I’ve always been a big fan of Hyuuga Hinata from Naruto, as well as a believer in the Naruto-Hinata pairing from day one. After all, she loved him before the glow-up, and could see who he really was inside. Curiously, in spite of my support, I had never watched The Last: Naruto the Movie—the work that is meant to portray the moment where their mutual love becomes fully realized. I decided to change that, and now I can lay out my thoughts on this ninja romance film: Eh.
Naruto has never been about romance. Sure, it has plenty of characters with feelings for one another. And the chunk of the fandom is notoriously extremely dedicated to shipping. But the main stories focus on conflict and relationships of a different variety, and often characters are just kind of implied to get together offscreen. Take Shikamaru and Temari, who have a cool battle, come to each other’s rescue, and just seem to start hanging out more.
What The Last does is try to deliver a grandiose story of emotional epiphanies and world-shattering magical ninja action, but it all feels like too much in too little time. There’s never-before-seen flashbacks to their earliest days. There’s an antagonist who seems custom built to position Hinata as extra special but without giving her too much of a limelight. There’s really overt “red thread of fate” imagery. It’s as if the movie is trying to make up for all the lost time that could have been used to really forefront their relationship, and cram it into approximately two hours.
The result is something that feels like it’s pulling Naruto too off its stable core. Contrast this with Boruto: Naruto the Movie, which I found to be a genuinely moving and thematically resonant film. There, the emphasis on the generation gap between Naruto and his son with Hinata, Boruto, really speaks to the fact that Naruto has to face the challenge of being a dad without having known his own.
In the end, perhaps the reason I didn’t take to The Last: Naruto the Movie even as a big Naruto-Hinata fan is that I feel it to be superfluous. The building blocks for their romance are definitely there, and they make for a solid foundation, but Kishimoto didn’t have to try to build an entire skyscraper with half the necessary supplies.
PS: Hinata’s birthday is December 27. Merry Christmas, and Happy Early Birthday! In spite of the problems, she’s still one of my faves. In fact, I just voted for her in the big 20th Anniversary Naruto character popularity vote.