The Last: Naruto the Movie is a particularly interesting film in the Naruto franchise. Most long-running Shonen series produce movies on a yearly basis, but for obvious reasons, they are almost always non-canon. As memorable (and marketed) as someone like Broly may be, he still technically only exists in the context of the films (unless Dragon Ball Super decides otherwise).
However, The Last is actually one hundred percent canon to the story of the manga, and takes place between chapters 699 and 700 (it has also been referred to as chapter 699.5). But perhaps even more interesting than its place as a canon entry in the story of Naruto, is the film’s subject matter.
At its core, the Naruto series is about action, friendship, chasing your dreams and overcoming adversity. The Last definitely has action in spades, but its focus is squarely on the romance between Naruto Uzumaki and Hinata Hyuga. At this point, series creator Masashi Kishimoto had told all of the action stories that he had in him, but he always wanted to tell a romance story.
And this isn’t to say that the action in The Last is lacking in any sense of the word. The film has a handful of really cool moments, special props to the Konoha chase sequence between Naruto and movie villain Toneri Otsutsuki. Quick aside, I really enjoy his inclusion in the film. I don’t really care for him at all as a villain or as a character, but he provides a bit of much needed lore for Kaguya, the “final boss” of the original Naruto story.
Kaguya comes quite literally out of nowhere, so learning more about her origins, as well as the history of the entire ninja world was really cool as a fan of deep, world building stuff like this. And to be fair, the anime did a much better job than its source material of fleshing out Kaguya’s backstory.
Back on topic, The Last takes place around two years after the end of the Fourth Great Ninja War. The shinobi world is at peace, and Naruto Uzumaki is a celebrated hero in the Leaf Village. Hinata, after years of pining over him in secret, is finally spurred into action by Sakura Haruno.
After a few kind words of encouragement, Hinata decides to finally ask out Naruto, and of course, she has a number of embarrassing encounters on the way. But one of these encounters is much more scary than embarrassing, and it has to do with the abduction of her little sister Hanabi, who this film suddenly remembered existed.
Hanabi is kidnapped by Toneri in an effort to lure out Hinata, his Byakugan Princess. Toneri basically has two goals in The Last. One is to marry Hinata, and the other is to awaken the Tenseigan, a Byakugan powered counterpart to the Rinnegan. Long story short, he does eventually gain the Tenseigan, but is promptly defeated by Naruto.
I never really knew how much I actually loved Hinata as a character until I saw The Last, especially her adoration of Naruto. I have a lot of personal problems with Sakura and Sasuke as a couple, mostly because Sakura’s love for him is never shown to mature past her childhood crush, and Sasuke seems to only be with her out of convenience.
But Hinata’s love for Naruto is pure and genuine, right down to the fact that I can’t recall one time throughout the series that she mentions his physical attractiveness in anything more than passing. Everytime she comments on her feelings about him, she’s talking about his drive, determination, growth or maturity.
One of the film’s early scenes shows Naruto and Hinata during their ninja academy days. Hinata is being picked on by a group of boys, and Naruto steps in to defend her… only to get beaten up. Hinata was moved by this selfless act of heroism, and has been in love with Naruto ever since that day.
Fast forward to the present, and you can truly see how her love has grown and matured with time. Much like the viewer, Hinata has spent years watching Naruto slowly get better and better, as well as earn the respect of a village of people that once detested him.
Naruto’s feelings for Hinata are somewhat of a weird case. I couldn’t clearly identify them the same way I could Hinata’s, but I could definitely feel them. When he’s desperately fighting to rescue her from Toneri, I can feel them. When he’s holding her hand as they leave the moon and return to their village, I can feel them.
Subtlety has never been a strong point of the Naruto series, but The Last actually manages to come across as such in its execution. It would have been really easy and really annoying for Naruto and Hinata to constantly verbalize their love for each other, but all of their feelings are perfectly exhibited by their actions. And the few times they actually do talk about their feelings, the impact is there because the moment hasn’t been spoiled.
The little moments that these two share are the big highlights of the film for me, and I want to give a special mention to the camera shots that focus on the pair. Simple shots like Naruto and Hinata sitting in an abandoned kingdom and walking under cherry blossom trees, are accompanied by grander shots such as them kissing in the moonlight.
As someone who has watched Naruto since its debut in America, seeing Naruto and Hinata finally pair up was a really special moment for me. It was like the years that I spent rooting for Hinata, and hoping Naruto will eventually realize the genuine love that she has for him were finally validated. The Last is worth at least one watch for the love story alone. Plus, the characters all have really cool new outfits to look at, special mention to the updated Leaf Shinobi uniform, and extra special mention to Hinata’s new outfit.