There are only a handful of Anime that can claim huge success in both profit and popularity on both sides of the Pacific. Naruto is one of two Anime–the other being Dragonball Z–that has captivated two generations of fans though for slightly different reasons. In Dragonball Z’s case it was because so much emphasis was placed on marketing the Anime first and marketing everything else second. I’ll give DBZ it’s due in a separate blog post though. In the case of Naruto, it’s because of how they handed the Anime/Manga split.
Contrary to a popular belief I’ve seen floating around the internet, the decision to split the Anime brand in two as Naruto and Naruto Shippuden had nothing to do with the fact Naruto Shippuden was being aired on Disney XD (and now Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim Saturday nights). At the time, the Manga had long since closed the door on Naruto as a preteen and introduced him as an older, (slightly) more focused teenage ninja. The spine for the Manga changes from White to Black to show the transition from Young Naruto to Teen Naruto.
Anyway, the series is still in progress and shows no signs of slowing down. For those who never watched Naruto and/or read the Manga or haven’t been keeping track in a while: Get a Crunchyroll account and get caught up. New Members can sign up for Premium all access for free for two weeks. Another reason to get Crunchyroll specifically is new episodes are made available the same day they air in Japan. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Anywho, yeah. Things have certainly become interesting in the series. The Manga and Amime are both written simulataneously and unlike Bleach there’s no filler Arcs in the Naruto Anime. There’s been some flashback episodes airing throughout Shippuden but the way it’s done it doesn’t feel like filler and instead feels like it adds more depth to the existing storyline, characters or new characters introduced.
One such flashback double episode I ended up renewing my Crunchyroll Premium status for last month was The Birth of Naruto:
It’s also chronicled in Volume 53 of the Manga, which I got three weeks ago. The double episode that reveals Kushina Uzumaki’s early life and the tragedy that befell her and her husband 4th Hokage Minato Namikaze on the day Naruto was born made his parents instant fan favorites. In hindsight, references to Minato and Kushina have been in plain sight from the beginning. The most obvious one is Naruto’s clothes: Naruto’s clothes are orange. His mother’s Red hair and aggressive temperment were what she was most known for while his father’s hair is yellow and was known for his speed.
Since the Manga and TV series are both still in syndication the brand will keep going strong. When it finally does ends, it will join Dragonball Z as one of the most iconic Anime and Manga of all time. Although the main focus is Naruto there is a stable of supporting cast that have been allowed to shine and build huge fanbases all over the world: Sausuke Uchiha, Sakura Haruno, Kakashi Hatake, Sai, Gaara, Yamato and so on.
To be transparent, I HATED the fandom until I saw Episodes 247 and 248 of Naruto Shuppuden and read Volume 53. I thought the series was ok at the most but honestly didn’t get the rabid fan boy/girl -ism I saw that came with the most…enthusiastic fans of the series. I’ve come to appreciate the fans a bit more but don’t go expecting me to cosplay as a favorite character at Anime Boston!
Watching the series evolve over the last decade certainly has been fun. Unlike DBZ you’re not being smothered with a new game every two years and unlike Bleach the fillers are few and far inbetween. Shippers are chomping at the bit to see what’s in store for Naruto, Sausuke and Sakura in particular. They’re usually shipped as Sakura with Naruto or Sausuke though Sakura/Sausuke has been the most popular from the very beginning.