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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Naruto: Hailed as the sucessor of the dragonball franchise has lived upto its name and has become one of the best sellers of all time besides one piece and dragonball. The series is a treat for all ages ;full of action ,comedy,romance and martial arts depicted with almost minimal exggeration (unlike the energy blasts in DBZ) AND MAINLY THE MOST TEAR JERKING ANIME MOMENTS OF ALL TIME.The beauty of this series lies in the portrayal of the lives of orphaned individuals and the value of life itself .
The major drawback is :SHITLOAD OF FILLER EPISODES . After watching atleast 50 out of 90 fillers i was eagerly waiting for the second part to start hence for starters WARNING: STICK TO THE EPISODES NUMBERED 1 TO 135 and jump to the 220 th. only then the ride would be truly unforgettable.
Naruto is a story that is either loved or hated, not because of the content though. Too many people love this anime for all the wrong reasons and too many people hate this anime for invalid reasons. Just like Death Note loudmouth idiots create hype and people wanna look down on them, as is human nature. The truth is Naruto is a shounen at heart but it has all the makings of great stories through out the ages and remains very engaging throughout the true story line.
Naruto creates its own world very effectively by setting up boundries and acknowledging limitations which gives it realism in its own way. It allows the anime to take itself seriously without looking stupid and this is what sets a good Shounen apart from bad ones. There is nothing unique about the story line but it's intricate and complex, it may sound stupid to say that but most anime's story line are very simplistic in comparison, even if they are far deeper and mature. Enemies are three dimensional, the themes are mature and complex even when introduced in immature ways and the feelings of character seem real. If you try and apply them all to the world of Naruto then they are weak, a boy's goal to become recognized by a village through his strength? The companionship of the ninjas, whatever you wanna take out of it. It's all pretty weak but if you apply those kinds of themes to our world then while they're not ground breaking or amazing, they do have depth. The performance of identity, searching for somewhere to belong, obligations to others, war, ambition, significance of "bonds", selfishness, arrogance, competition, determination vs talent, duty and many more. These themes are very shallow in Naruto but they can run very deep in real life and if you can take these themes deep enough in your head then Naruto becomes a mature anime.
The animation of Naruto was amazing in developing the characters and the battles. Each character was very defined and unforgettable, the fights were interesting and colorful. I really liked the animation but there's nothing deep about it so i'll just say it was good and move on.
An amazing array of talented seiyuu also led to distinct characters and some amazing emotional scenes. I get bored when anime characters just sound like Japanese people after watching Naruto, each character's voice is so interesting, defined and powerful that it establishes a connection with the character easily. I don't think any other anime has a better team of voice actors. That's not the only reason that Naruto's sound stands out from others, i've rarely been so attached to so many different OP's and ED's in a series that changes them this often. So many of them I actually bothered to youtube them and listen to the full verson in just one anime, where I rarely bother to look up any in most. As though that wasn't enough the power of the OST is undeniable as well, powerful in both bringing out emotions in both battle scenes and sympathetic ones. Some were a tad overused and it's also undeniable that there was a lot of potential to use great music.
A difficult section to rate because many facets of Naruto's production aid the characters, how much of that should go to this section? The truth is none of them are interesting, they're all very simplistic yet likeable. They are amazing because they're so memorable and distinct from each other but that isn't because of character design. However character design does play a role and for a shounen they did their job quite well. A lot of the characters in Naruto that were at least a little bit complex have become extremely one dimensional in Naruto Shippuden with the exception of Itachi, Pain and perhaps Hinata and i'm not sure if I should completely sperate Naruto from Shippuden. I'll split it but they don't really deserve to be split because i'm pretty sure the manga is not. 7/10 considering it's a shounen is what i'll give, but i'm not entirely convinced that the character designs were as significant and i'm rating them for.
A difficult series to conclude on but the huge number of flash backs and flaws that came directly from Naruto being made into an anime have a huge impact on my overall rating. Naruto isn't too complex or unique but nor does it try to be yet it has layers of emotion that a lot of shounen it's been grouped with don't. Naruto Shippuden is probably a lot more valid for many of the faults that those shounen are barraged with but not Naruto. I didn't watch the 80 fillers and you don't need to either so that's not part of my conclusion. I didn't even watch the fillers that were within the series even if they had some relevance to the plot. Naruto has a layer of complexity and emotion that other shounen doesn't, yet it's often hated for it's length. Naruto is about 120 episodes long without the fillers, that is more than reasonable in my opinion. Soul Eater, Darker than Black, Hikaru no Go are all missing that element that Naruto had for me.
I suggest you give Naruto a try if you've been putting it off because you disliked Bleach or One Piece, or perhaps that the number of episodes seemed too much.