I joined this site to vent on the fact that this is the touchstone of american fandom that I have available to me in real life. I have arguments with people born during the Carter administration about this series. I don't like that.
Want to be a fan of any Japanese comics or cartoons? Want to let people know that you are someone they can share that interest with? You are stuck with Naruto. It is the "vanilla" of the Neapolitan ice cream of the "big three" battle manga that have ruled jump in the post-dragonball era.
It has ninjas in it. And hadokens. And ramen! Oh em gee, that's so Japanese! Right everybody?
My girlfriend's fujoshi roommate loves it. The gutterpunk on his way to the Rainbow Gathering loves it, if only because he thinks he is totally getting to me, man. Like most people who read it- and don't really have any intention of diving into Manga or comics at all- he probably thinks somewhere there is a cool person (probably of the opposite sex) he can impress by having some enthusiasm for it.
But in a way, I am no better.
I hate this comic! I hate it for all the generic reasons I could parrot at you that I am supposed to hate it. I am a One Piece fanboy. I wait for jump to come out every week so I can read that and Beelzebub. I naturally love Hunter X Hunter, too. I am the shonen-reading adult male american snob stereotype, excluding everything that is naturally accessible to normal westerners, to young children.
I read Naruto just about every week, too. It isn't really more than a couple minutes out of my day, killing time; and then I can try and have a conversation later with all the people who show some little smidgen of interest in what interests me. Whom actually exist; at my job, at the mall, at the places in real life there are other people I am allowed to smalltalk at. Unlike all the things I "actually" like; all by myself, in my BBS-reinforced ivory tower.
If you are a curmudgeon of any kind, you will probably eventually dislike this series if you become familiar enough with it. If you have ever had the urge to say: "I'm getting too old for this crap." Well, that will apply here in spades. If you are a "hater"- this is a good series for you. To hate.
You might like it if you think DBZ is better than the earlier part of Dragonball where Goku is a little kid- no, not that part; the other part where he is a little kid. If you are a (romantically maladjusted) grown woman who reads (into) comics as "erotic entertainment", you already know you like Naruto. Shame on you for it. If you think Chipotle is "authentic", if you don't know who Edward Said is or why I am mentioning him here, if you think professional wrestling is real, if you like Evanescence or System of a Down, if you are reading this through a time machine from ten years ago, somewhere in the culturally deprived breadbasket of the USA: Naruto might be a good fit for you.
Oh well, it beats making smalltalk about football when I lost the ability to care about that entirely 15 years ago, or sports in general, or celebrity news. Keep on truckin', Kishi.