Review for Naruto Shippuden Movie 3: The Will of Fire Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack
If you don’t know what Naruto is by this point, you’re probably too late to the party. Go back to the beginning and start from scratch, as this third Naruto Shippuden movie, the sixth overall is the least new viewer friendly feature of the lot. In fact, at this point, I’m not even going to bother recapping the story, or explaining who the characters are. It will just take far too long. For those who are keeping track with the Naruto story, just like all the other feature films, Naruto Shippuden: The Movie 3 - The Will of Fire is a standalone feature unrelated to the ongoing storyline in the series. For the sake of continuity fiends, this story takes place just prior to the arc currently unfolding in the Naruto Shippuden series DVDs as released by Manga Entertainment. To further clarify, Jiraiya has a part in this movie, but Asuma does not (well he does in flashback, but you get what I mean...).
Hiruko was a Leaf Ninja once upon a time, a contemporary of the three great sages, but lacking their powers and talents, he took to illicit means to increase his own power. Now he’s figured out a way to gain the ultimate power, and to do that he’s capturing all the ninja with a Bloodline Limit to use in his arcane ritual. He only needs one more specific individual before he becomes immortal, and he’ll invoke a Fourth Great Ninja War between the major ninja powers. That final individual is one Kakashi Hatake, Naruto’s teacher, and Hiruko sowed the seeds of his plans several years ago. Fortunately Kakashi realises in time that he’s been marked by Hiruko, and with Tsunade he comes up with a plan to defeat the villain. It will mean sacrificing his own life though, something any ninja must be prepared to do for his village.
But when Naruto learns of his teacher’s intention to sacrifice himself, he also remembers the first lesson that Kakashi taught him, that any ninja that disobeys an order is scum, but any ninja that abandons his friends is worse than scum. He and Sakura decide to disobey Tsunade’s orders and rescue their teacher, but standing in his way will be all of his friends.
Naruto Shippuden’s 3rd movie is released as a Blu-ray / DVD combo, although I’ve only taken a look at the Blu-ray for this review. You can also buy a Blu-ray triple pack of the first three Shippuden movies, as well as a DVD triple pack of the same on the same day as this combo pack is released.
The Will of Fire gets a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer at the 1080p resolution on this disc, sourced via Madman Entertainment in Australia. The image is clear and sharp throughout, with strong colour reproduction, and few if any signs of compression. There might be a hint or two of banding in darker scenes but it’s negligible. The character and world design is wholly recognisable from the TV series, but where the movie kicks things up a gear is in the complexity and detail of the animation. This is a film where the action sequences really impress, and there is a whole lot of action here to appreciate, and it all really takes advantage of the HD format. The Will of Fire really shines on Blu-ray.
The images in this review are sourced from the PR and aren’t necessarily representative of the final retail release.
In terms of audio, you have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, with an optional translated subtitle track. I went with the original language track, the way I’ve been watching Naruto for the last 300-odd episodes, and the voice actor performances were just as I expected. Those action sequences need good sound effects to carry the film, and the resonant surround audio in The Will of Fire really impresses, not just in the more strident action filled moments, but also in terms of quiet ambience. Subtitles are accurately timed and mostly free of error (I did see an ‘illicit’ that should have been ‘elicit’. Will of Fire also gets a nice theme song from Puffy.
There are just the basics when it comes to extras, with the film presented via the usual animated menu screen.
You get 2:38 of trailers for this movie, which unfortunately have not been subtitled. There are 14 line art images in a Production Art Gallery, you get the Textless Closing that allows you to appreciate that Puffy theme song again, and all of this is in 1080p HD.
Also on this disc, followed by an Aussie anti-piracy thank-you, are trailers for other Madman (and Manga) Blu-rays, including Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Eden of the East Movie 2, Bleach the Movie 3: Fade to Black, and the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood OVAs.
I had a blast watching Naruto Shippuden: The Movie 3 – The Will of Fire last night. It turned out to be 90 minutes of rousing entertainment, a nice blend of comedy, action and drama, featuring all the main cast, and really delivering on the action. It was fun, which is really all that you can ask of these franchise tie-in features. Character growth is always a no-no, and narrative is beside the point when you have to reset everything back to square one for the TV series. All you can really ask of a tie-in movie such as this is that it doesn’t bore you. There is no-one that can accuse The Will of Fire of being dull.
As a movie it isn’t great though. It’s just got the bare outline of a story to work with, and that story is never really the point of the film anyway. You have Hiruko and his vendetta against the world, as well as his lusting for power. You have his background with the Leaf Village, and his one-time friendship with Kakashi, but that all is gingerly related in flashback, and never in enough detail to really flesh out the character beyond stock villain. You have a bit of politicking going on, with the ninja world teetering towards war, and even a confrontation brewing between the Sand Village and the Leaf Village. Gaara makes an appearance but it isn’t all that meaningful in the story.
What the film is, is about Kakashi trying to sacrifice himself for the people he cares about, and Naruto rescuing him. That lesson that he taught Naruto, about valuing one’s comrades above even loyalty to the village is a running theme through this film, and constantly reiterated, as is the ‘Will of Fire’ catchphrase. In some ways this film is a big reset, as the themes of friendship and loyalty are constant tested and explored in the series. At the start of this film, it’s as if that never happened, and when Naruto decides to rescue Kakashi, he’s practically standing alone. Worse than that actually, as his friends choose loyalty to the village, and the mission first, and actually stand against Naruto, to allow Kakashi to complete his mission.
Of course by the end of the film, Naruto manages to convince everyone that his way is the right way, but you get the feeling that in the series, the question of letting Kakashi sacrifice himself would never have arisen in the first place. Still, of all the feature films, this film does reference the series the most, with a lot in the way of flashbacks, or rather newly animated versions of those iconic series moments, so you really need to have watched all of the series to fully appreciate the film.
But the pace never lets up, and you get to see all your favourite Hidden Leaf ninja in action against the bad guys, and when the occasion calls for it, against Naruto as well. I love seeing a Rock Lee fight sequence, but here you get to see him team up with Neji. Actually there’s also a great team up between Neji and Hinata, and I always love seeing Sakura cut loose. Will of Fire isn’t much of a film, but it is great fun, action-packed and with a relentless pace. Fans of the series will love this, and unlike the other films, it steps away from the usual filler formula of damaged brat for Naruto to sympathise with. At least it does something different.