Naruto, Sakura and Sai, under the supervision of Captain Yamato, are given the mission of capturing a missing-nin by the name of Mukade. They track him to the ruins of an old city once names Loran and find him to be a time-traveller attempting to seize control of the world through a powerful chakra ley line. He manages to break Minato Namikaze’s seal and unleashes the power, which gathers up Naruto and Yamato in its blaze, causing them to vanish.
Having travelled 20 years into the past, Naruto meets the young queen of Loren, Sara. He also notices that Mukade is here but everyone knows him as Anrokuzan, a trusted minister of Loren who is secretly behind the murder of Sara’s mother and is currently manipulating Sara to suit his own desires. He comes across some Hidden Leaf ninja who are on Anrokuzan’s trail, and Naruto agrees to protect Sara whilst they target him. These ninja are Minato, Shibi Aburame, Chōza Akimichi and Kakashi Hatake. When Anrokuzan’s evil doings with ninja puppets and kidnapped Loren residents are discovered, he uses parts of the city to create a giant puppet. Minato and Naruto use their chakra together to create the legendary Super Rasengan. After Sara disables Anrokuzan’s technique, Minato exposes his weak spot and Naruto destroys it. As Yamato and Kakashi rescue Naruto and Sara, Minato uses a kunai to completely seal off the ley line. Just as the heroes vanish from the past, Minato asks Naruto not to change history and so erases all of their memories.
With Mukade gone, Sakura and Sai reunite with Naruto and Yamato. They run into Queen Sāra, who kept the old chakra blade. She informs that it was given to her mother by a ‘hero in a dream’, and that she remains in the city.
The Lost Tower loosely runs to the same formula as its predecessors. In fact, it probably runs in the same way that many anime films that are based off of successful TV franchises. You can make up any story that branches off from the storyline, bring in as many new characters as you want, but you can’t affect the continuity of the main storyline. Things start out quite ‘out there’ considering the plots of some previous films. There’s an ancient city, a young princess, cameos by some of the more senior characters and even time travel. But things have to end up all nicely wrapped up as usual. Even with the excitement of seeing Minato in his heyday, they’re only there to show off their jutsu and look tough, help Naruto win and maybe impart some useful advice.
Sara doesn’t have a lot of confidence in her abilities, which gives Naruto the perfect excuse to carry her through most of the film (sometimes literally), which is a methodology that I’ve noticed happens in all the films. Naruto’s there to teach them a lesson about believing in yourself, or your friends, or never giving up. At the same time, you don’t want to investigate too closely how Minato knows instinctively that Naruto is from the future, or his final solution on how to get Naruto back to the present. The plot seems to have run away by itself at this point and there’s precious short time to tie up the loose ends. Yamato shows up at the end, too. Having not done anything all the film. So what was the point of him going to the past? For a short bit of dialogue with young Kakashi? And though the final battle with Mukade is action-packed, it’s still obvious he’s a one-dimensional villain with clichéd motivations.
Despite these little niggles, the visuals still remain at a very high level, as with most of the films. Some of the panning shots of Loren give it elements of the medieval and of Renaissance Europe, making it very different from the Japanese-styled Naruto-verse, which is strangely refreshing. With its elaborate architecture and design and its towering, palatial vertical build make it look like a city in a spiderweb. Those heights and levels make for great airborne battles, particularly in one instance where Naruto is fleeing a group of flying ninja puppets. In the same vein, all the character designs are consistently detailed and they come together well.
The music is on a much higher level than the TV series, as you would expect. The orchestral sound lends impact and drama to certain parts of the storyline to give it the weight it needs. There’s a range of emotions that are accurately portrayed through sound: melancholy, danger, victory – very complex feelings and motivations. There’s only a handful of times where the typical shounen battle accompaniment was resorted to.
I think The Lost Tower was one of the most enjoyable Naruto films I’ve seen so far. I’ll overlook some of the plot holes and devices because of its high entertainment value. I was suspicious of the time-travel plot but I was willing to see where things went. Unfortunately I think it was implemented to ensure that the plot didn’t interfere with the main TV story and then everyone conveniently had their minds erased (I didn’t know Minato even had a jutsu to do that?). The shaky plot has dynamite fight scenes to make up for it, with an interesting setting with intriguing architecture in the middle of a desert which makes as a secure backdrop for Mukade’s wanton destruction. This one is pure entertainment – don’t get too drawn into the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ here.