Review for Naruto Shippuden: The Movie 4 - The Lost Tower
There was a time when I looked forward to the next Naruto movie. The early series, with its episode spanning fight sequence tedium, and the filler that plumbed the depths of mediocrity often needed a short, sharp hit of pure Naruto to remind us just what the uncut ninja drug was capable of. The films were, and still are filler, but telling a single story in the space of ninety minutes or so, there is no room for flabbiness and padding, and the budget is there to make the action sequences positively breathtaking. Not anymore. There’s nothing wrong with the films now; it’s just that the Naruto Shippuden series has finally gotten good enough to not need a distraction. I actually resent this film coming to me now, as it made me make haste with my viewing of boxset 16, where I would have much rather have taken a couple of more leisurely days to savour the goodness contained within.
Anyway the film, and 500 or so episodes and seven movies down the line, you’ve got another thing coming if you think I’m going to start explaining from first principles what Naruto is all about now! Chronologists note: This film slots in somewhere between episodes 152 and 156 of Naruto Shippuden, although you have to take with a pinch of salt the idea that Naruto, Sakura, Sai, and Yamato could be sent on an unrelated mission given the peril that faces the village in the main storyline at this point.
Naruto and his fellow ninja have been assigned the mission of tracking down and capturing the rogue ninja Mukade, and they’ve cornered him in the ruins of Loran. Mukade and his puppet master ability cause Naruto no little trouble, which is why Mukade makes it to his destination, the confluence of chakra ley lines that meet in Loran. They’re too late to stop him from activating the power, there’s a flash of light, and Naruto vanishes along with Mukade.
He wakes up to the sound of a girl singing, and finds himself in a city of towers. It isn’t long before he’s battling puppets again, and this time he’s on the losing end. He winds up being rescued by some oddly familiar figures, an infiltration team from the Hidden Leaf Village led by none other than the future 4th Hokage himself. Naruto has somehow wound up 20-odd years in the past in the city of Loran, and he’s now gotten involved in the other team’s mission. They’re investigating the reports of a secret army being developed, and it all began when the Queen of Loran’s new advisor Anrokuzan appeared. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who Anrokuzan really is, but even after saving the Queen from an assassination attempt, convincing her isn’t easy. Besides, there’s the question of how Naruto is going to get back to the future, and he also has a personal question that he’s dying to ask Minato Namikaze, the future 4th Hokage.
The Lost Tower is released as a dual play Blu-ray/DVD release. I’m taking a look at the Blu-ray disc only.
The Lost Tower gets a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p resolution. The image is clear and sharp, although when it comes to the colours, this film has a comparatively subdued palette in comparison to the TV series. It’s a nice animation, and as you would imagine the action sequences really do excel here. There might be a smidge of banding in some of the darker scenes, but you’ll really have to look for it. The character designs reflect the TV characters as you might expect, but the world design, particularly the tower city of Loran, takes a page from a couple of the Star Wars movies, and no doubt reaches back all the way to Metropolis as well. For a TV spin-off, this looks very impressive, and adds a third dimension of dynamism to the action.
The images in this review are sourced from the PR and aren’t necessarily representative of the final retail release.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and Japanese with optional translated subtitles. I stuck with the Japanese audio and was very happy with the experience, the action well represented across the soundstage, the dialogue clear, and the film getting an oddly Celtic feel to its music soundtrack which helps it stand out a little.
From the animated menu, you can access the disc’s audio and subtitle options and scene select as usual.
In the extras menu, you’ll find the textless ending (5 mins), the movie trailers without subtitles (7 mins) and following an Australian anti-piracy thank you (this is a Madman disc made Manga), trailers for Fairy Tail Part 5, K-On! The Movie, and Evangelion 1.11.
The big extra here is the Naruto short animation that preceded the film in Japanese theatres. In Naruto and the Three Wishes, set during the first series era, the four genin teams head for the beach for a day off, where Naruto happens to find a genie in a bottle. Pretty soon everyone wants to make use of the last wish! It’s a nice bit of fun, with a rather lame ending. It’s presented in HD, with PCM 2.0 stereo English and Japanese stereo with optional subtitles, and it runs just shy of 15 minutes.
Who doesn’t love a time travel movie? And with time travelling ninja on top of that, this fourth Naruto Shippuden film should be a win-win situation. It isn’t. Instead, it’s just another competent Naruto feature film, pure filler, with no impact on the ongoing storyline, a girl to save, a villain to defeat, and some big screen ninja action to appreciate. The time travel dimension to the story might as well be an afterthought, particularly with the egregious reset button applied at the end, rendering any emotional growth for the main character in this film, null and void. Of course you can see the point of that, given that around the end of the Pain attack arc, Naruto meets Minato Namikaze for real, and the question that he wants answered here, is properly answered there. But if you want an anime time travel movie... well get The Girl Who Leapt Through Time... but if you want a TV series spin-off where there is weight for a main character travelling back through time to meet a significant figure from his past, get the first Tenchi movie, Tenchi in Love. The Lost Tower tries to do the same thing for Naruto, but the demands of the TV series narrative cuts the legs out from under it before it can really start.
There is a little bonus in seeing some of the familiar Leaf Village veterans in younger days, including the parents of some of Naruto’s peers when they too were young ninja being sent out on important missions.
Once you take the time travel gimmick out of it, which you may as well given the memory erasure jutsu applied at the end, what you have here is a traditional Naruto movie, a villain to defeat and a girl to rescue. The queen of Loran, Sara is an engaging and strong character, whose first impulse on being rescued by Naruto is to pummel him for having the effrontery to manhandle her, before begrudgingly thanking him. She’s something of a puppet queen, put into the position following the death of her mother, and supported by Anrokuzan. The truth of the matter being that it’s Anrokuzan that’s running the country, and using its unique power to further his aims of global domination by building a vast puppet army.
So Naruto has to convince Sara of the truth, and help her find the strength within to stand up to her advisor, and free her people from his yoke. Of course Naruto winds up protecting her from him as well. Cue lots of ninja vs. giant puppet action, ably animated and entertaining to watch. Rasengan fly like there’s no tomorrow and Naruto clones pop up all over the place. It’s typical, hyperactive ninja entertainment, and I enjoyed every minute of it. But if I was brutally honest, right now, I’d much rather be watching the Naruto Shippuden series instead, the story’s gotten really good there. Mind you, I am looking forward to the day that Road to Ninja is released here.