Naruto the Sand Ninja
Shueisha (Japan), Viz (English)
Under 9000 ; Ongoing
The manga was first published by Shueisha in 1999 in the 43rd issue of Japan's Shonen Jump magazine. VIZ Media publishes a translated version in the American Shonen Jump, and has translated roughly a third of the series. Naruto has become VIZ Media's best-selling manga series.
The anime series, produced by Studio Pierrot and Aniplex, premiered across Japan on the terrestrial TV Tokyo network and the anime satellite television network Animax on October 3, 2002, and is still being aired. Viz also licensed the anime for North American production. Naruto debuted in the United States on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block on September 10, 2005, and in Canada on YTV's Bionix on September 16, 2005. Naruto began showing in the UK on Jetix on July 22, 2006. It began showing on Toasted TV on January 12, 2007 in Australia, although it could be watched on Cartoon Network in 2006. The first series lasted nine seasons, while the second began its first on February 15, 2007.
Growth and popularityEdit
The series' length and popularity is comparable to that of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball, another popular action-oriented shōnen manga. Since its creation, Naruto has spawned a large number of fansites that contain detailed information, guides, and active forums. Some of the first and most popular sites targeted at English speaking audiences were established shortly after the first English manga volume was released in August of 2003. Like many other manga and anime titles, Naruto has also spawned its own collectible card game.
Prior to the anime's North American debut in 2005, several scanlation and fansub groups translated the series and made it available for free download on the internet. Despite North American companies' perceived tendency to prosecute fansubbing groups more frequently than Japanese companies, there are some that have continued to translate new Naruto episodes due to the extremely large gap between the English and Japanese versions.
Volume 7 of the manga has recently won a Quill Award for best graphic novel in North America. In TV Asahi's latest top 100 Anime Ranking, Naruto ranked 17th on the list.
Even though it debuted some time after the manga, the anime quickly caught up, since one anime episode usually covers one or two manga chapters. To prevent overlapping, the anime's producers tend to organize content from the manga chapters into long, uneventful sections followed by short bursts of action, sometimes adding filler content in between. By the time the Sasuke Retrieval arc ended in the anime (episode 135), the series was at a point where it was quickly gaining on the manga. At the conclusion of this arc, the anime immediately switched to anime-only filler episodes to allow the manga to broaden the gap once more. Most of the filler episodes are stand-alone stories, with a few being part of arcs that are several episodes long. The filler episodes lasted for 85 episodes, the duration of the first series.
After the series moved back into manga-adapted episodes, it was renamed Naruto: Shippūden. The new series premiered on February 15, 2007.
The anime generally remains true to the manga, usually changing only minor details (causes of death, loss of limbs, and other injuries have been lessened in the anime) or expanding on parts skipped by the manga, such as the fight between Tenten and Temari. The filler arcs, though unreferenced in the manga (save for a few scant scenes), deal with the breaks between manga volumes, which covers a short period before the Sasuke Retrieval arc and several months before the time skip. The filler arcs tend to cover the supporting characters, occasionally giving insight into an otherwise rarely seen character.
New episodes, animated by Studio Pierrot, air weekly on TV Tokyo in Japan during the Golden Time slot (Japan's equivalent of prime time in the US). As of October 5, 2006, it shows on Thursday nights. The series has also spawned four movies, Naruto the Movie: Snow Princess' Book of Ninja Arts, Naruto the Movie 2: Great Clash! The Illusionary Ruins at the Depths of the Earth, Naruto the Movie 3: The Animal Riot of Crescent Moon Island, Naruto Shippuuden: the movie and an as yet to be aired Naruto the Movie 5 scheduled to premiere sometime in 2008. The first 3 are available on DVD. The fourth movie was released 21 April, 2008.
On September 10, 2005, Naruto had its hour-long premiere in the U.S. on Cartoon Network's Toonami. The first episode of Naruto premiered in Canada on YTV on September 16, 2005. In the United Kingdom, Naruto premiered on Jetix on July 22, 2006. In Australia and New Zealand it premiered on Cartoon Network on September 27, 2006. It also began showing on Toasted TV on $1, $1, in Australia.
In its English anime release, Naruto was aired with a TV-PG rating in the US and a PG rating in Canada. More explicit episodes, such as Jiraiya's debut and the battle with Zabuza, have been given a TV-PG-DS or a TV-PG-V rating. References to alcoholism, Japanese cultural differences, mild language, mild sexual situations, and even blood and death remain in the English version, though reduced. Other networks make additional content edits apart from the edits done by Cartoon Network, such as Jetix's more strict censoring of blood, language, and the like.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERTEdit
Twelve years before the events at the focus of the series, the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox attacked Konohagakure. It was a powerful demon; a single swing of one of its nine tails would raise tsunamis and flatten mountains. It raised chaos and caused the deaths of many, until the leader of the Leaf Village – the Fourth Hokage – defeated it by sacrificing his own life to seal the demon inside a newly-born child, whose origins are as yet unknown. That child's name was Naruto Uzumaki.
The Fourth Hokage was celebrated as a hero for sealing the demon fox away. He wanted Naruto to be respected in a similar light by being the containment vessel for the demon fox. The village he grew up in, however, mostly shunned Naruto; they regarded him as if he were the demon fox itself and mistreated him throughout most of his childhood.
A decree made by the Third Hokage made it so that the other villagers were forbidden to mention the event to anyone, even to their own children. However, this did not stop them from treating Naruto like an outcast. Although their children did not specifically know why their parents treated Naruto the way they did, they learned through example to despise the boy. As a result, Naruto grew up as an orphan in a lonesome atmosphere without friends, family, or acknowledgment. He could not force people to befriend him, so he sought acknowledgment and attention the only way he knew – through pranks and mischief. However, that soon changed after Naruto graduated from the Ninja Academy by using his Multiple Shadow Clone Technique to save his teacher, Iruka Umino, from the renegade ninja Mizuki. That encounter gave Naruto two insights: that he was the container of the demon fox, and that there was someone besides the Third Hokage who actually cared about him. His graduation from the academy opened a gateway to the events and people that would change and define his world, including his way of the ninja for the rest of his life.
Naruto maintains a balance between drama and comedy, with plenty of action interspersed. It follows Naruto and his friends' personal growth and development as ninja, and emphasizes their interactions with each other and the influence of their backgrounds on their personalities. Naruto finds two friends and comrades in Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno, two fellow young ninja who are assigned with him to form a three-person team under a very experienced sensei named Kakashi Hatake. Naruto also confides in other characters as well that he has met through the Chunin Exam. They learn new abilities, get to know each other and other villagers better, and experience a coming-of-age journey as Naruto dreams of becoming the Hokage of the Leaf Village.
Naruto places strong emphasis on character development. Almost all outcomes are a result of decisions, character, and personality; very few things happen just because of chance. At first, emphasis is placed on Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura, who are the members of Team 7. However, other characters are developed, such as Kakashi, Gai, and Jiraiya, as well as Naruto's peers in the other Genin teams and other villages.
Several major villains came into play as well, the first being Zabuza Momochi, a missing-nin from the Kirigakure, and his partner, Haku. Later, in the Chunin Exam arc, Orochimaru is introduced as an S-Class missing-nin at the top of the Leaf Village's most wanted list. Later, a mysterious organization called Akatsuki begins to pursue Naruto in order to take the demon fox inside him and harness its power.
Naruto has a large and colorful cast of characters, running a gamut of detailed histories and complex personalities, and allowing many of them their fair share in the spotlight; they are also seen to grow and mature with the series, as it spans several years. As fitting for a coming-of-age saga, Naruto's world constantly expands and thickens, and his social relations are no exception – during his introduction he has only his teacher and the village's leader for sympathetic figures, but as the story progresses, more and more people become a part of his story.
The students at the Ninja Academy, where the story begins, are split up into teams of three after their graduation and become Genin. Each team is assigned an experienced sensei. These core teams form a basis for the characters' interactions later in the series, where characters are chosen for missions for their team's strength and complementary skills; Naruto's Team 7 becomes the social frame where Naruto is acquainted with Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno, and their sensei Kakashi Hatake, also called the "copy ninja" for copying thousands of ninja techniques with his Sharingan eye, forming the core of his world-in-the-making. The other three-man teams of his former classmates form another such layer, as Naruto connects with them to various degrees, learning of their motives, vulnerabilities, and aspirations, often relating them to his own. The groups of three are not limited to the comrades Naruto's age – groups in the story in general come in threes and multiples of three with very few exceptions.
Sensei-student relationships play a significant role in the series; Naruto has a number of mentors with whom he trains and learns, most notably Kakashi Hatake and Jiraiya, and there are often running threads of tradition and tutelage binding together several generations. These role models provide guidance for their students not only in the ninja arts but also in a number of Japanese aesthetics and philosophical ideals. Techniques, ideals, and mentalities noticeably run in families, Naruto often being exposed to the abilities and traditions of generation-old clans in his village when friends from his own age group demonstrate them, or even achieve improvements of their own; it is poignantly noted that Naruto's generation is particularly talented.
Many of the greater lingering mysteries of the series are questions of character motives and identity. The legacy of Naruto's parents, the goals that guide Kabuto Yakushi, the identity of the mysterious Akatsuki leader – these are only a few of the fundamental unanswered questions of "who" and, by proxy, "why" currently at the core of the series. The story is remarkably character-driven; the theme of causality runs inherently throughout the series as characters reciprocate for their past actions and relationships. In this respect, characters' respective destinies are very much intertwined, and large emphasis is placed on comradeship and 'bonds' between the community or individual.