This movie came out last December in Japan, and it took less than a year to make it overseas to the US, which I'm very pleased by. I was ridiculously hyped for this movie at the time, despite the fact that it would be a while yet before I would even get a chance to see it for myself. But now that I have, I'm happy to say that this one delivers on a lot of that hype.
Taking place two years after the conclusion of the main series (but before the time period of the epilogue), The Last focuses on the romance that lead to Naruto and Hinata finally ending up together. The story was written by Kishimoto himself, and is also the first Naruto movie to be entirely considered canon material. And sure enough, as with the other films he has assisted on, this also happens to be one of the most solid of these movies yet.
For one thing, one of my biggest gripes with literally every single Naruto movie up to this point, as well as most Naruto anime fillers, is just how consistently out of character almost everyone acts in these things, as if the writers who work on the anime have no actual concept of these characters or their progression beyond their very first introductory points, despite working on this series with these characters for as long as they have. However, for the first time ever, there's not a single out of character moment to be had in this movie, which is really just a huge relief at this point. Also, the main villain is directly connected to the canon Otsutsuki clan, so in addition to characters actually acting correctly, we also don't have to be burdened by out of place character designs by, again, the usual filler writers who appear to have no basic grasp or concept on the Naruto world. No, the main villain here, Toneri, clearly fits in this world, both in design and personality, and feels like a genuine addition to this world.
But anyways, the central core of the movie itself is definitely the brewing romance between Naruto and Hinata, and this actually acts as both the movie's strongest point, as well as its weakest. On the one hand, the way this aspect plays out feels sorta rushed and, at times, forced. See, Naruto learns of Hinata's feelings for him via a genjutsu dream sequence, in which the two's minds were momentarily connected, and he was able to relive their moments from the past and see things from her perspective. This, in turn, gives Naruto a new perspective of his own when looking at her, and he begins to grow feelings for her as well. This definitely feels sorta cheap, and I do wish they could have figured out a better way to more organically allow for their relationship to blossom. But on the other hand, it does still seem to fit with the tone of the series in certain thematic regards, and the dream sequence itself was actually executed rather well, so it wasn't a major hindrance or anything.
However, later on, when Naruto finally does profess his love for her, this moment appears to almost come out of nowhere, and I really didn't buy it as a result. It felt too soon, like Naruto shouldn't have been that sure of his feelings at that moment. Perhaps if there was more uncertainty in his deliver, like he thinks he loves her, but isn't quite sure yet, then I could've bought it. But as is, his conviction was too certain, and it came too soon for me to really be able to swallow.
But again, that's just one moment, and that moment aside, the rest of their love story was actually quite touching to see play out. Throughout, there's an element involving Hinata knitting Naruto a red scarf, and the themes that tie into this, of the two's lives intertwining, bonding together, was very cleverly interwoven into the narrative. It was nice to see a Naruto story where not only did such an aspect take center stage over the action, but it did so while still genuinely feeling like a Naruto story.
So yeah, there were a couple if iffy moments, but on the whole, The Last is probably the most all around solid Naruto movie to date that definitely met my expectations. It's not quite as action-oriented as most of these movies, but that's also not the focus, and where it does focus, its emotion, is what makes this movie truly excel. It's a nice change of pace for the series, while being the only one of these movies that actually feels like a genuine entry in this series.
I also sorta love how this was released following the end of the manga series, despite the fact that the anime series is still on going with a quite frankly embarrassing number of fillers at this point to stretch it out to its absolute thinnest, milking it for all its worth. But even so, they're continuing on with these movies anyways, which take place after the series and completely spoil what's left to be seen in the anime, for those few who have still somehow managed to stay spoiler free up to this point. And I'm also quite pleased with how short we had to wait for them to bring this over to the States, so here's hoping for that same quality and timeliness to equally follow suit with the next Naruto movie, Boruto.