Uzumaki Naruto is a young orphan who has just graduated ninja school, and is beginning the next phase to becoming a master ninja. Along with fellow classmates Sakura (who he has a big crush on) and Sasuke (who *Sakura* has a big crush on), he trains under Master Kakashi, doing apparently "easy" jobs that always somehow turn into Major Ninja Battles.
Naruto more than eagerly participates in all of this in order to become a Hokage, the highest rank a ninja can achieve. Why is he so eager? Because he wants to prove himself to his home village which shuns him - because he carries within him the spirit of the nine-tailed fox demon that nearly destroyed his tribe thirteen years ago.
Naruto is currently the up-and-coming Big Thing among anime fans. Everybody keeps talking about this show and how great it is - a popularity poll on AnimeNfo.com has it running in the top three even before its release in North America.
And yet once again I find myself befuddled as to why this show is getting so much buzz and hype. If it were the Shonen Jump newbies pushing this show, then I would understand, but it's really the long-time hardcore fans who are raving about Naruto. Everywhere you look online, people are talking about "ninjas! ninjas! ninjas!"
So with all the hype, I gave it a shot. I normally like shows like this, with action, thrills, comedy ... and yet, something wasn't quite right. I think it's because it's one of the most predictable shows I have ever seen. They practically tell you the entire story in the first episode alone if you see the right signs (which they make VERY obvious).
Listen to this: a Downtrodden Hero (tm), who is shunned by all his peers, but secretly encouraged by his teachers and his all-knowing Town Elder (tm), can instantly master Ultimate Techniques (tm) that no one has used in centuries, as long as he's not in class - then he's a total goof-up. He makes a vow that he'll become the Greatest Ninja Ever (tm), and by the end of the first episode, you know he's going to achieve it. And that's only half of the cliches that you see to start off with!
While Naruto is a likable enough scamp, his type of character has been done so many times before. Yuusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho, Haru from Rave, Goku from Dragon Ball... he is The Shonen Jump Hero Archetype (tm). By this point, it's getting kinda lame. Of course, the girl, Sakura, he has a crush on ... is a two-faced bitch. And his "rival", Sasuke, is the calm, cool, collected, angsty ... Rival Type (tm). I mean, really, you're supposed to *like* them? The only characters worth really mentioning in this show are Master Iruka and Master Kakashi, who are cooler than the leads. If anything, the show should be named "Kakashi" and not Naruto. Even then, Kakashi is not much more than a Man of Mystery (tm), though at least he's got an interesting quirk or two, being rarely seen without his romance novels ("Make-Out Paradise", anyone?).
But this is an action series, and you generally don't want action series for the characters. So how's the action? Well, the animation *really* should be better. Not that's it's bad ... but it's mediocre. This show actually *does* have more visual tricks and handles action better than most Studio Pierrot anime. The biggest drawbacks, though (and they are big) are the character designs and the color palette. Kishimoto Masashi is an average artist at best, and his style simply doesn't translate well to anime. But the color palette - ugh, it looks like they used a toilet to mix all the colors. Everything looks like it was shaded with ... well, what you normally find in a toilet, lots of poop brown and pee yellow ... it's the worst coloring job I've seen next to Bounty Dog (and there was only *one* Bounty Dog). This really is the least visually appealing anime I have seen in a long time.
Musically, Naruto is a mixed bag. The opening themes are all really bad wannabe metal, and the first ending theme would be cool if they only had someone who was able to sing in English. As for the actual background music ... it's actually really good, with neat traditional-sounding chants and drums and instrumentation that set the background and mood much better than the visuals do. It has this wonderful primitive-yet-fantastic feel to it that simply *works*.
So with all that said, one would think that I would give this the lowest rating possible. Right? Ehh, actually, it is pretty fun and a good starter series, and would probably do very well on Cartoon Network. But does it deserve the hype it's getting? I don't think so.
It's just another average Shonen Jump show with average characters and average plot. Nothing spectacular or stand-out about it at all.
If you're looking for something to draw your friends into anime, this would be a good choice. But if you are a longtime fan looking for something new, just move on. — Christi
Recommended Audience: Preteens and up, due to some occasionally graphic violence (toned down from the manga), nongraphic nudity played for laughs, and occasional potty humor.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (11/220)
Naruto © 2002 Kishimoto Masashi / Scott / Shueisha / TV Tokyo / Studio Pierrot
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