In honor of its recent final chapter we’re going to be looking at Naruto. Yes, the ninja who never shuts up and sounds like someone who smoked for a majority of their life, that’s who we’re going to be looking at today. Naruto was created by writer and artist Masashi Kishimoto, who originally made a one shot of the character, who was changed only slightly into the hyper active character we know today. It has recently finished with a total of 700 chapters and the anime is still ongoing currently with a “final” movie having just recently premiered.
Alright story for those who don’t know:
Twelve years prior to the original start of the story the village of Konoha was attacked by a nine tailed fox, who was then trapped into a new born baby by the village leader, the fourth Hokage. This child’s name was Naruto and Christ did he get the short end of the stick. Made into the town pariah he is forced to grow up not only as an orphan but also the most hated member of the town for mistakes he didn’t make. The children his age even dislike him, just based upon how their parents acted to him, and that made for a very difficult and lonely childhood. But fear not because Naruto doesn’t care, well he does, but he would never show it. He wants to be hokage and prove to the village he can be more than some hated reject. So he decides to become a ninja despite having failed as a student so many times before. Finally achieving his goal, he strives to become the strongest ninja in all of Konoha and prove to everyone that he isn’t a waste of space!
There’s a lot more that I won’t exactly bring up, just in case there are people who are interested in reading the manga or watching the show still. But basically its Naruto’s quest to acceptance and the friends he makes because of that. It’s cheesy but hey the kids love it for some reason. I know I did when I was young and watching it.
Naruto is our lead, obviously, and he is… Endearing? Really he’s a fine character with a lot of enthusiasm but there’s just a lot of energy that you have to match up with. He basically raised himself, never knew his parents, and doesn’t understand why everyone in the village hates him. Well he finds out, but even then he has a hard time understanding. He’s a bit thickheaded like that. He wants to be hokage and shouts it to the world with a, “Dattebayo!” (Believe it). We want him to succeed because he grows up so well over time that you can’t help but want him to wear the stupid hat of power, because you grew up with him.
Sasuke is the second main character I suppose in that he is sort of a driving force behind a lot of Naruto’s actions. Loved by everyone in the village Sasuke is a bit jaded on the whole people thing, often seeing them as similar because none of them try to get to know the real him. All the girls his age adore him to the point of stalking and it’s a wonder no one’s ended up with a restraining order. He and Naruto start off hating each other, seeing each other as annoying, but eventually they learn to trust each other. I don’t really care about him, he’s kind of a huge jerkwad, and that’s all he ever amounts to being.
Sakura is our leading lady and probably the character with the most growth, minus the last few chapters, but yeah. She’s hotheaded and intelligent but is scared of showing people what she’s really like out of fear of rejection. Starting off she just sort of comes off as a girl desperately in love with Sasuke and someone who has literally no motivation for anything really. That does change quite a lot that she’s strong and independent. She uses her strength and intelligence to become a strong female medical ninja who still holds onto what she loves.
There are a series of like a hundred plus other characters, which yes they are important, but that would take a whole lot of time.
The animation is… Well it’s shonen jump alright! That’s not saying Masato Kishimoto isn’t a good artist, but at times it is very wonky, but only in earlier chapters. Now for those who may not know, shonen is a ‘boy’s’ oriented genre of manga, which includes titles like Bleach or One Piece, and typically is showcased in the magazine Shonen Jump. For the most part the manga is a lot more detailed than that of the anime, merely because the animation crew likes to make everyone appear as bland as possible. Though the fight scenes are really good in both series, though once again lose a lot because of the more defined sketchy art style of Kishimoto. Now that isn’t to say that there are sometimes that I wish there had been a cleanup crew, because dear lord if I could count the number of times I’ve seen extremely sloppy execution done during the Chunin Exam arc. Ultimately though it was a very unique style that I don’t think will ever been done quite the same.
The sound is, not the best in either English or Japanese really, but if I had to choose I’d rather listen to five hundred episodes with subtitles. That isn’t me saying the dub isn’t good either, though I would never… It’s not good. Watch it in Japanese, preferably, also because they don’t butcher the opening theme like a lot of Dubbing companies did in the early 2000s. Now Viz Media did the dub, but once again, all it really did was launch Yuri Lewonthal’s career along with a few choice others who were already in the dub scene. This includes Kyle Hebert, Steve Blum, and Crispin Freeman. Also Liam O’Brian! These are the only people I think are of note, but hey, everybody likes different other voice actors. Any who, the music is also pretty good, sad flute instrumentals abound though. Because it is a longer anime it has multiple openings and endings. I would say there are a few that are really stellar, but there is a lot to go through. I personally really liked a lot of the Shippuden themes.
I have a lot of issues revolving around this show because of fans and the ultimate final few chapters of the manga. I grew up with Naruto, so I do end up having a lot of embarrassed nostalgia about it, I was as we used to call them a Narutard. I will defend that this is a good show with a lot of really good heartfelt moments, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there is problems. Ultimately it comes down to the final arc and plot thread that just felt like it was ham-fisted into the reader’s faces. It felt almost like an insult to us as readers. I can’t be too angry though, it isn’t my work, its Kishimoto’s, but I can’t help but be a bit angry.
Still as a fan and a reader I have to thank Kishimoto for the last 15 years and congratulate him on completing Naruto. After such a long time it’s time to say goodbye even if it feels like letting go of an important friend. It’s an endearing show that if you have the time, read or watch it, it’s heartfelt where it needs to be and silly in the same way.