This is my very first Review, and the first installment of my three hundred part series: Review Rants for Smart People who Read Really Really Fast. I decided to go with the manga Naruto because it was my first exposure to manga ever. This was back in middle school. I had just finished the second season of Naruto (arguably it's best season) and I didn't want to wait to find out what happened next. So I picked up a copy of the latest Naruto manga.
For a kid who's only exposure to comics were Batman and Garfield, Naruto completely blew my mind. It wasn't until many many years later, after becoming more familiar with anime and manga, that I realize Naruto is actually a very bad manga. Why? Well to put it simply, Kishimoto, the author of Naruto, sold out, bad. As the manga progressed, especially past the time skip, Kishi's artwork became lazy, his characters left undeveloped and forgotten, his plots overindulgent, his storyline practically non-existent, and his world left contradicting itself over and over again.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
Characters: 6 (Fair)
Let's start with the good. Before the time jump, Naruto's strongest feature was its undeniably charming character development. From Shikamaru to Zabuzza, each of the characters were given unique personalities and trials to face. The best example of this is Rock Lee. Rock Lee is a recurring character in Naruto. However, unlike the rest of his peers, Rock Lee is the only character who cannot use ninjutsu or genjutsu, essentially magic attacks. Thus, Rock Lee spent every minute of life devoted to honing his physical abilities, to the point where he could go toe to toe with some of the strongest characters in the story. However, a mere 50 chapters later, Rock faced an opponent so strong that despite his best efforts, he was crippled by his opponent's attacks, never able to use his physical prowess again. Prior to the time skip, Naruto was chalk full of characters and side-plots like Rock's.
Now for the bad. Despite it's plethora of interesting characters prior to the time skip, after the time skip, the story focused only on 2 characters - Naruto and Sasuke, arguably the two worst characters of the story. Let's start with our Heroine. Naruto is your typical wild-child main character, which is fine. But the thing I hate the most about Naruto is that his life makes absolutely no sense. His goal in life is to become the Hokage (sort of like a prime minister). Of course, since it's a shōnen, everyone has to make fun of him for it and claim he's not good enough - prompting the proverbial "I'll show you!" from Naruto. Well, it's not until later in the story that it's revealed that Naruto is the son of the previous Hokage. Now, let me ask you - have you ever heard of a celebrity's kid who wasn't overhyped? Basketball fans, do you remember how everyone was saying Michael Jordan's kids were going to be the next MJ? As it turns out, they weren't even good enough to play basketball at the college level. That's what happens in real life. Celebrity kids fail to live up to expectations. Naruto is the complete opposite. Naruto has no expectations from anyone to the point of being downright disrespected as a person. This make absolutely no sense, yet it's a pivotal aspect of the story that is touched upon over and over and over and over again. Similarly, everyone starts off hating Naruto because he has the power of the Fox. However, later in the story, it's revealed that Naruto's father saved the village by preserving the powers of the fox in Naruto's body - another point that makes no sense in retrospect. Would you hate the kid who who's protecting you and your family from a giant fox monster, who's only crime was occasional vandalism? Let's move on. Sasuke is the prototypical "genius" character. However he's only a genius in the sense that Kishi is constantly reminding us that Sasuke is a genius through the thought bubbles of his other characters - namely Kakashi-sensei. In actuality, Sasuke is nothing more than a very serious idiot. For example, in the most recent arc (which is the fight between Naruto/Sasuke and Kaguya, the mother of ninjutsu), Sasuke's only notable contribution to the battle was running into a sword, which would have killed him had it not been for Kishi pulling the old deux ex machina switcheroo on us, promptly reviving him for no reason. This alone is enough to drop my character score from 8 to 6. My biggest pet peeve in anime is being told that a character is smart rather than shown that a character is smart. Naruto is all about telling, not showing when it comes to its main characters.
Art: 8 (Very Good)
The art, for the most part, was good. It's not Berserk, in that, the art isn't at the level of detailing every stick-bug on every tree. But the character designs are very original - based on a unique blend of modern and Sengoku styles. The fighting was especially ahead of it's time. From the character running with their arms behind their back to the use of hand seals, there were a lot of elements to Naruto's artwork that has been reshaped and regurgitated all over the anime/manga-verse. For example, it's not a stretch to think that without Naruto's implementation of hand seals, we wouldn't have the clap used by Alphonse Elrik, of Fullmetal Alchemist, every time he uses of Alchemy. (But of course some people might point out that Cloud's spell animation in 1997's Final Fantasy VII actually came first) Regardless, Naruto's art style became a lynchpin in modern anime in a lot of ways. However, as the manga progressed, especially after the time skip, the art simply took a nosedive. While the art became more clearly drawn, and fancier, Kishimoto lost a lot of the charming creativity that made him so captivating in the first place. Taking a look at the fight scenes, one could say that Kishi just got lazier and lazier. In the past, he made it so that each of his character fought with a unique style that fit their personality. For example, Sasuke, the "genius" used a move called the Lion's combo, that required a handful of acrobatic moves performed in midair. The Lion's combo didn't do as much damages as Rock Lee's Reverse Lotus, or Naruto's physical attack, the Naruto Combo. But unlike Rock's attack, the Lions combo didn't hurt the user, and unlike Naruto's attack, the Lions combo didn't cost any chakra (inner energy). It was a move that made sense for a genius to do. Since the time skip, the fight scenes have essentially become who's energy beam is bigger, and what kind of cool animal shape your energy blast can it take on. Basically, Naruto became Dragon Ball Z, but with a worse story.
Story: 1 (Pathetic)
Speaking of story, Naruto's main plot is one of the dumbest things you'll ever hear. To sum it up, it's - Naruto is a ninja kid that no one likes. He strives to become the Hokage by beating up people who want to take over the world, and making them change their point of view by teaching them the power of friendship. That is some kindergarten material right there. As I mentioned above, Naruto's story makes no sense, on top of the fact that it goes nowhere. The only thing that allows the story to progress is Sasuke, Naruto's best friend, who wants to leave the village to seek his own destiny of hunting down a wanted criminal, which sounds perfectly fine to me. But Naruto and friends seem to take extreme offense to this act of betrayal(?) and they try to hunt him down and bring him back for the high treason crime of deserting the village. Ok... So essentially the the village is a military base? Well, not quite, because Naruto was actually AWOL for practically the same amount of time that Sasuke was. In fact, he seems to leave the village whenever he wants, often visiting other towns with his perverted teacher, Jiraiya, for the sole purpose of spying on naked girls taking baths. The side stories are significantly better than the main story. In particular, the Shikamaru v. Hidan arc was very well done. The aforementioned Gaara v. Rock Lee arc was very well done. The Kakashi & Obito backstory was pretty good. The Haku & Zabuzza story concluded very well. And the Naruto & Sasuke rivalry at the beginning of the story was not bad. In general, most of the storylines (outside of the main plot) prior to the time skip were very good. However, afterwards, like I mentioned before, Kishi sold out. What do I mean? Basically, he stopped taking risks. Let's take the Haku and & Zabuzza arc for example. There's no way Kishimoto would ever write another arc like that again. Simply put, the Zabuzza arc was violent, it was blood-thirsty, it was gritty, it was cold, it was heartfelt, it was edge of your seat action, it was friendship, it was love, it was loss, it was despair, it was hatred, Kishi even touched a little upon homosexuality (but not Yaoi) that was everpresent during the Sengoku period, especially amongst ninja clans. Nowadays, Naruto is all about Naruto changing the world by punching people until they understand the power of friendship. If that's not selling out to the mainstream, I don't know what is. Because of this extreme example of selling out, I'm going to negate all the good traits Naruto ever had, and leave it's story with a score of 1, aka straight up Pathetic.
Enjoyment: 7 (Good)
As far as enjoyment goes, Naruto is a very easy story to begin, very hard to continue because the story just gets worse and worse. After a while, the characters even start blending together until they all become one big blob, and you have trouble telling them apart. Sasuke's the best example of this (Gaara's another example) - with his transition from genius to borderline mental patient - and now he wants to become the Hokage too. Anyways, despite essentially becoming DBZ, Naruto still has very unique artwork, and is wildly popular. So by following it, it can enhance your enjoyment of other mediums that carry the Naruto name. For example, video games. There are a lot of Naruto video games that are probably more fun if you actually read or watch the manga/anime. Sasuke in Jump Ultimate Stars is pretty good, for example, lol.
Comparison to the anime:
The first three or four seasons of the anime are very good, and you should watch it, if not just for the music. It boasts some of the best opening and closing scores out there, including Wind by Akeboshi, the first closing song that matches perfectly with the theme of the story, Go! by Flow, which was the best Naruto opening in my opinion, and Haruka Kanata, the song that really put Asian Kungfu Generation on the international scene. The story of the anime follows the manga up to that point. Afterwards, I would quit the anime entirely and switch to the manga. Naruto is not good enough of a show to warrant spending all that time watching it. It's faster to read manga, and most importantly, there are no fillers. The Naruto fillers are even worse than trash. (nerd laugh)
Comparisons to similar anime:
I'm going to compare Naruto to One Piece here, since they're alike in a lot of ways, with One Piece being about pirates and Naruto being about ninjas. However, the most important reason I wanted to compare Naruto to One Piece to contrast each of the author's overindulgence in their own story. Naruto, especially after the time skip, falls into the cliche of stories that over-indulge in themselves. It's always about this guy trying to destroy the world, or this guy trying to enslave everyone, or this genius and that genius. Everything is way too hyped up. One Piece on the other hand, despite being more more wild and unincumbered in what they can show because of their unrefined style, tempers it's readers interest by touching upon things that people can actually relate to. Luffy, the main character of One Piece, is out to make friends. He values freedom above all else. And even though he wants to become the Pirate King, he's not constantly out to save the world - he merely conquers it one island at a time. Saving the world is overdone and not cool. Freedom - that's cool.
Conclusion: 6/10 (Fair)
Naruto is an alright manga that is meteorically popular. You should read it if you have the chance. The artwork is good and the side stories can be pretty interesting. And that sums it up folks. I know, I know, I'm awesome. Becoming a great reviewer doesn't happen overnight, you know. I had to kill my best friend in order to gain this power of awesome ranting. Muahaha! Ahem...er thanks for reading. read more