As we all know, the manga concluded in 2014, with the gaiden and a couple of one-shots being released this year. The movie “The Last” was a 2014 Japanese theatrical release in between and there is at least one more movie featuring Naruto/Hinata’s and Sasuke/Sakura’s brats that will be released this year. I still would like to offer my thoughts on the story proper and maybe these other things…as I get to see them all.
Before I jump into revisiting my thoughts on the Naruto manga though, I would first like to start with a few positive posts. First of all, I will start with how I got into the story and what kept me interested in it.
What Drew Me In
To be perfectly honest, I really loved this story when I finally gave it a chance. I had to be pushed toward it, funnily enough, by someone who eventually stopped caring for it not even half-way through. The episode from the anime that I was pushed to watch was the third one when it was aired on Cartoon Network. Yes, this was the episode that had the moment where Sasuke and Naruto accidentally kissed. Kishimoto would later talk about that as an attempt at unexpected humor. Objectively, I think it was successful. I thought it was daring, but there was an air of quirkiness about the story I liked. In any event, I was hooked and I wanted to see when more episodes would air.
It was wonderful for me when the marathon aired to commemorate the 100th episode airing on CN sometime in 2007. I was able to watch a bulk of the episodes and my love for the series grew. The first two arcs of the series were the best imo, although I liked the Search for Tsunade arc for some reason. I watched through the Rescue Sasuke Arc and even watched some of the filler until I realized it was filler — and Cartoon Network stopped airing the “Naruto” anime anyway. I would eventually look for the manga.
Now, the main thing that drew me in was the main character. (You know, when I look at the stories I follow, the main character has to intrigue me on some level, although I may eventually gravitate towards others in the cast.) Naruto was originally written as an underdog. I kinda like underdogs. That and the very nature of the world Naruto grew up in gave him a type of grittiness that I came to love. I wanted to see this boy work toward becoming a Hokage and gain respect during the process.
The rivalry with Sasuke was also a draw. Again, the underdog aspect and grittiness was a factor here. Sasuke was more polished and skilled than Naruto from the onset, so it was interesting to see Naruto grow stronger and get better in order to match Sasuke and perhaps beat him in a fight. Naruto pushed Sasuke, as well, so there was an unspoken respect between the two.
I also liked most characters I would “meet” at first. I liked Hinata, most of the other “rookies,” the Sannin (except Orochimaru at first), and I liked most of the sensei. I quickly warmed up to Haku when his gentle nature was quickly apparent.
That was one of Kishimoto’s greatest talents: introducing characters. The mangaka often made them sympathetic and relatable. And if the characters weren’t likable at first, he still gave them compelling backstories, which was another talent.
Other characters who interested me were the past Hokage. I *ahem* even adopted a user name to honor one/two of them because there was an air of mystery and epicness surrounding the brothers Hashirama and Tobirama (especially the former). Minato seemed like a serious individual and his reputation preceded him.
Even more was how mysterious the Narutoverse seemed. There were so many questions raised with each arc about how things worked and why they did and who we would meet, especially with the specter of Akatsuki near the end of Part 1.
Speaking of Akatsuki, I became more interested in Sasuke when it became clear what kind of relationship he had with his brother, Itachi. I wanted to see how that storyline would be resolved.
What Kept Me Interested
Kishimoto had all these things going for him to end Part 1and that is what raised my expectations for Part 2. Unfortunately, I would be disappointed in some of the developments. Still, I decided to delve into the manga anyway to catch up and read the chapters that were current. That’s when I came across avenues that would help me retain my interest in the manga.
People complain about complainers but the mere presence of online forums helps to retain and increase interest in the stories they are built around. Such was the case with Naruto. From the analysis found in essays, to the instance fan (over)reactions, to the witty spoof threads, fans could be sufficiently entertained beyond the consumption of each chapter.
A side effect was being prompted to reread various pages/chapters. Some developments that looked questionable at the time they were first released often looked better when chapters were read in bulk.
One Thing I Wanted to See Regardless
By the end of the story, though, I would be thoroughly disappointed with the direction it headed in. Still, there was one thing I wanted to see: Naruto donning that Hokage cap and cloak. That was the main reason I followed the story. Regardless of how I felt, that one thing was the most important for some reason.
Was I happy that Naruto finally did become Hokage? Of course I was. I would have felt totally cheated otherwise. But then, I wanted the journey to be a fitting lead-up and there is still a lot to be said about the journey itself…