*Throwback Thursdays exist to spotlight older books worth reading (or not, depending). The books featured will always be at least a year old, if not more. If you have suggestions for a Throwback Thursday review, please feel free to comment with it below, or in the throwback Thursday thread on my main page.
Author: Masashi Kishimoto
Release date: August 6th 2003
It only seems appropriate to read and review Naruto, considering the release of Boruto Vol. 1. Volume one is the kick-off for a seventy-two volume series, as well as two (successful) TV series. That being said, I’ve noticed that there are really two categories for how people feel about Naruto: either they utterly hate it, or they are absolutely in love with it. There are very few people in between.
Most people that want to know about Naruto already know the basics, but I’ll briefly cover them just in case. Naruto is the main perspective for the series, he’s young, an orphan, and wholly determined to prove everyone wrong about him. The world in which Naruto lives in is a world full of ninjas and unique abilities. Children go to school to learn how to be shinobi, if they should choose to continue their training (it doesn’t appear to be a requirement). Upon graduation the students are split into groups of three and assigned a sensei. Naruto is placed on Team Kakashi, as well as Sakura and Sasuke.
Volume one shows us a young Naruto, the class clown, despised for nothing he’s personally done, and entirely alone. It’s clear from the start that Naruto acts out the way he does in a desperate attempt to gain attention. It causes the reader to want to protect Naruto, and become frustrated as the townspeople continue to demean him. Later on it’s discovered that the people blame Naruto for a series of events that happened when he was only a few days old, at most. A giant beast called the Nine Tails attacked and killed many; the Hokage (village leader/protector) was forced to seal the beast inside an infant, little Naruto. This is how all the hate and anger towards the Nine Tails was displaced onto Naruto. Despite all of this, Naruto is perpetually optimistic and hopeful. He refuses to give up or be dragged down emotionally. Even if he is a little annoying about it, it’s hard not to respect him for it.
This is a greatly beloved series, and there is a reason for it. The world Kishimoto has built is fascinating and worth exploring. The characters on the whole are well designed and interesting. There are some exceptions to this of course. For example, the author has a lot of trouble designing and writing female characters. Many of them are drawn in unflattering manners, and while that was an offense I was originally willing to overlook, the problem becomes more pronounced as time goes on. It’s a bit of a running joke among the fans actually, as we have many “pretty boys” but no such “pretty girl” until a good way into the series. Additionally we are shown female characters thinking, and the tone isn’t right, and is usually a bit offensive for the girls. Sakura is almost always shown thinking about Sasuke or her weight/diet; it’s all very shallow and frustrating to see.
I personally absolutely love the system Kishimoto created for his beasts, called Jinchuuriki and find myself actively looking forward to the point where we get to see more about them. Having read the series before, I know I’m in for a bit of a ride before we start hitting my favorite points.
To any fans that are just starting it now – it’s worth it to read another volume or two before you make a decision against the series. It starts off a bit slow, taking lots of time building up, but it can and does get really intense very rapidly.