November tenth is a big day in the world of anime and manga. The final chapter of Naruto is being released today in Weekly Shounen Jump issue 50. In 1997, a one shot chapter of Naruto was published in Akamaru Jump Summer (a seasonal special issue of Weekly Shounen Jump). The manga premiered in Japan in 1999 and made its way over to the U.S. in 2003. Fifteen years, 700 manga chapters, over 600 episodes and counting, ten movies, and forty-one video games may leave anime fans who are interested in getting into it the impression that the series is impenetrable. However, not only is this not the case, but Naruto is definitely worth the effort.
Twelve years before the story begins, a giant fox attacked the ninja village of Konoha. It destroyed much of the village and killed many people before the leader called the Fourth Hokage and his wife managed to seal it inside the body of their son Naruto. They died doing this, wanting their son to be seen as a hero. The Third Hokage came out of retirement to help the village rebuild. He made it forbidden for anyone to tell Naruto about his past or how his parents died. The villagers shunned Naruto for fear of the beast inside him and refused to let their children play with him. Naruto became the village trouble maker, since he was desperate for even bad attention.
One day Mizuki, a teacher at the ninja school, convinces Naruto to steal a scroll in an attempt to get him to unleash the giant fox and destroy the village. Naruto sees through this and defeats him, earning the respect of his teacher Iruka, who allows him to graduate and join a ninja in training team with two other graduates named Sasuke and Sakura, Naruto has always liked Sakura and been jealous of Sasuke because of the other boy’s talent.
As time went on fans got to know more characters and learned more about the ninja world Naruto is set in. Eventually Sasuke leaves the village to be trained by an evil ninja to gain power for his own purposes. Naruto sets out to bring him back.
The Naruto manga is seventy one volumes in Japan; the sixty eighth volume will be released in the US in December. The first twenty seven volumes are Part 1 of the series and end when Naruto leaves the village to train for two and a half years. Volumes 28 and on are Part 2 after Naruto returns to the village and continues with his quest to bring home his friend.
I mentioned that there was a one shot of Naruto released two years before the manga debuted. This chapter was set in the same village, but Naruto was a fox that could turn himself into a boy and was darker and more mature than the rest of the series ended up being. While it was still a shounen (intended for teen boys), there was a level of violence to this story that isn’t found in the manga that followed. You can find the pilot chapter online if you search for Naruto pilot. It wasn’t released in the US.
The anime premiered in Japan in 2002 but didn’t come to America till 2005. Naruto follows the first twenty seven volumes of the manga quite closely, though there are many fillers. Naruto Shippuden, which is the name given to the second part of Naruto, follows the remaining volumes of the manga. Shippuden is still being created and airs weekly in Japan. How many episodes the series will end up being is still unclear.
The original anime is 220 episodes, of which over a third are filler episodes. Filler episodes don’t follow the manga and add nothing to the overall plot. They are created by the anime studio to give the manga creator time to advance the story. While some of these episodes can be really sweet and have cute character moments, as well as shine the spotlight on some of the lesser side characters, if the idea of getting into Naruto and watching so many episodes is daunting, these are the filler arcs that can be skipped.
- Episodes 27, and 91
- Episodes 101-106
- Episodes 136-220*
*Episode 141 is considered a filler episode though it does deal with the main storyline and some of the characters reactions as to what is happening in the main plot; it can be skipped however.
You may notice that the last eighty five episodes are all filler. This led to a bit of a backlash against the series. Shounen anime are known for being long and having many fillers but eighty five back-to-back filler episodes seemed excessive even to the fans who are used to the shounen trappings.
Naruto Shippuden is the continuation of the main story, set two and a half years after the events of the original series. The characters are older and more powerful, and have really developed. The bonds between the characters really shines in this series, and more attention is paid to side characters as well as introducing some great characters as well. This series is currently at 384 episodes and these are the fillers that can be skipped.
- Episodes 57-71
- Episodes 90-112
- Episodes 127 and 128
- Episodes 144-151
- Episodes 170 and 171
- Episodes 176-196
- Episodes 223-242
- Episodes 257-260
- Episode 271
- Episodes 279-281
- Episodes 284-295
- Episodes 303-320
- Episodes 347-361
- Episodes 376 and 377
Although the manga has ended, this does not equal the end of Naruto. The tenth movie is being released in December that will fill in some of the holes that were left from the time skip that occurred between chapters 699 and 700. The anime is still ongoing and the date for the finale hasn’t been set as of yet. A new mini-series has been scheduled to begin in Spring of 2015. The story will focus on the next generation of Konoha. There are also a bunch of Naruto related novels that will be released starting in 2015.
I first began to read Naruto in 2000 when I was sixteen years old. I was already a big comic book fan but since I loved watching shows like Yu Yu Hakusho, Sailor Moon, Rurouni Kenshin, Dragon Ball Z, and Tenchi Muyo, I decided to give manga a try. Since it was a new manga, I decided to give Naruto a chance and found it a joy to read. I’ve loved seeing Naruto grow up. I’ve loved growing up with him. I’ve loved seeing him become the ninja he always wanted, and to grow into the man that I knew he could be. It may seem strange to say this but I am so proud of him. It makes me a little sad to see this series end. I’ve spent fourteen years following his life and I will miss him and his adventures. Strange as it may be to say, I am so proud of him. Is it a long series to get into? Yes. Will it take time and effort to get into? Yes. Is it worth it? Believe it!
– by Jessuina Powers