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06/24/2020 19:13:22 •••

The Highs and Lows of Naruto, and how they form the full package

As far as the Naruto anime goes, it is best known as a gateway for many, and remembered for captivating youth around the world. As such, it is impossible to deny its widespread appeal, but if to be fair is to be neutral, it's surprisingly easy to find fault in it. Why so? Because Naruto gave us a compelling and immersive concept that it often failed to capitalise on, leaving us with aesthetic undertones and regrets for what might have been.

To make that argument though, we would have to look at the setting and basis of the series. Worldbuilding in Naruto is impressively thorough, including nuggets of history, lore, and incredible backgrounds, all accentuated by the classic soundtrack, with earlier tracks in the series noted for their blend of traditional Japanese instruments with simplistic modern composition (like this iconic gem). The power system was simple enough to quickly digest, and offered a broad scope in the long run, but the mechanics of the "superpowers" were fairly nebulous, and became poorly defined at some points, the most prominent casualty being power scaling later into the story.

Complaints towards the writing mostly point to plot derailment in the latter half, attributed to the creator being forced to continue the series past the point he tried to end it. Some of the best parts of the narrative were the conflicting character idealogies and the thematic commentary on violence (which climaxed during the Pain arc), and while these remained relevant, they were weighed down by hapless plot points and poor pacing, resulting in what felt like a string of cool moments buffered by... something. Mostly filler.

To be fair, I shouldn't criticise Naruto excessively. Even as the narrative devolved, it was an addictive ride, and certain characters in its expansive cast had some of the best arcs and backstories in shonen. Shikamaru, Gaara, Pain, Obito, and even Jiraiya stand out for this very reason. Now look at that list again and register the lack of female characters. That's the flip side of the coin: characters forgotten over the excruciatingly long run, and characters that didn't have any personality in the first place.

That said, many of the character arcs and themes are presented, in shonen fashion, through fights, which Naruto clearly excels at (permitting for power scaling issues). When the animation was inconsistent, the fights were probably to blame: the occasionally spectacular fight would deplete the budget and cripple the quality for a while, but there's a case for this being a worthwhile tradeoff as some battle sequences were truly sublime; choreography, sound choice, and subtext were usually on point (at least for the important fights).

It might seem that I've been running in circles, unable to decide whether to praise or criticise this anime. Simply put, that's because I can't fully condemn it for what it is: Naruto was a solid shonen series that delivered in most of the aspects expected from the genre (fights, characters, lore), but was also weighed down by the conventional burdens of shonen (writing, filler, scaling). What I consider a shame though, is that Naruto failed to rise over its shonen contemporaries by fully exploiting its deeper messages, themes, and aesthetic concepts, so it's painful to see some of these fail to stay relevant over the series' run.

When Naruto ends, so will a part of my childhood.

The aforementioned sentiment of the fandom resonates with me, as Naruto feels like an apt metaphor for childhood itself: full of highs and lows, and marked by a burgeoning maturity that slowly kills our sense of wide-eyed wonder. The series' broad appeal speaks for itself, and while most will enjoy it, its issues are also plain to see. But odds are you'll give it a go anyway, so at least try to experience it before forming an opinion.

Verdict: 6/10, recommended viewing

06/24/2020 00:00:00

This is a good review, although I\'d give Naruto at least a 7 or 8. It\'s a fairly comprehensive and even-handed review about the strengths and shortcomings of the work as a whole.

I definitely agree about the characters, particularly your examples of characters with strong arcs and the lack of female characters on that list (although Hinata is my favorite character).

06/24/2020 00:00:00

attributed to the creator being forced to continue the series past the point he tried to end it.

First I've ever heard of this.

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