Tag Archives: shoen

Black Cat

Type: Tries to fit in waaaay too much

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Synopsis: In the most basic terms, this is an B-level anime about a disgruntled government employee who travels around with a bounty hunter and a teenage girl. But honestly, the “main character” is the most uninteresting part. I was way more enthralled by oddly cute story about a father figure taking his charge for ice cream, fireworks, getting her tones of books, and letting her hunt down criminals by utilizing her super soldier abilities. Maybe my tastes are maturing….

Pros: As stated above, this anime is a really fun B-anime. I’d put it right up there with Outlaw Star and Negima!? There are really 2 main plots that run parallel to each other in the anime. The primary plot is about Train, an ex-government assassin who’s on a quest for revenge against the man who killed a girl he kinda, sorta liked. I mean, they only met for, like, 30 minutes combined, but she was being all manic pixie. Boys like that. Train’s rival starts a revolutionary terrorist, “Apostles of the Star,” who drive the main plot. The other plot involves Eve, an artificial life form who’s powers drive the plot of the last arc. But really, the anime is mostly about 3 people going on wacky adventures with one another. That’s when its at its best. Train’s the wacky one, Sven’s the straight man, and Eve’s the deadpan girl. And sometimes they’re joined by Rinslet, a sly con woman. The three had great chemistry, make a great comedic team, and I honestly could have lived with the entire series just being them going on jobs.

Cons: There is actually a lot wrong with Black Cat. The story is rushed. The original manga was 20 volumes. The show is only 24 episodes. That’s practically a volume per episode. The show tries it’s best to cram in as many characters and villains as it can, but most are forgettable. I mean, yeah, Creed’s obsession with Train was unique, but he’s outfit was just too much to take him seriously. And the Apostles and the Numbers aren’t really given enough time individually to establish themselves as credible threats. This is a rare case where the “read the manga” ending would have been better than the “let’s get as many plot points as we can” ending. You never really get a chance to “know” any of these characters. And the English Dub dips in quality one too many times. Train’s story is ultimately uninteresting, and he’s more of a poster boy than compelling protagonist. Eve’s story isn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked it. And Sven isn’t really given an arc at all. He has a quick flashback and that’s it. I liked Rinslet’s addition, but she usually stayed at arms length most of the time. But the most jarring this about watching this show is that ep1-7 feels very removed from the rest of the show. The first seven episodes are the intro arc, which is way more melodramatic and dark than the rest of the show (the first arc is literally all at night). And Train is way more of a emo anime boy than the happy go lucky guy he is later. I would actually not recommend watching ep1-7 first. I would actually watch these between ep10 and 11, or even until ep20. I think this anime would have been truly great if it’s story had been given more episodes to breath.

Watch it?: For all it’s faults, it’s still a fun ride (4/5)

MVP: Sven

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This is an alternate version of Kenji Harima. This is my headcannon now.

Best Episode: Ep.8 “The Sweeping Cat / A Traveling Cat” (adventure!)

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Cyborg 009 VS Devilman (OVA)

Type: Dawn of Trends

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Synopsis: I was rooting for Devil Man.

Pros: Cyborg 007 vs Devilman follows the classic superhero vs superhero story points. The two heroes fight one another because of a misunderstanding, it turns out there’s a bigger threat, they work together, hugs and kisses and goodnight. The plot is more Cyborg 009 heavy. After the fight with the Olympian styled cyborgs, the Cyborg 1-9 are alerted to the dangers of a “demons,” run into newer cyborgs, and then have to fight cyborg/demon hybrids. The Cyborg side of the story is more proactive, giving them more presence in the story. On the other side, we have Devilman, who sorta just reacts to the plot. His involvement doesn’t become justified until the halfway through, when his girlfriend(?) is kidnapped to get his devil genes, or something. The crux of the story relies on the fact that both sides find the others existence possible. Having fought god themed cyborgs, Demon Cyborgs aren’t too crazy, and Devilman will mostly fight anything. I actually really found myself liking the Devilman aspects of the show. In a way, it completed its mission of making me curious about one of the franchises. As crossovers go, mushing these two seemingly antithetical franchises made in the 1970’s together worked surprisingly well.

Cons: I’m going to put this out there: I am not a fan of Cyborg 009. And it is for the pettiest reasons. Back in the day, Toonami replaced Rorouni Kenshin with Cyborg 009 on their 6pm slot, moving Kenshin to Saturday Nights. This occurred before the resolution of the Kyoto Arc, meaning I had to stay up late to watch Kenshin, which was now once a week instead of every day. As you can imagine, child-me did not appreciate this. And even since, I’ve been very bitter towards Cyborg 009 (even though I know that it was probably some dumb program managers fault). So naturally I found myself rooting for Devilman in this and resenting the plot heavy Cyborg 009 elements. That being said, this mini-series is very cannon plot heavy. It seems to occur after a big arc for Cyborg 009 and an early arc for Devilman. This was clearly done for the benefit of long time fans, because new viewers will feel lost and confused. In fact, I’d hazard to say that this film is meant to be a cannon occurance instead of a stand alone adventure. Did this make me a fan of Cyborg 009? No. It’s still not for me, and I still find Cyborg 009 and 002’s power redundant (if they both and super speed, we keep both?).

Watch it?: Now I wanna read Devilman (4/5)

MVP: Devilman

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I just think he stands the test of time better

Best Episode: Ep.1 Cyborg 009 vs Devilman (hero fights!)

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First of the North Star (1986)

Type: You’re already dead

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Synopsis: You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you straight to hel…wait a minute, did that man just blow up another mans head? Huh, did that other man just cut those people in half with his fingers? Wha-is that man’s horse eminating some sort of terrible yet noble aura? Maybe this apocalypse won’t be so bad…

Pros: The First of the North Star movie is based on the Fist of the North Star manga, a very seminal and very bloody manga from the 80’s that influenced a bunch of stuff, most notably Berserk. The story is basically a Martial Arts drama set in a Mad Max world. In fact, if Mad Mas is what’s happening is Australia, then Fist of the North Star is probably happening in Japan. The star of our tale is Kenshiro, the current master of Hokuto Shinken, a pressure point fighting style. Kenshiro’s fiance is kidnapped and Ken is left for dead, only to wake up a few years later to look for her. What follows is Ken going from town to town, helping the survivors of humanity along the way. And by helping, I mean using Hokuto Shinken to make bandit heads blow up real nice. This is a very bloody movie, so much so that the animators actually had a few joke decapitations here and there. The film does capture the spirit of the source material, even if it takes some liberties with story points like Roah showing up way too early). Overall, pretty good.

Cons: It’s not that the animation is old, it’s that some of the special effects used in the movie did not age well. The English Dub could be hit of miss for some people. I found it charming, but purist may not be able to deal with it. And his is very gory. If your not a fan of that, then you won’t be a fan of this.

Watch it?: If you’ve never been exposed to Fist of the North Star, this is a good first look

MVP: Kenshiro’s Beard

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It kills you with its manliness

Best Moment: Kenshiro’s revival (what is he, a monster!?)

 

 

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Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

Type: Arabian Nights starring Jake Gyllenhall!?

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Synopsis: In a time long ago before, there was a movie franchise of movie franchises called Aladdin, of Studio Disney. So popular was the story that it sprang forth two direct to video sequels, a cartoon show, and some pretty good video games. It’s also the reason why this wasn’t just called the “Adventures of Aladdin” or something. Copyright is a scary thing. Anyway, this stars a little magician called “Aladdin” with a non-talking Genie and “Alibaba,” a thoroughly not old woodcutter. Oh, and sometimes it also has a slave girl named Morgiana, but according to the show, she’s not super important.

Pros: I’ve said this before, but I always find anime adaptations of non-Japanese stories really fascinating. In this case, the anime borrows heavily from One Thousand and One Nights, one of the definitive bedrocks of modern fiction. Having never read the collected works (It’s on my list), I can’t really speak that much about the allusions the anime uses. What I can say is that the Magi anime itself is pretty good. It sets itself up as an adventure story, but quickly becomes a sociopolitical tale with social inequality as it’s main topic. The villains used in this are often drunk on other own power, either because of owning slaves, or holding titles, or simply being powerful. A lot are simply bullies, which irritated my a lot, meaning that they work as villains (because you’re not suppose to like the villains!). And because most of the story arcs boil down to the harshness of inequality, something that has stayed consistent throughout history, the plots often pack an emotional punch. Just look at Morgiana, a slave from early childhood with the mental scars to prove it. The use of the colorful world was a great juxtaposition with the ugly actions of some of it’s inhabitants, as well as the power source of the true antagonists being hatred and negativity. I should also mention that the openings for this anime are really good. Not artsy, as they mostly use scenes from the upcoming episodes, but they were really fun to watch.

Cons: A story set in the Middle-East, and you couldn’t give one character a tan? For reals!? Hollywood gets a lot of flack for white washing its films (deservedly so), but anime ain’t exactly innocent of this either. Like, why is Morgiana of the “Dark Continent” (cough Old 1800’s Racist English Name for  the continent Africa cough) a pale girl with red hair? Why does Alibaba have Blonde Hair and Blue Eyes? This is almost as bad a Gods of Egypt, which I’m sure will stay a topical reference…Anyway, there are other problems. For a story whose opening sells itself as an adventure series, Aladdin and crew don’t really do a lot of traveling together. And despite all this talk of Dungeons, you only get 2 in the show. A lot of the story arcs just have them hanging out in one city at a time. You never see them hit the road as a group, which would have been fun. Speaking of groups, I feel that Morgiana gets short changed, probably because she’s “the girl.” The anime is more of the Aladdin and Alibaba story. Spefically, Alibaba’s hero’s journey with Aladdin as his wizard advisor. Morgiana’s just there for the ride. Story wise, this is a meaty anime. Some arcs drag, like the Balbadd story. Ultimately, my biggest problem with this anime is that I feel that it sells itself as a fun adventure story, but the levity never arrives outside of a few boob jokes. It’s really more like a disingenuous Fullmetal Alchemist.

Watch it?: Yeeeeah, but do realize it does feel long. (4/5)

MVP: Morgiana

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Always has the best fights

Best Episode: Ep6 “Warrior Tribe Fanalis” (showcase of the anime’s story structure)

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Boruto: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Confusing Title

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Synopsis: Mission 11- Milk the Franchise for all it’s worth!

Pros: Boruto: Naruto the Movie is…wait, before we start, can we all agree that “Boruto: Naruto the Movie” is a very dumb title. “Boruto: The Movie,” “Naruto Legacy: Boruto,” or even “Naruto the Movie: Boruto,” all these would have made more sense. Also, “Boruto?” as in “Bore-uto?” did no one make the connection? Anyway, Boruto is a sequel series to the Naruto franchise, following the life of Naruto’s son Boruto. Specifically, right after Naruto has become Hokage, but before Boruto takes his Chunin Exams. The plot of the film revolves around Boruto feeling neglected by his father, who’s very busy with his duties as Hokage. His growing resentment leads him to attempt to surpass his father, either by tutelage under Sasuke, or via a cheater Ninja device. Then the bad guy shows up and almost kills Naruto, making Boruto realize what a shmuck he really is. The world that Boruto shows is pretty interesting, as it has modernized quiet rapidly since the end of Naruto. Seeing the character’s kids in action was neat (though their similar ages makes me think the cast of Naruto coordinated their pregnancies). It’s a fair start to a new chapter, and I look forward to seeing more of it, and I applaud the franchise for daring to follow a new protagonist (unlike other series cough Dragon Ball cough). (P.s. However, personally, I would have liked the story to focus on Sarada Uchiha, because I find the story of an Uchiha who wants to be Hokage much more interesting).

Cons: So I think the big question in everyone’s mind upon hearing this was: Is Boruto any good as a character? Because he look’s just like his Naruto, and acts just like Naruto, but we just went through 12 years of Naruto. Is he redundant? The answer is yes and no. Boruto’s situation and motivation are different from Naruto, and that will determine whether or not you like him. Unlike Naruto, his son is every talented and popular, with a family that loves him. In fact, the reason he lashes out in the movie is that his father works too much (which is implied to be a recent thing). Which is different from Naruto, who lashed out more as a way to validate his existence. Or to put it another way, Naruto needed to prove that he mattered, while Boruto his just a brat. But the whole movie is Boruto having to realize this, so narratively, his behavior is justified. Personally, however…yeah, he’s annoying. More annoying than Naruto was? No, but Naruto had the orphan excuse. But his whole analysis does bring up the glaring fact that you can’t talk about Boruto without bringing up Naruto. And to it’s credit, the movie’s writing owes up to this, very much stating that “Yes, this is a continuation of the Naruto story” while also stating “but, this is a new story.”

Best Boruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Momoshiki

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Forgettable Villain V.2, #1

Best Moment: The Last Fight (Hokage Level Combat!)

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The Last: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Years in the Making

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Synopsis: Mission 10- Save the World, Fall in Love, Live Happily Ever After

Pros: Hmm….ah, excuse me. I have to wipe away these tears of joy I have here. This movie is so…cathartic. It’s the perfect emotional endpoint for the Naruto franchise. The Last focuses on the relationship between Naruto and Hinata, finally affirming their status as a couple. You see, in the actual manga, Naruto and Hinata’s romance is not a main plot. It’s not even a subplot. It’s a sup plot twice removed. It’s such a slow burn that you almost can’t believe it finally paid off. But it’s also something you can only pull off if your series has lasted consistently for this long. In the film, Naruto FINALLY realizes that Hinata loves him, and he realizes that he loves her. Because Hinata was the first person to ever believe in Naruto. He inspired her, which eventually evolved into love. The film was actually a good showcase of Hinata’s overall character arc, from being riddled with self-doubt to standing tall in the face of overwhelming danger. That’s one of the reason’s why Hinata is my favorite Naruto character (sorry Lee!), because her personal anxieties weigh on her the most. She struggles, she falls, but she keeps on trying and becomes a lot stronger as a result. She also rips a man’s eyes out of their sockets, which was pretty bad ass. Now, if you’re not as invested in the Naruto/Hinata story as I am (you monsters), the movie was also a pretty cool way to see the progression of the main characters. Every character was aged up to about 19-20 years old, so they all got really neat redesigns. And taking place after the series ended, you get to see Naruto be really popular and  fight at his strongest, throwing wind-rasengans left and right. Plus, you get to see Kakashi as Hokage, which was cool, and all this growth was fun to observe because Naruto has been around for soo long. In some ways, it’s like we’ve seen actors grow up before our eyes.

Cons: While I stand by my assertion that this was the best story to end the Naruto story on, the plot if pretty cookie cutter. One person has a crush on the other, they bond, something dramatic happens, the other tries to reciprocate but is “rejected,” the girl is “kidnapped” or somehow removed, the boy wallows in self pity for a little but is roused by his friends to save the girl, rescue occurs and romantic kiss ends it. This has literally happened at the end of so many romantic anime that I’ve lost count (it even happend in Ouran Host Club). To top it off, the villain is even that douche anime character that thinks the girl likes him just because he says so.  Yuck. And it took Naruto a magic memory pool to realize Hinata likes him, the knucklehead! While the plot can make the film a little too romantically generic at times, the movie as a whole does tie up two crucial loose ends. First, the Hinata-Naruto story, and second, the Other Sage of the Six Paths. In the Naruto story, the creator of the Ninja arts had a brother, but the manga never really says what happened to him. Turn out, he went off to live on he moon! Who knew? It was also cool to state that Hinata’s Byakugan is tied to the Sages, just like the Sharingan. (P.s. In the movie, the moon is falling, which leads to everyone deciding to destroy the moon because some crazy guy is trying to kill all Ninja. Stop trying to destroy the moon anime characters! That’s an incredibly bad idea on several levels!!)

Best Naruto Movie: YES

Villain: Toneri

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Forgettable Villain #10

Best Moment: The Post Credit Scene (Naruto and his Family…ah, here come those tears again:))

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Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Naruto of Two Worlds

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Synopsis: Mission 9- Return to Reality

Pros: I loved this movie! Hands down the best Naruto movie I’ve seen thus far (I got 2 to go). The gimmick of the film is that Naruto and Sakura are transported into a parallel world. Everyone they know has opposite personalities or traits in some way. Hinata is brash, Choji is skinny, Tsunade is flat chested, etc. This aspect of the movie is rife with comedic moments and really makes up for the very serious Blood Prison. The other half of the movie, however, is a much more personal story. Because in the parallel world, both of Naruto’s parents are alive. Naruto’s emotional conflict over whether or not to embrace his alternate mother and father really reminds you that Naruto’s life is pretty tragic . He is, after all, a character that grew up an orphan and is only 16 at this point. The kid’s all by himself, which you sometimes forget given all the crazy ninja stuff that surrounds him (it also doesn’t help that the movie shows the death scene of Naruto’s parents, literally the saddest moment in the whole franchise and fiction in general). So it was nice to see how Naruto’s parents would treat him if they were still alive. The film’s a very intimate story, centering on the main cast dynamics and history, which are often the best Naruto stories. (On a side note, I also really loved the relationship shown between Naruto and Sakura. Not only because it’s a rare platonic male-female friendship in anime, but because, when you really think about it, Sakura is Naruto’s Best Friend. She’s stuck by him since the age of 12, and has literally saved his life on multiple occasions. Screw Sasuke, give Sakura a damn BFF bracelet!)

Cons: Not a lot of action. The film is surprisingly devoid of great fights scenes. I kept expecting for Naruto do preform some jutsu and everyone saying “hey wait a minute, Menma can’t do that!” Even the big battle between Naruto and the antagonist was resolved with one punch. In fact, the animation in this was unimpressive, and felt very much like it was made on a budget. The story was great, but this film was clearly made specifically for Naturo fans. The uninitiated may need to do some homework to enjoy it. And again, the antagonist was nothing special. If you don’t guess it early enough, he’s the “evil” version of Naruto. Why exactly he’s evil given the fact that his parents are alive, or why no one notices that he’s been missing, is never explained. And lastly, it does make me smirk that his all started because Naruto and Sakura were acting like sh#tty teens and complaining about parents and stuff. Again, it is sometimes easy to forget exactly how young they really are in the story.

Best Naruto Movie: Yes

Villain: Menma

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Forgettable Villain #9

Best Moment: The Hidden Leaf 11’s bath scene (I love it when all 11 get together. Plus, hijinks!)

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Naruto the Movie: Blood Prison [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Don’t Drop the Kunai!

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Synopsis: Mission 8- Destroy a Magic Box

Pros: Blood Prison is definitely the darkest Naruto movie. I feel that the writers took this opportunity to stick in a few Prison movie Easter Eggs (some uncomfortably so). The premise is that Naruto is accused of attempted assassination and is sent to a Ninja Prison. He spends most of the movie screaming that he’s innocent and trying to find a way to escape. He also has to stop the evil Grass Ninja from using the “Paradise Box” to take over the world. The idea of a Ninja Prison was interesting, and for once, the antagonist had an actual motivation for his actions. The final battle against the demon in the Paradise Box was pretty cool (we even get a Gamabunta appearance), though it does get very bloody. And the good guys don’t really “win,” more as got lucky. Again, the darkest Naruto movie by far.

Cons: There’s a lot of small movie conceits that annoyed me. In the beginning, we see the “Naruto” attack the Cloud Village. That’s why he’s sent to prison. But if any of the characters thought about it, they’d know it wasn’t Naruto. The attacker used a chain (not Naruto’s style) and he paused a minute to show his face (why would a secret assassin do?). Now I’m going to spoil something, because it’s really dumb: at the final battle it’s revealed that no one though Naruto was guilty, they actually sent him to Prison to find and destroy the Paradise Box. A box he was never told about. Why didn’t they just tell him!? Why have him believe that everyone abandoned him? Because it seems to me that a very powerful Ninja with no living family and a large history of neglect probably shouldn’t be given a chance to develop trust issues. I did like the villain in this, mostly because he was the first Naruto film bad guy who didn’t want to use the movie Mcguffin to take over the world. Also: this was my first exposure to the English dubbed Killer Bee. Man, that was….all I’ll say is that the rhyming speech sounded less lame in the manga.

Best Naruto Movie: Yes

Villain: Satori

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Forgettable Villain #8

Best Moment: When Naruto’s friends talk about Tricking Naruto at the End (they partially did it for the LoL’s)

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Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Back to the Future

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Synopsis: Mission 7- Capture Rouge Puppet Ninja

Pros: The Lost Tower does a very good job at two key elements for an shoen-anime movie-it focuses on action and could be considered cannon-adjacent. In the Lost Tower, Naruto and pals are trying to catch a runaway Ninja when Naruto gets sent back in time. The run away Ninja is a puppet master, and this was a very cool Ninja style to focus on. It also works thematically, if predictably (he ends up controlling someone emotionally). The other gimmick of the film is the inclusion of Naruto’s father, the 4th Hokage. I’d say spoilers, but the two characters look so alike that assuming you didn’t make the connection would be insulting. While the Fourth and Naruto only spend superficial time together, the film does paint a very good picture of the Fourth’s personality. For instance, the Fourth easily discerns that Naruto is from the future, and he easily figures out that Naruto is probably his son. In only a few minutes, you understand why he would made the Hokage. The film only character, Queen Sara, is alright. Her arc from naive royal to leader is well done, and is central to the story.

Cons: Once again, we get the standard Naruto movie story: An authority figure betrays the film only protagonist, has a crazy plan that boils down to world domination, and Naruto has to do some special Rasengan variant to beat them up. As stated above, this is really Queen Sara’s story. Naruto is there to act more like emotional support than anything else. He keeps telling her “you gatta do what you gatta do,” and “you’re not a puppet.” Naruto’s basically a cheerleader in this (though he is a very good cheerleader). Also as stated above, the inclusion of the Fourth Hokage is more superficial than anything. And because this is a time travel story, the film as the audacity to use the “mind wipe” troupe to make sure that no one remembers anything that happened, and that nothing is affected in the real series plot. (There’s this one weird scene where the Queen’s festival turns out to be filled with a crowd of puppets to trick her into thinking there’s peace in her city, but then a puppet queen shows up to greet the people, which are also puppets, which begs the question as to why Mukade is trying to keep up the rouse at that point!?)

Best Naruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Mukade

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Forgettable Villain #7

Best Moment: The ending (time traveling thank yous)

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Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Will of Fire [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: 10th Anniversary Edition

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Synopsis: Mission 6- Going Rouge

Pros: As this movie is a celebration of Naruto after 10 years, it does the really smart thing of focusing on the characters from the Hidden Leaf Village. Instead of adding some random film only character, the person that needs rescuing in this movie is Kakashi. Long story short: A former Leaf Ninja is kidnapping Ninja with Kekkei Genkai, or “Bloodline Techniques.” With the other nations blaming the Leaf, everyone decides to sacrifice Kakashi to stop the threat. Everyone except for Naruto, who predictably is not down with letting his teacher die. So what we get is a movie where Naruto is racing to stop Kakashi, while everyone else is racing to stop Naruto. The film uses the entire “Leaf 9,” or Naruto’s graduating class. This was also very smart because it uses characters that aren’t often showcased, and because the Naruto story is a Generational one, so having Naruto’s generation take center stage was smart. Each team gets a fight sequence, and we even get a pretty cool Naruto vs. Gaara rematch. The movie also throws in political issues and themes of friendship, making this an excellent primer for what the Naruto franchise had evolved into.

Cons: The backgrounds are boring. It’s mostly a bunch of rocks and spiky rocks. Kakashi’s plan was a little ill thought out, because he should have known how Naruto would behave as his teacher. And while I did like Naruto’s resolve to save Kakashi, his stubborness did make his annoying at times. We get a few random flashbacks here and there, but they do work in context. Interestingly, no Sasuke. I don’t like the guy, but even I feel he needed a mention for the 10th anniversary movie.

Best Naruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Hiruko

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Forgettable Villain #6

Best Moment: Naruto vs Gaara II (my favorite rivalry in the franchise)

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