Naruto Shippuden The Movie: The Lost Tower is the seventh film in the long-running Naruto franchise. It's a mostly standalone entry with many of the familiar characters from the series. Released in Japanese cinemas in July 2010, the film was greeted with mostly negative and uninspiring responses from fans. It has now been released in North America, with both the original Japanese language version and with an English dub.
The plot of the film involves time travel. Sounds like a cool concept, right? The story in this outing focuses on a rouge ninja Mukade who is being stopped by Naruto and his team when suddenly the power of the Ley Line is drawn and through a form of chakra Naruto and co. are flung back to a past time in the city of Loran, where there are countless towers that form across the sky. In this new location and time Naruto finds himself meeting the Queen of Loran, who is sheltered away from the rest of the world and is having to deal with the effects of her people and land becoming subjected to the harsh evils of the ninja Mikade, who seeks to turn everyone there into puppets (literally, by using a machine that makes the people of Loran create puppet versions of themselves) that he can control. Can Mukade escape the high-flyin' mooves of Naurto and be the ruler of all of Loran or will he be stopped and the time and place will be corrected back to the way it was before in Loran -- with Naruto either stuck in time or returning home and out of time dislodgment?
The film is rather disappointing. I have not kept up to speed with the Naruto franchise, and this film is a reminder of why I sometimes found myself disappointed with the world of Naruto. I'd loved the early episodes and the story and characters that inhabited it. Somewhere along the big Naruto journey I sort of fell out of fandom. I got sick of so many filler episodes and seemingly unending story arcs that stopped delivering something that seemed unique and special. Yet at times I do wonder if I have missed out by jumping out of fandom as I've heard a lot of good things about later seasons. If the series has truly improved much, this wasn't a good way to experience the improvements I have heard a bit about.
Unfortunately, jumping back in with Naruto Shippuden The Movie: The Lost Tower wasn't necessarily a great idea as it's a mess of a film. This has nothing to do with the fact that I'd missed out on other Naruto outings, either. The plot works standalone and I am familiar with these characters. I don't see how that many fans would enjoy this adventure. It focuses far too much on what Naruto is doing without giving enough time to the supporting cast of characters.
Adding to the disappointing aspects of this film, the basic plot behind this outing is generic - so bland and uninviting that only the most "serious" Naruto fans who enjoy everything in the entire franchise without any qualms or reservations will find something appealing here. If my write-up of the plot wasn't convincing, this has a really uneventful plot that really makes no sense within the world of the series. It's also quite uninspired as the basic concept of the film involves time travel but nothing special is done with this element.
Instead, the film relies almost entirely on Naruto "uncovering the mystery" (which is fairly sub-standard and poorly written) before he battles it out with the evil Ninja Mukade using the same techniques over and over again. The film then almost abruptly ends after the dueling is done and things are set back to how they needed to be. (Which I don't even consider much of a spoiler, it's not as though people are expecting Naruto to get stuck in the past in an unfamiliar land.)
The animation quality is pretty nice overall but a clear step down from some of the other adventures with Naruto. I thought it was a bit drab in terms of color design, which was a underwhelming aspect of the production. The character designs are familiar though with expectedly fluid animation. When it came to the battle sequences towards the end things devolved somewhat and it became a bit of a mess of chaotic animation that is dull and uninspired.
The direction by Masahiko Murata was mediocre at best but it was the weak script by the screenwriter, Junki Takegami, which made the film such a big disaster creatively. The presentation of the story was acceptable in quality for most of the run-time but this is unquestionably a weak plot and opportunity for the characters to shine. This dud isn't recommended to fans as it's a weak and unexciting chapter in the long-running series.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation does a good job of presenting the animation. The bit-rates and encoding were mostly good but a bit on a low side for a DVD and certain moments would have benefited from better encoding. It's a good looking release of Naruto Shippuden The Movie: The Lost Tower -- not an amazing one -- but one with accurate color reproduction and decent image depth.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound track for both English and Japanese should offer fans a good experience with decent surround usage during the battle sequences. Music is also aided from the surround experience. 2.0 audio in English and Japanese is also included.
Subtitles are provided in English for viewing the Japanese language version.
There are a couple of extras included on this release. The most exciting one is a short film in the Naruto universe entitled Naruto and the Three Wishes. To my surprise, this short film is so much better than the main feature: I absolutely loved it! Fans of Naruto should absolutely check out the short as it's an example of the comedic hilarity that is sometimes found on the show and there are great moments for all of the main characters of the short to have a spotlight moment. This is very funny and charming and it reminded me of what I loved about Naruto in the first place: the great characters and comedic hijinks (not seemingly unending battles and generic plot-lines).
The release also includes clean ending animation and Japanese trailers for the main feature film.
Naruto Shippuden The Movie: The Lost Tower is an unexciting and poorly executed film in the long running anime franchise. While I hoped for a good time with this feature film, the results were decidedly underwhelming with a weak plot and poor characterizations. The one bright aspect of this release is the awesomely fun short film entitled Naruto and the Three Wishes, which is worth the price of admission. Fans will want to at least give this release a rent for viewing the short film that is included (if nothing else).