As most Naruto fans can attest, the release of this movie (in America) was highly anticipated for a good year and a half. I guess thats with any popular Anime movie that we wait to get subbed into English, but this was even more anticipated because of raised expectations from the Shippuuden world. But the question remains, does the second Shippuuden movie live up to the high standard set by the series? Eh, sorta.
"Bonds" follows a pretty formulaic plot, as far as Naruto movies go. Something goes wrong, Naruto is sent on a mission with Sakura and whoever else is picked to have screen time this time around (Hinata being the third team member in this case), an important secondary character is introduced (the spunky tomboy Amaru), bad stuff happens in between, fighting, the bad guy is revealed, fighting, Naruto gets his butt kicked, passionate speech, epic final battle, the end. Now of course the movie is more complex then this, but this is merely the outline of the plot that most of these Naruto movies follow, and to be honest, thats fine with me. It works. One shouldn't go into these movies expecting to see some huge incredible story unfold. Its fan service, and fans love seeing these ninjas do what they do best: fight.
The movie was by no means bad, but as is with many movies, it didn't live up to the hype that was provided by the preview. I think the reason this was as much of a disappointment as it was is because the biggest thing fans looked forward to when watching this was seeing Sauske in action with Naruto. Anyone who has followed the series knows that Sauske has been absent for a very long time, and has only recently been getting any airtime. About the time this movie came out, we were starving for a little Sauske action, and we expected to see it in "Bonds". Well, we werent totally disappointed, Sauske definitely was in it, and he did his thing, but he's in the movie for all of 10 minutes total. He appears ominously at the beginning, briefly in the middle, and in the epic final battle. Other then that, no Sauske. Its kind of a big jip, but what can you do?
There is one aspect to this movie that has a light and dark side to it. Its a big part of the movie so I wont spoil it for those who have yet to see it, but basically the writers decided to incorporate something that was had the potential to be a VERY interesting story in itself, outside of the movie format. The plus is that it does in fact give some depth to the movie and makes it more then just a huge ninja fight fest. The downside however, is that using it in this movie eliminates the possibility of using it in the series for future story development, and I would really love to see that flushed out more. When you see the movie, you'll know what I'm talking about immediately.
There is plenty of action, so no worries there, and all of your favorite Konoha characters are around for the fun, but its nothing you haven't seen before. The Sky ninja thing is kinda interesting for all of a few minutes, but they wear out their welcome in the opening sequence of the movie in the long, drawn out attack on Konoha (it took almost 10 minutes for them to do!)
Anyway, bottom line, this is a pretty decent movie with moderate replay value. At the very least you will be entertained, because aside from the action, there is plenty of goofy Naruto goodness to get you laughing, enough action to keep you a little hyped, and enough twists, turns, and depth that the story will keep you from falling asleep in the slow moments. Despite it's shortcomings, I like it. 4/5 stars.