In the Naruto Shippuuden franchise, there have been seven feature films (if you count -The Last- Naruto: The Movie). VIZ Media has taken the first four of those and compiled them into a collection and released it on Blu-ray! Naruto Shippuuden -The Movie- Rasengan Collection is a 4-disc set which contains the first Shippuuden movie, Bonds, The Will of Fire and The Lost Tower!
Typically, for an anime review, I would break down The Story, the Characters, the Art and Animation, Special Features (if it was being reviewed from a physical home media release) and offer up my Final Thoughts. I could do that for each of the four movies, but that would defeat the purpose since I am reviewing the collection as a single release. Therefore, I’m going to review all four movies in one shot! I’ll break down the story of each film, talk about the Art and Animation, the Special Features that come with the collection and offer up which I thought was my favorite out of the four of them in my final thoughts. Skipping the characters section might seem a bit odd, but it would be a little odd in and of itself to talk about the multitude of characters across all four films… especially when the majority of the characters are in all four and have different stories.
Naruto Shippuuden: The Movie
The first Naruto Shippuuden movie seemed like an extended episode of Naruto. In other words, rather than a big, unique conflict (like the fourth great ninja war), it’s simply about Naruto carrying out an assignment… which ends up in a situation that puts the world in jeopardy.
Naruto is tasked with protecting Shion, a shrine maiden who must seal away a demon before a group of shinobi can awaken it and bring the world to ruin. Shion is a bit reluctant in accepting help because she has the ability to predict death and, of course, one of the deaths she predicts is Naruto’s. Of course, being Naruto, he can’t just sit idly by and avoid Shion so he ends up protecting her anyway.
We do get a nice mix-up of cast members this time around. We get Naruto, Sakura, Neji and Rock Lee as the stars of this movie. The action is also well-done and Studio Pierrot shows what it can do with those action scenes when they utilize a pretty good-sized budget. It’s a decent introduction to the Naruto franchise as there really wasn’t anything truly special about the movie. The whole thing with Naruto’s predicted death… complete with his funeral… was a nice touch to try and swerve the fans and keep them interested, but we all know how shonen movies turn out. Main characters will never die because of plot devices. Nope… main characters never die! (R.I.P. Spike Spiegel)
Naruto Shippuuden: Bonds
The second outing wasn’t a much better presentation due to the convolution of the story. However, fans can rejoice because we finally got to see the return of Sasuke to the big screen. The catalyst to the story is, yet, another attack on the Hidden Leaf Village, by the Sky Village…. From the sea. It’s fine that the SKY village came from the SEA because they invaded on a bunch of gliders with machine guns that shot kunai, so they did, technically, attack from the sky.
After the rather absurd attack, Naruto comes across a girl named Amaru and her sensei Shinnou. They arrived to help heal the wounded after the attack. Our main cast get split into two groups… one of which goes to escort Amaru and Shinnou to another location and the other group to head to the SEA to defeat the SKY ninja. Comical observations aside, the story was pretty complex and if you walked away and missed one character saying a specific line, you could come back to utter confusion. The action scenes were great as always and if you want to see Naruto destroy a castle with several rasengans, then Bonds is a movie you will want to watch.
I also like how they kept the characters’ personalities intact as well. Sasuke was still off training with Orochimaru at the point when this movie was released, but to have him return and have his persona play up to their entire history made the characters feel canon in a non-canon setting. I just with the movie told a better story.
Naruto Shippuuden: The Will of Fire
The third Shippuuden movie is, thankfully, a lot more interesting that the first two. Ninja with bloodline limits have been disappearing and many fingers have been pointed towards The Land of Fire. A rogue Hidden Leaf ninja by the name of Hiruko has been working secretly to collect bloodline limits in order to become the world’s most perfect ninja. This causes Kakashi to make a pivotal decision… to sacrifice himself to stop Hiruko, but Naruto (obviously) doesn’t want Kakashi to die and looks to find an alternate way to defeat Hiruko and save his mentor.
The only issue I have with this film is that it will leave some fans of the series lost if they are not familiar with the Kakashi Chronicles filler arc from the tv series. Most people will skip filler, but this movie gives you an actual reason to watch it because it references to Kakashi’s old friend as well as references to Asuma who has died at this point in the series.
Just like the previous Naruto movies, the action was great and even Shikamaru got some time to shine in this one. The story was a lot more coherent and easy to follow in the third movie, making it the best one of the series so far.
Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower
Okay… I’m a sucker for time travel and all, but it kind of scared me when that was introduced as the plot for the fourth movie. In short, Naruto chases a ninja called Mukade to the ruins of Ouran. There, Mukade activates the leylines and sends Naruto 20 years into the past. When Naruto awakens, he comes in contact with the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze!
As a fan of the Naruto series, how could you NOT be excited over Naruto meeting and teaming up with his father!? I’ll tell you how… you watched this movie. The only thing that completely ruins the excitement is that Naruto has no clue who Minato truly is and it stays that way for the entire movie. In fact, the movie eventually just zeroes in on Naruto and leaves Minato in the dust. Sure, we all know that Naruto never really knew his father nor did he know that he was the fourth hokage, but to not play that card in a non-canon film that had no impact on the main story being adapted on tv was a severe letdown.
When I saw the premise for this movie, I was hyped up to see it and when I finally did, I had to question just what Studio Pierrot was thinking when they decided on that story. You spent the whole movie wondering “does Naruto know!? Does he know!? He has to know, right!?” and then we get nothing. Minato realized who Naruto was and said nothing, building up the tension even further. Outside of this, the plot of the movie was standard fare. Mukade was just your typically crazed bad guy that Naruto had to stop in order to get back to his own time. Yamato came along for the ride, too, but the movie mainly focused on Naruto the most and kept all secondary characters rooted in those roles.
Art and Animation
When it comes to television anime production, Studio Pierrot isn’t exactly known for great art or animation. A lot of what you see in the Naruto series is very choppy and low quality, but the four movies really stepped it up, showing what Studio Pierrot is really capable of. As a side note, they also did the TV adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul which is miles better than the TV adaptation of Naruto, but Tokyo Ghoul didn’t run for 720 total episodes, either, so I’m sure that plays a big factor into their budget. The did do a great job with the Chakra filler arc in the Shippuuden TV series as the budget there rivaled those for the four films here in the Rasengan Collection.
While the art and production values were high, I feel The Lost Tower suffered a bit. Compared to the other movies, this one felt a bit off. It was better than television quality, but below the quality that the first three films had. It’s a shame that that the most disappointing movie in the collection also had the “worst” production value. Of course, I’m just talking animation-wise.
Backgrounds and CGI looked great as always and whenever Naruto performed a Rasengan (and trust me, there are plenty of Rasengans to go around throughout this collection) they all looked amazing. In fact, everyone’s jutsu’s looked great and they all really enhanced the action in each of the films.
The collection features two audio tracks: English or Japanese with English Subtitles. I did watch all four movies in English as I’m already extremely familiar with the Japanese audio for the majority of the main characters. The only real voice I couldn’t stand was Naruto’s. I do have to give credit where credit is due… it’s not often the English voice matches the Japanese and Maile Flanagan as Naruto does exactly that, but the execution of the lines and the quality of the acting just wasn’t there. Everyone else’s voices were very well done with my favorite being Dave Wittenberg performing Kakashi.
Each disc features trailers for their respective movies as well as the songs from the openings and endings. While that is pretty standard fare as far as special features are concerned, my favorite was seeing the production art for each of the four films. The art was absolutely stunning and shows off the talent of some of the background artists that Studio Pierrot has to offer.
The last special feature you get is an animated short that has everyone enjoying a day off on a remote island. Kakashi wanders off to find a vending machine when Naruto discovers a bottle with a genie in it. Naruto ends up blowing two wishes and runs off with the bottle before they can make a third. This, of course, draws the attention of everyone else on the island so they give chase to Naruto so that they can have the final wish for themselves. It was a nice little tongue-in-cheek short good for a couple of laughs.
Overall, as a package, I felt that VIZ Media did a pretty good job with it. One thing that would have made the collection even better would have been the inclusion of each movie’s original soundtrack either as something on disc or perhaps via a download code. The Naruto franchise has some great music to it and that would have been a great choice for bonus content.
I did enjoy the fact that each disc had a different color Rasengan for its label, but it did kind of feel like a cop out as far as product design goes. I would have preferred to have seen Naruto performing the Rasengan on each of the discs with each Rasengan as a different color… just to give it more variety. There are nice pictures of the different characters behind the first and fourth discs (essentially the inside covers) to give you that little something extra.
The slip cover for the Blu-Ray also gives you different art as well and is not just a copy/paste of the actual insert art on the blu-ray box. It’s a nice four panel preview of each of the movies. Also, if you didn’t know, this collection also marks the first time that the first Naruto Shippuuden movie is available on Blu-ray here in the United States!
The movies themselves ranged from sub-par to standard Naruto fare with the third film, The Will of Fire, being the best of the collection, in my opinion. Had Studio Pierrot handled The Lost Tower better, that could have easily won hands down, but I felt that it ended up being the biggest disappointment in the whole collection. The Will of Fire had the most coherent and consistent story of the four films even if the main villain was attempting a slight variation of Orochimaru’s goals.
The best way to enjoy this collection is to actually forget about the stories and just focus on the action. The action scenes in all four movies were incredibly well done and save for the “Roadrunner” Episode (Naruto vs Pain in the TV series), Studio Pierrot usually nails it when it comes to fights. These movies are no exception as the battles will draw you in while giving you that Naruto experience that you expect.
All in all, I think this is a great collection to have if you are a Naruto fan, especially if you are looking for the first movie on Blu-ray. While the movies are something that I wouldn’t recommend watching back to back to back to back, they can be enjoyed on a more individual basis. The only qualm about this is that casual fans may be turned off by the films because of the issues with the stories. If you are not a fan of the Naruto series or are someone who wants to experience what Naruto is about, I would suggest to just start watching the TV anime from the beginning. The movies may end up putting you off because of the aforementioned issues with them, which is why I only recommend this if you are a fan of the series.
This item was provided for review by VIZ Media.
Naruto Shippuuden -The Movie- Rasengan Collection
Naruto Shippuuden -The Movie- Rasengan Collection features the first four movies from the series. All four movies give you great action that stays true to the Naruto franchise, but the stories of the first, second and fourth movies are rather bland and/or convoluted. The third movie is definitely the best in the collection.