Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow (2004) (mini-review++)

(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 6

directing 7

effects 8

editing 7

writing 7

SW SCORE: 35

3.5 out of 5 🐙

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Japan has produced more than twice as many comic book based movies as the next language, let alone country (English-language films is #2). Anime is an influential and bold animation style and their manga source material is mountainous and ever growing. The Japanese love their comics and they love to make them. 

I’ve never been drawn to anime. Sure, I’ve heard of the big ones: Ghost in the Shell, Fist of the North Star, Akira. But I didn’t dig the animation style, or the dubbed over voice performances, or the incredibly wacky (by sedate American comic book standards) plots and characters.  But I decided to try and watch every single comic book movie ever made, and I couldn’t ignore the country that has made the most.

This was the first anime movie I ever watched. I picked it at random because it was streaming for free and was still produced in this century (not that here is anything wrong with 20th century anime; I just wanted to start with something more recent).

I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. The characters did have that slightly annoying voiceover style and I am not a fan of this kind of animation but this movie mixes in multiple styles of animation which was very surprising. Even in the same scene, two styles of animation could show up. It’s a striking technique. And even the style I didn’t like became unimportant to me because I was enjoying the story.

The film begins with gorgeous black and white animated exposition that sets up the story. If they had made an entire animated movie out of this, it would have been something remarkable. 

The story is that Naruto and his team are understood to escort an actress to her destination. As you can expect, enemies show up and try to abduct the actress. This is all standard comic fare.

But what’s not standard is the superpowers are remarkably fresh. I’m not saying there aren’t English language superheroes with these powers, but I’m not familiar with them and I am familiar with a LOT of powers. Beyond the fresh skills, the main plot is intertwined with a meta-subplot that questions what is really happening and what is being filmed. It’s not so much that it’s a hard question, but it’s a charming artifice and it’s played for great laughs and even some innovative drama. 

I won’t say more because encountering the new characters and surprises in the story are half the fun. 

I do have one question: why do anime superheroes announce what power or attack move they are going to do before they do it? Isn’t that literally tipping your hand? It reminded me of those terrible superheroes from the 80s, The Wonder Twins. They would always have to announce what they were going to do to use their powers. It wasn’t cool then, either.

But this movie is decidedly cool. Enjoy the intermingled styles of animation, the tongue-in-cheek humor, and the fresh faces. 

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(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)

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