ANIME MINOR JEWELS SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Since the anime is still on-going, I will only analyze what I have seen so far in it.
Nobody can deny the fact that Naruto created a sensation in its first years, unparallel to most of everything else. It wasn’t like most anime that come out and are forgotten in a few months; people are still talking about it a decate after it began. There was simply way too much context in it for anyone to find something to talk about. The story, the character interactions, the symbolisms, the hand seals, the philosophy, the possible revelations later in the story, the tributes to Japanese history and mythology, and even the means to do proper cosplay, there was simply a gazillion things to concern yourself with. I can even say it was the main attraction for most newcomers to the medium and a very easy way to get into talking about anything else. Seriously, every time we had an anime meeting newbies would appear with some sort of Naruto accessory and they would be the center of attention for hours, an easy way to become part of the group and start talking. You would go into net cafes and see a group of ten people sitting in a row, each one doing a Naruto marathon. You would have others trying hard to memorize the hand seals, to improve their drawing skills just so they can do better character sketches, to learn Japanese language and history so they could better grasp the hidden meanings behing everything in the show. Naruto was THE show to talk and get active about. And it was fun while it lasted. To be honest I was never a fanboy of the show but I too was using the whole hype as an excuse to start talking about… anything. It is a fine gate anime, really.
Sadly, pretty much like most things in life, after all these years the series is hardly as good as it began. Along the way it lost a lot of its magic and vitality and progressively started to feel like more of a milkcow than a well told story. Even the mangaka started to make mistakes or care less, lose track of his own subplots and deliberately slow them down so he could cash in as much as possible. Also other shows began to come out and steal the spot light, starting with its main rival Bleach (which was also good at first) and then with the revived fandom of One Piece. Today it feels like a shadow of what it was at first, a good memory but eventually something you would most likely regret to have invested so much time, money, and effort. It was an easy way to make anime friends but after the sparkling wears off, Naruto is not that good after all; it is just very well promoted and marketed to easily appeal to most anime fans. Not a bad thing considering how most shows get forgotten fast but definitely not one deserving to become the ideal show for several millions of people. There are far more elaborate, mature, and eventually better directed anime out there that hardly get the credit they deserve.
ART SECTION: 7/10 [Things are not what they seem to be in Naruto’s world.]
Analysis: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 2/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
The artwork is definitely original in a way, as most areas, especially the ninja villages, are very cool looking in their design. Yet at the same time it is full of anachronisms and irrelevant details which break the magic if you ever try to think about it. Why are there ninjas in a world where everyone can simply use computers or machineguns? Or how can ninjas really be stealthy when most of them wear bright colored cloths and have tattoos that make them stand out in the crowd? Or head guards that identify their hidden village? Or why are the villages even called hidden when they are in plain sight? Oh, sure, the characters all look cool, trendy macho kids that easily attract the eye. Yet, they are supposed to be ninjas; and the last time I checked, ninjas were nothing like them. They don’t look as such, nor do they behave that stealthy or serious; heck, they are closer to magicians than ninjas. So, looking cool is good but looking like immature trendy nerds is not. Especially when they seem to have only one set of cloths.
One would of course say this is fiction and that it is logical not to expect realism. One could easily say that in this world ninjas use illusions and body exchanges instead of stealth. Ok, let’s go with that. Those awesome hand seals and funky jutsus and amazing special effects gave a unique identity to the show by providing signature moves for every character. Yet, that made the series far less realistic than what it wanted to appear being. Everything was possible as long as you could make a copy or an illusion of yourself. I mean, how can you believe that the characters use strategy in battle, if they keep exchanging places with a log when they are hit or make water appear out of nowhere? It takes away any feeling of strategy if everything is just transformations to whatever you like. Plus, professionals would never be tricked by techniques they are using themselves for so many years yet in the series they are constantly fooled by amateurs. Not to forget to mention how if you have a Sharingan or a Tailed Beast on your side and the other one doesn’t, you pretty much have an auto-win. So believe it or not, the Naruto ninjas are far less interesting than the classical ones in terms of warfare and a balance of power simply doesn’t exist.
I understand that it is supposed to be eye-catchy for the younger audience but there are simply no connecting points of reference amongst everything you see. In fact, it feels like random ideas in random applications after awhile. Here is a computer, next to a ninja dog summoned with some hand seals, next to a circus. The setting is blending technology and magic with absolutely no excuse. It looks eye catchy at first but quickly becomes so random that loses interest. Just use a gun if you have one; don’t hire ninjas!
Then there is the fluctuation in the quality of the animation. The level of detail keeps increasing and dropping in various moments, thus you feel weird when a character looks awesome in one episode and lame in another. Overall, this is Studio Pierrot doing its usual semi-lazy job. At parts it’s good, at parts it’s a blob, overall its production values drop vertically after a point on.
SOUND SECTION: 8/10 [-We are fighting dreamers! -Yes you are. Wake up sleepyheads!]
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 3/3
Acoustics in music themes are very good but some more variety wouldn’t hurt, as they repeated too often. The songs were far more memorable in the first seasons; from a point on they felt average. Voice acting was ok, full of shallow ideology and philosophy to mesmerize the kids, although hearing idiotic remarks and endless flashback monologues was getting to my nerves after a while. Sound effects had an awesome variety and did a great job at boosting the interest in action scenes.
STORY SECTION: 3/10 [The story was an illusion-type jutsu because it doesn’t really exist.]
Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 0/2, Complexity 2/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 0/2
This is where they really messed up the series. At first, it felt quite epic and mysterious but it quickly became lukewarm and clichéd.
- For starters, half of the episodes are fillers. They have no significant plot or interesting stories, so they are not the good kind of fillers. That drops the story-based duration to 50%.
- Then again, half of the duration of all story-based episodes is just recaps, dragging, stalling and general dead time, where we listen to things we already know or stare at characters who space-out and talk about the story of their lives, in the most irrelevant moments. That drops the story-based duration to 25%.
- Wait, there is more. Another half of that half is just battles between secondary characters who don’t really affect the story. They do give a feeling of progress but in reality they could easily be left out without damaging the story at all. For you see, the plot revolves around 10 people, while there are about 100 more, which don’t really do anything of importance. That drops the story-based duration to 12%.
- Add to that the fact that since the title of the series is named after the protagonist, he will always survive and win in every situation. Makes it all too predictable.
- Of course the most disappointing thing about the story is how it lost its magic along the way and turned to a clusterfuck of random ideas and side stories without any focus or proper analysis invested to them. It became way too confusing and chaotic, with lukewarm tension and dull pacing.
I give some credit for providing a feeling of progress in learning new techniques and explaining the way everything works with the chakras. But even that was just standard rpg fad and gave a terribly misleading image of what the 7 Hindu body chakra or the ninzitsu concentration hand seals really were.
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10 [Are the characters changing places with logs, or are they logs in reality?]
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 2/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 0/2
Ah, it was all fun and games but it failed to present a proper cast.
The protagonist is Naruto, who is a complete idiot that yells “I will become the best in the world-dattebaiyo” every 5 minutes. When someone is in trouble, he changes his quote to “I will save him/her”. His motives are the most typical of most shonen leads. It was interesting at first when he was the unsecured little orphan nobody liked. He was striving for acceptance and thus everybody could identify with that. Later on he shifted his entire mission to just save his ex-rival Sasuke. That was no longer a personal drama to be fond of since he was NOT than much of a friend to begin with and Naruto still has a hundred others who still care deeply about him. Even later we find out he is the son of a very powerful man and that he is even the Chosen One to save the world. Ok, I officially don’t care about him after all this crappy turnaround. Everybody liked him when he was just a weak boy trying to be the leader of his village. Now he is an emo killing machine wasting his life trying to save an uncaring asshole, full of broken powers and constant Deus Ex Machina events that continually save him and make him nothing but a generic savior stereotype. Plus he constantly ignores the girls around him and cares only to save that male traitor, making the whole thing very gay.
The main rival is Sasuke, the grumpy emo who wants to revenge against his big brother. How original is that? Big brothers are always villains in shounen. He spends all his life trying to be strong just so he can kill people. And when he succeeds, he is not satisfied and kills some more. And then more. It was ok the first time; this guy had a billion fangirls who loved his stereotypical “play hard and uncaring” attitude. All the chicks loved him, all the boys were jealous of him, he was a protegy with superb cool powers and a sad past to feel sorry about. But later on he turned to a hateful prick; his life has no meaning at all other than “kill random people”. He became nothing more than a cold bastard working with thugs, and planning to commit genocide just because he has no idea what he is doing. Impossible to relate with.
How about Kakashi, whose only feature is his hidden face? What else did he offer to the story? Or maybe Sakura who just does nothing other than acting like a useless fan-girl most of the time? And to think that THESE are the main cast that affects the story; all the rest are there mostly for show. I won’t deny the fact that Orochimaru was an awesome villain or Shikamaru was a strategic mastermind or Hinata was the most moe thing ever. Still, all these characters were just dressing for the series. With the exception of Shikamaru none of these hundreds evolved as characters nor did they offer anything to the story. And as usual, female characters are presented as useless and irritating all the time.
A major problem with most shonen series is that they throw in a huge number of characters and then have no time (or talent) to develop them. They do a fine job colorizing them with personal tragedies and unique jutsus but they don’t really mature them in any real way. Just check the Soul Eater anime for example. It had far less secondary characters and thus far more time to develop them, without dragging the story with unimportant side stories, as Naruto did.
I do understand that most of the appeal the characters have is aesthetic and not actually about personalities. Naruto is the typical insecure boy who wants recognition from his peers. He ain’t smart of handsome, yet does his best to make a difference. He also likes a girl who ignores him and rivals a silent type pretty boy, who gets all the chicks for being a cold bastard. Plus there is a huge number of characters, each one with his or her own quirks just so anyone can pick their personal favorites. All these make a nice basic teen story that can appeal to most in the target group. But at the same time, the show does little with it. It even shifts its focus towards something far less interesting later on and wastes its quality away with a lot on funky battles and character quirks instead of actual character development.
VALUE SECTION: 6/10 [Get the cat, win pocket money.]
Analysis: Historical Value 3/3, Rewatchability 1/3, Memorability 2/4
Hey, there wouldn’t be dozens of millions of Narutards world-wide if it wasn’t famous and had lots of historical value. Still, you will skip a lot of episodes if you ever watch it again. Too much blah, blah and flashbacks where nothing happens. It is good for a shounen series and does break the mold from time to time but it still remains pretty freaking clichéd and slow passed, something that becomes more and more evident as the story goes on. You just lose your motivation as the show keeps going. And to be honest, most of its good points are nothing but a rehash of Hunter X Hunter, a shonen show with much better strategy and character development (the story there sucks though).
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10 [Curry of Life was the series’ death.]
Despite the sheer stupidity of the series, I admit that it was very attention-absorbing. I really digged those funky jutsus and semi-serious strategies in battle and almost forgot to think how idiotic it all was. My enjoyment was high, up until episode 135 of the original. Then, those lame fillers came along up to the end and dropped my enjoyment to zero. That halved my enjoyment for the whole series as well. Even after the show returned to canon story in Shippuden, it was still moving slowly and with lots of inserted filler arcs every 20 episodes, making it highly irritating.
I understand that the series was much more enjoyable for the average 12-year-old viewer, who was accustomed to watching only Pokemon or Sailor Moon. Also much more interesting for all those 20-year-olds who grew up with Dragonball Z. That still doesn’t cover for the fact that I have seen far better shonen.
The show got ruined by turning to a ridiculous dragged out random pile of clichés.