"The Last: Naruto the Movie" is the seventh and most elaborate feature in the popular "Naruto Shippuden" franchise. Ninja and self-proclaimed knucklehead Naruto (Junko Takeuchi, less gravelly than Maile Flanagan's familiar English voice) is now a young adult in his early 20s. But he hasn't really matured, and he remains ferociously dedicated to protecting his friends.
Naruto's formidable skills are put to a monumental test when the ghostly Toneri (Jun Fukuyama) kidnaps Hinata's younger sister, Hanabi (Kiyomi Asai). Toneri plans to destroy the Earth, which he sees as corrupt and debased. He moves the moon from its orbit, causing meteors to bombard the ninja villages, presaging an interplanetary collision. But to complete his baroque scheme, Toneri needs the magical powers hidden in the eyes of members of Hinata's clan.
Naruto, Sakura (Chie Nakamura), Sai (Satoshi Hino), Shikamaru (Showtaro Morikubo) and Hinata (Nana Mizuki) set out to rescue Hanabi and thwart Toneri. Director Tsuneo Kobayashi pulls out all the stops in a string of titanic battles that involve explosions, murderous puppets, bursting meteors, gigantic monsters and the brushstroke figures Sai magically summons. The supernatural warfare provides a flamboyant backdrop for the awkward romance between Naruto and Hinata.
If "The Last" lacks some of the emotional punch of the previous feature, "The Road to Ninja," Kobayashi compensates with flamboyant visuals that mix CG, drawn animation and elegant calligraphic figures. Fans should stay through the credits for a surprising final scene.
"The Last: Naruto the Movie."
No MPAA rating.
In Japanese with subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
Playing: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles