Words: Chris Booth
Instead of your ordinary, run-of-the-mill review, I decided to write this article a little differently – if not only to highlight the complete extraordinariness of the anime known as Naruto. Naruto, like most anime series, started out as a series of manga books (Japanese comic books) and were soon converted into the ongoing anime series which currently consists of over 580 episodes.
The storyline starts off really simple. The title character, Naruto, is a boy who lives in a fictional ninja world where martial arts (taijitsu), ‘super powers’ (ninjitsu), and hypnosis (genjitsu) are common practice. As a baby, Naruto has a nine-tailed monster fox ‘trapped’ inside his body. This makes the other villagers in his ninja village of the Hidden Leaf very wary of him, thus ostracizing him from society (just in case the nine-tailed fox escapes). This creates a dream within Naruto to become a great ninja that leads the Hidden Leaf village as Hokage (‘President’) so that he can be acknowledged and accepted by everyone. However, Naruto isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, nor the strongest, but his will is strong enough to make him hot-headed while also being a naughty little prankster. The story then follows his progress as he trains to become a strong ninja while also divulging important stories about the choice to trap the monster fox inside of him. This leads to stories about other characters from the Hidden Leaf as well as other villages from the Naruto universe. Ok, there’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to give anything away.
So why should you watch this show? Why should you start a series which will have more than 600 episodes by the time you catch up? Well, I’m going to give you the answer in my home-made Naruto dictionary. (Note: These words are not used in Naruto itself, but you’ll often find Naruto fans saying these words to each other).
Anime is generally split up into two kinds of episodes: main story line episodes and fillers. Now, because anime is based so closely to the manga series, the animators have to therefore wait for the manga storyline to progress in order to make more episodes… but who’s got time for that? Anime watchers want to know more about this world – they’ve got no time to wait six months for the new season. So anime writers came up with a solution, they started producing episodes that have nothing to do with a main story line. They can either be a character’s memories, a side mission, or something completely random. These episodes are known as ‘fillers’. Now this might sound like a waste of time to you – why should you watch episodes that have nothing to bring the storyline forward? What is the point of them? Well, it’s quite simple – they aid in character development. In filler episodes, you are given insight into many different characters in an anime’s universe. For example, in Naruto, there are many students in his ninja classes and the fillers give those characters an opportunity to show their lives, their personalities and their dreams – it therefore enhances your viewing experience. Non-anime watchers sometimes judge those for bursting into tears while watching anime shows, but fillers build up the characters so well that you do form a connection to them – you feel like you personally know them. So when they die in the main story line, your eyes will leak.
Shit Hitting the Fan
This is an expression that you will hear the most from Naruto watchers. “Shit is hitting the fan”, “Shit is about to hit the fan”, “We thought shit was hitting the fan, but now it’s really hitting the fan”, “Shit is not hitting the fan right now, but when the fillers are over, then shit is going to HIT THE FAN”. These are all variations of this famous saying uttered by Naruto followers. This is because, aside from the fillers, shit is almost always hitting the fan. In other words, something major is always going down in the main story line. Huge things happen – people die, people come back to life, people fight, people fight harder, and just when you think things cannot get any more extreme… they do. Therefore, this type of episode can be called ‘shit hitting the fan’ episodes.
You know how in Game of Thrones there are a few episodes that make you go “Holy Shit!”? These episodes always surprise you, even when you know what is coming, even if you’ve read the books. Now imagine that there are almost 400 episodes that have moments like this. That’s Naruto. While GoT only has roughly 40 episodes so far, Naruto have about 400 ‘shit hitting the fan’ episodes that will have you jumping for joy, screaming out in anger, leaving you flabbergasted, or have you crying your eyes out. This is what makes the show so amazing for me – it’s not only that stuff is always happening, but it’s also the techniques that they use to get you to react in these particular ways. Naruto writers cleverly use techniques through music, through motifs, through ‘camera angles’, through storytelling, and through language in order to give you these ‘ho-ly shit’ moments (whether they happen through tears, through anger, or through joy). In fact, if you ever watch Naruto, make sure that you watch the English subbed version (where there are subtitles) as the English dubbed version often misses out on the subtle nuances of the Japanese language, the music, and the incredible Japanese voice acting.
To sum up: Naruto is a great show. Just ask any avid anime follower. Naruto has depth and heart. Naruto rocks. It’s a fact. But the best thing about Naruto is that it’s the perfect show to start your epic anime journey with. You’ll soon find yourself screaming at the TV/computer screen that “Shit is Hitting the Fan!”