Naruto Uzumaki is a young ninja who bears a great power hidden inside him, a power that has isolated him from the rest of his village. As such, his only dream is to become the Hokage - the most powerful ninja, and leader of the village; but first he needs to graduate! With his inability to perform even the most basic ninja techniques, it seems that all Naruto has going for him is his determination to succeed no matter what. Teamed up with the genius Sasuke, book-smart Sakura, and their team leader Kakashi, Naruto embarks on his quest to become the Hokage. But with outside forces posing a threat to the entire Hidden Leaf village, Naruto discovers that he must become much stronger if he ever wants to realize his dream and protect the friendships he's forged.
Enter: Naruto Uzumaki!
My Name is Konohamaru!
Sasuke and Sakura: Friends or Foes?
Pass or Fail: Survival Test
You Failed! Kakashi's Final Decision
A Dangerous Mission! Journey to the Land of Waves!
The Assassin of the Mist!
The Oath of Pain
Kakashi: Sharingan Warrior!
The Forest of Chakra
The Land Where a Hero Once Lived
Battle on the Bridge! Zabuza Returns!
Story I’m not ashamed to admit that I adore shounen anime, but it's a rocky romance. Consisting of dizzying highs of compelling fights followed by the bitterly crushing disappointment of tedious filler, the genre in itself becomes a love/hate affair. With all the extensive publicity, fanboyism and build-up surrounding the series, I had foolishly come to anticipate that Naruto would be different; however, as I soon came to discover, I was wrong. Twelve year-old shinobi-in-training, Naruto Uzumaki, lives in the hidden ninja village of Konoha. Shortly after he was born, the powerful nine-tailed demon fox was sealed inside him and, as the host of this monster, Naruto has spent his life as the village outcast. The show follows him in the early stages of his career and the deadly foes that not only pose a threat to Konoha, but also to himself and the entire ninja world. No matter how I look at it, Naruto doesn’t attempt to push the boundaries of the shounen genre all that much. Instead it joins a plethora of other similar shows and happily falls back on a box-ticking exercise. Lively, young male lead protagonist with an unusually strong power – check. Said character rapidly improves and becomes more powerful with each passing mission – check. Group of friends whose bonds are stronger than any foe – check. Nevertheless, despite following this conventional recipe, I still found the plot wholly gripping. Though initially the series appears to focus more on Naruto himself, attention soon shifts more towards the bigger picture and the introduction of the show’s main villain – Orochimaru. I find that this is when Naruto becomes far more intriguing as, with each event, more details came to light about the character’s pasts. This allows the series to become more than simply a young shinobi completing his missions. Also, as is typical with such anime, the series includes a healthy dose of comedy. For me, the inclusion of well-placed humour can make or break a shounen anime. Luckily, Naruto balances the comedic content perfectly with the kick-ass action and riveting fights. I found myself completely enthralled in the world of the Konoha ninja; in particular, the Chuunin Exam, Hunt for Tsunade, and Sasuke Retrieval arcs had me so engrossed, that even getting up and going to the loo became an unforgivable interruption. It was all going so well until I was unceremoniously dumped into an eighty-five-episode run of filler – goodbye quality storytelling, hello mediocrity! The extraneous episodes add nothing to the plotline, and honestly I couldn’t give a flying shuriken about the hidden star village, or some rare beetle with an incredible sense of smell. Half a point goes to the ‘Curry of Life’ arc, which at least raises a smile, but the rest fail to make a lasting impression. While marginally better than the dismal turds of filler that Bleach foists upon its viewers, I would still rather repeatedly stab myself in the leg with a kunai than sit through this third of the series again. Animation Naruto doesn’t boast any exceptional animation, though from a long-running series, I don’t anticipate much else. However, the fight scenes do demonstrate some respectable movement, helping the viewer to engage with the action. The series’ character designs are acceptable, but standard. Each character displays an odd visual attribute to match the quirk of their personalities. Details such as Kiba’s emphasised canine teeth help to re-affirm that he comes from a clan that works with ninja dogs, while the ‘Inner Sakura’ provides ample humour throughout. Though these idiosyncrasies aren’t spectacularly inventive, the result is nonetheless effective. Sound Toshio Masuda delivers a first-rate score to accompany the visuals. Each piece ideally suits the tone of the scene and serves well to heighten the series’ comedy, tension and drama. I found that Naruto’s myriad opening and ending themes would often leave little lasting impression at first, but in time I would find myself humming or singing along to many of them. The series’ first opening, ‘Rocks’, deserves particular mention for sounding strangely reminiscent of a corny and rather dodgy eighties rock track. As such, it satisfies my occasional desire for some truly cheesy music, and makes it onto my list of favourite anime themes. Characters As typical shounen fare, Naruto’s cast neither appears to aim for, nor achieves, any particular level of ingenuity. The characters are entertaining and appealing in themselves, but they don’t exceed expectations. Naruto himself is the archetypal lead protagonist – lively, powerful, and a bit dense. While some of his antics and lack of awareness may invoke a sense of irritation at times, Naruto’s unrelenting determination and loyalty to his friends make it difficult to entirely dislike him. In stark contrast to Naruto’s vivacious personality comes the series’ secondary protagonist, Sasuke. As the polar opposite of his teammate, Sasuke is a quiet and highly intelligent ninja, though his composed and egotistical nature makes him appear little more than a complete asshole. However, with his often disagreeable temperament and his entire life being driven by a rampant desire for revenge, Sasuke becomes one of the show’s more fascinating characters. Meanwhile, the remaining cast simply seem to fit into nice little labelled boxes. Here’s the cool one; and there’s the evil genius guy; oh, and don’t forget that funny one, you know, with the massive eyebrows and freaky hairdo. While this is entertaining and helps to establish each person’s role, this stereotyping inevitably limits the amount of creativity in their characters. One of the more impressive aspects of Naruto’s cast comes from its character development. Naruto starts out as an oblivious attention seeker, but soon becomes a slightly less oblivious and far more capable ninja who is determined to protect his friends at all costs. His lonely past also makes this evolution in Naruto’s personality effective in a second way. As he gradually gains the trust and respect of the other ninja, those around him also begin to change. The admirable development of the series’ cast enables an array of easily pigeonholed characters to advance past the chains of some of their stereotypes and gain a greater depth of personality. Overall So, does Naruto really merit all the hype surrounding it? Well, kind of. If I were rating this purely on enjoyment, then the nines would be flowing; I became hooked and couldn’t get enough. However, while the bulk of the plot is worth watching and has the ability to draw the viewer in, Naruto dedicates over a third of the series to superfluous and mundane filler arcs. Consequently, I cannot honestly call it a masterpiece of Japanese animation. This series is very much a prelude to its successor, and only seems to scratch the surface of the plot. Fans of the shounen genre should definitely check this out, though you might want to do yourself a favour: skip the filler following the Sasuke Retrieval arc and move straight onto Naruto Shippuuden.
Synopsis Twelve years prior to the story's opening, the sprit of the Nine-Tailed Fox attacked the Shinobi village of Konohagakure. In order to save his people, the legendary Fourth Hokage sacrificed himself, and sealed the demon within the body of an infant Naruto. Naruto itself is the story of the same boy, now a pre-adolescent, seeking recognition and a purpose in a world that has already predetermined his destiny. Naruto never knew his family, and because of the spirit he houses, his fellow villagers shunned him. This left Naruto completely isolated, and eventually drove him to pursue their recognition above all else. As such, Naruto's dream is the surpass all of the previous leaders of Konoha and become the greatest Hokage! Story (9/10) Like many other classics of its genre, Naruto follows a fairly basic recipe in regards to Shounen manga; a flawed, dim-witted adolescent boy with a heavy burden is destined to save and eventually change is world. Dragonball, Fullmetal Alchemist, Hunter X Hunter, Shaman King, One Piece... I could list perhaps a dozen well-known and respected Shounen series that have also relied strictly upon this concept in the past. Admittedly, I had been drawn away from the series for over three years for that exact reason. Nevertheless, even in all its original indifference, Naruto began to stand out somehow as it progressed. Something I could not quite comprehend surfaced eventually, and in no time, I found myself completely drawn into the world and the characters of Naruto. Still, it is very difficult to review the story in its entirety, simply because it consists primarily of foreshadowing, and the smallest detail occurring today may very well have an enormous influence in the future. Nonetheless, I consider it to be well crafted and more than acceptable for a coming-of-age tale. All in all, I believe it is the emotions Naruto contains that make series so addictive and engaging. As such, I have rated it accordingly. Animation (7/10) Animation is without a doubt one of Naruto's weaker points, as it is plagued by constant changes in quality depending upon the importance of the episode. As I retrace my thoughts, several moments in particular stand out, and still cause me to shudder with utter disappointment. Still, in some instances I was overly joyed about how a certain fight or scene was converted. Another thing that becomes apparent early on is the lack of detail in regards to backgrounds during scenes of distress. The most well drawn, and fluid battle sequences are always coupled by the most inferior backgrounds. Still, I should hold back my complaints some, because this same incurable disease affects many Shounen series. All in all, the animation of Naruto could have been both much better and much worse, and it does improve dramatically when Shippuden begins. Sound (9/10) As far as the sound quality of Naruto goes, I have next to no complaints. Both Toshio Masuda and Yasuharu Takanashi deliver glorious pieces of background music for the original Naruto and for Shippuden respectively. Combining classical Japanese and rock instruments definitely brought out the best results in both cases, particularly in Shippuden, due to the series' sizable increase in budget. I still sit back and listen to several of the more beautiful tracks occasionally, and it never ceases to amaze me how I can recall each and every scene from the series in striking detail. Interesting how music alone can bring these emotions out in a person, but that isn't exactly relevant. I suppose I have one small complaint in regards to the openings and closings, which can be either excellent or terrible, depending entirely upon the song and video. I can vividly recall the very first opening of the series, R.O.C.K.S by Hound Dog, as being one of the worst songs I had ever heard. In complete contradiction, I greatly enjoyed Haruka Kanata, the second opening, by Asian Kung Fu Generation. Characters (10/10) Naruto's characters are literally a key component to what makes the series so masterfully crafted. Spanning from the perfectly developed protagonist Naruto Uzumaki himself, to the spine-chilling and sadistic Gaara, I believe that I have adored every single character presented thus far. The author of the series has proven himself repeatedly to an audience of millions across the globe through his gifts for storytelling, but by far, the most fascinating and complex dimensions of his story are the dozens of relationships Naruto forms throughout the plot. I could make daylong lists quoting the methods this protagonist has utilized to affect each and every secondary character, singularly the series' antagonists. It is truly incredible how one man could format such an intriguing tale all on his own, and for such an accomplishment, I greatly admire him. Overall (9/10) I realize that there are many, many people in this world who will disagree upfront with my decision to rate Naruto as I have. In all honesty, Naruto is not but an extremely mainstream Shounen. I certainly understand that it can prove difficult for some to become initially involved in the storyline. I myself have had a similar reaction to One Piece, a series that my twin sister adores to her very core. As I sit here typing this, I find it extremely strenuous to produce the words with which to describe my judgments accurately. I suppose the only true way for one to grasp the basis’ of these opinions is to experience Naruto first-hand, and so with that said, I conclude this review of Masashi Kishimoto's, Naruto.
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