Naruto is one of the first manga titles that I ever read. Not quite the first as I started Dragon Drive, Legendz, Zodiac PI, and others first, but this was still an early read for me. The anime is really what got me into the manga and the movies is what helped get me into the show early on. I actually didn’t read most of part 1 Naruto until way after the first two-three arcs of the Shippuden arc. When I went back to the early days of the manga, it took a while to get used to the art. I certainly remember Naruto fondly and it was definitely an excellent series with a lot of memories attached to it.
Naruto takes place in a world where technology isn’t really present and ninjas still reign. The Village Hidden in the Leaves is Naruto’s home, but the villagers do not trust him because hidden within Naruto is a beast that murdered the Hokage (The leader of the village) and wrecked the whole place a long time ago. Naruto fights to win everyone’s trust and he ultimately wants to become Hokage! It will be a long journey, but Naruto never gives up. It’s simply not his way.
This series was around 70 volumes long, which is fairly huge. As you can expect, this review will be very long as well. I will essentially go through the series arc by arc and talk about the characters as they appear. In a sense, it will be a look back through the years for Naruto. If it proves to be too long to read, feel free to jump to the last paragraph as I wrap everything up.
The first arc of the series had Naruto and friends try to protect a bridge builder from assassins who were sent to end the guy. This was the first big mission for Naruto’s team so it was an intense way to kick things off. Zabuza was the big villain for this adventure and he certainly became popular with the fans. Zabuza was a cold hearted killer when the arc started, but he slowly began to see the error of his ways once Haku was lethally injured. His story was certainly emotional and I did like him by the end. I am still pretty unsure about him keeping up with Kakashi though. It was early on in the series so Kakashi had not yet earned his elite titles, but I would expect a Sharingan user to be much more skilled than this. Zabuza may have only been around for a little while, but he left a strong impression with the fans. Like Zabuza, Haku was an intense adversary. Haku is a good example of what could happen to any character who is raised by a villain. He respects Zabuza and does whatever his mentor wants because of their strong bond. If Haku had been raised by heroes, he would have undoubtedly thrived in such a situation. Haku was certainly ahead of his time as his abilities were also very impressive when he showed up. His skills were second to none.
This is a good time to mention Iruka since he never got much of a role past this part of the series. He was Naruto’s original mentor and much more timid than the ones who followed him. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the guy and his decision to try and stop Naruto in the final arc wasn’t a great one. Konohamaru and his cronies were also around, but there’s not much to say about them except that they were not good characters by any means.
Next up was the classic Chunin Exams. Certainly one of the best Naruto arcs and the hype was very real. An onslaught of new characters were introduced and most of them would be main supporting characters from here on out. Naruto and his pals were deemed worthy of entering this grand tournament and if they won, they could move up from the Genin ranks into Chunin level. The heroes were certainly not going to miss this opportunity! There were 3 main stages to the exams: The Written Exam, The Forest of Death, and The Fighting part. The arc didn’t really get to end because the invasion immediately followed it, but that saga was still a lot of fun.
Most of the characters who were introduced would end up becoming very important for the rest of the series. Kiba was one of the new characters and he was a hot headed genin like Naruto. He would later decide that he even wanted to become Hokage. From all of the Genin, Kiba would likely be in the middle of the pack. His only big role in the series was when he had his big fight with Sakon. After that, he became a permanent member of the supporting cast. He’s not a bad character by any means, but he never really made a name for himself and comes across as petty or too overconfident for his own good.
Shino was one of Kiba’s partners and he was always my least favorite of the new heroes. His insect gimmick gets old immediately and he never really had a big moment in the series. A lot of the characters were really only developed through the anime and that includes Shino. That being said, I just didn’t like his personality anyway. He essentially considers his insects to be expendable. Hinata was the third member of that group and she would actually grow to get a decent sized role in the series. She’s certainly more important than Kiba or Shino, but at the same time, her character is mostly developed through the anime and the sequel movie. Her fight against Neji was certainly very good and she stood up to Pain in one of the latter arcs, which showed off her bravery. I would consider her to be significantly more powerful than Shino and Kiba, but still not strong enough to handle most of the big villains. She’s a decently good character, although admittedly she was a little too timid and shy for me to like her all that much.
For the next group we’ll start off with Rock Lee. He certainly gets a big role in the series, particularly the first part. He is a ninja who cannot use Ninjutsu so he relies on hand to hand combat. It serves him well and he ends up being much faster and stronger than the other Genin at first. Somehow, we’re led to believe that Neji could still beat him in a fight, but I wonder about this. Without his weights and if he needed to use a gate or two, Rock Lee easily looked like the most impressive fighter in the Chunin Exams. I feel like he basically should have won the fight if he had fought anyone other than Gaara. I was fine with how he lost to Gaara as Gaara’s sand abilities were a perfect match for Rock Lee’s talents. Rock Lee’s infatuation with Sakura can be a little annoying at times, but aside from that he is a great character. He never gives up and his dedication certainly paid off.
Neji is another member of the group and between the two of them (Rock Lee, Neji) you can see why their group is known as the strongest. Neji doesn’t have Rock Lee’s speed or power, but his martial art skills are at a very high level and he has an absolute defense where he can generate a chakra bubble that protects him from attacks on all sides. (Almost all sides, there is a slight hole in the barrier, but it is hard to target) His attacks injure you on the inside so if he lands a blow or two, it becomes infinitely harder to defeat him since you will be unable to use chakra. He’s certainly another likable character and easily one of the best Genin members.
Finally, we have Tenten. Unfortunately for her fans, her role is much smaller than that of her teammates. She never really gets a big fight in the whole series as her match against Temari is off screen in the manga. She never really got to contribute to the story, which is unfortunate. I probably still like her more than Hinata and possibly Sakura, although the latter may win as she had more time to shine.
Next up is the weakest team when it comes to attack power as each of the members has his/her own gimmick. Ino is essentially Sakura’s rival and was on her level before part II. After that, she essentially stopped leveling up. I can’t say that she was a good character in the manga as she was essentially filler. Choji was the muscle of the group, but the fun part is that physically, I’d take Sakura, Naruto, or Rock Lee over him. Choji’s also very slow so he can’t hold his own against most of the real fighters. He had a big fight against Jirobo and he helped out when the going got tough, but I never became a fan of his either.
Luckily, Shikamaru is on the team so he saves it from not having any likable characters. He is the brains of the group and his Shadow Possession jutsu is his trademark attack, which can take control of an enemy’s body. The problem is that this won’t work on any really strong opponents and Shikamaru can’t really fight if an opponent is fast or strong. He goes far and gets a much bigger role than most of the other Genin fighters so there is plenty of time to grow to like the character. He may not be very powerful, but he’s likable and the heroes would be in a jam without him.
Now, let’s go on to one of the enemy teams. Kankuro was a puppet style user who worked for the Sand Village. While his hand to hand skills are certainly lacking (As even Shino seemed to have the edge in that form of combat) he is a threat from long range. His puppets are able to poison you and it can be fatal. I never really cared for Kankuro. He’s the gruff villain who eventually starts to act like a nice guy, but his banter was always more impressive than his fighting. Temari was an improvement over Kankuro and she actually got to fight against foes like Sasuke. Her competitive personality is certainly more enjoyable than Kankuro’s. She’s also a long range user who uses wind to fight. Her fight against Tayuya and Shikamaru are likely her big moments in the series. Temari was always more reasonable than Kankuro and while she definitely did start out antagonistic, she wasn’t as downright evil as Kankuro so it was more believable when she turned good.
Finally, we have the main fighter of the group, Gaara! Gaara would go on to become one of The most important fighters in the whole series as he even became the Kazekage. He can manipulate sand to protect him or to go on the offensive. It makes him a very tough fighter to deal with and Gaara doesn’t even need to move unless he feels like it since the sand is almost impossible to get through. He started out as one of the big villains in the series, but Naruto showed him that it was still possible to have friends and to get people to stop treating him like a monster. In the series, Gaara rarely started fights, but assassins were always trying to kill him so he would simply return the favor.
He had a very troubled origin and it was a tough road trying to get people to trust and befriend him again, but Gaara pulled it off. He went from being someone who was feared to being someone who was loved and it was a great character arc. Unfortunately, I do feel like he got a little too emotional at times once he turned good, but it was much more pronounced in the anime and not quite as bad in the manga. He’s still acknowledged as one of the tougher fighters and while he is no longer my favorite character in the series, he still ranks fairly high in the rankings.
After the Chunin Exams were interrupted, the stop Gaara arc showed up as Naruto was tasked with his first S (Maybe A) rank mission. His team set off to stop Gaara, but with Sasuke’s curse mark getting out of control, it would prove to be a very difficult challenge. Orochimaru, a mysterious ninja who defected from the Leaf long ago, also showed up to assassinate the Hokage and throw the Hidden Leaf Village into a frenzy. That certainly shook things up quite a lot! It was a short arc and you could almost just call it part of the Chunin Exams. I greatly enjoyed this arc although the final fight wasn’t nearly as good as the end arc fight in the first two story arcs. The Chunin Exams blew both the Zabuza and the Invasion Arcs out of the water.
Kabuto was around during this period and while he pretended to be just another Genin, it was obvious that he was certainly more than that. He traded blows with foes like Kakashi and we found out that he worked for Orochimaru. I actually liked him because his hand to hand skills were good and he felt like a good rival for Naruto. Little did I know that he would go on to become on of the biggest villains in the series! He actually became one of the masterminds for the final arc. Unfortunately, he became less of a hand to hand fighter for a while and I didn’t like his new design. He fixed that in time for his final fight though and it was definitely an impressive way to go out. He got a chance to look over his life and see what went wrong which was nice.
The Naruto series likes to try and redeem all of the characters. Some naturally stay as enemies, but most of them accept that what they were doing was wrong in the end. While it can be a little cheesy for some and just not make sense for others, it’s always good to see a villain turn over a new leaf and join the side of the heroes. The character should still pay for his/her crimes, but at least now the character can work to make the world a better place. Naruto typically helps to do achieve this personally in most of the villains.
Next up is Orochimaru, who would also become a major player in the series. You could say that he was one of the hype characters of the series and always knew something that the heroes didn’t. He just seemed to be in control for just about the whole series and even once he was gone he still had the answers. I can’t say that I ever liked the character though and my problem with his fight scenes was that they typically didn’t have a lot of hand to hand in them. I also didn’t find his actual power level to be very impressive either even though he did get a lot of hype whenever he fought and managed to take down some fairly tough opponents. He was definitely a major player here though so you can certainly expect to see a lot of him.
The Third Hokage didn’t get to appear for all that much and I don’t mind since I found him to be a bit of a bland character. He was around to uphold the piece and you could certainly not deny that he tried his best to stop the villains, but he was just so old and didn’t feel strong enough to be given the title of Hokage. If he could have fought more or had some cooler moments, then that could have certainly helped his case.
With the invasion over, Itachi and Kisame showed up and we found out about the existence of the Akatsuki. They won’t be back for a while, but it was still a very interesting plot point and both characters were certainly dead. This led into the next arc as Sasuke and Kakashi were severely injured so Naruto decided to travel with the legendary Jiraiya to find a lady named Tsunade who could heal them and also become the next Hokage. That being said, Orochimaru was also looking for her so it would be a race against time!
This arc was not quite as interesting as the others and I would say that it may have been the worst. It did have some good moments of course like the Naruto vs Kabuto fight and Tsunade’s strength made for some great feats. I loved the whole Itachi and Kisame part as well although I probably wouldn’t count it as actually being part of the arc since it felt more like the breather between arcs. Now, let’s talk about some of the new characters.
Itachi was definitely a very cool character and he was supremely impressive right from the start. He took out Sasuke and Kakashi without any effort and you could tell that he would end up being a big threat. That being said, it was hard to expect him to be quite as impressive as he turned out to be. Even by the end of the series, he could outclass just about any fighter and his Sharingan prowess cannot really be matched. He was a lot of fun and the series gave him a lot of development. Like Orochimaru, I’d call him a hype character.
Later on, the series tried to give a lot of reasons to explain why him murdering the Uchiha Clan was necessary and how he wasn’t actually a bad guy. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the author originally intended for this to happen so a lot of it still doesn’t actually make any sense. For one thing, everyone in the Uchiha Clan was murdered including kids and innocent civilians. No matter how Itachi tries to justify that like saying that they were plotting a rebellion, it simply couldn’t be true of everyone. So, no matter how sympathetic the series tries to portray Itachi, he’s still a mass murderer in the end who’s no hero. At least he did help the heroes at multiple points though.
Kisame was a big player as well, but not quite as important as Itachi. He was a sword user and ended up being a rival for Might Guy. He used raw power a lot more than a technical fighter like Itachi and this ended up working out quite well for him. He was certainly not as likable and his origin story didn’t really do anything for me, but he made for a good opponent. While he wasn’t the best Akatsuki member, he was closer to the top than the bottom and appearing so early definitely allowed the hype to build up for his next fight.
Jiraiya was a terrible addition to the team and he certainly didn’t earn the manga any points. While his abilities were fairly advanced, he was the stereotypical master who was irresponsible and only cared about girls in his old age. It’s always sad to see and there was nothing he could do to make himself appear likable after that. Luckily, Tsunade was far superior to him and made for a good character. She would also get quite a big role as the series went on since she was the Hokage for a good portion of time and helped in the final battles against Madara. Her healing abilities make for a great combo with her high attack power since she can afford to take larger risks compared to most fighters.
Tsunade had an assistant by the name of Shizune who helped out a little. I can’t say that she ever really did anything though so it’s hard to have much of an opinion on her. She keeps Tsunade in line, which is good I suppose. The Nine Tailed Fox didn’t get a whole lot of development by this point, but I may as well quickly talk about him. He started out as a monster who seemed to just want to make Naruto’s life as difficult as possible. As the two survived battle after battle, he eventually became a nicer guy and started to learn the values of teamwork. By the end of the series, he became a good character. He’s much cooler than all of the other Tailed Beasts as I didn’t really like any of the other ones. The 8 Tails was all right I suppose and he was certainly far more reasonable than the others, but at the same time, he just wasn’t that cool. The Nine Tailed Fox always had that cool factor about him and he can fight quite well without a host.
Next up was the big arc to end the first part of Naruto. Sasuke decided to leave the Leaf Village in order to get stronger. Orochimaru promised him great power if he followed so Sasuke obliged him. His comrades naturally couldn’t accept this and the move could have also placed the village in danger so Tsunade sent out a team comprised of Shikamaru, Choji, Naruto, Kiba, and Neji to go after him along with some well placed back up. The heroes would have to get past the Sound 4, The Hidden Boss, and Sasuke himself to get through, but they weren’t about to go down without a fight!
To this day, this was probably the best arc in the series. That being said, the anime is mainly why I was such a huge fan of this arc as it was handled perfectly. The final arc is so long that it technically has a whole lot more action and hype moments than this one so I will still have to think about whether this arc deserves to be the best in the manga or not. It’s a tough call and it is over a lot quicker there. The final arc also has more moments where it drags or cuts away to other fights though, but that’s not as much of a problem when in volume format. For now, I guess I’ll say that the final arc was still the best, but this would be an easy second. There were a lot of characters introduced in this arc to let’s get to them!
From the Sound 4, let’s start off with Sakon/Ukon. They share one body and are always eager for a fight. Their Curse Mark form easily has the best design from the team and I also consider them to be deadlier than the other 3. They are certainly as evil as you get and have no problem dragging out a fight. Jirobo was not quite as cool and he got to fight Choji. His whole character is that he’s big and strong so he doesn’t have to use any real strategies. He did manage to trap all of the heroes at one point, which was impressive though, but I like to think that most of the Genin could have taken him down had he been matched with anyone other than Choji.
Tayuya was a technical fighter so she was a perfect match for Shikamaru. I wouldn’t say that she was likable either so she falls into the same rank as Jirobo. She talked tough of course, but there were so many ways to possibly win. Throwing her kunai would have been effective instead of walking over to Shikamaru and getting within range. Her flute techniques are good, but I always feel that fighters like her are doomed since they can’t handle close range pressure. Kidomaru is another long range specialist, but I feel like he’s the bigger threat thanks to his incredible accuracy. If he had been fighting in a different environment then he probably wouldn’t have lasted too long against Neji, but the fight was certainly intense. As you can tell, Sakon was my favorite member of the 4. Kidomaru wasn’t bad though, but he didn’t get a whole lot of character. He was fairly intelligent, which helped to distinguish him from the rest I suppose.
Then, Kimimaro showed up and he was much cooler than the first 4. This guy essentially lived to serve Orochimaru as he thought of the guy as his master. Kimimaro was already dying when he first showed up, but that didn’t stop him from taking on the heroes and nearly coming out on top. He faced off against Naruto, Rock Lee, and Gaara in back to back matches. That’s certainly impressive and another second or two and he would have been able to claim victory. He certainly never gave up and he was easily one of the most impressive villains in the series when you think about each intro. Berserk Naruto has never been so easily defeated and I can’t think of another fight which made him look so helpless.
Time to wrap up some other characters from Part I that I have not mentioned yet. We have Asuna, who was one of the Senseis for the Genin. He was a decent fighter, but didn’t get a whole lot of development. He’s smart and his chakra weapon is unique. Kurenai used illusions to fight. It was just her bad luck that her only fight in the series was against Itachi, someone who can see through any illusion.
There was also Might Guy, whose abilities wouldn’t even be fully shown until the final volumes of the series. He is essentially an adult version of Rock Lee so his raw power and speed are really impressive. He’s a fun character and feels like a Goku or Superman type of fighter since he doesn’t use ninjutsu either. He came to Kakashi’s rescue several times in the series and he never went down without a fight. Even by the end of the series, you could say that he’s probably in the top 10 power wise.
We can’t forget about Kakashi either. He would prove to be a major player throughout the series and many of his plots ended up affecting the whole series like his origin. He was always a good sensei for Naruto and his friends. He even managed to keep up with his training as he could finally use the Sharingan for very long periods of time in Part II and played a critical role in the climax, which was a good endurance feat. Kakashi was certainly a great character and one of the better Naruto leads. He may not have been the strongest character by the end of the series, but he could hold his own.
Sakura was a part of Team 7 and she underwent one of the most dramatic changes between Part I and Part II of the series. In the original story arcs, she couldn’t really fight, which was unfortunate for her fans since it meant that she would rarely get involved in the action scenes. Luckily, she trained under Tsunade for a few years and came back with incredible strength. She could now fight alongside Naruto and Sasuke as she even took down a member of the Akatsuki. It was certainly one of her best moments in the series. Her only real drawback was typically that she was too interested in Sasuke even when he decided to go to the dark side and essentially betray everyone. I think it was just a bit much and lying to Naruto during the snow adventure was also pretty iffy. Overall, I’d say that she was a good heroine and got quite a lot of development. She may have had her flaws, but Sakura was certainly a good character.
Time to talk about the part I versions of Naruto and Sasuke! Sasuke was the cool rival of the series who constantly one upped Naruto and wasn’t afraid to bring this up. He was one of the strongest Genin and his abilities continues to grow at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, this was not enough for him as he felt that he was not growing fast enough and decided that the powers of darkness held greater rewards. He left the village, which began his decent into the shadows. Still, he was easily my favorite character in the series. Despite his aloof and sometimes rude demeanor, he and Naruto definitely had a strong bond and their banter was always a lot of fun. While Naruto would just wander into traps, Sasuke was very smart and always one step ahead of the group. He made the series a whole lot more fun.
Naruto started out as your average Shonen lead. He can be loud and is always talking about something or other. Luckily, this comes along with the classic trait of fearlessness, which is why Naruto was a good character. He doesn’t hesitate when it comes to entering a battle and he always believes that villains can be given a second chance. He was a lot more reckless compared to his Part II counterpart and that was a good thing. When Naruto entered his Berserk Mode, there wasn’t really anyone who could stop him. His rampage was essentially a force of nature and could not be stopped. His dream about being Hokage was a good one and it made it easy to see him develop over the years as he learned what it truly meant to be worthy of the title.
That’s essentially the end of Part I, which was 27 volumes. Time to get into Part II, which took up a large chunk of the series and ended things with a bang. While Part I was fairly down to Earth and lower in scale than the average SJ series (Although about on par with One Piece at the time) Part II upped the stakes and introduced some planetary level threats! Part I will always be classic, but Part II had more action and I have to say that I preferred it. It’s a different story in the anime version, but that’s for another time.
To break up the format a little, let’s quickly talk about the artwork. Naruto’s art started out a little rough for part I and I’d say that it started to get better as Part II started. That may sound like a long time for rough art, but it still looked good. It just wasn’t as polished as the anime and Part II essentially corrected that. You could barely tell that it was the same manga at times, which is always a great sign as it means that the artist is continuing to improve. By the end, Naruto was certainly one of the best looking manga titles out there!
All right, time to start Part II! The first arc saw Naruto return the village after being away for almost 3 years, but he didn’t have a whole lot of time to relax as news came that Gaara, the Kazekage, had been kidnapped by the Akatsuki. Along with Sakura and Kakashi, Naruto’s team headed out to stop the attackers, but would they make it in time? The Akatsuki had finally made their move and Naruto would have a tough time stopping them so Might Guy’s team was also dispatched just in case.
This arc was decently fun. Seeing Itachi and Kisame again was certainly interesting and since the Akatsuki had finally begun to make their move, it felt like the plot was finally starting. Everyone was eager to see where the plot would take us and we also got a glimpse of the other Akatsuki members although it would be almost impossible to identify them at the time.
Deidara, another Akatsuki member made his debut in this round and he would go on to get a rather large fanbase. He was obsessed with art and believed that explosions were the pinnacle of it as they appeared for an instant and then left. His forte is long range combat and he gave Gaara a fairly good fight using his techniques. I’d say that his powers are actually a bad match-up against the sand user, but he could give most of the other opponents a run for their money. He’s a decent Akatsuki member and a likable member.
His partner was Sasori, a puppet master who made Kankuro look like a rookie. He wasn’t quite as likable at all, but I was glad that his true form was more impressive than his Chimera body. It helped him out a little as he was finally able to fight in close quarters combat without relying on his long range puppets. He can control 100 of them at a time, which instantly made him the best puppet master on the block and his fight against Sakura was quite good. With his poisonous attacks, he is a threat to any fighter as one hit is all that he needs.
The next arc had Naruto decide to finally bring back Sasuke once more. An old informant of Sasori had turned up information so the team figured that they would impersonate him and find out as much as they could. Kakashi got injured on the last mission so two new recruits would be coming along to help Naruto and Sakura. One of them was an Anbu Black Op known as Yamato and another was from the Root faction led by Danzo known as Sai. It would be hard to trust either of them, but that didn’t matter to Naruto as long as he got to save Sasuke!
This was certainly one of the shorter arcs, but it was important since we finally got to see the new and supposedly improved Sasuke. His abilities had definitely jumped a lot as he currently outclassed Naruto at the point. More signs to pointing that his choice was the right one if power was all that he desired. Aside from Sasuke appearing, it was a relatively mild arc and certainly not one of my favorites. More action and less Sai/Yamato would have been good.
As you can expect, I didn’t like either character. Sai came way too late and the whole
“being devoid of emotion” gimmick was already taken by Sasuke. Sai doesn’t even have a lot of power to back it up as his skill is in drawing things that come to life. A useful ability if handled right I suppose, but I found him to be far weaker than just about any member of the original Genins. While he got character development as the series went on and learned how to use his emotions, I never liked the guy. He simply wasn’t my kind of character. Likewise, Yamato didn’t work for me either. He liked to use fear to control Naruto and his wood style can be useful for trapping him, but Yamato is far too by the books at times. He may have been an Anbu member once, but he’s a shinobi now so he’s got to keep the act up a little better. He rarely contributes at all as well and I just missed Kakashi whenever Yamato was on screen.
After this arc was one that had a lot more action and was simply more fun. Two new Akatsuki members who went by the names of Hidan and Kakuzu murdered the sensei of Shikamaru and his team. To avenge him they headed out for a rematch, but Kakashi caught them and decided to tag along. Meanwhile, Naruto was still training to achieve a whole new level of power. The question was…would he be able to make it in time to save his comrades from the Akatsuki? As these are Akatsuki members, you can typically expect that Naruto will be needed in the fight.
Hidan was fairly neat. I don’t care for his ritual gimmick, but the banter between him and Kakuzu was always good. I actually ended up liking him more than the partner. Hidan’s immortality was a useful ability even if it had a lot of limitations. Immortality is typically paired up with regeneration because it is essentially useless otherwise as you can hack off a limb and then just tie the opponent down. The heroes realized this at the very end and then utilized this effectively. Still, it was great to see a pure short range fighter who gave us a nice action scene with Kakashi.
Kakuzu was certainly more of a long range fighter although he was also quite adept at hand to hand combat. He was the calm and collected member of the group and it’s tough to destroy him because he has 5 hearts so you have to beat him 5 times. He was certainly giving the heroes a lot of trouble, but he didn’t count on the super powerful main character showing up! This pair beat the Sasori and Deidara combo, but weren’t as cool as the classic Itachi and Kisame.
The next arc focused on Sasuke for a change as he decided to locate Itachi and finish things once and for all. To do that, he would need to build a team so that they could distract Kisame. He found old experiments and comrades of Orochimaru to join his Team Hebi. Then, they finally arrived and had their climactic showdown with Itachi. Naruto would have tried tagging along, but his team was held up by the mysterious masked man who claimed to be the legendary Madara Uchiha. He must have gotten quite the haircut…
I never liked any of Sasuke’s new teammates so I can’t really say that I was thrilled to see them appear. Jugo is pretty similar to Choji, but he can get out of control at times. He’s tough, but a nice guy deep down who is always ready to help his friends. He has super strength and a slight amount of speed as well. He’s not much of a threat to most fighters, but he’s not weak either. Karin is the healer of the group who has an obsession with Sasuke. The Uchiha typically just ignores her, but the plot wasn’t very great and she never transitioned into being a good character. She was really just around to allow Sasuke to fight multiple battles with a plot reason that allowed him to keep on fighting well past his limits. Finally, we had Suigetsu. He was a decent fighter with a sword and easily the best member of the group, but I wouldn’t say that I was a huge fan of his either. He was just a bit generic and we already had a nice amount of hot head fighters who could put up a decent fight. In many ways, Suigetsu was similar to Kiba.
In essence, Sasuke’s team was basically just necessary filler to allow him to fight Itachi one on one. The thing is, Itachi would have permitted the battle even without the other fighters so I don’t think that it would have been a problem. Naturally, it was just awesome to see Sasuke get such a big role so the arc was still quite good and the big battle with Itachi was also very epic. This was the confrontation that we had waited years for and it finally got to occur!
Killer Bee also made his debut here as he fought Sasuke. He was a surprisingly difficult opponent to defeat and his bond with the Tailed Beast put him in a different league of power than when compared to Naruto. Unfortunately, I didn’t like his whole rapping gimmick. That was definitely not cool and his character certainly didn’t do wonders for me. He would have some cool moments once in a while, but mostly he was a miss for me. Either way, his role was decently large, but he mostly disappeared for the final fights.
Next up was the Pain arc, which grew to be quite popular. After Jiraiya was murdered by Pain, Naruto left to train some more so that he could defeat the leader of the Akatsuki. While he was gone, Pain used the opportunity to strike at the Hidden Leaf Village along with his assistant, Konan. Pain was 6 bodies to use in the invasion and the Leaf Village was essentially crushed. They put up a rather embarrassing effort against the villain, mainly due to the fact that Rock Lee, Neji, and Might Guy were away from the village. Rock Lee could have likely been strong enough to take down 1-2 bodies and along with Might Guy, they could have certainly defeated Pain. Alas, that would have been too easy right? When Naruto stepped in, it was certainly an epic moment!
This was certainly one of the best arcs in the series and there were quite a few casualties and fatalities. If not for the final part of the arc that essentially reset everything, I think more fans would look at it as the definitive Naruto arc. Either way, it was very good and you were on the edge of your seat in each chapter to see who would be able to live through this and who would fall before Pain!
Pain definitely got a lot of hype leading up to the arc. After all, he was the leader of the Akatsuki! He certainly met on the hype as he easily started to demolish all of his opponents. His main body was naturally my favorite as he had a cool personality and went up against Naruto in a fair 1 on 1 fight. His other bodies were also fairly neat. He had a plot twist as we learned more about his real body and his origin. It wasn’t bad and he was certainly a decently likable character. It was a tough road to be sure and Naruto showed him that there is still a chance for peace…at least for a little while before new fights inevitably continue to appear. From all of the Akatsuki members, Pain is certainly in the top three and few villains can match him in personality or power.
Konan was a loyal friend who stood by Pain’s side through thick and thin. Her paper abilities are quite good and while her physical abilities aren’t quite as impressive as many of the other fighters by this point, her long range paper abilities ensure that her opponents have to keep their distance. She was a nice character and while her role wasn’t too large by the end, she had some key moments.
After that, the 5 Kages decided to have a meeting and Sasuke realized that this was his chance to finally destroy Danzo, the new Hokage, and avenge Itachi. He quickly headed for the meeting and Naruto also began to head there to try and stop the leaders from officially deciding to destroy Sasuke. This was essentially a very short arc, but a lot happened here. We finally got to meet the 5 Kage and Naruto had his epic rematch with Sasuke. It was short as this was mostly to set up the true rematches that would be held soon. Sasuke vs the Raikage was also one of my favorite battles in the series so this arc definitely had a lot of good memories.
The Raikage was great and he was instantly one of my favorite characters in the series. He didn’t wait for things to play out, but launched himself into the action whenever it became necessary. His fight against Sasuke was great as I mentioned earlier and his lightning abilities were very impressive. Having such a good mix of speed and power is very rare to see and mixed in with his determined personality, he was certainly my kind of character!
I couldn’t really say the same about the Tsuchikage. His back pain joke started to get old after the first few times he used it and he was far too old to really be much of a threat at this point. He was still a decent character in the end as he made the right calls and trusted in Gaara’s ability to lead though. I also liked his particle techniques as they looked really cool and reminded me of Kekkaishi.
Danzo was the only Kage who was openly evil so he was certainly a big contrast from the others. He’s definitely pretty unlikable and the reason why the Uchiha Clan was ultimately destroyed. His fight against Sasuke was certainly neat, but as a character he was definitely not likable. He was a very old guy who could fight with his eye jutsu, but didn’t have a whole lot going for him when it came to close quarters combat. Definitely the opposite of what I look for in my kind of character.
As for the Mizukage, I can’t say that I was really a fan of hers eithr. Her gimmick of not hearing what the other person if saying can certainly get old fast. Why to the Kage need gimmicks? The Raikage didn’t need one and he turned out to be the very best! Her poison abilities are decently good, but she’s probably the weakest of the Kage and a good speed blitz would take her out of the runnings right away.
Next up was…The War! This would be the big arc that would last for the rest of the series. Trust me, it went on for quite some time and I believe that it was nearly 20 volumes in the manga. We got plot twist after plot twist and there was certainly a lot of action. Kabuto and the Masked Man’s alliance finally came into being as they revived an army of essentially every villain who ever died to fight the 5 Villages who had united with the Samurai. This was an excuse to basically bring every past villain back to fight the heroes at their current levels of power. That was fun as I’ve always thought that the final arc should have a plot similar to this. Naturally, this also means that a lot of the fights are off screen or extremely rushed, but it’s still nice to have the battles to think about.
Slowly, most of the weaker villains were dispatched so only the final ones remained like Kabuto, Masked Man, and Madara. Naruto and Sasuke really had to power up to their limits to defeat these foes and a secret boss also showed up at the last second to challenge them. It’s incredible that the characters could fight for so long as their Chakra Reserves were almost limitless by this point. Finally, we had reached the end of the Naruto series. There was a quick epilogue at the end, which will launch Part III, the Boruto saga. Hopefully it can last for quite a while, although I don’t totally care for how everyone looks like their past selves, but as kids again. It’s a little intriguing, but this problem doesn’t really plague the three main characters so that’s cool.
When Madara was finally summoned, everyone was thrilled. We had waited for this character for over a decade and he did not disappoint! He ended up being the best villain of the show and his large array of jutsu were really cool to look at. This was a guy who certainly lived up to the large amount of hype that had surrounded him and his “eager to fight” personality was a pleasant surprise! I was thrilled when he started getting power up after power up and it’s safe to say that Naruto and Sasuke didn’t have a chance against him one on one. In fact, I’d say that he’s probably the best character in the series. It’s no wonder why he made the cut for the recent Jump game for PS3/PS4.
Kaguya was the secret boss who showed up at the end of the series and she was pretty cool. Her dimensional warping ability was definitely something to be feared. It would have been neat if she could have had more lines, but ah well, at least she put up a good fight. It was good to end the series on a cosmic level like that so you could really see how far the series has come!
The Masked Man played a huge role in the Naruto series and fans had fun trying to guess who he was. There were some iffy moments and possible plot holes after it was revealed who he as, but nevertheless, it was as almost every fan predicted. The hair was always the big clue that he couldn’t be who he said he was and I was also hoping that he wasn’t since Madara Uchiha has always been serious and wouldn’t put up such a facade. The true identity of the Masked Man was a bit of a let down though because his character arc really took a shot there.
I liked him a lot as the goofy Tobi and I also enjoyed him as the really serious “Madara” but in his true form he just wasn’t as cool anymore. He did get some really cool fight scenes though and I liked him during the fights, but his sob story and conversation with Naruto did not do him any wonders. In a sense, he became a completely different character during that moment and one who wasn’t bad, but one who wasn’t very likable either. Madara ended up being the true villain of the final arc!
Minato was definitely a cool father for Naruto and he had a really cool fight against the Masked Man. That was one of the few flashback arcs that actually ended up being pretty cool and I definitely gained a lot of respect for him there. The Leaf Village looked really bad as expected, but that’s all right. They’re essentially bullies who need to be led by likable characters like Minato. Kushina was also neat and helped Naruto inheiret a lot of his likable qualities like being so determined. It’s too bad that we couldn’t see her fight more, but her role shall still be remembered.
The 1st Hokage also got a lot of development in the Madara part of the arc since they used to hang out as kids. Eventually, they were forced to fight and the 1st claimed victory. Honestly, I feel like the 1st Hokage was a little full of himself the whole time and despite the hype, I think I would probably say that Minato was the better fighter. The 1st’s statue technique was cool though and his battle against Madara was fun to watch although not as impressive as Madara’s fight against Might Guy.
Part II Sasuke was certainly very different from part I. He completely went over to the Dark Side to stop Itachi, but then found that nothing could satisfy him. He kept making new goals over and over as he learned the hard way that the dark side will never be able to leave you truly content. He definitely had one of the ultimate character arcs of redemption and getting a second chance. While it was a little on the cheesy side how he switched over in the end, it was definitely a good thing. It helped Sasuke to end out as a good character and to realize that no matter how his past was, he always has a chance to change his future. He’s still one of the strongest fighters of all time and I loved his tag team match with Naruto. Next time he fights, we can look forward to him being a hero who will protect the Leaf! That’s the Sasuke that I remember. He was cool as a hero and cool as a villain, but Sasuke is certainly at his best when he stays on the hero side.
Naruto in Part II is less reckless than he was in Part I and doesn’t charge into battle quite as often. Nevertheless, Naruto’s still a very good character who gets the job done. Aside from one or two little events, he never uses the sexy jutsu anymore and has become a figure that the rest of the heroes can respect. He went from being a kid that nobody could take seriously to finally becoming Hokage. Seeing him finally achieve his dream was great and it ended a legendary character arc. Unlike some of the other goals which may never happen (Ash Ketchum becoming a Pokemon Master or Luffy becoming the Pirate King) Naruto actually went ahead and completed his personal challenge. Things can only look up for Naruto now and him being Hokage gives the Leaf Village a pinnacle of hope and a figure to aspire too.
Naturally, there are dozens and dozens of other characters who could be mentioned as the series is chock full of them, but I essentially named all of the really important ones. There are numerous villains invented for the final arc and a lot of supporting characters like people at the various villages and their subordinates who I skipped as well. There are dozens of things that you could really write about for days and days, but for a series as long as this one, it’s probably time to read it yourself. Also, this review is now over 9000 words and while 10000 would be pretty epic, I’d say that it’s about time to wrap things up.
Naruto definitely deserves to be known as one of the greatest manga titles of all time. Megaman NT Warrior is my current favorite, but where does Naruto rank? It’s tough to say as other, shorter titles like DBZ, Kenshin, Yugioh Duelist, and others give it a really good fight. I’m tempted to say that along with the powerful nostalgia value behind it, I may put Naruto in 5th place for now behind Yugioh, Bleach, and DBZ. It’s tough to say for sure though as the series are so long that it’s really tough to think straight. I already reviewed the sequel series, Naruto Gaiden, so we’ll have to wait and see what the author has up his sleeve next. I’m hoping that he’ll personally write a new installment although another author doing it is fine I suppose.
Overall, Naruto will certainly be a title that I’ll always refer people too when asked. It certainly has a lot of nostalgic value for me and I’ll always remember my younger days as it was one of the first manga titles that I read. It was also fun because the anime got me into the manga so I basically continued from there, which meant that I started out with volume 28 and after being nearly caught up, I went back and fast blasted through Part I. That’s probably why this is one of the few cases where the anime completely holds more weight for me with character development and everything. It’s a similar case with Sailor Moon. If you somehow have not started this series yet, then I definitely recommend it! It is full of action, character development, interesting stories, solid writing, and essentially has every good feature that you could ask of a series! You won’t regret starting it and you’re sure to be in for quite a ride! One thing about starting late like this is that you won’t have to wait between volumes. You can just blast through the whole series at top speed! One day, I’ll likely re read the whole thing as almost all of the volumes are already at home in the manga collection excluding roughly 20-25 volumes. That’ll be a fun re read! I don’t see another review ever being quite as long as this one, but One Piece shall certainly have a huge one as well once it finishes so that could potentially pass this. That being said, we’re quite a whiles away from that happening!