Best Girl, Less-than-Best Film—The Last: Naruto the Movie

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.

Valentine’s Day “Dead Eyes Extravaganza”

In honor of Valentine’s Day, that romantic holiday transformed in Japan into a way for girls to express their feelings for guys, I present an image mosaic of one of my favorite character traits: dead or empty eyes.

deadeyes-mosaicCreated using Mosaic Maker

Dead eyes, that is to say empty eyes without luster, are usually associated with characters who have been mind-controlled. However, I’m more fascinated by them when the characters who have them are in full control of themselves. Rather than being a sign of a loss of will, they’re often symbolic of something else. They can be intensity, trauma, otherworldly perspective/experience, or even a swirling madness. Just think about how all many of the characters in the image above have notably different personalities!

Do you have a favorite character in the image above? Is there a dead eyes character you’re a fan of? Let me know!



Naruto: Victory is Mine!!!

Naruto final chapters SPOILERS.

As an anime fan, I don’t have a lot of character pairings to which I’m super devoted. However, the closest I come to having a true “ship” is Naruto x Hinata. Based on how their relationship began and has developed over the course of Naruto, I find that it makes the most sense, and had hoped that Hinata would have her happy ending. After all, Hinata saw before anyone else how hard-working Naruto is, and was the first to understand his pain, wile Naruto is the catalyst for Hinata’s own growth.

Now that the final chapter of Naruto all but confirms that Naruto and Hinata not only end up together but even have a couple of kids, all I can say is…


That said, I never actually participated in any “shipping wars” or whatever. However, I finally understand on some level the joy that more dedicated shippers feel when their desired pairing ends up being canon. There’s a strange satisfaction in knowing that all of the little moments that caught my attention as a reader ended up bearing fruit.

Now all that’s left is for me to someday feel the agony of defeat, but for the time being:

Oh, and for all of the confusion and convoluted plot developments, it looks like Naruto ends just fine.


Female Characters in Shounen Fighting Series and the Meaning of “Strength”

Sometimes when discussing shounen fighting series, there are disagreements among fans as to what female characters are considered “strong” and which are considered “weak.” Someone will accuse one female character of being “useless,” while another will point out all that she’s done to help the good guys, and that she’s strong in her own way. While opinions may be opinions, I think that the nature of shounen fighting series makes it difficult for those types of characters.

Hokuto no Ken is a classic example of a series with female characters who are “strong-but-not-really.” Mamiya is a skilled fighter and trains hard to keep up in a world of mutant thugs armed with only a crossbow and some yo-yo’s, but she’s still a few tiers below Kenshiro and Friends. Yuria has great will and even greater compassion, but she’s not a fighter at all, and in this series, as strong as Kenshiro’s own compassion is, fist to face action is at the forefront.

And as much as I like Hyuuga Hinata from Naruto, and as much as I think she is an excellent character, I know that she is not meant to be one of those female characters who is actually able to keep up with the guys when the chips are down. And in fact, as far as I can tell, despite the fact that Naruto is full of skilled kunoichi, there are only two or three female characters in that series who can actually fight on an even keel with the guys: Tsunade, Temari, and maybe Kurenai. Sakura definitely had the potential, and was supposed to end up as being super strong and super determined, but she too has fallen victim to the Shounen Side Heroine Syndrome.

But being physically weaker or lacking in skills compared to the main hero and the guys doesn’t mean a female character will necessarily be “weak.” Nami and Nico Robin from One Piece are both excellent examples of characters who carry their own weight. And even before Nami gets the Clima-Tact and starts participating in battles, her skills are shown to be indispensable to the team. Another good example of a female character who uses the skills that she has and contributes immensely to the overall cause is Tokine from Kekkaishi. Tokine, while not capable of as much sheer “brute strength” as her male counterpart Yoshimori, is able to use her finesse to not only match him but often outperform him.

“But wait, weren’t you the one who talked about how great it is when characters accomplish things at their own pace? Isn’t that one of the great appeals of moe? And aren’t you a supporter of moe?” And you would be right on that, but again I must say that it has to do with the fact that shounen fighting series inevitably revolve around fighting or at the very least getting characters to a point at which they can fight. Basically, the moe series will define strength within the context of their series as overcoming a small adversity which is difficult for them in particular, while a shounen fighting series is all about displays of strength, even if they are fueled by friendship and honor.

The big, essential difference between the Sakura/Mamiya group and the Nami/Tokine group is “results.” Both groups of female characters might not have as much raw skill or ability or training or whatever as the guys do, but one of those groups gets things done. Nami and Tokine don’t just contribute to the overall goal by doing something like blocking the villain’s attack just that one vital moment so that the hero can get in the final shot, but instead actually accomplish significant goals, things that can move the story along. It’s not even that they simply defeat opponents that the others cannot, but that they will do what it takes to win.

This doesn’t even necessarily apply to female characters. All you need to to do is take a look at Usopp from One Piece as a good example of a character who fights with what he has. It’s just that this is often the situation in which female characters find themselves, and often it’s done so that the guys can come in and go, “Stand aside, ladies. It’s MAN TIME.”

…Which is not necessarily a bad thing either, as having the men be strongest in a series for boys makes all sorts of sense. It’s just that if someone’s looking for female characters who really pull their weight to accomplish an overall goal, they may end up disappointed as a result. Though not a shounen fighting series, Legend of the Galactic Heroes can often seem like a sausage fest despite a plethora of genuinely well-written, strong, and clever female characters because of the fact that none of them are out there commanding ships and fleets, i.e. the very activity that is at the absolute forefront of LoGH.

Again, I like a lot of female characters who might not be the best or the strongest but try their best to do what they can even if they can’t keep up with the boys, characters who do things their own way at their own pace. However, even if a series actually says explicity, “This girl is truly strong because she really tried and her help, however small, was essential for victory,” within the context of shounen fighting “strength” is more defined by the overall setup and themes of the story, and rarely is any amount of lip-service enough to make the readers truly think otherwise.

Let’s Generate a Fetish

Ogiue’s Saimoe 2008 Second Preliminaries: August 1st

Ogiue is among the many characters in the first round of second preliminaries for Anime Saimoe 2008. She has some stiff competition ahead of her, so if you truly believe Ogiue to be the Moest then you should take some time out of your day to vote for her on AUGUST 1st, 2008 which to many of you will be JULY 31st, 2008 because Japan is in its own timezone.

The official voting area is located on 2channel on its Voting Board, usually labeled something like アニメ最萌トーナメント2008 投票スレRound##.

The threads close automatically at 1000 posts or if they exceeed I believe 512kb so watch out.

To learn how to participate, please consult this earlier post detailing the steps needed in order to cast your vote in Saimoe.

Oh, and for those of you who are waiting for the main tournament, all I will say is that if you do not vote for Ogiue here, then she will have no chance of getting into the main tournament.

Oh, and Hyuuga Hinata’s up too, though shounen jump characters never really stand a chance, which is a shame.