Naruto is a 1999 adventure, comedy, martial arts, fantasy Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. The series follows a hyperactive and knuckle-headed ninja named Naruto Uzumaki who leaves in Konohagakure village as an outcast. Shunned because of the Kyuubi inside him, Naruto struggles to find his place in the village, while his burning desire to become the Hokage of Konohagakure leads him not only to some great new friends, but also some deadly foes.
- Well-written, original story
- Well-written characters
- Great art style
- Rich setting
- Good humor
- Awesome antagonist
- Follow some troupes
- Fights can be lengthy
Plot: The story expands 72 volumes and follows the adventures of Naruto Uzumaki, an isolated, reckless young kid who trains to become a shinobi and dreams of becoming leader of his village. Naruto learns and grows as he is teamed up with Sakura Haruno and Sasuke Uchiha and guided under the eye of elite ninja Kakashi Hatake. The three become a unit as they complete various missions requested by the villagers, before becoming targets of rogue ninja Orochimaru and the mysterious the Akatsuki. The story is very original and not only that, it also a great story about growing up, and learning that the world can be pretty dark. What makes the story so great is that aside from the main story, the manga features side stories that are just as interesting as the main. (5 out of 5)
Characters: If there is one thing that this anime has it is a ton of really good characters. No matter who they are (good, bad, chaotic, whatever) the characters have depth and interesting backstories that shape who they are. It’s impossible to not have some favorites. The main protagonist is Naruto Uzumaki, a young boy training to become a shinobi. Often seen as a stubborn showoff who’s reckless (which he is) but he’s fiercely loyal and dreams of earning the village’s respect and becoming village leader. His friends consist of Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno. Sasuke’s pretty cool, though a bit stubborn at times, and a good rival for Naruto. Loved seeing their brotherhood grow as they constantly push themselves and each other. There has not been a bond like this since Goku and Vegeta. Sakura is the weakest link in the trio. She’s literally the blandest character of the entire cast, with no interesting features, no special techniques, no likable quirks; she is literally a waste of a character. Not one engagement in the entire series does she actually contribute anything relevant to the crew’s missions. Kakashi Hatake is their mentor, always mysterious, always awesome. He has the best lines, appears to be one of the most diverse in terms of abilities and skill. There are tons of supporting characters that make the series more awesome that include but are not limited to: Rock Lee, Might Guy, Gaara, Temari, Hinata Hyuga, Jiraiya, and Tsunade.
The main antagonist of the series is a former ninja Konohagakure named Orochimaru, who seeks to destroy his former home. Orochimaru is an extremely awesome character, not only is he extremely powerful but he is probably the coolest snake themed character ever. He’s smart, twisted, manipulative; the guy created his own village as a means to perform inhuman experimentation as a means to gain power and cheat death. Under Orochimaru is his right hand, Kabuto Yakushi is just as talented and manipulative as his master Orochimaru is. There are a host of other bad guys for the good crew to take on such as rogue ninjas Zabuza Momochi and Haku, Orochimaru’s elite bodyguards, the Sound Four, and Kisame Hoshigaki and Itachi Uchiha (Sasuke’s brother), both of whom are members of the criminal organization known as the Akatsuki. It is important to remember that each of these characters have their own special backstories, traits, and abilities that make them pretty cool. (5 out of 5)
Art Style: Loved the art style and the Asian themes that it’s inspired by. The character designs are unique, the fights are well detailed, and the transitions are presented effectively. The settings are pretty good in my opinion. (4 out of 5)
Writing: Loved the direction that Masashi Kishimoto takes the story. Some of the fights can be pretty lengthy, especially when considering that a lot of the characters have multiple secret techniques to extend battles and also the exposition revealed. There are a ton of exciting fights and the variety of abilities do make for some interesting and pretty diverse fights. No two fights are the same. There is a great balance of drama (that can surprisingly deep and emotional), action (which can be both fast and slow paced but intense), and humor (which can be pretty damn funny) written into the story and characters. Despite how lighthearted the series initially starts off as (feeling much like a children’s tale) it does get pretty dark especially with all the tragedies that befall many of the characters. And I do appreciate the running themes of redemption and revenge because it does add depth the characters, story, and setting. The series does tend to follow certain manga troupes such as some of the character types and exaggerated humor. And for fans who have an affinity for dialogue there’s a lot of it. Probably one of the biggest problems is the flashbacks. For as great as the exposition is, there are moments where the flashbacks can feel like massive info dumping sessions. However, the writing is pretty good. (4 out of 5)
The Verdict: In the end, Naruto is an awesome manga series. Sure, there are some characters that could be better developed (Sakura) and some fights can be overly lengthy thus slowing the pace. However, the manga features a roster of great characters, good writing, a great story, good art style, great setting, and great action. Naruto gets 4 out of 5.