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Standing on the brink of a new era, looking back at Naruto

Standing on the brink of a new era for Naruto, I’ve turned back the clock to look at my favourite moments from the series; fair warning – hyperbolic fanboyisms ahead. I started watching the show in 2003 with a cheap 15″ CRT monitor and two tinny sound blasters, at the time I wasn’t interested in anime and hated bloody subtitles. 4 years on and I find myself hooked up with a 24″ LCD flat-screen, 6.1 Dolby Surround Sound system and I’m writing on my own anime blog. What the hell happened?! Honestly, I blame Naruto.

— 5. Haku “killing” Sasuke

“What’s with that face, you total moron?” utters an impaled Sasuke, as the stunned Naruto wakes to discover his arch-rival has probably saved his live at the cost of his own. “Why did you save me?”, “How should I know… I hated you…”, “But… Why? Why me? I never asked for this!”, “I don’t know! My body just moved on its own… Idiot”.

I love that dialogue, it beautifully epitomises their begrudging respect and friendship without getting all sappy on us. When I first sat through this scene I was stunned, on the edge of my seat, completely captivated by the drama unfolding before me.

— 4. Gaara breaking Rock Lee’s spirit

To say this fight was awesome is probably the understatement of the decade. Amidst the sheer surprise of seeing Rock Lee go all out for the win and Gaara playing up to his sick, sadistic personality type, I was blown away by how exciting and unpredictable it all was. Tragically, it ends with Rock Lee losing. He is the Rocky Balboa of anime; mediocre talent but limitless determination and GUTS, and I mean a whole lot of GUTS. The match-up was perfectly balanced between Lee’s physical martial arts and Gaara’s long-range, supernatural control of sand; the ensuing carnage is a credit to the visceral brilliance and inventiveness of Naruto at its best.

— 3. Naruto becoming a hero

Up until the Invasion of Konoha arc, Naruto had been a bit of a punk, an adorable one, but still quite yappy and annoying. Fighting with Gaara he comes of age; fulfilling his obvious potential of becoming a true (super) hero.

Hated and ignored for most of his young life by school mates and neighbours alike, the outcast, without a moments hesitation, proudly lays his life on the line to protect them all. It’s a powerful and moving sentiment, a feeling that’s beautifully conveyed by the biggest action set-pieces seen in the series.

— Brief Interlude: Favourite Opening Theme

Opening Theme No. 5
Artist: Sambomaster
Song: Seishun Kyousoukyoku

Sasuke leaves Konoha in Orochimaru’s barrel-o-evil with “the five” ninja slash friends sent to retrieve him; looking back on it, the mission was never going to end well for our heroes; after all, it was Sasuke’s decision to leave. No, I’m still not over it. SASUKE YOU BASTARD1!!11!

I loved this OP within 5 seconds of glimpsing the moody artwork; the clear look of seriousness, regret and dejection reflected on the faces of Naruto and Sasuke as the shaky camera blurs in and out of focus on their silhouetted shapes. The next scene is “the five” standing a-top of cliff, all noticeably concentrated and composed, while the camera spins around their circle formation; it feels utterly cool. We hardly ever see Chouji without food, and here he’s not only empty handed, but running too. The fat dude is running.

— 2. Zabuza’s last stand

“Don’t look away; it’s the end of a man who lived desperately”.

The climax of Zabuza’s and Haku’s story is the strongest section of Naruto, that it comes so early in the series means that it’s often forgotten; this is an injustice. Episode 19 is especially heart breaking for the previously cool-as-ice Zabuza’s (knife in mouth) tearful breakdown and uncontrollable rage; he comes to a brutal, bitter sweet end, having been stabbed dozens of times in the back, the swords still hanging from his flesh, lamenting Haku’s sacrifice, regretting their parting of ways. In short, Zabuza was a fucking cool character, and this episode made me the anime fan I am today.

— 1. Sasuke defeats Naruto, the end

Looking back on it now, I feel stupid, but the truth is that I never expected “my hero” Naruto to lose against Sasuke. Yet again, Kishimoto dealt me a back hander; well done good Sir. I was majorly deflated by the outcome, a depressing feeling only amplified by the ensuing years of unrelenting filler beginning immediately afterwards.

To this day I’m still in awe of episode 133; its theatrical animation quality, explosive drama and most of all, fist pumping action choreography. If you’re yet to be convinced of what Naruto has to offer, this is the episode to watch; an all too short, flashy tour-de-force that is not only the dramatic peak of Naruto’s ever bubbling story, but also one of the single best episodes of pure action anime produced for a decade.

So then Naruto fan boys and girls, let’s get emotional; what are your favourite moments from Naruto? Your favourite opening or ending theme? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Comments

Hinano says:

I never really liked any of the naruto openings but I’ve liked a few endings.

My favorite endings are "Ryuusei" and "Pinocchio" or w/e it was one of the filler endings but I liked it. :D I also really liked "Parade" :)

Favorite moments…for some reason I really cried when they showed Sakura and Ino as little kids and Ino stood up for Sakura ^^; I also kinda cried during the Sasuke dies scene (too bad the ho actually didn’t die ahaha). And I also loved all the stuff with the Chuunin Exams. Oh when Hokage died I cried too :'(

Definitely looking forward to new series this week. I’ve been reading the manga so it’s even more exciting to see what happens and compare !

Retsgip says:

I’m not surprised to see that two of your top 5 are also my favorites as well.

That Lee vs Gaara fight is one of my favorite fights in anime period. I rewatch it every now and then to raise my spirits, and also remember that trying hard does not always make you come out on top. What amazes me the most is the fact that they’ve downplayed Lee’s ability to an almost insignificant role in the story now, even though he’s CLEARLY one powerful mofo.

Zabuza’s last stand was simply a work of art. How he thought up something like that I don’t even know, but it was genius. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have felt as strongly for him and Haku as I did when their arc ended. In fact, that is probably my favorite arc simply because of how powerful the relationship between the characters turned out to be.

Also, I don’t really like Naruto at all. I appreciate his easygoing attitude, his resilience, and his willpower, but I don’t like how underplayed and shitty of a ninja he’s made out to be. It was also nice to have a badass like Sasuke around to balance out his shittiness, and now that Sasuke’s gone, the anime seems to have lost some of its flavor.

I’ll stop before I turn this into an essay.

Shuffe says:

I personally thought Chouji’s "death" scene was very emotional. And I loved the Sasuke VS Orochimaru battle in episode 30.

I can’t wait for shippuden!

Wererat42 says:

Naruto may have been a shitty ninja, but during the first part of the story his main role was to show otherwise bad or weak-willed characters the way of light with his near unlimited constitution. He’s the champion of the underdogs.

If there’s one thing the fillers have done to ruin the series it’s prolong his immaturity. When he finally returns in the manga he has matured a bit and in the last chapter I read before I decided to turn my attention to better things, Naruto was working on inventing his own elemental ninjutsu. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later.

Seth says:

I liked the first ED a LOT. It’s probably one of the reasons I actually watched the show up to where filler started.

I liked every scene where it was obvious they had an animation budget, and any scene with Rock Lee or Kakashi in it.

bateszi says:

>> "I liked the first ED a LOT."

I was thinking of spotlighting this actually, but time got the better of me in the end. The song is "Wind" by Akeboshi… The ending animation that accompanies it, with the butterflies and so on, is really quite beautiful. On the other hand, the first OP "I’m gonna rocks" was fairly horrible!

>> "If there’s one thing the fillers have done to ruin the series it’s prolong his immaturity."

Yeah – by the end of the Sasuke battle, Naruto had developed a fair bit – and then they hit the reset button for the fillers. Some of his moves in that final battle were great – one of my favorites being the use of his shadow clones as missiles!

>> "Sasuke VS Orochimaru"

This battle is short but awesome, the animation absolutely goes up a notch too. Sasuke using his pile driver and that you can see him thinking tactically during the fight was great. The only reason I didn’t include it in my list was because it doesn’t really have the emotional resonance of other clashes.

Another one that I came close to including was Kimimaro. His arc includes the drunken fist version of Rock Lee (awesome), he uses his bones as weapons and his death match against Gaara was eerie (the bone field in the end just looks horrible) and ultimately really depressing!

bateszi says:

Japan — Current local time: 5:38 PM on Thursday, February 15

Naruto: Hurricane Chronicles is oh so close…

qwertypoiuy says:

the last scene in episode 135 when akatsuki gathered for the first time
and all of your favourite moments

Smash! says:

This episode was excellent. Best fight I have ever seen; action was fluid and exciting. The animation,however, sucked. It was "cartoonish" and lacked strong details.

Example: Naruto jumps out of the river with his shadow clones at super speed…they look like rabbits!

Sushi says:

Sasuke and Garra’s fight in the chuunin exams is one of my favorites. At first i was so worried Sasuke was gonna die, but when he did his chidori move i was so surprised. I also love the episode where Itachi comes back and fights Sasuke even thought he loses pretty badly. I like alot more but those are my favorites. In the US only the first 103 episodes have been shown, but i know what Sasuke does but I really want to know if he comes back to the leaf village and if he ever actually shows Sakura that he cares about her. Im dieing for them to finally get together!!

sam says:

i think narutos and gaaras battle was my favorite and naruto is my favorite character

he is so cool ;] naruto is so so
so my favorite ;]

Alicia says:

Are you serious?!!!!! I live in the USA. Does Naruto( also my hero)actually die? That can’t be true. You’re lying. I know you are… Ok, so I don’t but I really HOPE you are. Naruto saved his friends many times, and he is one of the main sources of true honest emotion and heroism in the series. You have got to be lying. Will you answer back so I know, until then I’ll just go to sleep happily each night thinking that Naruto hooks up with Hinata, Sasuke ends up with Sakura, and Kakashi lives. And hopefully most of the other good characters live, oh and that EVIL Orochimaru either dies or miraculously turns good. I like happy endings! :( You’re lying. I will just tell myself that til I find out otherwise.

bateszi says:

Hey Alicia. You’ll be happy to know that, no, Naruto doesn’t die. However, during the climax of the series he faces off against Sasuke and… loses. I presume the US version of Naruto is getting close to that point; you’ll be shocked. Just looking at Wikipedia now, you’re just approaching that very arc. And I’m sure in the end, whenever that may be, good will vanish evil ;)

lord_miguel_22 says:

es super buenisimo eres un gran amigo

Alicia says:

Thanks so much for the reply. Now I can go to sleep happy again knowing that one of the most awesome heroes on my favorite show ever lives and I love the show so far. The last episode was ‘The Race is on! Trouble on the High Seas!’ where Idate is attacked and you learn that he was once a ninja before he started hating them which probably has something to do with his brother. I just noticed where I got confused. When you said “lose” in you’re first favorite moment of Naruto, I thought you meant DIE. I’m happy that’s not what it was. Thank you for putting me back at rest and out of possible psychological breakdown or something like that.

Alicia says:

By the way, since the title of this post is Impulsive commentary,Naruto, I figure I should probably reply.
I love all of the episodes, but my favorite moments are:
1.) When Gaara fights Rock Lee-Rock Lee is totally awesome in that part. And so is Gaara I suppose, but I don’t like him as much.
2.) Naruto saves Iruka using the Shadow Clone in the second or third episode, I think. One of the first episodes anyway.
3.) It’s not a moment, but I LOVE the whole episode at the beginning when Naruto gets jealous of Sasuke and tries to gain Sakura’s attention and therefore knocks out Sasuke and transforms to look like him. And the part where Rock Lee sends little hearts towards Sakura and she has to dodge them. That part is sooo funny. And every other scene that is funny or hilarious I basically LOVE. That episode ‘Gotta See! Gotta Know! Kakashi-sensei’s True Face!’ is hilarious too. Even though it doesn’t further the plot, it’s hilarious.
4.) The fight between Temari and Shikamaru-even though he forfeits when he has won. Stupid Shika.
5.) I also love it when Naruto saves all of them from Orochimaru- and he says “You’re not hurt, are you, scaredy cat” to mimick when Sasuke told him that. I love that part.
6.) I also love the part where Sasuke saves Naruto and is almost killed and when Naruto unleashes the dreadful terrifying NINE-TAILED FOX.
I LOVE all of the episodes, but those are my favorites. :)

bateszi says:

Hey Alicia, Since you seem to be such a big fan of the show I was going to ask about your favourite moments anyway. I’m surprised you didn’t include the Gaara vs. Naruto fight in your count-down (definitely one of my top moments in the show), but it’s a fine list anyway. I also liked the unmasking of Kakashi episode, if just because it’s so stupid and out of wack with the usual Naruto style – if I can remember correctly, even Mr. Angst himself, Sasuke, gets involved in the plot to get Kakashi!

Protodude says:

bateszi, I seriously think you’re in the minority when it comes to liking the Gaara vs. Naruto fight so much. But eh, my favorite moment is also not quite looked at as much.

Now, this is going by the manga, which is what got me into Naruto in the first place, but the scene where Zabuza cried over Naruto’s speech on Haku really tugged at my heart-strings. I literally shed a tear! I think it was the way it was played out: Naruto yelling at Zabuza for his disrespect over Haku, with Zabuza’s eyes slowly hidden out of view. Naruto is bawling by the end of his speech. The final panel ends with a shot of tears falling to the ground. I assume they’re Naruto’s when I turn the page to find a huge image of Zabuza crying, saying “Kid….not another word.”

;_;

Also of interesting note is the way Gato died differs. Zabuza, both arms useless and a kunai knife in his mouth, heads toward him; in the anime, he just kind of, I don’t know, pushes him off the bridge or something? Lame. But in the manga, he fucking CUTS OFF HIS HEAD as it flies into the crowd of cronies he hired. Awesome.

bateszi says:

@Protodude: I think I like Gaara vs. Naruto fight because it’s very much the moment Naruto goes from being that snotty kid to an actual hero, it’s kind of like the climax of the first series, after which Sasuke goes mental and everything, as they say, “goes to shit”. I guess I just like Naruto as a character, back then he was still an unknown quantity, unproven, scared.

I loved your description of the Zabuza scene. You really captured the shock of the moment when we see Zabuza’s “demonic” image breaking down. In fact, it was probably at that point when I decided to become a proper anime fan and search out more of the same. Because Zabuza was a villain yet seemed so sympathetic just totally caught me off guard. After that I went straight into looking up things like Cowboy Bebop and Berserk.

Thanks for the illumination of the Gato scene too. I suppose the beheading was too violent for the Naruto anime but man, it’s certainly bad-ass.

ilovetheshownaruto!!! says:

ah if anyone has seen the third naruto movie,when sakura,kakashi,lee and (of course!)naruto escort a spoiled prince andhis son back to the moon country,but wow.theres these aweful ninja’s that were kicking everybodys butt,and they can turn you 2 stone.they also have this thing where they disorient poeples senses,so our fellow leaf ninja were a few seconds slower than the bad guys.everybody was almost finished,lying on the ground and then theres a huge gust of wind,and they all turn.the biggest and baddest guy turns first and WHAM!! naruto (in kyuubi form) roundhouse kicks him in the face!!!!!!!then totally beats the bleep out of him.
that makes me laugh,bc everybody thinks naruto is some weakling brat,but when he gets mad,he can take down almost anyone(with the exception of the shhippuuden sasuke-see chapter naruto manga chapter 402- because he now obtains the Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan which can control the kyuubi like a pet,oh no,hahah even though i love sasuke)
GO NARUTO I <3 YOU
kick some butt!

^^type this link onto your browser,then fastforward to 4:39 to see this amazing scene *_*

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