Naruto Shippuden The Movie: Bonds was the second film released for Naruto Shippuden, and it was directed by Masahiko Murata. The film was released to Japanese theaters on August 2, 2008. Viz Media holds the North American distribution rights for the film, and the company released it on DVD and Blu-ray on October 25, 2011. This review will cover the DVD release of the film, since that is the version that I watched. The DVD includes both an English dub and Japanese audio with English subtitles.
The story of the film gets going when a mysterious group of ninja who use chakra to control flying contraptions appear above the Leaf Village and bomb it. Tsunade figures out that these must be descendants of the ninja from the Sky Country who were defeated during the Second Great Shinobi War. After their chakra supplies dwindle, the invaders head back to the ships they are based at. Kakashi, Shikamaru, Sai, and Shino are sent to look for their base.
Meanwhile, Naruto encounters an old man who is trying to treat someone who was wounded during the bombing. The man tells Naruto to take the injured individual to the hospital. When Naruto arrives, Sakura comments that several victims have come in who have already been treated. Just as Naruto is about to tell Sakura about the old man, a person named Amaru bursts in, asking about the old man. It turns out the old man, Shinno, is a doctor; Amaru is his apprentice. Naruto, Sakura, and Hinata are put into a three man squad to accompany Shinno and Amaru back to Amaru's village.
Orochimaru is becoming ill because his body transfer jutsu is close to expiring. He sends Sasuke out on a mission to find a particular man who is able to help Orochimaru perfect his reincarnation jutsu. As the film progresses, Naruto and Sasuke end up crossing paths, and the two storylines come together to reach the film's climax.
Unlike the first Naruto Shippuden film, I was better able to see this one as an extension to the anime series. While the ninja from the Sky Country just seemed to come out of nowhere, they relied on the concepts already established in the series instead of being something more in the "supernatural" realm. Of course, like the other films I have seen for the Shonen Jump titles, Bonds introduces new characters and concepts that will never be seen again in the anime series. In that respect I'm actually a little glad, because I thought the concept of the "Zero Tails Beast" was just strange.
When I saw that Naruto, Sakura, and Hinata would be together in a three man squad, I was thinking about the potential humor that this could have presented. After Hinata's initial embarrassed reaction to Naruto, the dynamics of this setup was never even touched on. I mean, here's Naruto, who has a crush on Sakura, and Hinata, who has a crush on Naruto, assigned to the same squad. Early on the film, they could have played that for some minor humor; after a certain point, however, that type of humor just wouldn't have been appropriate.
When this film was being promoted, the fact that Naruto and Sasuke would cross paths was being played up more than the actual storyline. In that respect, it was a little disappointing that Sasuke only got some brief screen time before the climax. However, the film wasn't bad for what it was, and I appreciated that the concept of bonds was applied to more than just Naruto and Sasuke.
Animation-wise, there were some definite attempts at melding the regular animation with computer graphics. Thankfully, this melding didn't look nearly as bad as the "stone army" in the first Naruto Shippuden film.
As for the actual DVD release, four extras were included. The first is labeled as "Movie Trailers." This feature runs for seven minutes, and includes nine trailers in all. The first seven trailers have Japanese audio but no English subtitles; this made it hard to entirely understand what was being said. The final two trailers in this feature were in English.
Next is "Special Opening Theme." It's a "music video" for one of the opening themes for the Naruto Shippuden anime series, with footage from the film being used for the visuals. Personally, I really didn't understand the point of this bonus feature.
The third extra is labeled as "Production Art Gallery," which is 16 pages of line art of the characters that appear in the film. The final extra, "More From Viz Media," only has a trailer for Bleach the Movie: Fade to Black. I didn't understand the point of that final bonus feature, since that is the exact trailer that plays when this DVD begins playing.
If you're a fan of the Naruto franchise who wants to own all of the Naruto material that's available commercially, then you need to buy either a copy of this DVD or a copy of the Blu-ray pressing of this film.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that I checked out through the King County Library System.