Mature setting, kid story.
Imagine a world where 5 organisations working in shadows keep control over most of world's military power. A world where Child Soldiers are trained practically from the birth to be spies and assasins ready to fight, kill and die when ordered to. A world where teenagers put their life on the line and sometimes kill other teenagers just to rise in rank. A world where being born outside of special family gives you no hope to ever do what those born with special bloodlines get from their birth. Sounds like perfect setting for idealistic story about power of friendship right? This manga has many problems, but the biggest one, and probably the very foundation of all others is how the world created by the author clashes heavily with story that he's trying to tell. Just a single example: a character's backstory involves someone who abandoned his duty to save his friends. This is presented as the right choice, and probably would be if it wasn't for the fact that he did that in the middle of a war and his failed mission has doomed many others to save two. Another example is that characters are called ninjas but it's just for the sake of awesomeness, rather than actual job description. They're trained to be spies and assasins, but while it's talked about we never see it, because such morally grey area would clash which them being clear good guys. Which leads to another problem, that story tries very hard to sell itself as White and Grey Morality, even though the "grey" side is clearly black. Story is afraid to show villains as trully evil with very few exceptions, because vile villains rather than misguided extremists wouldn't work in idealistic story. However we still see them being evil, sometimes going beyond Moral Event Horizon which is never treated as such, and their inevitable redemption comes across as Insane Forgiveness. There are of course other problems, like breaking Magic A Is Magic A rule late in the series, as well as infamous Plot no Jutsu, but these could've been avoided. They say that the manga started well and fell over time, but in hindsight the effort was doomed from the start with author's inability to present the world as trully crappy as it is instead of being screwed up by misguided extremists.
This series made me who I am today
That title isn't even that much of an exaggeration. When it comes to my interest in anime and manga, Naruto is to me what Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z is to others. From the beginning, Naruto is a very unique take on the ninja world. As the story progresses the capabilities and powers of shinobi are greatly expanded upon while still leaving enough room for fans to theorize and make their own headcanons (which is almost always unintentional but nonetheless fun). While many critics of this series say that the story could have definitely ended at the Zabuza arc and that the Chunin exams were an attempt to extend an already decent story, I submit that I probably wouldn't have given the series that much attention had that been the case. The only reason I got interested in it was because I stumbled upon an episode of the Preliminary Chunin exams and was captured by the ninjas flip-flopping all over with their cool techniques. I highly doubt I would have pursued the series if I learned it ended so succinctly and open-endedly like some have opined would have been the best for the series. As time goes on, threats are mounting. Imminent and in a way, unavoidable, this being a bloodthirsty ninja world. The mystery behind Naruto's past grows ever more important as the cards he's been dealt—a jinchuuriki housing the world's most powerful demon—begin to threaten his and his village's existence, as well as that of the peace between nations. The Akatsuki, Kishimoto's own neat little Rogues' Gallery replace Orochimaru as the main antagonistic force. They are promptly defeated, however, making all of them but two of them mere distractions to the main end game. With retconning and utterly stubborn characters taking center stage, the latter fourth of the manga will most likely turn you off. Only the most devoted fans like myself sat through to the end. I will not say that I was very happy with the end, simply because I have become more hung up on the Akatsuki's wasted potential as compelling and entertaining villains, but if you're like me, you see your favorite manga series to the end, as it's the least you can do after spending a decade following it. The fillers are deadly but at times humorous. The characters are entertaining and unique for the most part. It is a series to be tried simply to experience one moment of "wow that's cool".
How can you manage to Badass Decay an entire series?! ('Kickass Decay' anyone?)
For the first 235 chapters or so (up to the timeskip) Masashi Kishimoto's Naruto was quite simply the best shonen action manga ever written (in my opinion only Rave Master came close). The characters were quirky but appealing, the action was fantastic and the plot was genuinely gripping. From the Wave Country arc to the Chuunin Exam/Sand and Sound Invasion to the Search for Tsunade to Sasuke's Betrayal, it was just a great story at every turn. Then it all went wrong. Post-timeskip the cracks started to show the first time "jinchuuriki" were mentioned and Kishimoto began Retconing everything and Asspulling new ideas. It started out slowly and the first few arcs (Rescue Gaara, Grass Country) were even pretty good, but it rapidly got worse. An entire new mythology was conjured up out of the aether. The series' internal logic began to contradict itself. The plotting became disjointed, it lost touch with the themes that had made the first part great, characters got seriously derailed, the action scenes got worse and worse and every new antagonist became a Villain Sue with an ever more pathetic Freudian Excuse. Don't even START me on the goddamn Uchihas! By the end, the story has completely collapsed; not a single character is acting in anything approaching a believable manner, the Villain Sues have broken the scale for Asspulls and we just wanted it all to be over. The story degraded so badly that I would believe you if you told me that Masashi Kishimoto actually died shortly after the timeskip and was replaced by an incompetent ghost writer for the rest of the manga; it's just impossible to compare the garbage that is late-series Naruto with the brilliance of the first part. It's that awful. The one bright spot I do have to mention is Hinata, the only female character Kishimoto managed to write well. This girl was my favourite character in the entire series and by the end I was only reading to see her hook up with Naruto. I've written essays about why she's such a great character. Naruto 7 The Last was a godsend. In short, at the start of the series it's 10/10; by the end it gets a 1/10. Yes, it really is So Bad, It's Horrible.
To be re-reviewed later
Another long runner that falls apart before the end
It seems to be a pattern with a lot of modern day shounen, that viewers are bought in by the initial concept, a strong introduction, and likable characters, then inevitably disappointed when the story collapses under its own weight and the characters are misused, with extra focus usually on the least likable member of the cast. Naruto does all this and more, with an ending that really makes you wonder if the hero accomplished anything. Nominally, the series is supposed to be about Naruto Uzumaki, the shunned orphan with a demon inside him on a quest to become the greatest ninja the world has ever seen (although in this world a ninja is more akin to a steampunk wizard). However, more and more it seems focused on Naruto's rival and later what the audience (but not the actual manga, more on that in a bit) sees as his archenemy, Sasuke. As the comic progressed, the narrative kept trying to push the idea of a bond between Naruto and Sasuke, that Sasuke wasn't evil, and that the most important thing Naruto had to do was fulfill his "Promise of a Lifetime", the promise to his teammate Sakura (a woman we're repeatedly told Naruto has deep seated feelings for) to bring Sasuke back, alive and unharmed. Except every time we see Sasuke. he is shown to be less and less likable, going from revenge on his brother to revenge on his village to merely wanting to Take Over the World. And Naruto's quest ends with Sasuke redeemed simply because he said he was sorry. Sakura ignores him completely in favor of the man who tried to kill her repeatedly (cementing her as one of the worst female leads in a manga in quite some time). The supporting cast's screentime is reduced to virtually nothing to push a bond that doesn't exist. This is a story where the hero can't beat the villain, the villain gets away with all his attempted crimes (but decides he doesn't want to take over the world because reasons) and gets the girl. And once the alleged heroine is done using the hero to get her crush back she tosses him to the side like garbage. And there's no joy, no pathos. Lots of likable characters are tossed to the side and the end result is an unsatisfying mess. And I haven't even began to talk about the pacing issues or the fact that the next to last battle was against a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere .
A Decent Show with Good Pt1 and Disappoining Pt2
Naruto is not a bad show per say. It overall has a good start and is rather enjoyable for the first part. However, much of its interesting characters are shoved aside in favor of the poorly-written and inconsistent villains. Naruto started off pretty well with a likeable cast and some clever action scenes that mixes both clever strategy and showy stunts. Sure the character don't exact hide in the shadows like traditional ninjas, but they do use subterfuge and trickery in fights. I wasn't bothered by Sakura and Sasuke and to their credit they show some decent character development. Even after Sasuke became a villain, I still understand his goals and felt sorry for him. However, the franchise loses much of its luster after the timeskip into part II. Part II did show the cast growing up and becoming more badass which is a good start. Even Sakura became much cooler in the time skip. Ditto for other Konoha residents like Choji and Hinata. It seemed like everything was going fine. Too bad the Uchiha clan had to screw everything up. The Uchihas are some of the most self-righteous assholes in Anime/Manga history who steal the spotlight away from all the interesting characters that we've grown to love including the main hero. While I was able to sympathize with and tolerate Sasuke before the time skip, I absolutely hate him. Here he pisses away any audience sympathy by killing innocent body guards and leaving his comrades to die. Likewise, the villain Tobi is Obito Uchiha who turns to be even more unlikeable because he starts a war that kills thousands all because his love interest died. It would be one thing that the Uchihas are intentionally written to be evil scumbags, but the audience and characters are still expected to sympathize with them and they never get punished for their villainy. On top of that, every time the Uchihas show up, the fights become less about clever strategy and more about bloated spectacle and asspulls. Overall, Naruto is still a good series that still has a strong start and likeable heroes. However, it's second part undid most of that good will with its shilling of the Uchihas. I just hope the author avoids making the same mistake of focusing too much on spotlight-hogging jerkasses in the sequel series.
The Show That Made a Shipper Out of Me.
Ok, so I'd seen a few animes before, but not many. I watched Dragonball and its sequals, Pokemon too, Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh for a while, a bit of Gundam till the scheduling and plot confused the hell out of me, several series I can't recall if they were proper anime or western animations, and a handful of others I can't recall the names of, but when I start watching Naruto the most recent anime I'd seen was Inuyasha. In none of those series did I feel the need to "ship" nor learn the term or read the Manga. Not until Naruto. See before this I was content to let the plot resolve all the relationships in its own canon. So I was treating this series the same way as it introduced the two rivals in a love triangle, but where the two were strangly seperate. Then I got to the Chunin Exam Arc(s), and the rest of the cast was introduced (outside of flashbacks I mean) and the rest of the love dodecahedron that the earlier triangle was a part of as well. How could I want anyone but Hinata to end up with Naruto now? If she didn't get him she'd be alone forever, and Sasuke has so many others pinning after him, Sakura too for that matter. Oh I still see the appeal of Saku Naru, but it just can't compete with Hinata's sheer devotion. I also really enjoyed Sikamaru's character due to the brilliant tactics he introduced to the series. The other characters added cool new powers too. Saw more of that in the Sasuke Retreival Arc. Shippuden & Manga: For all that training he supposedly did, Naruto hasn't gotten all that much stronger. Awesome, Akatsuki are on the move now. Sasori was way cooler than Deidera, which made Sakura seem that much better by beating him. Orochimaru and Naruto get to fight? FIKKIN' AWESOME! Now we get to see Sasuke's progress, sweet. Training, exposition, foreshadowing, blending into a filler ar-guh gotta watch the filler for the plot mixed in, also I liked Sora much better than Sai, not where the filler plot went with him though. Next pair of Akatsuki, BOTH are cool this time; The personalities, Hidan's powers, Kakuza's eyes. Dudes pissed Shikamaru off, Naruto's training is almost done, time for a great fight. Nothing else can compair to this until the Pain Arc, WHICH IS AMAZING! Nothing else tops that in the Anime. Which is why I can't wait for the current Manga arc to arrive.
Naruto is my favorite of the big three, due to combat and setting. Aiming at the shounen demographic, it has the expected proclivities, but does okay for a gateway series. Reading much manga and seeing a lack of tournament spectating was so refreshing. Stealth becomes an afterthought, but Kishimoto remembers fighting dirty is another core ninja trait and Naruto provides. The shinobi are well organized and disciplined enough to defer to a competent character when things are in disarray, and going off on one's own is not recommended unless they have the experience or work better by themselves. Things get tricky, however, when it comes to anyone fighting above jounin level; specifically with combatants waiting to unveil their best tricks. Fine, but done too much it can come off like the characters develop new abilities on the fly instead of being prudent by not revealing all their abilities. Kishimoto struggled balancing this aspect. While I too have my cutoff points, for most of the run I was always eager to see how far each character could refine their craft. Blended together, it made the shinobi nations convincing as military mights. But what makes Naruto ultimately frustrating for me? Kishimoto had to do a generational epic HIS way. Generational epics aren't bad, as my favorite shounen Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is just that, but Kishimoto simply doesn't have Araki's skill in that area. Whereas Araki gives each generation it's proper development whilst leaving things for the next to improve upon in its own direction, Kishimoto instead builds parallel after parallel. How many times do we see this or that person referred to as the Naruto/Sasuke/Sakura of that generation? Then there's the rivalry/feud between Naruto and Sasuke that repeats in Kakashi and Obito, Jiraiya and Orochimaru, Hashirama and Madara, the sons of the S-(record breaks). If the ensemble cast was aware of these repetitions, plot mandated they be ineffectual to change little if anything. I started wondering why Kishimoto bothered putting them in the story at all since even if anyone received good development, it more often than not was done only so it could be tied back to the Senju/Uchiha rift in some way. World building started to fall victim to this as well. Bijuu, anyone? In the end, Neji wasn't the only one with an inescapable fate...
Really Up For You To Decide
Naruto is the first anime/manga series I've ever read, so now that it's ended, there's plenty of nostalgia to go around. It's also the first to introduce all sorts of different themes I hardly read about in normal kids literature like loneliness, revenge and retribution, war, hope, determination, existence etc. in a new level I never felt before. Perhaps it was Anvilicious here and there, and maybe a few Broken Aesops scattered around, but I think it managed to get me started thinking more about the world and my place in it. Yeah, that's overly philosophical and all, but I think this series helped me grow up in a way. This will always be something of a favourite despite the flaws, the Base Breaker characters, the Ass Pulls, the plot holes, the crazy villains at the end and the Unfortunate Implications. But anyways, let's just go over the series. Naruto comes out fairly strong with characterization in the beginning, firmly establishing unique characters that are easily distinguishable from each other. Of course, not every character is fully fleshed out or even gets A Day in the Limelight and there's also the issues of Sakura and Sasuke where I'm not going to bother arguing here. Character Development is fairly strong as well woth the main character gradually growing out of his underdog status, but Naruto can be seen as becoming more static when delving into more complicated politics and especially Sasuke. This will either be a serious Wallbanger or inspirational depending on how you look at it. Plot is good, but there are arguments about Cliche Storms and what not. Personally, I think it was clichés done fairly well. As I mentioned above, yes, there are a few Ass Pulls. Nothing too egregious if you're willing to mentally Retcon a few things in. For a fifteen year old series, things can get very inconsistent, data books being the worst offenders. The end may seem over the top, especially with the Juubi on top of Hashirama-gene-spamming Madara and Obito which leads to another antagonist with another Ass Pull. However, it makes some sense if you remember that Naruto is supposedly still the underdog. The final verdict is that this is pretty much up to you to love or hate, although I would recommend this series to people who aren't going to be bothered by the flaws or errors.
Fanbase and Expanded thoughts on naruto with latest revalations...
Expanded thoughts: Kakashi vs Obito once again shows how the series would have been much better had it focused on these two characters instead of Sasuke and Naruto's completely retarded relationship. Sasuke wanting to be hokage? Clearly not the most retarded bullshit I have ever heard and doesn't contradict the story at all. And he wants to kill the Kages while they are trapped in the Infinite Tsukuyomi and become the High Kage or whatever? Riveting. Sakura's still fawning over Sasuke? Great. Just great. Madara, while not the most overpowered manga character, has one of the highest power gaps I have ever seen in an anime/manga series. Seriously, SUMMONING METEORS?!!! That is a huge Plot Hole right there, why doesn't he just spam meteors and just win the war right there? I currently feel that Naruto is the worst out of the Big 3 with all the recent bullshit going on. It used to be Bleach but hey, at least it doesn't pull this garbage. Fanbase: They are fine but only if you ignore the retards that seriously believe that Naruto can take down Goku. Because a ninja in an orange jumpsuit can clearly take on someone who can destroy planets. Whatever. DBZ is only better than Naruto if you don't take it seriously. And some of them just eat up Kishimoto's garbage, I saw one review that said that Sasuke says he wants to become Hokage because he realizes his purpose to change the world after being lost in his desires. What. This is some of the most pretentious bullshit I have ever heard. The entire second half of Naruto is full of Sasuke doing stupid things for stupid reasons. 1. Wanting to destroy Konoha when that is what his brother was protecting. He claims to care about his brother. 2. Wanting to become Hokage. He thinks that a freaking terrorist can just ask to become Hokage. And too many others to mention. Don't even get me started on Naruto and his sentimental bullshit. Other thoughts: Oh and one more thing about Part 1 of Naruto, some parts were completely ripped off from another anime called Hunter x Hunter. Give that a watch instead instead of this. Hell, you want to see elements? Go watch Avatar (both series). Want ninjas? Go watch TMNT. Want an story with a huge scale and stakes? Go watch Fullmetal Alchemist. Sorry about the rant but this is my current opinion.
That was a big fall
Naruto had everything right. The characters, the setting, the fights,even good art. For the first third of the series, it worked right. The protagonist was kind of a brat, but the supporting cast kept the manga strong, and Orochimaru and Gaara are still two of the most scary and threatening villains to ever grace comics/manga. Then Shippuden came along. For the first arc, things were right, and I was even surprised by the growth of Sakura's character, and I was pleasantly surprised by the use of equivalent exchange. What happened? The author wasted characters. The majority of the supporting cast was shoved in the background, and interesting villains were defeated in very anticlimactic ways. For the last third of the series, things "really" came down. Characters being derailed, Deus and Diabolus Ex machinas, and an incredibly boring repetition of the formula "Evil Counterpart of Naruto with good intentions" villain to the point of previsibility. Also, the manga got preachy. Around the Immortals Arc, the main villain commented about how ninjas can't properly prosper in times of peace. Just like his evil plan at the time, the author apparently forgot this to keep shoving down our throats the "peace and love" message that the main character can't shut up about. It got to the point that we're supposed to feel sorry for villains that killed hundreds or thousands of people(Or a few innocent guards) just because they had an sad childhood or adolescence and had "good intentions". The only villain of the(incredibly long) final act to don't be treated like this is a woman. This need an explanation. The escalation of power in this manga was especially bad in his last three years. And when this abysm of power between "semi-gods" and "the rest" was formed, no women were in the semi-gods group, except this villain. Accusations of sexism were inevitable. If this manga hadn't been so "soft" with his villains for his last third, Naruto calling the only female "semi-god" heartless should not sound so sexist. But it sounds. So, is Naruto good? Should you read it? My answer is "no". This manga had potential. But it wasted it. Now it's time to move on, and expect that the next WSJ phenomenon doesn't end as bad as this.
Review of Naruto.....
Naruto and Sasuke were decent protagonists in Part 1. But I seriously thought that some of the supporting characters completely overshadow them. The female characters aren't that well developed (except Hinata). Most of them are devoid of a personality and have no relevance to the plot EVEN though they are the Hokage (Tsunade and Mizukage I'm looking at you) and Sakura..ugh. I'll need to make some space... Sakura is one of my most hated anime characters FOR A REASON! She is solely defined by her love for Sasuke (even though he tried to kill her) and is STILL going out of her way to win Sasuke's love in the Ninja War Arc, she treated Naruto like crap in Part 1 and calls him weak even though she couldn't do any better and STILL treats him like crap even though he saved her life so many times and has no good reason for doing so, she useless even with super strength (she would have never won the fight against Sasori without Granny Chiyo's help), and her english dub voice is annoying (not her fault, I know but she is just despicable to me) Ok anyways, back to the characters, I feel that Kakashi, Obito, and hell even Rin should have been the main protagonists. Their story is just better than the current characters adventures. I mean really, Naruto is supposed to represent the underdog who can accomplish great things....completely forgotten in Part 2. Sasuke's character arc should have been resolved all the way back in Part 1 rather than make him the star of the manga, and I already listed why Sakura sucks so...... Now to the plot and everything else, this is where Part 1 wins with a Curb-Stomp Battle against Part 2 because first off, their fights actually had GOOD ANIMATION. Lee vs Garra had the best animation in the ENTIRE series and there was actual strategy in the fights (Shikamaru's fights are actually good people...). Plus the plots were just better. Ex: Land of Waves Arc, Sasuke Retrieval Arc (because it showed that supporting characters can hold their own against enemies way more powerful than they are) Part 2's plots are mediocre at best. But the Pain Arc has to the best arc in Naruto. Clashes between ideals with Pain and Naruto and Pain is a well-developed villain. But it has some of the WORST animation in the entire series. And don't even get me started on the filler!
Not perfect but my all-time favorite!
While the Naruto anime is by no means perfect, it is my all-time favorite anime! Pros: Characters-There are plenty of interesting and awesome characters that have good backstories and development. Plot-So intricate and interesting! Mechanics-The way they explained the way jutsu’s, chakra and chakra networks worked makes it more realistic. Twists-There are PLENTY of very shocking twists! Villains-Most of the bad guys are very interesting and do their job well! Originality-I think how original it is helped to make it a classic! Setting-I really like how TV Tokyo and Kishimoto put a lot of thought into the surroundings and backgrounds and the names of the different lands, villages and places. Fans-The Naruto fanbase can be good. Emotions-This show can make you laugh, cry, cringe, cheer and just EVERYTHING!!! Ending-I did enjoy the character resolutions and the fact that it actually ended. Cons: Characters-Some characters’ personalities can be annoying and their development isn’t believable... Plot-Haven’t personally come across any plot holes but there are some clichés. Mechanics-The overuse of flashbacks can be really distracting and annoying sometimes... Twists-Some of the twists can indeed be overly obvious from excessive foreshadowing. Villains-Some of the villains are pathetic... Originality-No complaints here other than some of the clichés Setting-No complaints here Fans-Some of the “Narutards” are stupid and annoying Emotions-No complaints here Ending-...It was rushed. WAY rushed. BONUS: The nostalgia feels really get to me... 5/5 Overall: Characters-8/10 Plot-9/10 Mechanics-7/10 Twists-9/10 Villains-8/10 Originality-9/10 Setting-10/10 Fans-6/10 Emotions-10/10 Ending-5/10 Final Score: 86%
Part 1 > Part 2
Title pretty much says it all. An interesting, if not exactly revolutionary, shonen series with interesting fights where everyone has something to do (except Sakura), not just Naruto and Sasuke. The Sasuke Retrieval Arc especially displayed this. Naruto and a few of his fellow genin are sent to retrieve Sasuke who has fled the village (never mind that that means he's a missing-nin and Tsunade should have sent the ANBU after him, but whatevs.) The formula for the arc isn't exactly original, but it's interesting to see Choji curbstomp Jirobo instead of stand in the background, or Neji have his Better Than Thou attitude turned against him by Kidomaru. Previous antagonist Gaara returns as an ally and kicks some ass and takes some names. The fight with N&S was kinda ridiculous, landing hits that would have like vaporized a normal person but again, whatevs. Sasuke boasts that Naruto won't even be able to lay a scratch on his headband. They fight. Then at the very end, Part 2's awfulness seeps backwards through time and Naruto decides its more important for Sasuke to be proven wrong about the headband than it is for him to not being an international terrorist, so he throws the fight. Part 2 comes along and Gaara is bland and uninteresting, the Akatsuki die by the bucketload, the Uchihas are developed into what basically amounts to Nazis and Naruto takes a hard swerve deep into sociopath territory (Characterizations I will not be debating. They are what they are. Deal with it). The series' previously espoused idea that hard work can beat inherent excellence is shot to hell and forced to listen to dramatic readings of Twilight by Hitler and it gets worse with every passing chapter. All in all, avoid part 2 like the plague. Watch and enjoy part 1. One last thing: I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOATHE Shikamaru. The end.
So much to cover in so little words
I'll just jump right in with my usual system of good/bad without backstory. However, due to the nature of the story, I think it's better if I just approach each group of people. Looking for an in-depth story; Sorry, you won't find it here. Naruto makes no jokes about it being a shonen. It's boy's manga, plain and simple. It has a lot of holes, makes several DB missteps, etc. Looking for awesome action; You like Gurren Lagann? Then you'll love Naruto. Into Dragon Ball? You'll love Naruto. Follow One Piece and Bleach? You'll love Naruto. Now onto deeper stuff. I love the main character Naruto, mostly because I used to watch Dragon Ball all the time and had always believed in the power of friendship. So yeah, Naruto was one manga that filled it all for me. Monsters, explosions, funny moments, awesome characters, etc. Also, I love the debates that go on around the main "boss" fights. With Gaara, with Orochimaru, with Sasuke, with Pain, with Obito... they're amazing to read and really made me think. I can understand that some hate the story. Sometimes it drags on for me too. Which is why I normally recommend folks to read the wiki and simply read the fights that interest them. Thankfully, the Narutopedia is awesome in keeping track of things, so you won't be missing out on much. Oh, and avoid the anime fillers. Granted, I did enjoy a few, but I would, again, recommend consulting the wiki before investing any time into it. Parts can be skipped and nothing would really change. Still though, with all that I said, I love Naruto and am not ashamed to admit it. It probably takes a special taste to truly enjoy every moment of it, so I recommend viewing the first part, before the timeskip. After the timeskip, everything builts onto each other, so you suddenly feel invested into seeing everything through to the end.
A series for beginners to Manga, but unfulfilling to those who continue.
Naruto can be best described as something that started with a decent premise, but only entertaining for those who don't know or care about how a good story should be written. To be blunt, I consider Masashi Kishimoto, or "Clishi" as I call him, a hack when it comes to storytelling. So much I swear that he consults the "Dummies guide to Storytelling" to see what to do next. So is it bad? Well, I can't give a full review of the bad within the limit, but I'll try. Naruto is the story of the title character, a kid who lives in a ninja village where the military force consists of, you guessed it, Ninja. Now Naruto is shunned from the community ever since he was a boy and big surprise, you figure it out before the story even starts, he contains a demon known as the Nine-Tailed Fox. But Naruto dreams to change this outlook from the villagers by trying to become the Hokage, the most respected Ninja and leader of the village. Except he's a loser. Within the third chapter, we're introduced to Sasuke, the resident genius, and Sakura, Naruto's crush. Both of whom are assigned to Naruto's rookie ninja team with the older Kakashi as their squad leader. The group's dynamics are based on this: Naruto likes Sakura, Sakura herself crushes on Sasuke, and Sasuke sees the other two as useless weight dragging him down from acheiving his goal. This team is unbalanced, that's obvious. But Naruto took both the fact Sakura crushed on Sasuke and that Sasuke is better than him, and applied it to better himself and forming a rivalry with Sasuke. Sasuke, not wanting to be outdone by the loser Naruto takes up Naruto on his rivalry and uses it to better himself. Thus a rivalry was born. This was the concept, and for the first arc, it was decent. Then... Chuunin Exams... The concept was lost for what would be considered a subpar storyline. We're introduced to a number of flat characters who have personalities that would fit better in a High School Manga, from Lazy Genius Shikamaru to Shrinking Violet Hinata. Even more so with the females, who are written only as shallow love interests, void of any real personality, from Main Character Sakura to Fan-favorite Hinata. And then everything just gets worse from there... In Short: You'll like the start, but you're better off moving on to a better story.
Naruto is a story about the title character and his friends struggling to find peace in a world ravaged by war and corruption. The main story takes place in the Hidden Leaf Village, a fascist city ruled by its military, with leadership decided mainly by skill in combat. The military is not above using children in its military, and many children, including Naruto, are drafted. To keep its soldiers in check, the government uses methods such as brainwashing all of the soldiers with jingoistic pride and hunting down any soldiers who attempt to leave the village. Despite this, many of the children in Naruto still manage to find happiness in the little things, whether it's making friends, or competing with each other. Naruto's own goal is to become the strongest soldier in the village so he can become Hokage (The leader of the village) and improve the overall quality of life in the village. Advancing in rank is very difficult and competitive, involving a competition where candidates for promotion fight each other, often to the death, to earn the right to compete in a public gladiator match, and get promoted if they do well in it. The other main character is Sasuke, Naruto's best friend and fellow child soldier. Unlike Naruto, he is obsessed with destroying the facist government as revenge for ordering the political assassination of almost his entire family, through whatever means necessary. The main conflict of the story is between the idealistic Naruto, who wants to reform the government from the inside, and the cynical Sasuke, who wants to destroy it as retribution. Whether it's with the large number of orphans, the devaluation of human life, or the showcasing of what happens to areas without a military to protect them, Kishimoto does a splendid job in showing the effects of war and violence. There is plenty of Grey and Black morality here. Many of the government authorities try to make the lives of the soldiers better if they can, and many of the antagonists have Freudian Excuses. Unsurprisingly, all of the soldiers suffer from some sort of psychological damage. At best, they turn out to be Stepford Smilers who do their best to survive and find happiness. At worst, they become mentally unstable or cold and selfish. If you're looking for a deep world and complicated plot, then Naruto should be more than enough.
Review naruto here, I guess
well here goes. I was sort of forced into naruto by a friend and, well, I'm glad. It was my first anime and it was a bit of a leap from the western stuff I'm used to. Characters aren't amazing but there's one hell of a variety.However, it feels a little male-oriented and some characters are just totally flat, or only there to be worfed. shipping arguments are frequent in the fandom bcause of the cast structure. Character development is unconvincing to me, but I am unfamiliar with anime so it could just be normal. Plenty of fangirl food and if you just remember that -maru is a male suffix there won't be too much trouble with working out who's a guy. Plot is long winded and fairly slow. The majority of it is standard and average but there are a few small scenes that really were good and very effective. You need to just go along with other parts, though, and some arcs are just totally implausible. I can't help thinking that the simple addition of a psychotherapist would solve most of the plot. Battles are okay, though talking is a free action and they can be a bit slow. the animation really drops off in them so it's hard to follow what's happening Antagonists? Naruto lives and breathes the 'bigger bad' idea, which can get repetetive. Many akatsuki members stray into draco in leather pants territory and I sometimes find myself wishing for the bad guys to win. Flat antagonists are one of my pet hates but a well developed antagonist can be easier to identify with, leading the viewer to support them. Overall an average anime, and a good gateway anime. It's limited by its premise and its demographic really. Improvements? For such a popular anime, it doesn't give the image of being very self aware, probably to it not being so popular in its native japan. Some cliches are overused with no justification such as pathetic fallacy that had me facepalming for weeks after a mid-shippuden episode. Lampshades would greatly improve it and even a small lampshade on the most egregious cliches could make the world of difference.
Behold the King of the Inaction Sequence!
Eps 1-80. As per the title, the frequent (over)use of the Inaction Sequence is my biggest gripe. The belief that Viewers Are Goldfish & Morons is also frustratingly prominent. The average episode: Inaction Sequence, Reaction Shot, excessive exposition, more Inaction Sequence, FINALLY some cool fighting, exposition & Reaction Shot on the attacks used, possibly another engagement & accompanying exposition, another Inaction Sequence and Reaction Shot, next episode stinger. I also feel that the Loads And Loads Of Characters was a bit deleterious. I love seeing Naruto & Sasuke fight, especially when the Superpowered Evil Side(s) and/or spectacular high-powered Jutsus come out. Shikamaru, Chogi, Ino, etc? Not so much, especially since they only seem to use one (weak & unspectacular) signature Jutsu each. Granted, some of them ride the Rule Of Cool, such as Rock Lee vs Gaara; but overall, there was too little Character Focus. The show is “Naruto”, not “Naruto and Friends” or “Highly Visible Ninjas of the Leaf Village”. Additionally, the tone is a bit inconsistent. Sometimes you have pranks, cheating-based exams and Sexy/Harem Jutsus; other times there are big fight scenes but Nobody Can Die and it’s Only A Flesh Wound; then other times Reality Ensues and The Determinator goes to hospital. It’s a bit jarring to go from a deadly serious fight against an Ax Crazy Body Horror murderer, to a semi-Played For Laughs fight between a sand wolf and a giant toad Large Ham. Having said all that, these are the grating flaws in an otherwise awesome show. The melee fight scenes are well done and look awesome. The Highly Visible Ninja, Jutsus and Artistic License Martial Arts are well covered by the Rule Of Cool, although they do sometimes leave you wondering “why don’t ya just shuriken/rush/Back Stab him?”. The show tries to add feeling & tension to the fight scenes, and sometimes succeeds well e.g. Negi vs Hinata (although it often tries too hard; see the first paragraph). Plot Armor is limited; although few actually die, you feel that Anyone Can Die except Naruto (although the Clone/Substitution Jutsu Ass Pull does get old). Although often excessive, the exposition effectively prevents many of the Xanatos Speed Chess battles - involving clones, transformations and multi-layered attacks - from entering Mind Screw territory. When there actually is action, it's pretty epic.
My problem with a lot of Shonen and Fantasy anime/manga in general is that they feel too much like video games. The worst offender of this is .Hack//Sign but I'm going to talk about Naruto instead because it's a lot easier to talk about Naruto. (A lot of American Comic Books are bad about this too which is why there are so many video games based on them.) So Naruto is okay, it's got a lot of cool fight scenes and the Jitsus are very creative, perhaps a bit too creative and this is where my animes are too much like video games comes into play, the best example of this is when Kakashi is talking to Naruto about how jitsus work. You summon chakara from your stanima, if your stanima reaches zero percent, you die. Jitsus need a set amount of chakara in order to perform that jitsus (like Shadow Clone Jitsus need 30% Chakara) and the explainations for other Chakara use like for Tajitsu carries on. This would sound really cool and fun but really, I don't care because it's not like this plot point makes a very huge impact on the story. I never really got the point of animes doing this, it makes me wish I were playing a video games like this instead. Instead, I recommend playing the video games based on these ideas, like I really enjoy playing Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, and I actually care about the story than I would watching the anime and it doesn't hurt that the game looks better than the anime plus I actually get to use these Jitsus instead of watching them use these powers. And I really enjoyed Bleach DS: Shattered Sword. Anyways, I just wanted to get this out of the way. On a scale of (1-Good) to (5-Masterful) Naruto gets a (1-Good) and Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 gets a (3-Excellent)
The Rise and Fall of Naruto.
I'll assume the reader is already familiar and directly explain how this manga works: characters, story-propelled messages, and fights. Typical shonen cliches comprise the story, peddling messages about not abandoning friends, protecting the motherland at all costs, and the evils of war and hate. This is executed surprisingly well, as many characters embody these elements: Naruto-friendless zero to hero, 4th Hokage- martyred for Konoha, Sasuke-hate will consume you. The first arc, Haku/Zabuza, pulls at your heartstrings through excellently timed but tedious flashbacks that develop the characters and show how they became who they are. This is best during the Chunin Exam arc, and the series peaks when Naruto fights Gaara, two foils. The fights in part I are well thought-out and often brilliant, especially Shikamaru's. The Sasuke Retrieval arc that caps part I is flawed but explains the motivations of the "other" main character and makes you anticipate part II. Now starts the decline. With the possible exception of the opening Rescue Gaara arc, it's hard to care about the three-years-later part II. The plot pursues the face heel turned Sasuke, and though we can understand him, not enough people sympathize with him. The series devotes whole arcs to Sasuke, making him seem far more important than the titular character, Naruto. But he isn't compelling enough. Naruto, although stupid and bumbling, is a relatable The Loser is You, Idiot Hero. Sasuke's motivations become increasingly anti-intuitive, his powers asspulled as “genius”. The fight quality suffers greatly, to where now it’s how many shadowclones Naruto will use, and who is acquiring the latest wallbanger, Godmode Sue powerup (Naruto learns sage-mode in maybe 2 or 3 days?? What???). The creator relies on these asspulls to advance the story too, which suffers. All this would be excusable if the characters still developed in coherent directions, but with the exception of Naruto and few others, they don't. Sakura is the shining example. This major character serves no purpose to the plot or anyone. The strong Sakura we saw in the Rescue Gaara arc was a tease and she has become weak, hesitant, and even more defined by her loathable infatuation with Sasuke. Choji is developed more. In sum, Naruto part I is a touchy feely, character driven, shonen tale. Part II is a flat, unredeeming cliché.
Naruto, avoid the hype
The hype I'm talking about is both negative and positive. The series isn't great, the plots are cliche, the back stories are unoriginal (Orphans, Orphans, Orphans, that loses its punch after a while), the place where this story shines is the fight scenes and characters. The fighting styles are thought out and interesting, even with a large number of idiot balls. And the characters who use these fighting styles are usually interesting or charismatic, the sad fact is that the periphery characters are cooler then the protagonists. Let's begin with Naruto, who is blandly likable, but his fighting style is just bland, I really think it'd be better if he was someone the hero befriended, or if they made him the comic relief. Now, the hype, Sasuke wasn't always a retarded and stupid character, at the start of the series I found his motivation, and his growing realization that he's not the only person that matters, engaging, not as engaging as his fans say it is, but if he was the lancer, and not the plot sponge he is now, things would be better. I feel that Sakura was just added because they needed a chick, personality wise, and story wise, she's crammed in. Let's talk about plot! Utterly, utterly dull, it's just an excuse to beat people up, and it works as that, if nothing else. Without the characters, this thing would be flatter then Oklahoma. The villains motivations are crap, I'm going to...(Fill in) Become the greatest Ninja Evar or take over the world (Of course!). Dull and cliche, but not terrible. The villains themselves are cool, but they're dog raping evil, with any gray removed after the first arc. Characters! This is where it is at. I can't say the dialogues good, I can't say the Geodesic cast doesn't get old, but goddamn it these characters aren't cool, very very cool. Cooler then the protagonists. Especially because they use attacks beyond the handful the protagonists have memorized. It may be the mystique of not knowing everything about them, it may be the fact that secondary characters are allowed to have more of a personality, whatever it is they are cool. Other crap. The goddamn flashbacks, "Oh no, that kunai is close, what do I do?" how about sit through a ten minute flashback. It may show background, but overuse has ruined it. Still, give this show a chance, and ignore the hype.
How I watch Naruto
For me, the really enjoyable part of the storyline is in the interactions between the characters and in the overall strategy of the fights. Are the plots cliche and unoriginal? Considering the last time someone came up with a new plot was Shakespeare, yes. Are the plots handled well and in unique ways? Yes. Is the action rather DBZ-ish? When it comes down to sheer fisticuffs, yes. The most interesting fights are the one were the high-speed action visible to you is only the first layer and more of a distraction than anything. Most of the best victories come about through something other than sheer power. The main thing I ask when I decide whether or not a story is good: Did I analyze it the first time I watched it. The answer is: no. The story and action were too engrossing. The repeated themes of skill(hard work) vs talent(born ability), recognition of potential, recognition of free will, ends justifies the means vs means corrupt the ends, and so on come out, but I generally only think of them later. Watching the episodes the first time I'm purely engrossed in story. If a story doesn't give me time to think about and analyze it on the first watch through, it is either very good, or it has completely lost me...in which case I usually switch over to something else. So, anyway, Naruto makes me stop thinking about "why did they do this"... well...the real storyline does...the filler on the anime...good for when there's nothing better to do, but way too much of it
Come for the Fights, Stay for the Villains
The list of things that are wrong with Naruto goes on and on. One could talk for hours about every Shonen cliche that pops up in the story. One could also ramble on about certain characters (*COUGH*Uchiha Sasuke*COUGH*) that irritate the hell out of them. But one could also go on about the heartwarming moments, the slow but steady character development, and the pure determination to be his best demonstrated by the title character (who's own list of character flaws could take up a page of their own.) Then there's the villains. One could argue that they're the best part of the show. They're strong, worthy opponents to the protagonists, who often, before their deaths, show a layer of hidden depth that we haven't seen before. They are serious threats to the characters'lives and safety, but that's not all there is to them, and many people (namely, fangirls) will appreciate this layer of emotional complexity. In short, there are many things wrong with Naruto. But rest assured that Kishimoto got at least one thing right.
An Experience You Could Really Get Into
Naruto has many good things going for it that make it well worth checking out, although some elements may drive off long-time readers and newcomers. The characters are all very diverse in both design and personality, and there are plenty of badasses you'll be rooting for. Naruto is endearing with emotional depth that some Shonen heroes don’t quite have. The villains range from Affably Evil to love-to-hate, though some important ones tend to come off as card carrying. The most controversial character is Sasuke, and though his actions are very frustrating for the reader to follow, they are in-character for someone who’s lived and breathed revenge for 7/8 years. On a side note, the black characters' designs are refreshingly non-offensive unlike most black characters portrayed in other manga. The plot is addictively engaging to the point where someone who hates this series will have a hard time pulling themselves away. One of the strongest contributors to that would probably be the plot twists that are revealed at the end of a chapter. Most of them leave the reader itching to see what happens next (but they can be predictable at times). There is more drama and angst after the time skip, so mileages may vary in that aspect. The time skip also centers around Naruto’s pursuit of Sasuke; if you hate seeing a character relentlessly chase after another character you can’t stand and have given up on, this series may not be for you. The fight scenes deliver with many a Crowning Moment of Awesome, and they are balanced with the amount of downtime. The females in this series have a few great fights, but one big flaw is that they aren’t nearly as involved as much as they should be. Another problem is that some characters are just so frakkin’ powerful that others Can't Catch Up; characters will sit there and watch while one or two others do all the work. Also, someone you really want to see have another fight scene might not get one until many, many chapters later. All in all, Naruto tends to be a somewhat divisive series, but one you may end up really enjoying. And now that the manga is over, all I have to add is that this series has one of the most disappointing endings I've ever come across. My recommendation is to just stop reading at chapter 698. Or just avoid it entirely.
Too many characters, not enough development
It was exciting because we knew people could really die (for example, how Gaara killed off the entire Rain team). At the beginning, when the main characters are first introduced, they were a fairly diverse bunch. There were dark and brooding characters, there were extrovert and friendly characters, some were proud and arrogant, some were humble and modest. The Chuunin Exam arc was probably the best because there was a real risk of death for all involved, and each team all its own motives for fighting which were explored and explained. It was interesting to see how the different teams with differing motives interacted with each other, whether they cooperated or fought, and how the characters developed from this. It was disappointing therefore, when there was little appearance of these characters later on. Little character development took place. Naruto remained lonely and along with Sakura remained attached to Sasuke, Sasuke became even more consumed with hatred and vengeance. Gaara though, turned from a hateful loner into a responsible leader. Naruto's Kyuubi powerup and Sasuke's Cursed Seal really spoiled some potentially good fights. We could have seen Neji fight Dosu, for example. Instead we got to see Sasuke wipe the floor with Zaku. Naruto should have used his Shadow Clone technique more effectively instead of relying on the Kyuubi powerup (which has recently proved to be unlimited in power). The Sound ninja suffered a pretty bad deal in comparison to the rest. It wasn't really necessary to kill them off and Orochimaru would have been more interesting had he stuck to being the leader of the Sound rather than trying to steal Sasuke's body and kill the Hokage for the evulz. The Akatsuki was a refreshing addition to the series however. In particular, Kakuzu was an interesting character who was one of the more mature in the series. However, as the show dragged on, it became less interesting as the Akatsuki and some old Konoha characters were killed off, leaving only Naruto and Sasuke, which made the show boring and predictable. All in all the wide range of characters was definitely an asset when considering the lack of character development.
Awful, but I liked some of the characters
So take Cliche Storm, add Wangst, make all the characters rather stupid, turn it Up To Eleven, and you have something close to what Naruto is. This may seem a little harsh, but I'll get over it.
- Long-winded flashbacks? Check. They take up almost every other episode. Sometimes they'll flashback to something that happened in the same episode
- Eventual fight scene? Check. Though they all seem to end with a Deus Ex Machina that's usually related to a Super Mode or Dangerous Forbidden Technique.
- Awful animation/art? Check. All the Off Model moments only surprised me cuz I thought it couldn't get any worse.
- Awful script? Check. BELIEVE IT!
- It Gets Better? No it doesn't. Even if it did, I got Ending Fatigue after the first arc.
Far from the best, but not the worst.
I freely admit that I have not read every manga or even shonen series out there, but of the ones I have seen, Naruto is far from the worst. It has many flaws *coughSASUKEcoughcough* and its quality takes a noticable decline post-skip. The early idea that hard work will always prevail is eventually discarded altogether[Sorry, Lee, I was rooting for you :(]. Many of the secondary characters really don't get the attention they deserve and many things that you think should have happened didn't work out quite the way you expected. Naruto vs Neji was an odd fight. You'd think that with his xray vision Neji could have seen the tunnel Naruto had dug there at the end. Choji. Your victory over Jirobo was badass but you ate the red pill. Why didn't you die like they said you would? Not that I'm complaining, your one of my favorites. ;) Kimimaro. So you attacked and died. That's fine, I guess. But the attack should have still gone through. It's not like you dying would completely rob the attack of its momentum. WTF, mate? Pain. You're one of the best ninjas in the world. You've spent the rest of the arc killing people left and right. You're standing literally right over the girl. You've got no reason to spare her and every reason to kill her. Why's she still alive, man? The all-powerful Akatsuki really got the short-end of the stick. Super-powerful ninjas. S rank. The best of the best of the best. Most of them are dead now, victims of plot. A few of their deaths could be accepted, as they were somewhat well done, Hidan for example, was defeated by wit and strategy. But Kakuzu really got it bad when he was defeated by a simple bait and switch move. For all that it is still a good read(or watch if you prefer the anime). Of the main character, the titular Naruto, I can only say that he is, perhaps, not the greatest character to ever come along but is still charming and likable to those who can overlook his flaws. His exchanges with his friends and rivals are often quite amusing and his dedication to them is unquestionable. The music is catchy and if nothing else, it's a great way to kill time.
Well worth looking past flaws.
It's difficult to say something uniformly positive about Naruto, I've found. On an otherwise very broad anime discussion thread recently, I got called a troll for expressing that I heartily enjoyed the series. But I do, and unashamedly. The series is flawed, but it contains many good points that make me look forward to its releases each week. First and foremost, I enjoy the fight scenes in both the anime and the manga. That's key, as the series is, after all, a shonen fighting one. From the start, there was evidence of intelligent thought and tactics on the part of many characters, and as Naruto himself, derided by many as a typical idiot hero, began to develop, he began to employ his own tactics and strategies to great effect. The variety of abilities and techniques make fights diverse and fun to watch. Truly epic sequences can occur, sequences that make you sit up and yell "HELL YEAH" as your favorite hero sends a villain through a pillar. The art makes it easy to follow the fights and appreciate the action. The series brings to the table some very good worldbuilding. While many jokes have been made about the Schizo Tech levels in the series, the system of the five major powers and their associated ninja villages, as well as the system and explanation of ninja powers is logical and interesting. Naruto is blessed with a fantastically diverse and interesting cast of characters. I have yet to meet one person who does not like at least one character in the series. Many of these characters- such as Gaara, and Shikamaru, have undergone considerable character growth, and most if not all of them are unique and well-developed. This is both a blessing and a curse, as characters not directly involved in the action are often absent for years at a time. This irritates many readers who want to see their favorite characters do more. However, when characters are in focus, they display growth and emotion, and display traits and characteristics that are what attracted so many fans to them. This review is too short to go into detail about the flaws of the series and why I believe they are worth overlooking, so I'll simply mention them in brief. Sasuke Uchiha is a terrible character. The plot is nothing special, nor is the art. Certain elements of the plot are poor. But read it anyways, because there's more to it than that.
Not for everyone
Let's face it; it's not the most original story in the world. What Naruto does have is a smattering of characters and story arcs that give the series a refreshing kick into the lovable but cliche pile. It's best to get the boxset DV Ds if you can; to quote another reviewer, it's best to watch Naruto in large chunks. Animation: Variable. When it's good, it's really good. When it's bad, it's really bad. Most episodes tend to hover around the so-so range, but it can get to the point where a shrewd viewer could guess which animation team was used for each episode. Case in point; viewers of episode 123 of Shippuuden would instantly recognise the same animation from earlier episodes in the series. Characters: A few characters might annoy you, and a few might not get as much screentime as you think they deserve, but that's what filler arcs are for. Also, try not to take any bashes against your character too personally. Odds are, no matter how obscure your favourite is, someone will have an entire website dedicated to why said character should wiped from existence. The Fandom: Oh. My. God. If it isn't 'X Character gets too much screentime', it's 'X Character hasn't got enough screentime'. If Character A beats B, expect a million forum threads about how B should have obviously won, and a million threads about how B wasn't fit for A to waste chakra on. And 5000 threads shipping Ax B. Let's not even get into the ship wars. Your best bet would be to pick two characters from filler and ship them together. Talking about the 'Big Three' (Naru Saku, Sasu Saku and Naru Hina) is excellent flame bait by the way. (Nobody sees the merit of Naru x Saku Sasu Hina harem fic. Why not?) That said, it's not too hard to find someone who shares your opinion. The Dub: Almost as big a flamebait as shipping, this one. For the record, I love it so I'm a little biased, but in my personal experience the majority who dislike the dub watched the first four episodes and pronounced the whole thing worthless. 'Believe it!' seems to be a major thing, despite being dropped around the Forest of Death arc, and the voice actors frequently make jokes about it. Issues with gore editing = uncut DV Ds. No arguments. Overall, I'd consider Naruto a good introductory shounen.
A captivating shonen action series
Shonen manga need more than just action to leave an impression on the readers, but also need a compelling plot and interesting characters, and Naruto manages to deliver all three. The characters are interesting and deeper than they initially are presented, especially the titular protagonist. Naruto is initially presented as an impulsive, immature prankster who seeks attention, but by the end of the first episode, we notice the depth of his loneliness, helping us understand that he wants to be accepted, but doesn't know how to get it. As he faces danger on his missions, he is shown to be highly creative, determined and willing to protect his friends, and, most importantly of all, begins to grow up. Naruto's classmates develop similarly, having their own problems to overcome and own reasons for fighting. They have their own memorable moments, but could have been used more. The fights feature a good variety of opponents for our heroes, and a considerable emphasis on strategy. Even the most powerful jutsus have limitations, and part of the excitement in any given battle is seeing how the characters will take advantage of those limitations with their own abilities. While many of the main characters tend to specialize in one kind of jutsu, limiting what they can do, they will often be forced to fight differently against opponents with various styles, keeping things interesting. The quality and pacing of the story are mostly good, but occasionally slow down in arcs that deal with side plotlines (especially Search for Tsunade). The first few chapters and episodes are about the children taking the tests to become ninjas, and while the story truly gets going midway through the first major arc, for most of Part I, the young ninjas take a backseat to the adults. Part II significantly improves on this, as Naruto and his friends are considered adults and "real" ninjas, and are able to fight against the main villains. Fan reactions to recent plot twists have been mixed, but the twists as a whole effectively challenge what the characters thought they knew, test their ideals and open their eyes to the hardships of living as ninja in their world. Naruto and his friends' battles are not only part of the struggle between good and evil, but also part of their growing up and finding their place in the world, and for this reason, they are worth following.