Naruto Review

Naruto is a 2002 martial arts action fantasy Japanese animated series directed by Hayato Date, based on the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto.  The series details the story of Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja searching for recognition and dreaming of becoming the Hokage, the leader of his village.


Positives:

  • Terrific characters
  • Great humor
  • Good score
  • Great voice performances
  • Good animation style
  • Great, original story
  • Great antagonist
  • Good writing
  • Intense action
  • Good setting

Negatives:

  • Lengthy fights
  • Follows some anime troupes

Plot:  The show’s premise is pretty simple.  Ninjas battling ninjas, ninjas being trained to battle ninjas, and young ninjas dreaming to become ninjas to battle ninjas.  The story follows three young children, Naruto Uzumaki, Sakura Haruno, and Sasuke Uchiha, who attend school to learn to become shinobi.  The three of them are brought together in a team headed by master ninja, Kakashi Hatake.  As the team learns how to be a team they face conflicts and missions in their throughout the world before gradually dealing with bigger threats.  The story is well paced with some very dramatic and exciting moments.  One of the story’s highest points is its focus on growing up and that’s what makes it feel so personal. (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)

Animation Style: The settings have really good amount of detail when it comes to the wonderfully designed cities and landscapes. There are moments where it does look dated but not enough to detract from the experience.  The character designs look pretty good, most of the character designs that reflects their personality.  One of the problems I have with the character designs is that the characters look the same when they’re young as they do when they’re older. The action is handled pretty well and although there is blood, it isn’t overly used. (3 out of 5)

Score:  Voice performances are pretty good, both in the English and Japanese dub and the sound is great. The soundtrack is just brilliant, especially the focus on piano, guitar, and wind instruments which are influenced by Asian themes. (4 out of 5)

Writing:  The writing for the series is definitely a point that deserves praise.  Creator Masashi Kishimoto has a grand vision and the world that he establishes solidifies that vision.  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 the exposition of certain characters such as Naruto being ostracized by his own village and Sasuke’s wanting to get revenge for the death of his clan.  The series does tend to follow certain anime troupes such as overly extensive fights, 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.  So, in the end, the writing is really good, even with some of the filler episodes. (4 out of 5)


The Verdict: In the end, Naruto is a pretty awesome anime series.  Yeah, it has its share of anime troupes but it isn’t enough to make the series bad.  However, the show does feature some great characters, a great setting, an awesome soundtrack, good animation, awesome fights, great humor, great story and good writing.  Naruto gets 4 out of 5.

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