It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since Naruto first debuted in Shonen JUMP! as the story of an orphaned prankster cursed with a Nine Tails fox demon, determined to earn the respect and love of his village despite being ostracized and hated. It was silly, it was outlandish, it was exciting and it knew exactly how to tug at the heartstrings. Even 700 chapters later, the story of Naruto still knows how to make us laugh just as easily as it can wet our cheeks with fresh tears.
In the final two-part issue, the first part concluding the Ninja World War arc for good and the second part a full-color time-skip epilogue, author Kishimoto Mashashi showed us that he still remembered what Naruto was always about. Story elements that trace back as far as the very first issue, came full circle as we saw the characters who struggled and grew finally reach new heights just as a younger generation steps in to carry the torch.
If it sounds like I’m being vague, it’s because I don’t want to deprive anyone of the gift of a well-earned ending.
Shonen-style manga and anime aren’t for everyone. They span years, sometimes even decades, introducing continuous plot-threads and twists, oftentimes never returning to solve them. Naruto, though not without it’s lulls or occasional oddball moments, is not one of those shonen. Naruto has earned it’s gorgeous ending and that’s something I rarely get to say when it comes to manga like this.
The story of Naruto has come to a close but the universe and it’s characters will continue on. The anime still has a ways to go, a new movie taking place after the series (but before the epilogue) releases in December, a stage musical is in development, manga spin-off chapters are in the works and a short “encore” series will begin next Spring.
I will be putting together a compilation of Naruto’s best moments. Until then, check out this incredibly badass tribute video set to Infected Mushroom, showing off some of the coolest fight animations in the second half of the series: