Naruto is over.
Long live Bolt, son of Naruto.
Yup, friends and readers of a certain age: Naruto is finally done. The Masashi Kishimoto manga, Naruto, has concluded, leading straight into a sequel featuring the original characters’ kids. The anime, I don’t know, it’s probably eternal. But the point is that series-prime, the divining rod of coolness in LiveJournal hipster-nerd communities past, is no more. Were you all about the simple tragedy of Naruto x Sasuke? Were you too cool for Naruto (yes)? Were you so cool and secure in your coolness that you could enjoy Kakashi and Rock Lee and be like “I’m not a fan, but it has some fun elements”?
It doesn’t matter now. It’s all in the past. Naruto is over. And we’re grown up.
That’s not to say that Naruto‘s no longer relevant. I guess that would be folly. As Robot6 reported yesterday morning, there are or have been two hundred million volumes of Naruto floating about this world — and that’s only counting the ones in print. Digital experience of the ninja pals? Far higher. That’s the thing with ninjas, man. They sneak in. They’re insidious. They’re a part of us now, Naruto and Sasuke and Sakura and Gaara and other names I don’t know. Hinata. They live in us. Believe it.
That’s why I think it’s so sad, the way the final battle ended.
The final battle between Sasuke and Naruto, obviously. Large-scale storylines, tales of evil, cosmic power, spiritual missives, politics and personal revenge, etc — these were always the backdrop. Naruto was a story about a boy whose best friend runs away and into trouble. It was a love story, like Harry Potter: a friendship story about loving your friend(s). There’s a reason that Naruto x Sasuke was the ship in my experience, instead of Sasuke x Sakura or Naruto x Sakura or blah blah blah. Those various pairings all had their proponents, sure, huge swathes of kids willing to commit crimes to defend the fictional, potential sweethearts they identified with far too much. But Sasuke was the runaway. Naruto was the protagonist.
In the story of Naruto, we know that Sakura cares a lot. Her feelings figure into the mix. But Sasuke is the prodigal son, and Naruto is the welcoming father.
One of the strongest scenes in Deathly Hallows is the Arthurian dreamland that takes place in the woods, Harry having followed Snapes’ anonymous Patronus. He comes upon a clearing wherein he finds the sword of Gryffindor, nearly drowns, and is saved by the returning Ron. It’s a climactic scene, full of anger and forgiveness and anguish and generosity. It’s young men loving each other. Compare it to Harry and Hermione’s major friend-love camping scene: all about how they both miss Ron, together and individually. When he comes back after betraying the friendship and the mission, Ron and Harry hug. They hug tightly. There’s violence, mortal peril and sexual jealousy present; adult themes, if you’re likely to argue that Sasuke and Naruto’s final confrontation needs gore or maiming to feel appropriate.
Naruto and Sasuke, on the other stump, fight, blow off their Hermione directly (uh-gain), and fight and fight some more. They fight to kill, I guess? Naruto is a series about fighting, and ultimately it centres its emotional expression upon fights. No excape from conflict, no better way, no better choice. No ninjas fight only because and when they have to. We do what we are, and what we are is fighting dreamers.
But even after all of that, they don’t fight to a standstill, they fight to the death. A messy, harsh, slow, needless death. Sakura catches up with her guys, and heals them (#girlpower). Death avoided. That’s beside the point though, it’s happenstance. “Attempted murder” may not be lethal, but like “actual murder”, it is also a crime.
Harry Potter was a series about peace, basically, about wanting peace and living through war. Naruto, in the end, was a more physical property and too in love with bodily combat to save its primaries from disembodiment. Harry Potter was in fights in every book of his series, and played dangerous Quidditch for fun — it’s not a safe world, people die there too. But Harry chose to disarm Voldemort’s final killing curse, and hugged his roaming friend. Naruto‘s climax might finally reflect how Sasuke and Naruto hold each other dear, but it can’t let go of standoffishness. Even at the last. You can take my self-contained masculine island status when you prise it from the fingers of my cold, dead, chopped off hand.
It breaks my heart a little to see these boys lose their arms and bleed together, holding hands in metaphor instead of holding hands for real. Masculinity is that potent, huh? In a story for kids about teenagers who’d die for each other?
They can’t just hold each other’s hands?