Ninjas, Smooches, and Jumping the Shark: All Your Questions About Naruto Answered!
It’s an exciting time for Naruto fans. Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of the popular manga, is coming to New York Comic Con in October, the same month that the final volume of the series comes out in English. But never fear, dedicated fans! You don’t have to say goodbye to our favorite ninja world just yet. Viz also announced that it’ll be releasing three novels set after the series ends, beginning in November.
Given how much Naruto-related material there is, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To that end, we opened up to questions on Twitter about all things Naruto. Here are your questions and our answers.
Here’s my #Naruto question: when did the series (first) jump the shark, and how many times has the shark been jumped?
How many times in a series that’s 72 volumes long? Depends on your tolerance for shark jumping.
I think Part 1 was tightly written and have no complaints about those volumes. Part 2, which covers the post-timeskip storyline (and makes up the Shippuden portion of the anime adaptation), is where we start taking unexpected left turns off a cliff.
For me, the first time we jumped the shark was Kakashi’s death during the Pain story arc. Not so much that he died. Naruto is a manga about ninja, an occupation not known for its safety or long-living workers. It’s that he didn’t stay dead! He was brought back to life after a couple chapters. What’s up with that? You stun us with his death and then take it back with a “Just playing!” I still can’t decide whether that was intentional or Shounen Jump editorial influenced the sudden reversal.
The other times?
- When it’s revealed that the reason Akatsuki is gathering the tailed beasts is because they want to cast a spell to put the entire world to sleep. In other words, they started a fourth world war in order to achieve world peace by giving everyone naptime. Right.
- When it’s revealed that the founder of the Ninja World as we know it is the son of an alien woman. Not even the most outlandish fan theory could have predicted this! Because in a Japanese fantasy story, the last thing anyone expects is aliens!
- When Sasuke decides the way to bring about world peace is to kill Naruto, all five kages, and the tailed beasts. Because the way to win friends and influence people is to kill all the current ninja heads and the undisputed hero of a world war. I don’t quite get his line of thinking but his logic throughout all of Part 2 never actually made much sense to me.
That’s what, four? Four times, then.
Where does Naruto, like… where does he live? There is a “leaf village” or something, right? And he is an orphan? Does he live in an orphanage? Where does he live?
Yes, there is the Leaf Village (aka Konoha), where Naruto lives. And he is indeed an orphan.
But he doesn’t live in an orphanage. From what we’ve seen, he lives in an apartment by himself.
This is actually the biggest mystery in the entire series. His parents died the day he was born! Someone had to have taken care of him. Fed him. Changed his diapers. All that jazz. Realistically, it was probably someone on the Council. Probably.
The truth about Naruto is that it’s about a system that treats children horribly. It raises and trains child soldiers and assassins. Their deaths on missions are treated as expected occupational hazards. So no one bats an eye at the idea of a twelve-year-old living by himself. No wonder he loves ramen so much! It’s cheap and easy to make, right? Sasuke’s in a similar situation. His entire clan was slaughtered by his older brother, but he still lives in the wreckage of the family compound. Everyone treats him as a genius and a prodigy, but no one wonders about how healthy that is? And then everyone’s shocked when he betrays the village and runs off with the enemy? Sorry to say, they should have seen that one coming.
So… no one’s gonna talk about how Naruto had a magical half foot growth spurt after the manga ended? He was 17 when it ended.
The world is a mysterious place and apparently so is the world of Naruto. The height difference between Naruto and Hinata hadn’t been quite so pronounced in Naruto: The Last either, and that movie takes place two years after the manga ending.
Is Naruto’s magical half-foot growth spurt the result of a much-delayed growth spurt? Hey, it can happen. Is it because once he started dating Hinata, he switched from a 100% ramen diet to a balanced one filled with nutritious vegetables, healthy proteins, and filling grain? Or is it simply a conceit related to romance manga visual aesthetics where the dude must be a head taller than his female partner?
At any rate, it’s safe to say it’s not related to the other manga visual aesthetic where larger-than-life, significant characters are enormous. (See: One Piece.) Naruto’s visual design has never operated by those visual elements.
It is truly a mystery.
What are the strongest elements of Sakura’s character arc, as an individual?
Like many of the other female characters in Naruto, Sakura is an exercise in missed opportunities and awesome potential persistently thwarted by the narrative. But if you look at her separately, what stands out about her character arc the most is her desire to become stronger. Throughout Part 1, she always watched Naruto and Sasuke’s backs. They were the strong ones, and she was the one who watched them fight. It was a major turning point when she understood that being the medic of a ninja team doesn’t mean you don’t, and can’t, fight. It means that you must be the last to die, so you need to be strongest member of the team in terms of ability and power. So that aspect, where she grows stronger because she wants to be the one doing the protecting, was good.
The part where she decides to kill Sasuke — remember, in anime and manga, you show your true love and devotion by being the one to kill them — could have been good. The decision process that led her to that point was really interesting! Alas. Missed opportunity and thwarted potential.
Does Sasuke keep being a huge prick?
- He betrays Konoha and runs off with Orochimaru. He betrays Orochimaru and runs off with Akatsuki. He betrays Akatsuki and forms his own team. This dude doesn’t know the meaning of loyalty.
- After discovering the truth behind Itachi slaughtering the Uchiha clan, he decides to destroy all of Konoha. Instead of, like, targeting the people who gave Itachi the mission, which would have been revenge on a reasonable scale at least, he decides to include the murder of civilians and babies in his plan.
- He treats all the women in his life like crap. He tries to kill Sakura multiple times. He uses Karin for her Uzumaki chakra and has no compunctions about abandoning or sacrificing her when it suits him.
- After helping to win the fourth ninja war, he decides to kill everyone. Because that’s how you lead a revolution.
- He abandons Sakura to wander the world and “find himself,” leaving his daughter to grow up without her father. That’s over a decade. How can he still be lost?
- He’ll come back to drop off a bruised and battered Hiashi and destroy a meteorite, but he can’t even come back for a day to attend his best friend’s wedding! Really?
So, to answer your question: Yes.
Sasuke is an asshole who should have spent the rest of his life alone. He doesn’t deserve Sakura as a partner and he doesn’t deserve Naruto as a best friend. That’s the hard truth.
Who all smooches? I feel it’s important to know exactly who ends up smoochin’ who.
It is important!
In Chapter 700, the final chapter of Naruto, Kishimoto makes a point to tell everyone who ended up with who! It’s very Harry Potter epilogue-like. While there aren’t any on-panel smooches during the manga’s 15-year run, the manga’s ending shows who marries who, as well as their kids! So hopefully there was some smooching involved.
Here’s the rundown:
- Sasuke & Sakura – It’s unfortunate, but this was also expected. It would have been nice to see either Sakura fall out of love with Sasuke because he’s a walking ticket to a life of sorrow or Sasuke genuinely try to atone for how he treated Sakura. That didn’t happen. There had to be some smooching here because they have a daughter, but I’m not sure when that happened! He went off to find himself by wandering the world but who knows when and how often he returned to the village? Sakura ends up living a hard, lonely life and I can’t decide whether to give props to Kishimoto for unflinchingly showing the kind of life a woman will live if she marries Sasuke or throwing my hands up in the air and asking WHY.
- Naruto & Hinata – It’s arguable whether this is a random pairing, but there are subtle signs throughout the series that this would be the end ship. The premise is that Naruto wants to be the Hokage, right? So if you look at the cultural context of the manga, both in terms of Japan and the fantasy world in Naruto, it actually makes sense that an ostracized child who grows up to become a beloved war hero and ninja leader would marry the woman who is essentially a princess of the most powerful ninja clan in the village. But if you want to see how they do get together (and there’s smooching!), check out the movie, Naruto: The Last.
- Shikamaru & Temari – Shippers, rejoice! Your favorite pairing is canon. Shikamaru first asks Temari out on a date in Shikamaru Hiden, a novel that was released earlier this year as part of the Naruto Project.
- Ino & Sai – A pairing that seemed random at first glance, this couple actually gets great development and set-up in Shikamaru Hiden. It didn’t even require many words! There’s something to be said about how novels not written by Kishimoto are doing a better job executing the canon pairings than he did himself. Ino and Sai are an interesting couple because thanks to the novel, we see how their relationship starts: Ino wants to learn more about him because she’s always been attracted to him, and after saving him during a mission, she gets her chance. She moves on from her infatuation with Sasuke, which is good to see. And though it’s implied, we can extrapolate that she teaches him the full gamut of emotions because we see them holding hands during the ending credits of Naruto: The Last, and we see Sai being a good father in Chapter 700 and the sequel manga mini-series.
- Chouji and Karui – Karui is a ninja from Kumogakure, the village that’s home to the Raikage and Killer B. How they got together is a mystery. They have a cute daughter, though!
- Kiba & Tamaki – I bet a lot of you are wondering who Tamaki is. She’s a minor character who made a brief appearance in the manga. She has a lot of cats. So by getting with Kiba, they live in a house that’s filled with cats and dogs! No kids, as far as we’ve seen.
It’s very heteronormative. It follows the ideology that true happiness means getting married and having kids. And it’s very telling when it’s Naruto’s generation that experiences this.
Kakashi and Guy don’t have families. Tsunade never recovered from the love of her life dying, and Jiraiya’s unreciprocated love for her was never realized. Kurenai raises her daughter alone because Asuma died in action. If Naruto’s generation represents a new, peaceful era of ninja, what does it say that they’re the only ones who experience happiness, if happiness in Naruto is represented by marriage and kids?
Why SasuSaku? Like how did that happen — what did I miss near the end of the series?
Because Kishimoto comes from the school of thought that believes the person you fall in love with when you’re 12 is the person you love forever and ever. This apparently means you endure his insults, his attempting to kill you, and his abandoning you to raise the daughter you had with him by yourself so he can see the world with his own two eyes or some nonsense.
Sakura really deserved better.
What is the cutest outfit that Naruto wears? I know he doesn’t change much, but he must change sometimes.
Kishimoto tries so hard with the outfits he designs for his characters that sometimes I want to give him a gold star for effort. They’ll never be stylish, not the way Kubo Tite’s outfits in Bleach are, but they have their own charm. Even if some of the shoes are completely impractical.
For Naruto, I’m fond of his sage mode outfit. It’s reminiscent of the outfit his father wore as the Fourth Hokage. In fact, his wearing it when he returns to Konoha during the Pain story arc foreshadows the conversation he’ll have with his father’s spirit a few chapters later.
My question is: Naruto, which episodes matter?! I enjoyed Naruto until the filler bored me into giving up 🙁
Confession: I don’t watch the anime TV adaptation. Because, as you say, filler episodes can be brutal to work through. Rurouni Kenshin burned me pretty hard with its filler season, and I never recovered. That was almost twenty years ago. Lose my trust and I never forget.
Why do so many big shounen protagonists have to be the least interesting part of their universe??
Who knows? It could be part of the big shounen formula. The hero has to be likeable enough to carry a series that could potentially run 50+ volumes, and that means avoiding the pitfalls. Maybe it’s because we spend too much time with them — familiarity breeds contempt and all that. A lot of what — and who — gets labelled as “interesting” by fans are elements and characters that aren’t explored fully and to our satisfaction. It’s the mystery, you know? How many times has a narrative done a massive reveal that you’ve been anticipating and it ends up being a letdown?
The current big shounen formula also has its protagonists getting ridiculous power-ups, increasing in frequency as the series proceeds toward its conclusion. Overpowered characters tend not to be as interesting as their less-powered counterparts, simply because as a reader, you end up assuming they’ll develop another ridiculous ability to defeat a threat whereas with another character, you’re not sure that will happen.
If the world of Naruto has computers and TVs, why has no one developed any electronic jutsus?
The presence of technology in Naruto is prime example of a creator not thinking through the ramifications of what they’re introducing into their work. There are TVs, but it’s also shown that you can’t transmit for long periods of time because transmission devices run on batteries that don’t last that long. Wouldn’t someone develop better, more efficient batteries then? Or if not, then wouldn’t only nobles and high-ranking government officials have TVs? Why own a TV if you can’t watch anything on it for longer than 10 minutes? But if transmission devices run on batteries, what do things like satellites and medical equipment run off of? Wouldn’t they run off of batteries, too? Or conversely, why can’t transmission devices run off the energy sources used by those things?
Kishimoto has said that he created the world of Naruto with no particular place or time period in mind. That’s fine but technology isn’t static. We do see some change: Minato reads morning headlines from a newspaper whereas Naruto reads them from a tablet. But there are some obvious logic gaps.
The conclusion we’re apparently supposed to reach is that the world stays relatively low-tech, because they have no reason to advance if they depend on ninja and their chakra. Energy is funnelled into developing new techniques based on the traditional rather than technology. Whether that’s what would truly happen in reality is another matter entirely. But this is a world where ninja form the heart. Advanced technology is not something that actually benefits them. So maybe that’s the real reason there’s no jutsu based on electronics. Too much technology would render them obsolete, and an electronic jutsu would likely require some technological dependence.
…and that’s it! Thanks so much for the questions, everyone. Hopefully, the answers provided some enlightenment about this sprawling world of ninjas, jutsus, and…aliens.