Anime has really taken over the world in the last few years. Even Elon Musk likes it. When talking about anime, there is one show that always gets mentioned: ‘Naruto’, one of the most popular anime of this generation. The manga has around 700 chapters to it while the anime has around 400+ episodes. Today we are gonna focus on ‘Naruto’ and discuss its main arcs, the plot, and also talk about what worked and what didn’t. We will see how the series ended and whether it was justified or not. As always if you have not watched the anime or read the manga please do so since there are lots of spoilers ahead. Also, I will be sticking mainly to the anime.
There are hundreds of interesting characters in ‘Naruto’. They make the story more engaging while shaping the characteristics of the main characters. But when we talk about the main characters of the series I think there are only three Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura though Sakura is more often treated as a side character in ‘Naruto’. She gets a more defined role later in ‘Naruto: Shippuden’. Though I have read at many places that Kakashi was one of the main characters I felt that he was more in a supporting role. The three characters that I have mentioned here are the main characterization structure that is used by the creators. The other characters of the series have a certain tuned version of this traits only. Anyway, let’s discuss the main characters (In relation to ‘Naruto’).
Naruto Uzumaki is the protagonist and the titular character of the series. The main plot of the series follows him. Naruto is a colorful character. He is brimming with energy. He is quite mischievous and is often seen playing harmless pranks on the villagers. Naruto determines to become the best ninja and wants to become the Hokage of the Leaf Village. As we later see in the series his other true goal is to save Sasuke from choosing the dark path after being consumed by hatred and anger. Naruto is the son of the Fourth Hokage Minato. Minato had sealed the spirit of the Nine-Tailed Fox demon in Naruto to save the entire village from destruction but despite his wish that Naruto is seen as a hero, he is treated as a danger or taboo. Parents bar their kids from talking to or playing with him. This makes Naruto feel lonely but he copes with it and is determined to become better so that the villagers like him.
Naruto is quite an emotional kid. He gets angry when someone hurts people close to him. Having the tailed beast inside him he can quickly lose control of himself when he is angry. There are multiple instances in which he has lost control and caused havoc. Naruto loves Sakura.
We see Sasuke Uchiha as a lonely boy similar to Naruto. He is one of the two survivors of the Uchiha clan which was murdered by his brother Itachi Uchiha, the other survivor of the clan. Sasuke hates his brother and wants to take revenge. Unlike Naruto, Sasuke is extremely talented and quite popular in school. But still, Sasuke likes to be lonely. He has only one goal and whatever he does is to achieve this goal. Sasuke has electric chakra and develops his ultimate move, Chidori which he learns from their Team 7 mentor Kakashi Hatake. Being an Uchiha he has the Sharingan which is a really powerful visual prowess. Over the course of the series, we see Sasuke developing his Sharingan. Sasuke is constantly angered by Naruto’s progress and feels inferior which makes him hate Naruto too and consider him his rival. To receive better training and become much stronger Sasuke sides with Orochimaru.
Sakura Haruno is the only female member of Team 7. She has a huge crush on Sasuke which sometimes dictates her actions. She hates Naruto and keeps berating him. Sakura is shown to be physically weak at first but she is the smartest girl in the academy. We are also shown that Sakura has a great chakra control. She displays abilities of medical ninja too. Sakura’s rival in love is Inoue who she hates. But after the Chunin exams, they became good friends but were still rivals. Sakura is shown to be a bit immature without any real aim other than Sasuke. During the Chunin exams, Sakura is unable to save Naruto and Sasuke and decides that she will need to train harder to become really strong. We see her training underside Tsunade to become a Kunoichi. She still loves Sasuke even though he had defected to Orochimaru and hopes to bring him back someday.
Other Important Characters
Let’s try to go briefly over some of the other characters in the series who were quite instrumental and recurring over the series. I am sorry if I did not cover your favorite characters.
Kakashi Hatake is a Jonin from the leaf village. He is the mentor of Team 7 which consists of Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura. Kakashi wears a mask which covers one of his eyes. This eye of his is a Sharingan given to Kakashi by his friend and teammate Obito. Kakashi is a talented ninja and is known as Kakashi the cop ninja because of his ability to copy the moves of other ninjas. We see his abilities in action during his fight with Zabuza.
Rock Lee is a really important character in the series. I consider him one of the most important supporting characters not just because he is a fish out of the water, having no ninjutsu abilities, but also because his determination to overcome this inability of his brings about change in others. Rock after training with Guy Sensei who is quite similar to him is able to master the gates of pain. Also, Rock gives us some great action sequences like the Drunken Fistfight.
Shikamaru Nara is another important character in the ‘Naruto’ series. He is one of the first friends of Naruto along with Choji. Shikamaru is a genius and has an IQ over 200. He is lazy and tries to take the path which is of least resistance. He can even forfeit a battle if he thinks that it is too much work. Due to his laziness, Shikamaru receives poor grades because he thinks lifting the pencil is way too much work for him. But when a serious situation arrives he is quick to react and formulate a strategy. He has special abilities which enable him to manipulate his shadow. Shikamaru is the first genin in Naruto’s generation to become a Chunin.
Hinata Hyuuga is the eldest daughter of the main family of the Hyuuga clan. At first, her father expects a lot from her and trains her but later he is disappointed in her and thinks that she is a lost cause. Her cousin Neji tries to encourage Hinata but after his father’s death he has a strong hatred for the main family and deems Hinata to be weak and privileged. Hinata loves Naruto and unlike Sakura, her love makes her move forward and become better. She likes Naruto’s determination and his good nature. Hinata has inherited the Byakugan which is a visual prowess which gives her an almost 360-degree vision. She can also see the chakra flow of other people. She is a member of Team 8.
The Plot and The Ending
The main plot of Naruto is divided into five main arcs: The Land of Waves arc, Chunin exams arc, Konoha crush arc, Search for Tsunade arc, and Sasuke Retrieval arc. Other than this there are many filler arcs which contain hundreds of filler episodes. The huge amount of fillers meant that the creator was given enough time to continue the main story. Though at times, the story feels repetitive and the fillers are distracting it is fun anyways. Let’s go over the arcs one by one seeing the ups and downs.
The Land of Waves Arc:
This was the first arc of the Naruto series. It introduced to us the characters, their motivations and established the Shinobi world to us. I liked this arc a lot because it instantly got me hooked to Naruto. I kept on watching till ‘Naruto: Shippuden’ ended. This arc was instrumental in letting the viewers or readers know what to expect from the series. It established the coming of age theme too. As the series progressed we see that the characters gain experience to learn new things and try to be a better version of themselves other than Sasuke of course who took the worst path.
The arc also has a prologue which tells the story of the monster, nine-tailed fox. Who over a decade ago appeared in the leaf village and caused havoc. The then Hokage fought the fox and saved the villagers. Then we get to meet Naruto who is a mischievous boy. People don’t like him as they are afraid of the nine-tailed demon spirit locked within him.
We are introduced to other characters like Sakura and Sasuke who become the main characters alongside Naruto. We also get to understand how ninjas lead their life and how they are trained. The arc shows the school system and the ninja ranks. Genin is the lowest rank, semi-pro is Chunin and professionals are Jonin. Kakashi Hatake is assigned to test Sasuke, Naruto, and Sakura. At first, they fail because they try to act individually but when they say that they are a team and if any one of them fails they will all fail Kakashi changes his attitude completely and passes them. Thus, they become genin.
Another important part of the arc is Team 7 vs Zabuza and Haku. The fight scenes are really good and we get to understand the personality of the characters in depth. We also get the taste of Naruto’s nine-tails power. This arc introduces to us the main and the supporting characters. Over the course of some 20 episodes, we see the characters evolve and become more determined. The arc doesn’t really have many drawbacks, other than a few logical ones here and there which doesn’t really affect the story, and does a really good job at getting the viewers hooked.
The Chunin Exams Arc:
This was the second main arc in ‘Naruto’. It establishes more characters and we get a better picture of the shinobi world. The introduction of other villages of the ninja world was one of the staple features of this arc. Ninja world promotes their genins to Chunins based on the results of the Chunin exams. The exams test the ninja’s academic skill’s as well as their combat abilities both as a team and as individuals. The exam is kind of stereotypical to such anime but is still fun.
We get to see the special abilities that the other villages posses. For instance, we get to see the powers of the shinobi from the sand village or the shinobi from the sound village. The concept of other tailed beasts is shown here. Gaara a shinobi from the sand village has the one-tailed beast residing within him. We get to see an intense fight between Gaara and Naruto. Sasuke’s Sharingan abilities become better during this arc and we are introduced to Orochimaru. The introduction of Orochimaru served to further the plot as he leaves a curse mark on Sasuke which later become an important plot point of the series as Sasuke uses the dark powers of the cursed mark to fight Naruto.
The arc is really good. This was from my point of view the most interesting and fun arc of the series. As Orochimaru infiltrates the exams the stakes become high as the characters are put through near death situations. The motivations, determinations, and philosophy behind the characters become much more clear in this arc. The arc introduces a lot of characters simultaneously without unnecessarily overshadowing them. I liked the one on one fights a lot as they revealed each of the main as well as supporting characters fighting styles and abilities.
Though there weren’t much problem in this arc we get a glimpse of the problems that will occur in the subsequent arcs. Since a multitude of characters were introduced in this arc many of who were interesting it was obvious that the series will cast them aside as the story progresses. Also, we start to predict the character actions. We become thorough with what ticks Naruto and what will get him to do the job. Such was the case with the other characters too. Though this might be good at times if you are planning on creating a long series with hundreds of episodes worth of content then this might become redundant and repetitive.
The Konoha Crush Arc:
Konoha Crush Arc was awesome too. One of the main reasons for this was to introduce the viewers what a full-blown ninja could do. Up until then, we were only given the taste of a real Jonin in the form of Kakashi who kicked ass during The Land of Waves arc. Here we get to see what a ninja is capable of and why a Hokage is the most respected and the most badass ninja in a village. Even well after his prime Sarutobi kicked ass like it was nothing. His fighting style was really awesome and when he summoned the monkey king I was amazed. The introduction of sannin was great too. The show shows us what a ninja of legendary stature can do and how that legendary ninja’s master counteracts his attacks. The reanimation jutsu used by Orochimaru told the viewers that when it comes to ninja techniques viewer’s might be surprised multiple times.
The most emotional and best moment of the arc was Sarutobi’s death. The summoning of a demon that seals the soul of the death gave me goosebumps when I first saw it on the screen. I can imagine how Orochimaru felt when his soul was being removed. The fight between the two Hokage and Sarutobi was really nice too. The death of Sarutobi was really emotional. His life and his ideals were really inspirational. Sarutobi died with a smile entrusting his principles to the coming generation.
On the other front of the battlefield, we see the fight between Gaara and Naruto. The fight is good. At first, Naruto thinks that Gaara is strange and terrifying but as he gets to learn about him he sympathizes with him willing to save him. Naruto defeats Gaara and sparks a change in him and the latter apologizes to his comrades Temari and Kankuro.
This arc was quite important to show the viewers the capability of ninjas. It isn’t that only Kakashi is an exceptional ninja rather he is only one of the many exceptional ninjas who could equally kick asses. We see the power of Naruto’s emotions and determination. He has the ability to spark a change in others as well.
There are certain negatives in this arc. First of all, why were people surprised when Gaara displayed mysterious abilities. Didn’t they know that he was the vessel of a tailed beast? I mean, even many of the sand villagers were taken aback. It’s like as if the creators only had the Nine-tailed fox in mind. Though I liked the death of Sarutobi it was quickly undone as Orochimaru escaped. I know that he was supposed to be a recurring antagonist of the series so he had to be alive but then they should have thought of a different ending. This arc is then followed by the Tsunade recovery arc.
The Search of Tsunade Arc:
I will try to keep this section brief. After the death of the Third Hokage, Sarutobi, there was a problem in appointing a new Hokage. Most elders suggested Tsunade one of the legendary sannin. Jiraiya, another one of the legendary sannin, takes the job of finding Tsunade. This arc shows us Naruto’s training with Jiraiya. We are also treated to certain flashbacks where we get to know more about Jiraiya and the sannin. Jiraiya decides to a teach naruto a Jutsu, created by the Fourth Hokage]. Meanwhile, even Orochimaru is searching for Tsunade as he wants his hand to be healed so that he can start using Jutsu’s again. Well, one can guess what happens next. The sannin are reunited and we see a badass fight. We are also introduced to Kabuto who uses his tactical ability to even go head to head with the legendary ninjas. The good guys take control of the fight, Orochimaru flees, and Tsunade agrees to return to Konoha to become the Hokage.
The sannin resembled the current Team 7. Naruto was like Jiraiya, Sakura was like Tsunade and Sasuke was on the verge of becoming Orochimaru. The arc was good at bringing these legendary ninjas in front of the viewers. We also get to see Naruto master Rasengan, a jutsu which would become the base of his advanced attacks. I liked the fight between the sannin and the introduction of Kabuto. Tsunade’s internal conflicts were some other highlights of the arc.
What I didn’t like is how easily Kabuto was defeated later. I mean he was all hyped up about being analytical but was later defeated like an idiot. Jiraiya’s perverse attitude though at times was funny felt like a waste of time. Also, all that time spent in giving us the vibe that Kabuto might defect from Orochimaru was wasted as he literally jumped in front of Orochimaru to save him. Again Naruto’s character work seemed repetitive and at times annoying. Also, wasn’t there any other legendary ninja who could become Hokage?
The Retrieval of Sasuke Arc:
The Recovery of Sasuke was the last arc of Naruto. After this, there were many filler episodes showing Naruto going on various missions and training harder. This arc shows us how Sasuke is slowly consumed by revenge and unlike Naruto who wants to train harder to be able to protect others, Sasuke wants to become powerful to kill his brother Itachi. Though in the above arcs we still see Sasuke in control of his himself, here we see Sasuke letting himself controlled by his feeling of revenge and anger. Sasuke decides to leave the village in order to pursue Orochimaru to become stronger. The other genins of the village decide to bring back Sasuke before he contacts Orochimaru. The group of genin is led by Shikamaru who had recently become a Chunin. The fight scenes that happen during the rescue mission are really good especially the fight between Lee and Kimimaro. The arc also depicts one of the very first serious fights between Naruto and Sasuke. Sasuke ends up winning but lets Naruto live.
This arc concludes the main plot points for ‘Naruto’ which would be later picked up in ‘Naruto: Shippuden’. We get to see how other young ninjas who fought against each other work with each other to fight Orochimaru’s henchmen and recover Sasuke. lee’s drunken fist was one of the highlights of the arc. We also get to see Gaara coming to Lee’s rescue. this shows how much he has evolved as a person. This last arc also shows us a glimpse of humanity in Sasuke who even after becoming a monster doesn’t kill his friend rather brings him to safety before leaving.
One of the main drawbacks of this arc and many other arcs were making Sakura useless. I guess they were just trying to bring about a distinction in her character between this series and the sequel. Maybe they were trying to show how her love for Sasuke stopped her from getting good but at last, she becomes determined and decides to train under Tsunade. But still, at times Sakura’s character is really annoying. Another problem is that Naruto and his friends shouldn’t have been sent to bring Sasuke back as this was really dangerous. At least one supervising adult should have been present. Not all Jonins were out of business. I know Kakashi joined them as soon as possible but some other adult ninja should have been a chaperone. At first, Naruto’s friendship with Sasuke was great. His determination to save his friend was kinda relatable too but in this arc, the determination turns to obsession. It’s almost like he is in love with Sasuke. Don’t get me wrong he can love whoever he wants but that was not the point of the story.
After the Recovery of Sasuke Arc, there are a bunch of filler episodes which you can watch if you want to see character building and other backstories. If you want the main plot then you can skip to ‘Naruto: Shippuden’. ‘Naruto’ is really fun to watch. I enjoyed watching it a lot. For me, even some of the filler episodes were fun though at times it was distracting to go through filler material which spanned over many episodes. ‘Naruto’ did a great job at creating a coming of age theme which is really relatable. Though the ending of the last arc could have been better but still served the purpose of forwarding the plot. I would have loved to see Sasuke work his hatred and anger along with his friends but his defecting to the dark side was a given and made me watch the series till the end.
I felt really nostalgic while I was drafting this article and I went through a lot of episodes of Naruto. It was fun and I felt I connected with my childhood. Watching Rock Lee fight Gaara was really fun. When he dropped those weights I was like “Man! That’s so freaking awesome”. Despite certain criticism that I have brought forth in this discussion I just wanna say that ‘Naruto’ was one of my favorite anime and if you haven’t watched it yet, please do so, you won’t regret it.