After over a year of teases and hinting from author-artist Masashi Kishimoto, it has finally been made official. Naruto is ending on November 5th, 2014.
Love it or hate it, Naruto has easily been the most popular shonen-style manga since Dragon Ball. Starting out as the tale of a widely disliked and ostracized orphan boy, the popular manga-turned-anime, chronicled Naruto’s journey to be recognized and loved by his village while overcoming the curse of having the Nine Tails Fox demon that destroyed his village being sealed within him.
The first chapter premiered in Shonen Jump Weekly magazine in October of 1999. Since then the series has enjoyed a 15 year-run popularity streak that also included two anime series, a spin-off manga, over 30 video games and over a dozen theatrical films. The series has gotten a lot of criticism over the years for it’s English dub, the overabundance of filler episodes and the franchise’s overall popularity with younger audiences.
So where’s the appeal?
Well for starters, the eponymous main character is more complex than your usual shonen protagonist. We’re used to seeing a fish-out-of-water type who is supported and loved by a ragtag group of friends, has an upbeat friendly attitude and goal that involves protecting the people he loves. Naruto Uzamaki was not a Goku or a Luffy. He was a mischievous, clumsy, rude, dopey brat who was almost universally despised by not only his classmates, but by the entire village of children and adults alike. He had to work hard, build new skill sets, suffer great losses and constantly prove himself throughout the course of his teen years. In doing so Naruto gradually attracts a massive array of fascinating, unique and well-developed characters that begin to support his dream of being village’s leader or “Hokage”.
…but perhaps the most alluring element of this series is the understatedly complex bond that Naruto shares with the boy he considers his best friend, Sasuke Uchiha. Some of the series most gripping, heart-wrenching moments are built around Naruto’s bullheaded devotion to Sasuke, a morally-ambiguous character who has overcome countless horrors not limited to experiencing the murder of his entire family at the hands of his older brother. Sasuke is constantly tortured and tempted by power, fueled by his unresolved suffering and hatred that drives his treasonous, often murderous actions. One of the most powerful moments that comes to mind is a scene that involves Naruto suffering a very realistic panic attack when his friends reveal some news regarding Uchiha- without spoiling the details, I’ll say that he’s like Anakin Skywalker, only well-written.
Naruto boasts some of the most emotionally captivating moments in all of anime, offering both readers and viewers alike a great deal of payoff for their invested time. It’s shame that that so much time is required in the first place. Unlike Naruto, it’s a bit easier to tell people to watch some of the greats like Cowboy Bebop, Steins;Gate or Gurren Lagann which all fall under 30 episodes. I’ll even push people to watch Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood- because despite it’s 64-episode long run, each episode is bursting at the seams with character depth, emotional impact and exciting action sequences. Between Naruto and it’s sequel series Naruto Shippuden however, there are over 560 episodes. Yes, it helps to have a guide of filler episodes to skip, or a nifty fan re-edit, but even if you were to cut the series down to 200 episodes, it’s still a little much for today’s viewing audience.
Still, if you decide to take the plunge and marathon the series or even power through the manga (which would be much faster), you will find yourself immensely satisfied. There’s a good reason why Naruto has lasted as long as it has.
Though the manga officially ends the story on November 5th, Naruto fans still have a lot to look forward to. The anime is far from over, there will still be plenty of video games, including the new Ultimate Ninja Storm release, and finally, a theatrical film to be released in December titled Naruto: The Last, rumored to be penned by Kishimoto himself and detail events taking place years after the manga’s ending.
Much like the undying Dragon Ball Z, this franchise is far from over.
This trailer quite effectively sums up why Naruto is such an epic tale.