How fashionably late can I show up to a party? When it comes to anime, long after everyone’s left and two sequels have aired.
Naruto the anime debuted in 2002, and everyone at my school was talking about it. Although I was taking a break from anime at the time, I would often see my brother watching subbed DVDs on our desktop.
By the time I had gone back to beloved anime, too many episodes had aired. I would later hear a second part had been released, Shippuden; and then a sequel, Boruto. With each new installment the episode count mounted into an Everest I had no desire to climb.
Was it really worth watching if I knew he achieved his dream at the end?
Then, we hit locked down. I was working from home. I had a lot more time on my hands; and this made watching an expansive-twenty-year-plus-running-series a little easier to grasp.
I started with the behemoth that is One Piece, which I enjoyed. I was overwhelmed at first. But, I began to appreciate that twenty-plus-years-worth of episodes meant that there would be a rich world, great plots and amazing character progression. All I would needed to do (if liked the show) is commit to watching the less interesting episodes, and not stop when it got boring.
When you are dealing with over 1000 episodes, some of them are going to flop.
Now that I was all caught up with One Piece I wanted another long series to commit to…and as I browsed through Netflix the other day, Naruto came up.
I will admit that I underestimated the show. Going into it, I knew very little of Naruto before I started watching. The three things I knew were;
- Naruto believes that he will be Hokage (leader of the village) one day.
- Universally, people find Sakura annoying.
- Sasuke wants vengeance.
I have only watched the first five episodes, but the story has had a strong start. It is about more than just a boy who wants to get stronger.
“Before the fourth Hokage trapped the monster and died, his last wish was for the villagers to regard Naruto as a Hero” – Third Hokage Episode 2
The first thing we learn about Naruto is that he is a trouble maker. He repeatedly pulls pranks with very little regard for anyone else, or the consequences of his actions. But through the solitude of other characters such as Iruka (his teacher), Sasuke (his rival) and Konohamuru (his “student”) we begin to understand Naruto’s behavior.
On the day of Naurto’s birth, a giant spirit attacked The Hidden Leaf Village. It was the spirit of the Nine Tailed Fox, a powerful monster and it killed many. To defeat the spirit, the fourth Hokage was forced to trap it in Naruto’s body. Through his and Naruto’s unknowing sacrifice, peace was restored to the village.
Unfortunately, the villagers did not see Naruto as a hero. He was a reminder of the chaos the spirit unleashed, and they blamed him for everything including the deaths of their family and friends.
The third Hokage (reprising his role) saw how the villagers treated Naruto, even as a baby. He decreed that the incident of the Nine Tailed Fox could not be spoken about. He did not want the village to condemn a child for something he had no part of.
This did not change how the adults of the village treated Naruto; or, how the children of the village, learned by example, to treat him.
In the first episode, we learn Iruka is the only adult in the village that is kind to Naruto. Whenever Naruto misbehaves, he reprimands him. He supervises Naruto as he deals with the consequences of his actions. He takes Naruto to his favorite Ramen shop for both celebrations and when he needs to be cheered up. He buys Naruto Ramen to stock at home, so Naruto has something to eat. He is even willing to fail Naruto multiple times, so that Naruto graduates the academy only when he is skilled enough to become a ninja.
Iruka can relate to Naruto’s pain. Like Naruto, he too was orphaned at an early age. He went through his childhood alone, without the unconditional love of parents and support from his community. And, like Naruto, Iruka became the class clown.
He would act up in class and around the village, to make a fool of himself. People would laugh at him…and if he laughed along with them, he would be a part of the joke. They would be laughing together.
It is objectively worse for Naturo, however. Growing up, Naruto had seen the way people have looked at him and have talked about him. He had sensed their cruelty and did not understand why it was happening. That is also why he acted up, to give them a reason to hate him.
Naruto wants to become Hokage so that people will stop looking at him with hate. He wants to be respected, and the leader of the village is the most respected person in the village.
In episode 3, Sakura, in speaking to Sasuke says; Naruto behaves the way he does because he lacks discipline. If he had parents scolding him, he would know better. To which Sasuke looks visibly upset and replies;
“The loneliness. It is something worse than getting scolded by parents…”
As the last surviving member of his clan, Sasuke has also been left all alone. Where as Naruto’s goal is to become a respected leader of the village, Sasuke’s goal is become strong so that he can kill someone.
Although Sasuke and Naruto are close in age, Sasuke is leagues ahead of Naruto in skill.
Naruto had failed the academy test twice because he was unable to make a single clone.
Kakashi (their new squad leader) is quick to point out that Sasuke’s problem is one of arrogance, while Naruto lacks fundamentals.
In episode 1, Naruto is manipulated into stealing a scroll contains forbidden jutsu. He pours over the instructions and practices all night. By the time he is discovered, he is not only able to create a single clone, he is able to create dozens.
By episode 5, during Kakashi’s survival test, he is combining attacks.
Naruto takes Konohamaru under his wing, in episode 2. Konohamaru is the “honorable grandson of the third Hokage,” and has been referred to by that title his whole life. Naurto spends a full day teaching him to perfect his signature “Sexy Jutsu.”
Albeit different, Konohamaru is also “not seen” by the people of the village. His dream is the same as Naruto’s; to become Hokage.
When he announces that, Naruto states;
“You won’t win that title easily, you know. If you are serious about gaining the title Lord Hokage…You’ll have to beat me first!“
And with that he sees Konohamaru as a legitimate rival.
As the episodes have progressed, people in the village have seen Naurto’s drive. What seemed like a childish dream, has started to seem achievable.
- I really like Naruto as a character. He is someone that has been left discarded by his community, but he remains positive. He is driven to prove them all wrong. He bears no actual ill will towards anyone.
- Sakura is a little annoying.
- I am interested to see what happens to Sasuke
- I really am interested in the world, and hope there is a lot more lore and ninja levels.
- Why was Konohamaru introduced before Sasuke and Sakura?
- Why does the third Hokage keep spying on people through that crystal ball a little too long?
- It’s never too late to get into a good story. I’m really happy i got around to starting Naruto; up next, The Land of Waves!
Thanks for reading!
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