Looking at the cover of the second Naruto Shippuden movie “Bonds”, showing Naruto in the light and Sasuke in the dark, gave me the impression that the plot would focus on their broken bond and force some kind of due; even the Japanese movie trailers in the extras section seem to centre on both former friends as the main focus. However, this is ultimately misleading; instead we get something different.
After a brief tease of Sasuke training, we open to multiple battleships at sea; an unknown ninja group called the “Sora” are ready to make an assault. We see that these Ninja have advanced wing contraptions that give them the advantage of flight. Once they arrive at their destination, we find out that they were attacking the Hidden Leaf Village with bombs and Kunai machine guns. We then get an explanation from Lady Tsunade that the Sora are from the Land of Sky, a land that is against the Five Great Nations.
During the attack, Naruto helps a doctor named Shinnou with a patient; after he treats him, Shinnou leaves him with Naruto to take him to the hospital for more treatment. After reaching the hospital, a child named Amaru suddenly appears, asking Naruto where this doctor is. We then find out that Amaru is his apprentice and needs Shinnou’s medical expertise; when they both meet, Naruto joins them and, along with teammates Sakura and Hinata, leaves the Leaf, to help both Amaru and Shinnou.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. The plot in this movie feels rushed. I found the scene transitions were too unnatural and forced in the early stages; for example, we don’t see Naruto get permission to leave the Leaf Village or when we get to a certain fight scene, it only lasts a few minutes. It’s these kind of moments where Bonds loses its focus. Another problem is the questionable character interactions. I felt that Sakura was only there to beat up Naruto for comic relief; Hinata was useless for the most part, and Sasuke was strangely absent, only to play an important part at the end of the movie.
Again, these are gripes about the interactions and not the characters themselves; that is actually a big plus instead. While not diving into major spoilers, Amaru is a likeable character who shows his apprentice skills in medical jutsu in useful situations and is determined to save his village; I really liked his character as the plot progresses. I felt the same with Shinnou, a kind doctor who became more interesting as the movie went on.
The presentation in Bonds is, for the most part, some of the best I’ve seen when it comes to Naruto. The scale of some scenes is massive and really creative as well, with some neat little touches like lighting and textures, although, while some of the character models in the distance are less well drawn, overall it looks great. The voice actors on both English and Japanese sides deliver good performances; my favourite comes from Jamieson Price who voices Shinnou and puts a great amount of energy and passion in the later stages of the film, making it very engaging.
Comparing this to the first movie, I would say that I enjoyed this one more, the fights are more fulfilling and I really liked these new characters, although I’m not going to see them again. The ending was a bit predictable and cheesy but enough to leave me satisfied.
Extras include: a bunch of Japanese and English movie trailers for Bonds; a special opening theme which feels more like a trailer for the film, and oddly enough, it has the third Naruto Shippuden opening theme “Ikimono-Gakari’s – Blue Bird” accompanying it. Production Art and trailers are also included.
It has its flaws but as a great-looking and satisfying Naruto movie, you can’t go wrong with ‘Bonds’.