An early adolescence spent outcast by peers and struggling with the hole left by an absent parent may be an apt description of Naruto Uzumaki, but it is also where I was when first discovering Masashi Kishimoto’s tale of the gutsy ninja. That comparison helped draw me into not only the world of Konoha, but also of anime as a whole. Over the years, I watched a young boy with everything against him work, struggle and ultimately achieve as we matured side-by-side. Now, with both Naruto and I leaving our youths behind, it is time for the will of fire to be passed on to the next generation. In that respect, Boruto: Naruto the Movie isn’t just an introduction to the new era, but also, a thematic farewell to the old.
Opening with Boruto Uzumaki already a rookie ninja, the movie wastes no time establishing the dynamics of his team, with him and Sakura’s daughter Sarada sharing a similar relationship to their parents at that age, while Mitsuki brings a mysterious flavour to the three-man cell, helping to keep everything fresh. The focus of this theatrical outing isn’t some grand mission however; for the bulk of its runtime, Boruto: Naruto the Movie is a more personal experience.
Ten years ago, if you told me Naruto would one day be doing paperwork, I’d have laughed in your face. Now that he’s Hokage however, he’s doing a lot of it – too much, in fact. Long days in the office have strained Boruto’s relationship with his father, causing him to reject suggestions of following in his footsteps and even cheating in the Chunin Exam in an attempt to show up and gain the attention of Naruto.
In the background, a sinister villain plots a nefarious scheme but honestly, makes Thor: The Dark World‘s Malekith look complex by comparison, adding nothing to the story bar the prerequisite action-packed climax. So it’s a good thing that the antagonist has little to do with the actual meat of the film.
Instead, Boruto: Naruto the Movie excels as a familial drama to the point where I wish it had forgone the pretence of being an action movie in favour of being a dedicated slice-of-life set in the Naruto world. The core emotional conflict is framed so perfectly that I found myself sympathising with Naruto just as much as, if not more than, Boruto.
Earlier, I alluded to my place in life when first meeting Naruto and even now, our lives aren’t dissimilar. While I’m not a political leader or a father (yet…on both counts), I now work a demanding job that leaves me with little free time (hence the timing of this review), so when I see a tired Naruto lamenting about having to pull another all-nighter, I know that feeling buddy.
In one particularly poignant scene, Naruto even confides to his wife Hinata that he’s not even sure what a father-son relationship is supposed to be like; a powerful, sobering scene offering an emotional depth the series often had little time for.
At the same time, I also perfectly understand Boruto’s desire for parental attention – even if he may not recognise the goals of his actions himself. So the film has a perfect duality, where newer audiences may see themselves in our new hero, while veteran fans may instead find solidarity in Naruto’s tired eyes.
My only gripe with Boruto: Naruto the Movie admittedly has less to do with the picture itself but more, an observation of its world-building. While several male characters are shown to have grown into senior shinobi positions (e.g. Shikamaru, Sai and obviously, Naruto), female ninja are consistently shown in civilian attire and supporting roles (with the sole exception of a brief Tenten cameo). It’s possible that peace time has affected shinobi demand and there’s nothing wrong with someone choosing to be a housewife, but isn’t it a little suspect that seemingly no known married kunoichi has been shown in combat gear?
On the technical side, it’s easy to slate Pierrot for the TV series’ animation, but they fortunately greased their elbows for this theatrical outing. The end result still doesn’t reach the highs of its peers, but is a drastic improvement. Where the animation of Boruto: Naruto the Movie excels however, is in its choreography; with the kinetic brilliance of the opening fight scene being an exceptional highlight.
To be honest, I rarely have high expectations when it comes to franchise movies, which often place style and fan service over substance, but even an older, jaded fan like myself found Boruto: Naruto the Movie to be a surprising delight and a definite contender for best of the genre.
Included in Manga Entertainment’s release, is a bonus short depicting the events surrounding Naruto’s inauguration ceremony. Let’s just say, it left me wishing we could see more of his daughter, Himawari.
Disclosure: A copy of Boruto: Naruto the Movie was supplied by Manga Entertainment, the distributor, for the purposes of this review.