For my friends and family, I'll risk my life for this mission! Long ago, a masked shinobi unleashed the Nine-Tailed Fox onto the Village Hidden in the Leaves to spread chaos and destruction. But the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, and his wife, Kushina Uzumaki, sealed the Tailed Beast into their newborn son Naruto to save the village, foiling the shinobi's plans. Years later, Naruto and his friends succeed in driving away the infamous Akatsuki, who have mysteriously returned from the dead. Upon returning to the village, the young shinobi are praised by their families for completing a dangerous mission. Reminded of how alone he is, Naruto begins to wonder what it's like to have parents, when a strange masked figure appears before him - the same masked shinobi responsible for the death of his parents!
Firstly, I think I should point out that this is indeed an emotional film. I continue to write this review with tear stains on my cheeks and a hankering to reach for the ever-so comforting Dairy Milk Chocolate. This was something I was not expecting from the film, considering that the 'Road To Ninja' title to me sounded pretty action packed and all about the "jutsu" rather than a dramatic recap of Naruto's lonely existence and longing for a family...oh dear I'm welling up again.
The film had a very immediate start, it was a matter of looking away for 2 seconds and looking back to see full on ninja action and the massacre of the nine tailed fox destroying the leaf village which is a very familiar scene (especially to those of you who are avid viewers of Naruto). Having said that, 'Road to Ninja' seemed to be all about using familiar scenes (from past episodes- not just in Shippuden), places and characters but revealing more and more about what REALLY happened. This is particularly more evident if you have been watching Naruto from the beginning since we as viewers are just shown the bare minimum of a scene in order to create that sense of unknowing and making us want to watch further. Many of the scenes incorporated further detail involving the events and its characters that were affected although I do not know how much of this is based on truth and following the plot of the series, I suspect some parts may have been solely added for entertainment and the plot for the movie itself.
Considering the title and the swift beginning, the middle part of the film (which is most of it) is focused on mainly Naruto and Sakura. However, don't let this deter you if they are not your favourite characters- nearly all of Naruto's main companions including some of your old school favourites (yes, I'm thinking of you Iruka) are included somewhere along the line. The main plot of the story, without giving away too much the hero and heroine are faced with, involves Naruto and Sakura being trapped within a parallel universe under the influence of Madara Uchiha's 'infinite Tsukuyomi.' In other words (for relatively new Naruto fans) this means the world placed under an illusion but being a replica of the real world.
As you can guess, this would mean a dramatic change in the characters since they are ultimately from 'another dimension', had to be the most interesting part of the film since the depiction of the characters in contrast with there original state was both hilarious and also quite shocking. When you're used to character mannerisms, it completely throws the viewer off and shows them in a different light which kept me hooked on every moment.
In particular, the main contrast in roles rather than character traits was Naruto and Sakura. This illusion world channeled both Naruto and Sakura's most desired wants in their lives, which led to the two's role reversal. This scenario is what provoked the tears in me and I suspect will in any emotionally involved viewers of anime since the moments between Naruto and his parents, Minato and Kushima, were tear jerking- even more so when you consider the sadness in Naruto when he had no family to now seeing him with one.
As the story evolves, the action starts to creep its way back in. This is triggered by Naruto and Sakura's wake up call that this alternate world may not be as 'perfect' as they had imagined. They're priority begins with destroying the source- Madara Uchiha. Since it is only him that can summon them back to reality. From here on, you will come across the adrenaline and vast jutsu techniques we all like to see in our battles. The last battle between Naruto and a certain someone got me standing up and rooting it was so intense. So look out for that one.
Overall, I loved the change of focus on missions and battling (as much as I do love it) since it was fascinating and exciting to see more into the lives of Konohas young ninjas...especially looking at character parents- I always get joy comparing traits in parents with their children.
I would say however, that some parts of the scenes didn't quite flow as some events happening in random places which didn't quite connect or make sense. Although, out of the Naruto movies I have seen, this has become a favourite. It's not too serious but instead light hearted with a good amount of humour thrown in which is always a nice change from the typical talk of war and death you find in the late episodes of Shippuden.
I don't think you need to have background knowledge of Naruto to watch this, even though I do think it would help with appreciating the changes in character.
Final note- to my surprise Sasuke also features in the movie, his character change was definitely something very amusing... and all I am going to say is (to all of you Sasuke fangirls out there) if you want to hear Sasuke say "baby" in a pick-up line manner- go and pick up a copy and watch it.