This Week in Anime - Why the Hell are there Ninjas on the Moon?

1 week ago 17

After Funimation recently beefed up its catalog with five Naruto films, Nick and Nicky decided to travel both time and space to find the true origins of Boruto's existence and how close he was to being snuffed out by a weird moon ninja.

This movie is streaming on Funimation

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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the movie ahead.

Nicky, I think I'm officially an Old Anime Fan. I hear whippersnappers talk about their Borutos and Kawakis and Salads, and all I can think is that kids these days are missing out on REAL shonen stories, like Boruto's Dad. Those were the days...

I'm here right with you, back in my day we didn't have any Crunchyrolls or Netflix! We had to watch anime the old fashioned way: on YouTube with Spanish subs broken into three parts. Oh, and we had to make our own ship content, too. The only way you were gonna see two hours of unadulterated romance in your Shonen Jump anime was if someone put their AMV to a DDR song on loop. Anyways, this is us talking about this Naruto movie inappropriately titled "The Last."

Technically the title is The Last -Naruto the Movie- which is way more confusing. But Funimation recently added all the Naruto movies for streaming, and we figured it would be fun to dip into the (somewhat) recent past and see what this juggernaut franchise was before it became The Bort Show. After all, before there was a Boruto, there was Boruto's Dad and, more importantly, Boruto's Mom:

Despite being the biggest Naruto Fan Ever at age 12, I actually hadn't seen this movie until now! So it definitely hits my nostalgia buttons to see a whole movie about a character I deeply related to and admired. To be Hinata Hyuga is to be a fuckin' champ and that's not just because she had the misfortune of developing a crush on the densest boy on the planet, Naruto.

The Last is an interesting piece of franchise connectivity. It takes place two years after the end of the main Naruto storyline, and actually released shortly after the manga concluded. It basically exists to tell the story of perhaps the biggest question between the events of chapters 699 and 700: How in the FUCK did Naruto and Hinata finally get together? The answer is both simpler and far more convoluted than you'd think.

Convoluted, you say? Well gee it's not like the actual movie opens up with a big fancy monologue about all the deep Ninja Lore dumped out in the final part of the series strangely scored to a new rendition of Greensleeves like it was some sword and sorcery joint.

Oh god I'm not ready. It's been seven years since the manga ended and I'm still not prepared to talk about Deep Ninja Lore. That's why the best part of this movie is the first 20 minutes when it's just a romantic comedy ripped straight out of my account in middle school.

Oh yeah, the deep lore is all set-dressing and the main focus of the movie is the romance of trying to get these two dorks to smooch after years of clamoring. For those of you who aren't aware, after her struggle displayed in the Chūnin Exams against her cousin Neji (RIP, you died a stupid death), Hinata and her deep admiration for Naruto left a deep impression in the mind of viewers. While not originally intended by Kishimoto, it was one of the emotional keystones of one of the series' best arcs and made Naruto and Hinata quickly became one of the most popular potential pairing in the whole series. But after years she hadn't had the proper screen time to justify a full-blown romance and people were shocked even after the very last chapter that they had somehow not even spoken to each other.

Oh and also there was a whole thing where Hinata nearly died saving Naruto from one of the biggest bad guys in the show and admitted she loved him in the process. Which the movie generously reminds us about:

Which just sinks home that NARUTO DIDN'T SAY SHIT TO HER ABOUT THAT FOR TWO WHOLE YEARS. Like I get it. Right after this they had to fight a whole Ninja War and stop an alien rabbit woman from eating everyone's dreams.
But then for two full years he just left her on Read.

That kind of frustration is part of why there's such high expectations for the characters in this movie. The series lacked the time to flesh out Naruto's side of the romance and some fans entirely gave up. The series' failure to deliver on some of the greater opportunities compared to some of the not-so-great elements. I feel like this movie actually displays a mix of both of those.

With that said, as a long-time fan, I feel like this movie 200% delivers the romance and a drama for me.

I'm of two minds on it. The very beginning and very end are pretty much the fluff I always wanted. Everything in between is...well we might as well start with the actual plot:

The Ninja Lore and any sort of physical conflict are what I consider the not-so-great elements. In the opening of the movie we see Hinata's dad being attacked by NINJAS FROM THE MOON, and then later those moon-ninjas cometo kidnap Hinata for her Special Eyes. Naruto manages to save her in a display of heroism but it comes at the cost of nabbing her younger-sister, Hanabi, while she was home alone.

If the fact that there are MOON NINJAS seems weird to you, well I assume you haven't watched or read Boruto where that shit gets even dumber. But also yes, it's a weird ass setup that clashes with 90% of the worldbuilding that came before it. It's also hilarious because it means the entire climax sounds like Gundam non sequiturs.

Sidenote: "A Bomb Called The Moon" is what I'm naming my new ska band.

There's so many ridiculous elements introduced in this movie. First of all, there's a secret ninja doomsday clock that the Hokage and Naruto's designated chaperone, Shikamaru, use to judge whether or not they're all gonna perish or not. How they do this accurately is up to anyone's imagination.

There are two types of dumb bullshit. Most of the lore in this movie is the bad kind where it's both uninteresting and confusing. But then you have cheesy shit like Naruto and Hinata getting trapped in a memory jutsu and having their hearts connect by the literal Red String of Fate.

Like I said, ripped straight from my fanfiction. Thank you for the food.

I genuinely loved this part and how it's presented even though the memory soup only exists as a way for Naruto to STOP BEING DUMB. The way it uses memory to illustrate how the characters are connected to history is really cool. It's a bit of an emotional puzzle box unique to action-focused stuff. Outside of the big flashy-ninja action, Naruto always drew me in with human drama that was missing from most of the cartoons I was watching at the time. It's also not the only time this movie uses memory in an interesting way. While Kishimoto helped with the story, director Tsuneo Kobayashi really adds flavor with the use of multiple perspectives, montages, and many small understated pieces of dialogue that help push the feelings of both characters.

It's also excellently staged to boot. This is some of the most dramatic Naruto has ever felt.

Biggest problem with all this is that the movie feels the need to also have a big doomsday action storyline, and that's where things really fall apart. Despite being half this story's emotional core Hinata gets kidnapped three separate times in this 110 minute movie.

It also relies heavily on the heredity magic-blood stuff that was really exhausting for me in the later parts of the manga. It's well known that Hinata is from a respected family but you didn't have to make her a moon princess in order to make that a conflict. There's a comparison to the original Tale of Princess Kaguya with the whole "spirited away to be a moon bride" aspect, but it does very little with its of fairytale aspects.

Also Naruto literally killed Princess Kaguya at the end of the manga so that doesn't even work.

Other than being related, she doesn't even play into this! The villain's only motivation is revenge on the ninja of Earth for their blood lust and depravity. Which is to say, he's pretty fuckin' boring.

Though I do have to laugh at the premise of this movie basically being Moon NTR. Change a few things in this story and suddenly Boruto was never born.

TBH I speculated whether it would've been more interesting to set the villain up as a more sympathetic to create an actual Beauty and the Beast-style romantic rival to the boneheaded Naruto who spent years squandering Hinata's feelings for him up until the moment where she finally forces his hand.

But that would require this villain having an actual motive. We don't even know why he needs Hinata at all for this plan? Also he took her sister's EYEBALLS (she gets better).

If the last decade of this franchise has taught me anything, eyes just sort of pop out of skulls whenever they're necessary.

Side note: Good fucking god am I sick of magic eyeballs. They're the worst thing Kishimoto ever came up with and every time one of them gets a new power it makes the series actively worse.

The magic eyeballs make ME want to pop out MY eyeballs.

Speaking of bullshit magic eyes, Sasuke makes his requisite cameo in this and it's a wonderful reminder that, whatever issues Naruto and Hinata have, they're better off than Sakura and her...does he count as a boyfriend if he's a banished war criminal?

I actually super love Sakura in this movie and how she chooses to support both Naruto and Hinata with emotional clarity, but that's no excuse for her horrible taste in men. Sasuke should've died in a ditch somewhere a long time ago. That said, the Gary Stu shows up for about 10 seconds of screen time in order to OP a flaming chunk of rock hurdling towards the village. Just to look cool.

I could go on for hours about how much Sasuke sucks as both a person and a character, but I'll just take it as a small mercy that they didn't make up an excuse for him to join Naruto on this moon mission. Though they did include Sai, who also sucks. In fact he sucks so bad this is the only screenshot I took with him in it. Fuck you Sai.

Most of the characters only get brief cameos but that's because outside of the main relationship, this movie is actually pretty packed with flashy spectacle. Naruto's godlike power creep is still there but the effects animation and the gravitas of powers make the stakes feel bigger than the weak villain deserves. Also, they drop an atomic chakra bomb on Naruto that eats a hole through the inside of the moon. This is basically the only thing capable of almost killing him at this point.

In classic anime fashion, the moon gets absolutely annihilated in this movie. A major plot point is Killer Bee and the Raikage literally have a giant laser cannon just in case they have to destroy the moon.

Though my favorite use of any character in this thing is that Kakashi, in basically the only time we get to see him as acting Hokage, has no god damned clue what's happening the whole movie.

And we didn't even mention that the moon just gets SPLIT IN HALF. There's no way to repair it? Just don't think about it.

It's about as logical as why everyone can walk about in space without any ninja spacesuits.

No time to worry about that, Naruto and friends have to stop the moon wedding! Also Hinata's mind-controlled now. It's a whole thing.

But also, I love her dress. She looks really good as a goth.

Personally I'm too hung up on the moon cuckoldry cookie to appreciate any of it.

Again, this is all some convoluted prophecy to let him unlock a super magic eye that will let him destroy the world for Reasons that I still don't understand. Why all the pageantry?

Yeah, it'd make more sense if he was simply trying to taunt her or Naruto for specific reasons rather than just a means to an end.

They try to make it a whole thing where like, he's the last of his clan living in a castle of puppet servants so he's lonely but like, he's still also trying to wipe out the entire world so it's hard to sympathize with him. And he eventually just turns into another glowing Super Saiyan Ninja for Naruto to fight so it doesn't matter.

I will say, I still really like the emotional conclusion though. I like the parts where Naruto and Hinata combine techniques to blow up the eyeball-ball or when Hinata shares her chakra with Naruto to save him, but this is between her being STUCK IN A CAGE AGAIN?! The last fight of The Last feels a bit drawn out.

Like I said, kidnapped three different times. Dude literally makes a cage out of nothing so she can't be in the big kaiju fight at the end. It's lame as all get out.

So yeah, the actual plot of this movie, like most of Naruto's final arc, is pretty poorly considered. It's meandering, thinly written, and largely gets by on spectacle and lingering attachment to these characters. But. BUT. Then there's the final five minutes of this whole thing:

The final moments are heartachingly sweet for those of us who have walked with these characters so long. I also think everything with the scarf is a nice and simple metaphor for the effort and persistence it takes to get your feelings out to someone. Naruto acknowledges and fully accepts his and Hinata's feelings. In conclusion, I think as a story meant to sell you on and to satisfy the emotions left unresolved in the series, it's pretty magical.

As an actual movie, it's really not very good, probably the worst of the Naruto movies I've watched. As an offering to my middle school self watching NaruHina AMVs during computer lab though? Chef's kiss Perfect. My crops have flourished and Blink 182 songs are echoing through my mind palace.

Yeah, there's a lot to gripe about in this movie but it's emotional core is not one of them. Deep in my heart, I sympathize with Killer Bee here. There's a part of me that will always feel too attached to Naruto to blast on it too harshly.

I'm kind of the opposite. My attachment to the parts of this series I love is infinite fuel for my displeasure at all the parts of it I hate. But in a way that just shows how much this series can still mean to me. And if nothing else, well...

At least it's not Samurai 8?

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