I'm sure most, if not all, the people who end up reading this review have seen Naruto before and those who haven't are probably put off by the pure unadulterated hatred this and the more recent Shippuuden garner. Okay, I guess "unadulterated" is a strong word but I digress..
In any case, before starting this review I want to point out that I haven't read the manga so I'm unsure as to what was or wasn't changed during the process of animating this story and I guess it's time to get the show on the road.
*Also, let it be known that the infamous "Filler Arc" is not part of this review.
Naruto is the story of a group of rookie ninja from Konoha (Leaf) Village, with particular focus on our title character Naruto Uzumaki and his two friends Sakura Haruno and Sasuke Uchiha. The story starts soon after the three of them graduate from there Ninja Academy and are put under the care of Kakashi Hatake who, for the most part, takes on the standard role of the "mentor" who teaches them the value of teamwork and all that jazz.
The main characters can apparently be hit or miss, though I liked them for the most part. Naruto himself seems to follow in the footsteps of Goku from the Dragon Ball franchise, though I personally don't consider him anywhere near as dense and also don't consider him an "idiot" like most people tend to.
Sakura seems to get the most flack from my experience because, for the most part she plays the "useless female" role. The thing is, she herself realizes that and actively tries to change herself which makes for some interesting scenes down the road.
Sasuke is probably the most intriguing of the main characters, simply because he himself admits that he is only training to "kill a certain man" and he and Naruto clash quite a few times over their belief systems, particularly in the oh so excellent final arc.
As far as Kakashi, there isn't a whole lot to say as he reveals very few nuggets of information about himself. He's a cool guy, but he's very much a supporting character during this series.
But, to be honest, the thing that Naruto can be proud of is the excellent cast of supporting characters. From the intelligent, yet lethargic Shikamaru to the Bruce Lee wanna be Rock Lee it's pretty cool to see all these different characters, who usually have a very interesting and unique fighting style, clash with one another.
It also should be mentioned that a certain villain, Orochimaru, who appears rather frequently is a scene stealer and takes part in some of the more memorable moments of this series. It's also when he appears that the show really takes off and gets interesting, as he is the instigator of some of the biggest plot points. His personality and his willingness to use any and all means to further himself and his power is interesting and very often disturbing.
One thing that is important throughout the series is the running theme of revenge and human relations. Every one, from Gaara to Sasuke to Naruto himself has had some sort of bad experience during their childhood and it seems as though "friendship overcoming tragedy" is maybe the predominate theme throughout the show.
Now this series being a shounen, it's obvious it has pacing flaws here and there. For example, many of the fight scenes are dragged out to an annoying degree. And this is very apparent in the first arc when the characters go through two separate fight scenes that both take at the very least three or four episodes each, which isn't a huge problem if you marathon the series like I did. But, it still deserves mentioning as it is annoying.
The plus side is that most fight scenes, particularly during the Chuunin Exam arc and beyond, are very well animated and just overall well done. The aforementioned Shikamaru for example has some of the more noteworthy scenes because he uses his head, instead of any physical abilities, and his fight scenes are always damn good fun.
But, this also highlights one of the issues I do have with the fight scenes and, even though this is a problem with shounen action anime in general, it's especially bothersome here. The characters have a habit of explaining everything they do to their enemy which would be time better spent actually defeating your opponent rather than telling them your skills. I know it's just so the mangaka can flex his thought process and the logic behind the attacks to the viewer but..it's still kind of tiresome and could certainly be implemented better.
I think the music bears mentioning as I thought it was either great, such as most of the music used during the dramatic scenes and some battle scenes, or forgettable, which is pretty much the rest of the fight scene music.
The Japanese voice actors did a great job imo, especially during some of the more serious scenes. But, I especially got to shout out to the multiple voices for Orochimaru. Of which almost all of them are suitably creepy and, even though they sound different, they still manage to pull off the basic speech patterns.
It takes a while for things to really get going, but once it does you'll notice it. Unfortunately for some, the pacing can sometimes be broken by the short training arcs which are actually pretty entertaining and in many cases are segued in nicely with the story arcs. Also, there is only one short filler arc throughout the first 135 episodes.
First off, it should be apparent from our protagonists conspicuous appearance that, in many ways these guys are ninjas in name only. Still, the appearances of the characters throughout the series are so varied that I, at the very least, didn't care. Animation does take a dip occasionally, however.
Orochimaru is a plus, no doubt about that. And most of the other cast members have good voice acting, though Rock Lee's can sometimes be grating.. The music is pretty good, though occasionally generic.
Depending on how you take to Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura this could be your favorite part of the series, which is the case for me, or your least favorite, and probably game breaking, aspect of the series as it does depend upon these three for the vast majority of the story . But, I'm sure most people will like the supporting characters as almost all of them are developed to a satisfying degree. Unfortunately, all of them fit the tragic past stereotype so...your mileage may vary. You may want to avoid this series if you aren't a fan of melodrama.
Hell yeah, I enjoyed this series. I won't lie, I loved this series. But, it certainly isn't for everyone and I can understand quite a few people being frustrated by this shows some times slow, often times fast pacing and some of the more dragged out arcs even frustrated me at times. Also, as I said before, enjoyment largely hinges on whether or not you take to the three main characters or not.
To sum it up, don't go into Naruto expecting to see the tightest script ever written or anything thought provoking. Just go into it for a fun time and, maybe, you'll be surprised by the well developed characters like I was. Make no mistake, Naruto was a great experience for me..especially because I went into the series expecting it to be terrible and, by the time I realized it wasn't, I was enjoying the ride.
*If you want to make any sort of comment, just drop by my profile. Criticism is welcome as this is my first review in quite a while and I went with a different style than I have in the past. Thanks for reading this review, I hope it helps anyone interested in this series.