A group of mysterious flying ninja have arrived from overseas to launch a sudden attack against the Hidden Leaf Village, leaving behind a wake of destruction. The group is revealed to be the “Sky Ninja” from the Land of Sky, a nation thought to have been destroyed by the Hidden Leaf Village long ago. To save their village, Naruto and his friends set out to stop this new threat.
This time around, Hinata makes up the third person in Team 7’s three-man cell as they meet Amaru, a young medical apprentice from a town just outside of Konoha. She was an outcast in her village, having no parents or friends or any sense of direction, until she met Doctor Shinnō. She completely idolises him and works her hardest to one day be a great doctor. She often wields a scalpel to represent a blade that fixes people as opposed to all the blades that are made to destroy. At the same time, from his hideout, Orochimaru orders Sasuke to bring Shinnō to him, as he believes that the man can help him perfect his regeneration jutsu before the body he is currently in expires.
However, things go from bad to worse as Shinnō dies saving Amaru from a trap, and Hinata is captured by the Sky Ninja. If that wasn’t bad enough, Amaru is then possessed by the Zero-Tailed monster Reibi. At this point in the main story, Naruto is struggling with harnessing the power of the Nine-Tales and being able to suppress the chakra coming out of him, but the seal Jiraiya puts on him manages to stay strong.
At the floating fortress Ancor Vantian, Naruto learns that Shinnō is still alive and had actually betrayed them. All this time, he has used Amaru to research the power of dark chakra many years ago. With his knowledge, he now Activates Body Revival Technique and this is when Sasuke shows up with his own agenda for Shinnō, which of course Shinnō resists also. He escapes the confrontation and reveals the cocoon of the Zero-Tails and transforms into a monster that can absorb chakra. Naruto and Sasuke band together by unleashing their most powerful attacks – Naruto unleashes his fox chakra and uses Tornado Rasengan and Sasuke releases his curse mark and uses this Lightning Blade – and defeat Shinnō once and for all. Naruto is rescued from plunging to his death from the descending fortress by Jiraiya and Gamabunta and Sasuke returns to Orochimaru to continue his training.
I found this one to be a bit more entertaining than the first Naruto Shippuden movie. However, I didn’t feel that it tied into the actual story as much and this is because of Sasuke’s appearance. Of course, it’s going to pull in more viewers if they let on that Sasuke makes an appearance, but honestly it just doesn’t make sense. Sasuke wouldn’t band together with Naruto, particularly when he told his old friend that he would kill him the next time he saw him at the beginning of Shippuden. As a stand-alone film it is seen in a much better light, but I can see most Naruto fans questioning whether the writers paid enough attention to the characters and their motives. Putting Naruto and Sasuke together at this point in the story was a mistake and most certainly would have ended in a fight that would have dwarfed the whole intended plot of Bonds if left to run out as it should have.
Shinnō’s research into dark chakra and the Zero-Tails seems to be a bit of a cop-out, too. Chakra and the Tailed-Beasts are intrinsic parts of the Naruto universe and to just add bits to these rather important plot vehicles seems a little lazy to me. These are two things that will never be mentioned in the actual story, so why not start with something completely separate? At least the first Naruto Shippuden film did this. One the positive side, I noticed that the animation and character design was a little more detailed, particularly when we saw the flights of the Sky Ninja at the very beginning of the film and the aerial views of Konoha buildings. It’s nice to see the Fire Village from new and interesting angles.
In short, this film has a better natural flow, more consistently entertaining and has better character development than it’s predecessor. However, I cannot ignore the points I’ve brought up earlier about the story material, which makes me appreciate the plot of the first Naruto Shippuden film a lot more. Despite some of the plot holes, I would still recommend this as viewing for Naruto fans, but anyone but the die-hard fans should probably give this one a miss.