Naruto (referring to both Naruto and Naruto Shippuden) is a staple among anime fans new and old, alike. It ran from 2002-2017 across both iterations, meaning there was 15 years worth of episodes and stories that people were able to follow! That’s quite a long time and a large amount of content for fans to enjoy. Whether people were getting into the anime after starting the manga in the late ‘90s or people began watching long after the series began airing, there’s always been something about Naruto that really pulled people in.
As a long-time fan of Naruto, I’ve recently found myself returning to the earlier episodes of the anime. I rewatched about the first half of it last year, and just recently dug into the latter half. Prior to this, I had watched certain episodes when the mood struck me, but hadn’t done a full run-through since it stopped airing. I have to admit that there’s something wonderful about coming back to a series that you watched over the course of several years, especially when the characters changed so much throughout the show. There’s a familiarity to Naruto and its characters that makes me especially happy, making my rewatch just a little extra fun.
Naruto is inarguably a behemoth of an anime. With 720 episodes total (plus more than a dozen movies), it’s quite an undertaking to watch for the first time or just to rewatch! But that length also lends itself to some fantastic binge-watching after work or late on a Saturday night.
But the length alone isn’t why Naruto is an anime that I return to time and again. The story has always been interesting, even though it did feel like it was getting a little over-elaborate for its own good at points.The story, which follows Naruto on his journey through his teenage years, gives the viewer plenty of plot points to take in, such as finding out about the Nine-Tailed Fox inside Naruto, himself, to discovering more about why Itachi killed his family.
These scenarios work so well because there’s often a sense of intrigue, though viewers also get answers (though they may take a hundred or so episodes to get there, sometimes!).
Later in the series, things do get a bit over-elaborate , with the introduction of literal gods, though these over-the-top elements do wind up working within the plot’s greater context, in a sense. The world itself, though, with the different nations, ninja clans, and techniques available to them are a draw all their own. These individual elements flesh out the universe, and offer so much for fans to dig into, whether they enjoy learning more about each character’s combat techniques, or they simply want to know more about how the myriad ninja clan fit into each village.
This is especially prevalent within the characters, from the titular Naruto to side characters like Temari, all of whom can really pull people into the anime as a whole. There’s a staggeringly large cast, which include Naruto’s classmates, enemies, and fellow allies from other villages. Each of their personalities come together to either gel in friendship, or clash in the heat of battle. From Naruto and Sakura’s arguing early on that grows into a warm friendship, to Shikamaru’s overall laid-back attitude, there’s a character in which just about anyone can find a favorite.
In more recent months, I have to admit that I’ve come to really appreciate the Naruto anime’s pervasive, feel-good nature. Whether Naruto’s talking about how important his friends are, or Gaara’s discussing how meeting Naruto helped him change as a person, the positivity that pervades the anime is something that stands out. Some of the lines can be a touch cheesy in the dubbed and subtitled versions alike. Corny remarks can be found throughout the series, with an assortment of comments like“I’m going to be the next Hokage,” or “I’ll never give up.” There’s also an element of comedy that partially comes from statements like these being repeated on the regular, but this certainly isn’t a bad thing!
Some lines really lean into the idea of friendship, and going against a bad hand that’s been dealt. These are two big recurring themes throughout Naruto, and it’s honestly been so nice getting to hear these lines all over again at a different point in life. There’s something about hearing characters go on about the people that are important to them, whether by blood-relation or found family, that just imparts a nice, warm feeling. Lines like “If you don’t like the hand that fate’s dealt you, fight for a new one” and “…he knew pain like I did and then he taught me that you can change your path” really showcase the wide reach that Naruto has. It doesn’t just deliver on funny one-liners, but there are some really stand out lines that really hit those emotional notes!
That said, there are still plenty of darker elements happening throughout like death, vendettas, and even world-domination. And while they’re matters of urgency, the very prevalent foundational themes of friendship, family, and pushing forward in life remain at the forefront of the story. It’s this real growth, this ability to watch the scrappy cast of characters evolve in life along with the viewers, that’s managed to make a lasting impact on fans.
I feel like positivity has always run in the themes within Naruto, but during this rewatch it’s more apparent than ever. It, among plenty of other anime, stands as an anime that’s worth watching and rewatching time and again. It inspires joy and happiness, which is just really pleasant to take in while you’re watching something!