Review by: Night Ninja
This is something new I wanted to try, I’m a big anime fan, now I know this site isn’t about anime, but this was something I recently rewatched. Now if I wanted to really make this a stretch, this series has multiple video games, so it’s only fair I cover the series itself first. But this isn’t just anything for me, not one bit. This is an anime that introduced me to the animation genre as a whole, one that is completely soaked up in Japanese culture, the one you probably see kids doing that “weird run” over, yes, I’m talking about Naruto! Now, even if I grew up with this anime, let me make a few things clear, for one thing, this is not a kid’s anime, I repeat, this is NOT a kid’s anime. This series is more suited for teenagers at least, as it may have moments of relating with youth, but it has a very mature edge that you need to have that understanding to truly enjoy, sure it may LOOK cool, but this is by no means a shallow story. Though there are also the sexual themes that are presented here, not so much fan service, but when there are perverted characters focused on peeping on naked women, let alone one character has a transformation technique to turn into a naked girl to catch men off their guard… Yeah, don’t let kids watch this, please. According to the site IMDb, the series is rated TV-Y7-FV, WHICH IS FUCKING BULLSHIT! This series is more like TV-MA, TV-14 AT LEAST! So again, DO NOT LET KIDS WATCH THIS!!!!
Though despite that, it was once on Cartoon Network under Toonami, and this is one of those series that are HUGELY popular, I’m talking LOTS of games, movies, spin-offs are becoming more and more frequent, hell this series is referred to as one of the big 3 of the Shonen Jump franchises of manga and anime!! I’ve been nervously trying to write this out and make my feelings sound coherent, focused, and understandable! I really have a lot to say and I didn’t know where to begin, on top of wanting to let it settle and have a more clear answer to how I feel after rewatching it. This is a series that means a lot to me, and I’m sure many others as if you got into anime in the late 90s to early 2000s, but if it wasn’t with Dragon Ball Z, it was Naruto, so I have a big responsibility of talking about this anime and being as fair as I can possibly be, I won’t be a blind fanboy, but I also won’t bash on it for no good reason either, don’t worry! The only other thing to keep in mind, and this is JUST with the original Naruto series, not including Shippuden, is that this is a 220 episodes long series. This is a VERY long anime series, and considering Shippuden is 500 episodes, you must be prepared to be okay with how long this could be, or you must go in knowing what episodes are filler, and watching ONLY what you need. There is one more option I will mention later on, but it has its pros and cons to it that I’ll discuss as well.
Naruto is the brainchild of Masashi Kishimoto, idolizing the creator of the Dragon Ball franchise Akira Toriyama, he decided to try and become a manga artist like his idol, getting a spot on Weekly Shonen Jump’s Magazine, and in 1999, he eventually brought to light, the most popular ninja series in manga and anime. The series takes strong influence from traditional Japanese culture, and especially ninjas themselves, while having a twist in the world’s existence of superhuman abilities that ninja themselves can use, a brilliantly realized world, but the story is focusing on the title character himself above all else. The story takes no time establishing the legend of a giant nine-tailed fox wreaking havoc on a village of Ninja, The Village Hidden in The Leaves, and how it was sealed by the 4th leader of the village, the leader of the Village in The Leaves is referred to as the Hokage.
It was an open secret that this demon fox was sealed inside a newborn baby at the time, and this baby grew up as Naruto Uzumaki. In this world, gifted youth are able to train to become Ninja, but Naruto specifically wants to become the greatest Ninja possible, to become Hokage of the village himself. He’s seen as a monster by those in the know about Naruto housing the sealed demon fox, and he tends to be kind of a jokester to try and get others’ attention, though in actuality he was always super alone and can’t stand how much of an outcast he is. So with his dream of being Hokage, he thought that if he one day protected and lead the village, then they would have to look up to him and respect him, to leave behind the negative perspective everyone has on him, both before and after finding out what he houses within himself during just the first episode.
The first episode is a good introduction that can effectively introduce you to the character of Naruto in a way that allows you to grow to be sympathetic, he isn’t actually that bad of a kid, but due to unfortunate circumstances, he is actively seen in a negative light, positively fearful when many lives were lost when the giant fox wreaked havoc that fated day. It’s also commendable he still cared about doing the right thing after discovering why many had a real hatred for him, that he would still always stand by doing the right thing, it makes him a good role model in that sense and making a protagonist that is an effective underdog like this just makes him a fantastic introduction to the world around him as well.
The first episode is so well-paced, showcasing the world in a small but effective way while establishing Naruto’s life, public perception, the people in his life that either cheers him on or despises him and his ambitions to his word and desire to protect all that matters to him. This is part of what gets people gripped with the series, these characters are portrayed as human as possible, and Naruto is no different… He, just like many, has big ambitions, good intention, though for some reason… He’s an outcast, without any parents either to speak of. Despite the fact that this series is known for its over the top badass fights with larger than life powers to Amp up the excitement and intensity, it’s also hugely full of drama and it’s own fully realized world with its own politics and troubles, even it’s own history you always get hints towards the true complexity of it in the original series.
Now while the series is named after Naruto, he is far from the only focus, let alone the only character with development and care, as the series has a vast cast. Not always do they all get very much screen time or development, but the ones that do, tend to be fan favorites. There are characters closer to Naruto though that is still pretty important, initially, there is his sensei Iruka, who taught him at the academy and is one of the few people who has tried to always be there for him, however he can. It became a tradition between the two to get ramen together, and he is really a father figure for him since both of them have no parents, so not only did he have sympathy for Naruto and the life he lives, but Iruka’s parents died from the demon fox attack all that time ago, even went through a similar jokester period in his life.
This shows that he doesn’t even hold that fact against Naruto when he houses that same demon fox, one of the first to not, while also wanting to hide it from him until the 3rd act of the first episode, but he also takes the time to show Naruto the sympathy he so badly needed in his life of loneliness and being the outcast he was. If it wasn’t for the few good people like Iruka in his life that cared for him and even believed in him, he wouldn’t have had such a desire to prove people wrong, that can actually become pretty inspiring! This push for improvement alone is a theme with Naruto as a character when he starts out at the academy, he doesn’t seem to be the best at… well… much of anything there, he couldn’t even perform many of the techniques he needed to master in order to graduate, it only took until the end of the first episode to persist to learn an even more advanced version of the same technique earlier, and once Iruka saw how much he ended up succeeding… it’s satisfying. What’s better for me is the fact that Iruka is voiced by Quinton Flynn who is the voice of Axel in Kingdom Hearts and the voice of Raiden in Metal Gear Solid, and everything considered, he did a great job! It’s also amusing that it’s the same voice for Axel since he goes through almost the same ark with Roxas, but more on his origins rather than what resides within him. It still proved to be a great casting choice in the dub, especially as he is such a crucial character to Naruto, in both being a great father figure when he needed it most, and also in being his sensei.
Despite… The fact that him along with others, can’t properly say “Naruto”, not even the main character’s VA can’t say his own name right. I get it, Japanese names are very unique to pronounce sometimes, but there are many characters who do pronounce his name properly and without a single problem, rolling the r instead of just… Sounding like you’re so American it hurts. It’s the biggest dub complaint many make against the series, and I can’t blame them, now does it ruin the dub as a whole? Not exactly, while the main character can’t properly say their name, they do sound spot on with their Japanese counterpart! Now there are some semi poorly performed characters, but they end up always being the background characters usually, and those are usually in filler episodes, the actual recurring characters are still VERY well performed; so long as we can not totally hold pronunciation against them like its the ONLY thing that matters, because if you still judge the acting on pronunciation alone, then you are missing what was done well when it comes to selling the emotion behind these roles, and this should ALWAYS be given the credit it deserves!
Eventually, you’re introduced to characters who end up in a team with Naruto after he passes the Ninja Academy at the beginning of the anime and manga story. This whole team introduction is with a good focus and mystery on the sensei and leader of the team they receive: Kakashi Hatake, a fan favorite, but again, quite a bit of mystery around him that you don’t learn much of until Shippuden. Sakura Haruno is one of the two team members assigned, who Naruto has a crush on, despite how much she has actually treated him pretty badly and most fans tend to really STRONGLY dislike… I will not argue the points most even have in that regard. She just doesn’t treat Naruto very nice, especially off the bat until she got the same shitty treatment thrown back her way from their other team member, being even more effective since she has an admittedly annoying as hell crush on the guy. She does eventually become a lot nicer in general and does grow as a character at certain moments(WAY more later on in the Shippuden series and onwards), she does interact well with Naruto and their other teammate: Sasuke Uchiha. Notably dubbed by Yuri Lowenthal, who is easily one of the highlights of the dub, and is one of the most well-known roles in his career! He’s also known for recently voicing Spider-Man in the PS4 exclusive developed by Insomniac, he also voices 9S in NieR: Automata’s dub, he has a role in RWBY as Mercury Black, and he’s also Simon the Digger in the dub for Gurren Lagann. He’s also one of the few to properly pronounce Naruto, so he gets extra points for that!
Now Sasuke is one of the beloved characters, with great reasons to like him, and with many reasons to hate him just as much, which is no doubt intentional when his rivalry with Naruto is immediately established and is one of the core focuses of the series, ESPECIALLY in the original series as it progresses greatly throughout the canonical arks. Sasuke Uchiha is another aspiring Ninja, like Naruto, but aspiring for the wrong things. He was initially only focused on simply upholding the Uchiha clan name by starting his Ninja training with eagerness as a young kid, but this turns into a deep ugly and burning desire for revenge after his older brother killed off his whole clan, leaving him the sole survivor, and pledging his whole existence to hatred and growing his power so he can avenge his clan. It’s this single-minded focus that makes him seem all too distant, even egotistical given his child prodigy status he has. That status is totally earned and justified however, being top of the class back at the academy, and pretty annoyed at first being paired with Naruto as the notorious worst student back then.
But he isn’t outright a bad person, as a matter of fact, there come many moments where, especially fighting with Naruto and Sakura as a team, that he does his best to protect his comrades however he can, he WILL put his life on the line to ensure the safety of others like any other selfless badass would. In the end what makes him flawed, is the path of revenge, an ugly path, one driven by nothing but unending rage and hatred, but is meant to in many ways reflect Naruto since he grew up with no family at all, only an idea of what it is like with Iruka and the bonds he has with friends. It’s meant to contrast the two and how their dreams of great power and accomplishments, are only so different. Naruto began with nothing and obtained the bonds in his life that he now cherishes and protects, while Sasuke can’t let go of what he had lost and wishes to destroy anything that may be at fault, no matter what innocence may eventually get in the way, so long as he can obtain his revenge. Its thanks to this and obtaining a curse mark from a mysterious yet powerful villain, that it almost intoxicates him with the power he so desperately wants, to where he plays out like a slow fall of a hero in many ways, especially once a chance encounter with his brother reminds him of what he wants when his brother effortlessly defeats him, leaving him comatose for a while. It is something that leads Naruto and Sasuke as characters, to go in such vastly different directions up until the conclusion of the original series where their bond is brought to its limits when Sasuke becomes jealous of how powerful Naruto has become.
This, however, is only the beginning of these characters, as while these are usually the characters with the most focus, or at least the most screen time, there are many others that have their own story that can both intersect with the others, and still go on while the main focus was still on Naruto. Rock Lee is a character many tend to love, and I can’t blame them at all here, he is known to be fairly… dorky(totally intentional), but he’s someone who has ambitions and a genuine desire to be the best no matter what, yet he needs to overcome his own weaknesses to achieve this goal. It’s the relatable story of big dreams that you may have wanted so badly, that it didn’t matter that you sucked, or that you weren’t good at certain aspects, but even more empowering if you have some sort of disability against you, let alone the relatability of continuing to push on and prove nay-sayers dead wrong, even if you’re supposedly set up for failure or dealt a bad hand for it. Everyone can relate to this, to some extent, and yet again another great role model and character to enjoy.
With Lee, he is wanting to be a Ninja, a great Ninja at this point may seem to be all too common, but it’s the drive to prove everyone wrong, and that the dream is achievable! The battle is simply the disadvantages, in his case, being without the ability to use nearly as many techniques as his peers can. The series is more well known for its ridiculous over the top running and all types of techniques, using the energy and life force referred to as Chakra, and a bunch of hand signs to control the Chakra and manipulate it for what you are desiring to do. The techniques are referred to as jutsu, with the following subtypes being taijutsu, ninjutsu, and genjutsu. The first is purely physical techniques, the second is all focused on the more fantastical abilities like spitting out fire from your mouth or having a ball of lightning in the palm of your hands to destroy an enemy, and the last is focused purely on illusions. Outside of all of these techniques, you can even summon creatures and familiars as well, on top of simply being able to control the energy at your feet to walk up walls or walk on water, literally.
Lee is only able to do taijutsu and taijutsu alone. This means every ounce of his ability to fight, is only in hand to hand combat, yet it’s commendable how much he pushes himself to overcome this fact and still grow into a great Ninja. This is a character constantly at a disadvantage compared to the others, and yet he still fights his heart out, and is one of the participants in what is often called the best fight of the original series, against the sand village Ninja: Gaara. It’s a fight that has Lee at an even greater disadvantage than ever before if you consider that you only saw him fight some lower enemies and Sasuke prior to this point, and this(at the time) new character uses sand to attack his enemies, he had no reason to get anywhere close to Lee, yet once Lee really starts to get serious, he drops weights around his limbs with a BIG CRASH, and suddenly his speed becomes incredible as the fight progresses, hard to keep up with even, it’s astonishing to witness him actually connect some hits and almost win without a single injury.
When the story ties in the rules and aspects with the character struggles, it begins to also elevate even further once character development comes from the world’s rules and aspects, he still was at a major disadvantage when you take in all the world’s rules and known powers, and then putting him up against a character with powers specifically able to exploit enemies who needs to get up close and personal, you know he may end up losing, but seeing how far he goes and gets is what made it so gripping until the end. That’s a major reason why it’s one of the most engaging fights in the whole series, now is it my personal favorite? No, but it’s a damn good fight that also showcases how great the series can incorporate the human drama and development into the actual fighting, everything has rhyme and reason, and that’s everything for the flow of the story and keeping you interested in everything, rather than just some cool fights with strange powers and weird running.
However, there are still so many other characters too, Neji and Hinata Hyuga, Tenten, Kiba and Akamaru, Shikamaru, Ino, Chogi, there’s even a ninja in a coat and glasses that control insects called Shino. This isn’t even counting all the other sensei of the village like Lee’s own idol and sensei: Might Guy with all his overreactions and his big aim for achieving as much as possible, that has rubbed off his eager student greatly. There’s also Asuma and Kurenai, though sadly they get little to no development past seeming like good teachers for their teams they were assigned to, and then there is Jiraiya of the three legendary Sannin, a trio of powerful Shinobi that trained under the 3rd Hokage. Jiraiya ends up becoming a mentor to Naruto during the Chunin Exams ark, teaching him the summoning Jutsu, and he eventually taught him the most iconic move in Naruto’s arsenal down the line: the Rasengan, a powerful ball of focused Chakra that has its own complex vortex of energy moving in all directions, a devastating attack truly. Jiraiya is a fan favorite, a fantastic sensei to Naruto, just with bad perverted habits like peaking on girls… Like I said, not a kids anime.
The original series takes the time to also familiarize you with the 3rd Hokage. He was put back in charge after the 4th passed away, after the nine-tailed fox attack years ago, so you’re given some time with him, even his grandson Konohamaru who is part annoying as fuck, and part just a kid at the Ninja academy who looks up to Naruto, while also looking at him as a rival. None the less, the 3rd Hokage just seems like someone who stepped back into the role of leader past his term, but because he cares about the village so much and in such a genuine way. At the climax of the Chunin Exams ark, the 3rd Hokage passes away after sacrificing himself in the use of a sealing Jutsu. In the aftermath, the village quickly sends Jiraiya off to find one of the other Sannin who eventually becomes the 5th Hokage: Tsunade. A woman who has a gambling addiction that leaves her in debt, looking younger than she actually is, and a medical ninjutsu specialist on top of being known for the brute strength she controls behind her taijutsu.
There are also a huge plethora of villains too, usually the most well known and loved being the sound village with Orochimaru and the Akatsuki themselves. Orochimaru is a huge focus in the original series and for the better, having dub VA legend Steve Blum of Cowboy Bebop fame portray him, for as much as the dub isn’t perfect, he just nails creeping you out with his tone of voice, and his snake-like manipulation for his own power and hunger, a true monster. He was originally the last of the three Sannin with Jiraiya and Tsunade, but his lust for power and immortality led him to defect from the village and eventually start his own village and Ninja group under the Hidden Sound Village. His focus is only on becoming immortal and having the best power at his disposal, and will find anyone under him as just that… Disposable. Clearly he has a big snake-like personality trait to him with how he acts and what he will do to achieve power himself with anyone and anything as his stepping stones for it. He is actually the one who inflicts the curse mark onto Sasuke and for most of the series sets up his desire to use the Uchiha bloodline himself by promising him the power he desires so much that would be enough to avenge his clan, only in return for giving his body over to Orochimaru as his own vessel, fucking creepy…
The Akatsuki however, wouldn’t get as much development until Shippuden when you’d have multiple other members revealed to you, but Itachi Uchiha, the older brother of Sasuke and the one who wiped out the clan, had a great presence for the small amount of time he had with Kisame Hoshigaki, a formerly hidden mist village ninja that looks like a shark-human… Thing. The Akatsuki is known as rogue Ninja, all runaways that may have even committed a great crime on their way out, hence why Itachi is under the group, since he had wiped out his whole clan in a single night and only leaving his brother alive, he’s become downright infamous, but the group’s goals, let alone their leader especially won’t be touched upon until Shippuden itself.
When there is such a great stage set, fantastic characters are written, and such a variety of mind-blowing techniques, it makes the series great to follow just with the manga alone. The anime, however, adds to this fantastic experience, with one of my favorite anime soundtracks of all time, composed by Toshio Masuda, each melody fitting the almost feudal Japanese feel to it all, with a mix of electric guitars to give it even further edge. It knows when to amplify the Heavy Violence, and Raising that Fighting Spirit, and it knows when to adjust for the more Sadness and Sorrow ridden moments. The soundtrack is very consistent in keeping its tone while tweaking it when emotions require it to be tweaked, it can even be a bit silly when it requires it. I personally love it, and this is often referred to as one of the best anime soundtracks, it’s also so fucking memorable, if you played a single 30 seconds of any song in the original series, it would instantly stick out to me and I’d be able to call it, the most memorable track by far is Naruto‘s own theme, especially when it plays on the last episode, when he begins to walk away from the village, and won’t be back until the time jump to Shippuden, easily one of my favorite anime themes of all time! This soundtrack is just fucking amazing, it’s even better when it’s style was so beautifully recreated for some game soundtracks like the Ultimate Ninja series and especially in the Storm line of games!
All of this blends together and gives what tends to make Naruto such a special series for many, however… It is also a very long series if you consider Shippuden and the original series as one and the same, that’s 720 episodes total! Now I mentioned filler earlier, and specifically for the 220 episode series… It’s pretty crazy how much is filler outright and how much stuff has actually been infused with filler itself. If you consider all the episodes from the original 220 series, and all of the episodes that had purely nothing to do with the actual story in the manga, it’s 88 episodes.
So 132 is more what you would wanna watch, yet… there are episodes where they mixed Canon story aspects, with filler, in a sense to make it all seem seamless and easy to lead into, though this really fucks over the latter part of the original series, the last 4 seasons on its Netflix listing, or after episode 135 to be exact. The last 4 are all completely fabricated, and did so in the worst way possible, having only 3 episodes out of the 85 last episodes of these 4 seasons being mixed with filler and the last Canon bits of the original series. It’s so awkward in its execution too, starting with a story making it seem like a team of Naruto, Sakura, and Jiraiya was all gonna go off to try and find (SPOILER: Sasuke after he left the village).
For those that know the Naruto story, you would recall that big fight between the two friends as the big climax to the original series story. Naruto fails to bring him back to the village, from Sasuke wanting to seek out Orochimaru for power, and it ends in a big fight where Naruto and Sasuke are pushed to their limits, with Sasuke barely coming out on top, free to walk away as he wanted to towards Orochimaru. After Naruto is brought back to the village and recovers, Jiraiya takes him to train for the big time jump to the Shippuden series and Era. In the anime though… They stretch it out, initially not as bad, but they still stretched it out. They first start with this story about Jiraiya both leading and assisting Naruto and Sakura in going towards the hidden sound village to bring Sasuke back, but for those that know Shippuden, they know that no progress of any sort actually happens canonically! The filler ark has only a single excuse, to let Naruto know how long he has to save Sasuke, giving a few years for convenience’s sake, but that’s the only justification it has, and its a shitty justification.
This first filler ark may do this to justify its existence, but it also artificially inflates the excitement on the IDEA of Naruto going straight towards the hidden sound village to bring him back right off the bat. It’s bad for the attempt at trying to promise progression that the anime couldn’t actually promise in the first place like the showrunners knew that Sasuke leaving was the end of the series, and they had no idea how to continue it and in a compelling way for much longer… But then… Then Jiraiya disappears for the majority of the 6th season, and the entirety of season 7 and 8, only to show up at the last episode of the series, like “Oh! We gotta train you!”, like the series realized that the manga author wasn’t gonna make any more content for the original Era, after 85 meaningless extra episodes. Now you could say “Well, they can’t be that bad.”, but naw, naw mother fucker, you have NO idea…
During this time, they falsified as many arks as they possibly could, even desperately tieing it into trying to use X thing to find Sasuke, only for it to have been entirely pointless. It begins to really point out how badly the showrunners didn’t know what to do without Sasuke in the picture, and it is so PAINFULLY obvious when they can’t even leave the focus from him and the ability to find him. For example, there’s one short ark sometime after all the Canon stuff is all adapted, about Naruto, Kiba, Hinata, and Shino all going off in search of a specific beetle that could be trained to track down a specific scent. So they used it as a reason to try and act like they’re still progressing towards Sasuke, only for the end of the ark to play out with the beetle getting a whiff of a fart instead, making the entire ark meaningless… If I was supposed to laugh, I’m not laughing, not in the slightest! They even fake you out during one ark, trying to play it off like Sasuke was actually there with Orochimaru even, literally during an ark that for once DIDN’T have anything to do with him, making it seem like it could be some legit built-up moment since a scene totally has Yuri Lowenthal reprising his role, even if the character was just standing in the darkness.
The entire falsified ark was focused on Orochimaru instead, not a horrible focus either if it is handled well, it focused around some sort of island lab that was connected to one of his former pupils from the Leaf Village: Anko Mitarashi. This is only built up, only for the moment to have built up these characters POSSIBLY meeting up again after one of the most iconic rival face-offs in anime of all time, and they just add in the ark specific characters, saying that especially Orochimaru hadn’t been there in years… It’s like the showrunners planned to actually do that until the manga author stepped in and told them to stop, and that’s them going back REAL FAST. It’s just jarring, while the ark had few moments with some of the extra characters that were okay at least, it still becomes ultimately pointless, on top of being the most egregious the story ever got with its filler. The only good the ark does is try to give what is still ultimately not Canon development to the character of Anko, while she is an interesting character on the front of being Orochimaru’s pupil before he defected from the village, you still end up remembering not a lick of it was actually Canon, it just ends up being a waste of time, on top of barely progressing the character past her just confirming she wasn’t as evil as her former sensei. So combining the clear lack of ideas without Sasuke in the picture, and the shallow character exploring of potentially interesting characters, it just ends up making the anime feel VERY tired! Like it should have ended when the series time skip was supposed to happen, and it should have!
It’s awkward, I initially started this series actually having no issues watching the whole thing with not a single bit of the filler skipped, hell I think episode 101 is one of the funniest and one of the BEST episodes: “Gotta see, gotta know! Kakashi Sensei’s true face!”, and it’s a filler episode just playing on how Kakashi has a mask on his face all the time, and it’s just the sheer curiosity that even gets the brooding Sasuke unable to resist TRYING to see. There were actually some episodes in the filler pool, that are super hilarious, and even harmless like this, that’s what we should be having for filler, not psyching us out just so we still think there’s gonna be some development before the series ends! Another decent episode is around Naruto finishing Jiraiya’s erotica book that he was preoccupied with, handing it off to this Ninja mailman that they then have to try and chase down and stop from delivering the manuscript in place of a peace treaty! This isn’t so bad with filler, making it simple and effective, but as the filler pool grew more, the ideas got way more… Silly and even downright mind-numbing. The filler went from mediocre, straight down to horrible, for what few alright character moments some of these filler episodes can give, it’s just not worth it!
Going from laughing hard at these pointless yet harmless episodes, to rolling my eyes at the ridiculousness and just wondering when the fuck it would end, even cackling Shino couldn’t save their poor ideas in what was a very… Strange episode, all about not laughing at a funeral, originally Shino was hired for attending the funeral and winning some odd bet, but then laughing medicine was slipped into his tea and he’s just… A fucking madman until the end of it… WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THAT EPISODE!? It literally was just executed so weirdly too, the only gold was at the end of the episode where Shino threatened Naruto to never speak a word about any of that to anyone. Other than that though? I got nothing out of it that left me feeling like I would wanna revisit it in the same way I would episode 101. It just further reinstates the feeling of fatigue after all the canon content was adapted. When you count all the mixed Canon and filler episodes, regardless of what Canon aspects are there, and counting it with the full filler arks, it’s 132 episodes. That is the same amount you would need to watch, if you still wanted the Canon aspects from these filler episodes, hell there’s only 74 fully Canon episodes in the whole series!! 74!!!!
When you consider the fact that only 74 episodes of this 220 episode series are actually keeping on track with the story it’s adapting, it’s really fucking ridiculous, mind-boggling even. When you combine the sheer amount of filler with the fact that most of it just isn’t even very good with its execution, it just makes this series a total chore to watch, and I’m already not even a big fan with long-running anime! I’d rather watch anime that keeps on track with its story to keep me engaged consistently, but it’s only due to the overall story of Naruto being so strong, that it’s the only long-running anime I truly enjoy fully! Can’t say the same about Dragon Ball, Bleach, One Piece, Fairy Tail, let alone something as repetitive as the Pokémon anime, but let that speak volumes to what a good anime this is despite the long nature of it.
I normally would prefer much more condensed anime that has a clearer idea of where it would take the story, and not stretching it out. Anime like Cowboy Bebop, FullMetal Alchemist, and even the anime adaptation of a long JRPG like Persona 4 ends up just being much better paced with its story. Especially in the case of FullMetal Alchemist, it may have had an initially non-canon adaptation due to the original story being nowhere near finished in its manga serialization at the time, but it still planned out and had a general idea of where its story was going to go over the course of a 51 episode series, and even 64 episodes in the eventual completely canon adaptation with Brotherhood. Do I think Naruto should have done this? No, however it being under Shonen Jump with other majorly popularized anime franchises being so long, to begin with, it’s just how these anime run really. In the end, it’s in Shonen Jump’s interest that this series would have always been dragged out nice and long since Dragon Ball is the more arguably popular franchise that they also own spanning across multiple series, and One Piece is the longest anime at all right now. So you really shouldn’t expect any less…
Now the only way to try and save time on all of that filler bullshit, especially if you also want to avoid any flashbacks and repeated moments, and especially to avoid the long haul that comes with shonen anime, it is with a fan project called Naruto Kai. It removes all filler, openings, endings, flashbacks, and everything else, with dual audio so dub fans can also try this way out. It’s no doubt going to be the best way, especially if you wanted to simply re-watch the series without any filler you wanna sit through past episode 101(you know it’s true if you’re a fan). The only major issues boil down to firstly the available versions, and then how poor the quality is. It’s really shocking how bad some of the listings of Kai is, mostly it is due to many having cuts with watermarks from the various TV stations the series had aired on in the past, this isn’t a cut of the series readily available anyways, no place officially streams this cut, and that’s because it’s only a fan project.
So if you were having to default to watching on Netflix, then refer to my sheet laying out all Canon and filler episodes, and you can choose however you’d like to approach the series. I mean, I’d LIKE for there to be an official shortened cut of the original series, I get the idea behind naming it Kai like Dragon Ball Z Kai since it was known for being a radically shortened version of the original series, but this isn’t official, nor will it probably ever become official sadly. I wanted to share this, however, so if anyone still had an interest, but just could not stand the large size of the series, this could be another option for you to consider! It condenses the series by just having an episode be all the story content from that volume of the manga, so there are only as many episodes, as there are volumes of the manga itself! This, however, will only lead to the episodes having varying time lengths, so you may still sit down for almost over an hour if it’s really packed one episode at a time.
In the end, while the ending of the original series gets sour with the abundance of poorly made filler, this was still an important revisit for me to have done, back when Toonami was on Cartoon Network, I caught this series and got hooked fast since it was unlike anything I had seen before, it captivated me with the sense of adventure it had while it still connected with me in a deeper way, even now all these years ago it has connected with me. Naruto is a series that deserves all the praise it has and is much more than just that anime you see people doing that run for, let alone the Area 51 “raid”. However, this is only the beginning of the series and its story, this is only the beginning of all the possible content I can cover on this series, period! There’s a huge amount of Naruto games on a bunch of different consoles, a lot having their own ideas, a specific genre or some are developed by a developer outside Japan and exclusive for what was a popular console outside Japanese markets! With all these games, I’ll be back to cover them. Now how soon could I cover Shippuden? Once it’s on Netflix so I have no ads to worry about, fuck using Hulu. In the end, what else can I say other than, if anime interests you, if especially Japanese culture interests you as well, and you either don’t mind the possibly bad quality of the Kai cut or how much filler you have to go through, or avoid, then you should try out Naruto! Enjoy the complex yet well-made fights, the powers that the fights used to elevate the excitement of them, and enjoy the human drama and stories that the series is driven by, it won’t disappoint as long as you avoid most the filler!
7/10 with the filler*
I want to encourage anyone who has any personal thoughts or feelings about Naruto to share them in the comments, also share your personal favorite game from the franchise and what makes it your favorite in the franchise!