Manga Redemption: Part One of Naruto.
(AfroGamers.com) I’ve been re-reading Naruto from the beginning–currently at Part 2, the timeskip–and I find myself appreciating the series more than I did when I first discovered it. I first saw the anime and the first big fight against Haku and Zabuza was what sold me on the series.
It had all the style I liked out of ninja fiction. There was still a quietness to fights even though it spiraled into using special attacks at times. The energy blasts and powering up of Dragon Ball Z had worn on me after a decade of that so Naruto’s fights were a breath of fresh air with the techniques and strategy.
Y’all Talk Too Much
This bright-eyed optimism towards Naruto lasted up until the first tournament arc, the Chunin Exams. The Chunin Exams are a combination test, obstacle, and combat tournament meant to test the skills of genin (lower ranked ninja). Genin are often rookie or younger ninja but there have been some older genin who either can’t pass the exam or choose not to participate.
When you see the Chunin Exams there’s mostly younger shinobi entering. Passing the exam advances a ninja to the chunin rank (middle rank) and means more responsibilities such as harder missions and leadership tasks.
That said, the exams themselves were extremely interesting and the tournament was incredible. This was Naruto when a lot of these future legends were still raw and developing, so for the most part they weren’t powering up with spirit flames or being ultra destructive–this won’t last long at all.
The only thing that really spoiled early Naruto for me was the talking. I don’t mean the voice actors or anything I mean the endless talking about how messed up their childhoods were. Hidden Leaf Ninjas and Gaara fall into one of two categories. Either their parents and siblings neglected them or they were crushingly ignored and ridiculed as children. Naruto himself is exempted from this since he was orphaned but it’s still a sour childhood story.
And you know what? There would be nothing wrong with these stories if they didn’t come in the middle of a fight. I’m here for Rock Lee and Shikamaru to wreck ish and we get a dour story about childhood rejection for most of the episode. Come on.
Manga Redemption: Reading the manga instead of looking at the anime painted this is a much better picture. It was easier to enjoy because I didn’t feel like I was watching an important filler episode. Doesn’t make sense, right? If it’s filler it’s not important but nothing happens in filler episodes.
Which is the same thing that happens in these childhood flashbacks. Sure it’s important to the character background but the episode slows to a crawl because nothing is actually happening.
Awesome. You’re Powering Up…
So the chunin exams continued and it was cool seeing all of these ninja taking different approaches to fighting. Then Orochimaru shows up and the Sand Village Ninjas start to get buck. I mean they are here to fight, not take an exam or any of that. This is all still good. It’s still ninja enough but the slider starts going from Ninja Scroll and Kamui over into DBZ territory.
There are moments when that slider hovers between the two, the best example being the mission to bring back Sasuke. Most of the Team Shikamaru vs. The Sound Four is delicious ninja action with Neji and Shikamaru holding it down with strategy, tree battles, blindspots, and shadow manipulation.
Then you get Naruto and Sasuke going Goku and Vegeta-adjacent and Choji–a character I enjoy–going Apache Chief and becoming giant. And you think, “No one sees this guy looming over the woods?” Choji could be seen for miles. Really?
Manga Redemption: There was really no redemption here. I just found the fights more enjoyable in manga form but it was still that dance between Ninja Scroll and DBZ. This was actually where I stopped following the anime. Reading from the start and up to that point helped it sink in that these ninjas had gotten more powerful and that this is the natural progression of their power.
I definitely wouldn’t want them to use chakra engulfed blast fists to take out a political enemy or something but it makes for good Z-style power battles in a conveniently deserted area.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.