I would like to start this review off by saying that I did not grow up with the Naruto series, nor did I have any pre-judgment of the series before I started watching it. Therefore I’d like to assert that my perspective on this series is as unbiased as it’s probably going to get, considering its popularity. When watching the series, the first thing I did was compile a list of filler episodes, and then promptly skipped all of them. This is so my watching experience in terms of the story deviated from the manga source material as little as possible. That being said, here is a breakdown of the score I gave the Naruto anime as well as reasons behind each scoring. As I typically do when reviewing anything, I will start off with the positives and end on the negatives.
The sound in Naruto is definitely above average, and certainly immerses you in the scenes at hand. That being said, while the sound is a step above average, it isn’t top tier quality, so I feel as if a seven out of ten is properly justified. No need to really go into much detail here.
I found the art in this series to be pleasing to the eye; there weren’t any moe blobs, characters that looked like they could sooner pass for aliens rather than human beings, and it lacked a “childish” sort of look to it. That being said, there wasn’t anything here that was spectacular. Considering it was produced from 2002-2007, there were series with much better art than this even before that time. This is the justification behind me giving it the 6/10 that I think it deserves, which in my mind is just about average.
This is where, for me, the Naruto series started failing. Anything mentioned here will be re-iterated in the very first episode of the series, so I’m assuming that this won’t be considered “spoilers” per say. Naruto is based off an infant child who is infused with the spiritual energy of a nine-tailed demon in order to prevent a disaster from befalling his village. He is now viewed as an outcast and a monster throughout his childhood because of these events, rather than a scapegoat for saving the entirety of his village. Now Naruto’s aim is to change this reputation, and gain the respect of his village by becoming the most powerful person in it. You might be thinking to yourself at this point, “Wow, that story isn’t bad at all, why are you giving this a 3/10?!”… Well, I will now explain my rating of this as concisely as possible. The issue here is that the story doesn’t evolve at all during the span of the 131 episodes that aren’t comprised of filler material. Naruto begins to be accepted by his peers early on, and the whole idea of him being viewed as a “monster” diminishes quickly. When that happens, Naruto wants to become the strongest just for the sake of being the strongest. This sets the stage for the story to carry out like practically every other shounen in existence, and what was once a unique story with a high potential for excellence loses said potency very fast. I see no reason why to consider this story anything even close to mediocrity, hence the three out of ten rating you see here.
This is where I’ve seen other people say the series suffers the most, and after watching it, I’d have to agree with them. The phrase “one dimensional characters” gets thrown around a lot, and while I might have a different idea than some about the interpretation of this phrase, I agree with it. The thing with the Naruto anime is that the author only knows how to write one type of character type well, and that is the character that involves some kind of tragic loss in their life. I guess you could simplify what I just wrote and say “the only character the author knows how to write is Naruto” and get away with it just fine. Literally every character in the plot that is riddled with some sort of tragedy happens to have the same tragedy; someone they cared about has died in the past, and it has left them broken, mentally damaged or downright evil as a result. Don’t expect any sort character depth beyond this. The villains? They’re mostly evil just for the sake of being evil, or for the other aforementioned reason. They have that cliché plot convenience of “I’m not the true mastermind behind all the said evil events you have been fighting against, merely a puppet of some greater evil!” sort of deal, and spoiler alert, it doesn’t get old as the show progresses. That’s just the beginning of why I consider this anime to have one of the worst characterizations I have ever seen.
Moving on to something else; romance. In my opinion, a romance should either be included and done properly, or given the setting, not included at all. With Naruto, I’m leaning more towards “not included at all”. Think of it this way, the characters are roughly the age of your average elementary school student. When you were about 11 years of age, were you concerned about having a girlfriend? I sure as hell wasn’t, I was more concerned about finishing my collection of Zelda games and beating my friends in Super Smash Bros. Yet romance plays a part of the primary characterization of some of the main characters, despite their age, and it really isn’t done well. You won’t see any sort of romantic development throughout the entirety of this anime, and given that a certain character’s (that shall not be named) “character” depends almost entirely on this aspect, it makes for a very poor attempt at convincing the viewer that they have any sort of significance in the plot. For these reasons, I give the characters a 2/10, being one of the worst attempts at characterization I have seen in modern anime.
As a result of the other scores that you see above, this is what I came up with as a score. Given that I get most of my enjoyment from characterization and story, this score seems fairly natural to hand out.
This is just an average of the scores you see above. This show is scoring consistently above 7/10 in reviews, and I see no merits behind why it should be, given what I have discussed above. I would conclude that with this score Naruto has too many flaws to make it a passable watching experience.