and tails above what you'll see on the TV series. Fluid movement is the standard instead of a rarity, and the masterfully-choreographed fight sequences alone are worth the price of admission. When Naruto calls forth Kurama and Sasuke summons Susano'o to act as the giant fox's samurai armor, the screen crackles with the kinetic energy of the fight. The backgrounds are detailed, the character designs are crisp, and everyone's favorite regulars are easily recognizable as grown-up versions of themselves.

Although unremarkable, the score suits the movie's mixture of fast-paced action and heartfelt character drama. Several tracks from the TV series make an appearance, sometimes in the form of sped-up remixes. In many respects, the movie is like a remix of the original Naruto series—exciting new elements peppered with traces of the familiar— so this is fitting. However, once the credits have finished rolling, you're unlikely to remember many of the tracks.

Even though the television series has yet to conclude, no fan of the franchise should miss out on the chance to see Boruto: Naruto the Movie on the big screen. (Since both this film and its predecessor serve as epilogues to the manga, it's assumed that most moviegoers are familiar with the source material.) Even if the anime is your only point of reference, the minor spoilers this film will reveal, such as who marries whom, shouldn't inhibit your enjoyment of the yet-to-be-concluded parent series. Although the jury's still out on whether Boruto is strong enough to headline his own TV show, this movie represents a step in the right direction for Masashi Kishimoto's Start of a New Era Project.

***

The dub of the film features much of the cast that's been with Naruto Shippūden for years, flash forwarding in their characters' lives since the English version is so far behind the subtitle streams. There are, however, new additions to the cast to round out the new generation of ninja that takes center stage in the Boruto Naruto Next Generations anime. Most of the long-established cast members deliver performances on par with their work in the series, for better and for worse. Maile Flanagan as Naruto is still rough on the ear for those used to the Japanese track, and although long-time dub watchers do grow accustomed to it, the gruff and boisterous take on the character seems even more at odds with the harried, sometimes withdrawn adult version of him. Amanda C. Miller as star Boruto suits the character well enough, making him energetic, eager, and sometimes sullen, but he does wind up sounding a touch more feminine than suits the character at that age. (Granted, the seiyuu for both Naruto and Boruto in the original are women, too.)

Cherami Leigh as Sarada is the highlight of the new cast, conveying intelligence and determination in a limited amount of screen time, all while still properly convincing the audience of Sarada's young age. Robbie Daymond's work as Mitsuki is another standout. Calm, collected, and oftentimes emotionless, the voice helps lend the character much of his mystery. Antagonist Momoshiki's voice actor, Xander Mobus (or possibly Kinshiki's voice actor Wally Wingert), uses a deep, resounding voice for the character after he absorbs Kinshiki that makes this villain more menacing.

As far as extras on the home release go, both the DVD and Blu-ray feature storyboards, clean end credits, and Japanese trailers. The storyboards include only six pages of major scenes in the film and aren't much to look at, even for the behind-the-scenes buff. There are only three trailers and they're all short and similar and don't include subtitles. The Blu-ray goes a step further, offering over three dozen stills in an art gallery featuring character designs, backgrounds, promotional materials, and manga art. They're nice enough to look at but don't offer more than a few minutes of entertainment. The real highlight is the Blu-ray exclusive OVA.

Although the OVA clocks in at only about ten minutes, it shows more of the Uzumaki family home life than the movie or much of the manga or anime that's made it to the West thus far. Showcasing Naruto's inauguration day as the seventh Hokage, the OVA reveals that just because he's about to step into one of the most powerful ninja positions in the world, Naruto still hasn't managed to fully embrace the role of responsible adult. Fortunately, although his kids may not understand that, Naruto's wife and friends accept his deficits, offering their support to let Naruto lead with his own kind of strength.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : A-
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A+
Art : A
Music : B-

+ Perfect execution of the Naruto themes, breathtaking animation, and intriguing secondary characters.
Tedious villains, unmemorable music, and world-shaking conflict acting as a backdrop for character development.

Director: Hiroyuki Yamashita
Screenplay: Masashi Kishimoto
Storyboard:
Masaaki Endou
Naoki Kobayashi
Tsuneo Kobayashi
Yoriyasu Kogawa
Norio Matsumoto
Yuzo Sato
Shingo Tamaki
Hiroyuki Yamashita
Story: Masashi Kishimoto
Unit Director:
Toshiaki Kidokoro
Naoki Kobayashi
Yoriyasu Kogawa
Norio Matsumoto
Hiroyuki Yamashita
Music:
-yaiba-
Yasuharu Takanashi
Original creator: Masashi Kishimoto
Character Design:
Masashi Kishimoto
Tetsuya Nishio
Hirofumi Suzuki
Art:
Kentaro Akiyama
Kazuyuki Hashimoto
Naruyo Kiriyama
Akemi Konno
Mutsuo Koseki
Satoshi Matsuoka
Masanobu Nomura
Chief Animation Director: Tetsuya Nishio
Animation Director:
Seiko Asai
Hiroaki Imaki
Naoki Kobayashi
Hirofumi Masuda
Yūko Matsui
Norio Matsumoto
Tetsuya Nishio
Yoshiharu Shimizu
Ichiro Uno
Art design:
Masaaki Endou
Hiroto Tanaka
Sound Director: Yasunori Ebina
Director of Photography: Atsuho Matsumoto
Executive producer:
Kouichi Endo
Michiyuki Honma
Masahiko Ibaraki
Riichirō Nakamura
Satoshi Ōshita
Yoshitaka Tao
Masuo Ueda
Producer:
Takuyuki Hirobe
Koichi Machiyama
Masashi Matsui

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