This is the Naruto I remember

There were times when I considered dropping Naruto.

It’s always been a series I’ve held close to my heart, but all those years of awful filler, compounded by the slow start to Shippuuden, nearly killed it for me. I’ve never actually dropped it, but suffice to say, I had it on-hold for well over a year. I just wanted Naruto to be good again; for the story to start moving; to feel again the sense of momentum that it generated all those years ago, so many of its highest points burnt into my memory, too often replayed to ever be forgotten.

Even still, I began doubting my feelings. Was Naruto really as good as I remember it being? Or was I just naïve back then? Perhaps I’m just seeing the series now for what it always was?

Like a marriage gone sour, then, I came back to Shippuuden in July, cap in hand and ready to try again. The old magic could return, I thought, and it was awkward at first, reacquainting myself with my old flame, but things were different this time around. I was more patient, more forgiving and more willing to wait for things to click. And click they did, my friends.

Up until now, for me, Shippuuden felt like it was in stasis. I don’t read the manga, so I don’t have that to fall back on; as far as I’m concerned, Sasuke left for Orochimaru’s lair in 2005, which means I’ve been waiting 5 long years (and god knows how many episodes) for the plot to start moving forwards again. Of course, much has happened in Shippuuden since 2005, but let’s face it; most of it has been an inconsequential, if enjoyable, sideshow. The haters won’t like to admit this, but Sasuke’s long been the guy that makes things happen in Naruto’s story and the notable lack of momentum in Shippuuden can only be attributed to him being squirreled away for years on end, following Orochimaru’s random orders. That is, of course, until he kills Orochimaru and goes hunting for his older brother, Itachi.

So much has changed in just these 30 episodes (season 6, episodes 113 to 143) of Shippuuden. Kakashi Gaiden and Jiraiya’s battle with Pain were excellent, but Sasuke’s face-off against Itachi will, I hope, become the defining moment in the series, the point from which it forges ahead, the plot revitalised; a new direction found. Where it goes from here, I’m pleased to say, I have no idea; Sasuke no longer obsessed with killing Itachi; Naruto no longer obsessed with saving him from Orochimaru. Everything has changed now, and I’m glad.

I’m glad, too, that Naruto is again this iconic and exciting, crafting these moments of pure and utter catharsis on such a huge, action-packed stage. Itachi’s staggered walk towards Sasuke, the way his blood trickles down Sasuke’s face, the blood mingling with the rain, their exhausted expressions, the relative subtly of the utterly destroyed landscape around them, that Sasuke cracks a smile just after his brother’s final, silent words; this is what I waited 5 years for, and it was worth it. This is the Naruto I remember.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

19 thoughts on “This is the Naruto I remember”

  1. Like a marriage gone sour, then, I came back to Shippuuden in July, cap in hand and ready to try again.

    I laughed out loud.

    *****

    These long-running Jump series are a bit of a double-edged sword, I find. On the one hand, the heavy emotional investment is often well-rewarded: I read the manga, and just… seeing Naurto turn from snot-nosed kid to responsible, emotionally balanced adult has been well worth however many years’ time I’ve put into the series. When the latest arc of the manga is animated, I’m sure you’ll understand – the characters are palpably older, and if you ever care to fire up the first episode/first chapter of Naruto, there’s a feeling of huge distance, both emotionally and otherwise.

    On the other hand, they tend to drag, and go through periods of being so-so; making one wonder if the emotional effort is being rewarded. The other thing I’d point out – having seen Inuyasha right through its 1st episode to its last, keeping up with the subs weekly, as well as finishing off the manga – is that they leave a pretty big hole in your life when they finish. Or maybe I’m just overly attached :p

    1. No, you’re right, they do leave a big hole. I’ll probably feel like jumping off a cliff when One Piece finishes!

      …Which obviously isn’t healthy, but it’s the price we pay for watching something like this. I wouldn’t enjoy Naruto half as much if I wasn’t so invested in the characters, and when Naruto does finally end, I’m looking forward to reading the manga from start to finish and synthesizing exactly what you described above; this feeling of distance covered and the wonderful sense of growth in the characters is pretty much why I’m still so into anime. It’s something we rarely see in other visual media.

      1. I honestly try not to think too deeply about what’ll happen when Naruto and One Piece finish. I haven’t picked up a long-running shounen series since about 6-7 years ago when I started those two! I suppose I’ll have to start devouring older stuff..

        The Naruto manga’s really lovely. I’ve always liked Kishimoto’s art though. I find it particularly well-drawn in the later chapters, though public opinion seems to run contrary to mine on this.

  2. i dont watch the show anymore, I follow the manga weekly, and i have to say its pretty great. I have alot of props for the creator especially if you read the most recent chapters. His new reveals show that he had this thing mapped out from the very beginning. His intricate planning is insane

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, man! Alas, I’m still a proponent of the anime, so I have to recommend you just dip in now and then to see how they animate some of these epic encounters! When it wants to be, Naruto is beautiful.

  3. You reminded me that I really don’t know why I dropped nartuo manga/anime. I know it was shortly after the time skip but never did I believe it was the awful show it often gets flack for nor was I upset about anything in the plot. Maybe I should pay a visit to my ex to find out where did it all go wrong, but I am too busy partying with some hot robot bitches.

    1. Hehe, it’s worth a look! Anyway, Naruto‘s never been as bad as the haters would have you believe. Aside from One Piece, it’s basically the finest series of this era to be running in Shounen Jump (oh, controversial!)

  4. Knowing how glacially paced Shippuuden has been from the very start, would starting from 113 hinder my enjoyment of the show? For reference I’ve watched till episode 20-something of Shippuuden, growing steadily tiresome of the same archaic antics, I decided to drop it.

    1. This is the season (eps. 113 through to 143) where everything changes, so, you’ll hardly miss much of worth by starting at this point, which is kind of sad, really! There’s a few new characters (Sai & Yamato) and one of the good guys is dead (re: Shikamaru’s episode, see my post on that,) but as of episode 113, the story is pretty much in the same position it was back when Sasuke originally left for Orochimaru’s lair at the end of the first series.

  5. It’s been a while since I last read or watched Naruto. The first two arcs were really good, but then, even before the time skip/fillers, the lelvel dropped considerably. It was still enjoyable, as was the first arc after the time skip/the start of Shippuuden, but then the level started dropping again. I didn’t read much beyond that, and I’m not sure I’ll bother to, because my brother keeps complaining how ridiculous the whole thing has become. Granted, I’m usually more forgiving than he is, but still… There are so many good anime and manga out there, I just don’t feel it’s worth it to waste my time on the mediocre stuff.

    Bleach, that one is still above the line. Barely. It stopped being a superb story after the Soul Society arc (god, I’ve never seen that sharp a drop in quality!), but it’s still far more enjoyable than Naruto these days.

    1. Bleach? Really? I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one, Krozam. I’ve never got on with Bleach, IMO it’s been awful since it began.

      1. The salt of Bleach are its battles (well, the succesful ones, anyway – less of them lately, but in the SS arc there were some brilliant ones) and its cool side characters. I mean, the main characters, with the exception of Sado, are all boring as hell, but there’s an army of interesting side characters (Urahara, Byakuya, Kenpachi, Kyouraku, Hitsugaya, Ikkaku etc.).

        As for Naruto, I could say the same, except that the main characters aren’t as boring as in Bleach. However, just like in the case of Bleach, Naruto’s creator failed when trying to expand the world and plot beyond the original idea. Enemies became ridiculous, battles became ridiculous, the plot became ridiculous. The reason why Bleach is still worth reading and Naruto is not, is simply because it didn’t sink quite as low as Naruto did, in those three aspects. Even Aizen, in all his ridiculous unbeatableness, is still a fairly interesting character. Pein, on the other hand, was doomed to failure from the start. As were most of the Akatsuki members.

        Of course, that’s just my opinion.

        1. Now, if you want some GOOD shounen action, a long series that so far hasn’t seen a serious drop in quality, read Negima. The first volumes beat the best that Bleach and Naruto ever offered, and it only gets better after the publishers finally allowed him to concentrate less on the ecchi and more on the action. Akamatsu never made the mistake of being too shortsighted: when he expands the world, it’s controlled, following the plot he had planned already when he started the series, and so it causes no drop in quality.

          1. You’re not the first person to recommend Negima to me, so, maybe I should give it a look sometime? I’m always surprised when people talk about its world building and action scenes; I had it down as just another Akamatsu harem series like Love Hina!

          2. There’s a huge cast of female characters, so you could say it’s a harem series, but with a 10-year-old protagonist, you can imagine it’s not quite like Love Hina. In the name of honesty, I must say that Akamatsu still sometimes occasionally lapses into the same kind of energetic insanity that the later volumes of Love Hina had way too much on my opinion… but it’s no joke that his action scenes in Negima are a hundred times better than in LH, his magic is as well thought through as any I’ve seen in anime or manga, and several of his characters can match the coolest characters of Naruto and Bleach. I’m also frequently surprised by how far ahead he thinks, foreshadowing in early chapters events that take place around the 300th chapter. And Negi, the protagonist, he’s nothing like Ichigo or Naruto: he’s SMART, he isn’t afraid to draw from the darker side of his own nature, and he overcomes obstacles with imagination and talent, not just the classic headstrong determination. Take my advice, check it out and read at least the first 25 chapters. But don’t touch the anime (either series), they’re failures. The OVA’s are better, but they start from around chapter 160.

        2. Oh, and another good, long shounen series is Kekkaishi. 300+ chapters, and even though I haven’t read it lately, it was still good after more than 200 chapters. The series has never got all that much attention, which I think is a shame, because it, too, was always way better than Naruto or Bleach. Not as good as Negima, but still really good. And of this one they made a good anime, too, ~50 episodes that follow the manga plot closely and actually improve the presentation – so I’d recommend watching the anime and then continuing with the manga where it leaves.

  6. Don’t know you, but I feel for ya. Been watching Naruto since High School… now 2 years later from this post. Still the same woes. Been watching any other good Anime?

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