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How to Understand the Naruto Anime Cartoon
Naruto: A Long and Complex Story
Naruto has been going on since 1997 in book form and the anime started around 2002. This means the anime has been around for over 10 years now! With 10 years of history one might find it a daunting task to catch up to this anime or even begin to understand it. I also realize that some parents may be wondering what this whole thing is about and if it is okay for children to be watching as well. I will go into that and begin to help people understand what this whole Naruto thing is about here under simple headings so you can find what you are looking for as this will be rather long.
Anime vs Cartoons, and Children
The simple questions may arise - before we even get into what Naruto is - What is anime? How is it different than cartoons? Then lastly: should my child watch this?
The long and short of it: Anime, or Japanese Animation is a form of animated story telling, like cartoons but usually a higher quality. Anime however, is not just for children. Often, Japanese animation is for older audiences - especially for Americans because anime has a lot more freedom in Japan. Because there are adult cartoons in other countries as well, you could be better to think of them as a certain stylized cartoon.
Japan has its own rating system for anime and the book alternative of manga. Naruto is considered Shonen. Shonen simply is the age group and sex it is intended for and marketed to - in this case it is age 10 and male.
As mentioned before though, Japan has a lot more freedom than American television. I would suggest 15+ in this category most of the time. This is because of a bit of blood and having to deal with war and death. Its not a gory anime by any means, perhaps a light bit of blood at times, but the themes and mood can be a bit heavy. Upon searching for "bloody scenes" in Naruto I actually had a problem finding any, so perhaps it is more imagined blood than actual blood. It is somewhat rare and if someone dies it is usually a clean kill. I would suggest watching an episode or two and finding making a decision based on your ideals.
Naruto and Naruto Shippuden
If 10 years seems rather long for the same series to you, you would be right. Naruto was actually from 2002-2007. Naruto: Shippuden or "Hurricane Cronicles" in English started 2007 and is still currently running. In the Naruto series from 2002-2007 there were 220 episodes, and Shippuden has (will have) at least 300+ episodes to it not including the 6+ movies that have been released.
Shippuden starts about 10 years after the events of Naruto so we get to see many increases and a pick up in pace. Honestly, if you wanted to skip straight to Shippuden they like to do recap episodes a lot so you might just want to only watch the second series. It is faster and fills you in on everything you really need to know.
What is Naruto? Themes, concepts, and more!
Going into what Naruto actually is takes quite a while, so I will be separating into the different important concepts, settings, and more in order to facilitate understanding.
When and where are we?!
This is an interesting question. We seem to be in a feudal Japan. There are feudal lords who control the different states/countries/villages. There are ninjas and samurai along with normal people and these ninja have for the lack of a better word magic, but it is called "ninjutsu" or ninja arts or what have you. Technology seems to be more along the lines of steam technology but it never really plays a part and there aren't any guns.
What are the major themes?
A lot is about friendship. The power of working together, perseverance, and friendship. The major storyline is about two friends that become enemies: but one wants to bring his friend back home. Along the way there are many, many conflicts but the main theme remains friendship, and at times what it means to be an outcast and alone. Follow your heart and your dreams and everything will work out in the end and that sort of thing. Though it can be rather sad, it can also be rather joyful at times with exploring what it means to have friends.
The World of Naruto: Lands and Leaders
This is a wide ranging world, and with as many wars and arguments between territories in it a map comes in quite handy. Long story short there are 5 great lands: Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and Lightning. Other than this there are many smaller lands, but these 5 are the "five great shinobi nations".
Each nation has different villages, but they are all run by a "kage" that takes on the prefix of the element of the country. Above the kage is the feudal lord that is a figurehead of the nation. It was once mentioned that there is a king, but nothing else has really been said about it. The whole system is a little sketchy when it goes above the kage level.
In Naruto there are a lot of abilities. Here is a quick overview.
Chakra: Chakra is basically the power source of abilities. If you have enough to use an ability, you can use the ability. If you don't, you can't.
There are three kinds of techniques used in Naruto: Ninjutsu, Genjutsu, and Taijutsu.
- Ninjutsu: Pretty much a blanket term for abilities that do not fit in the next two.
- Genjutsu: Illusionary abilities that can make people see or hear whatever you want.
- Taijutsu: Hand to hand combat. These are not particularly magical at all, but are pretty strong physical attacks.
There are a lot of different inheirited abilities as well, one of these types is a special eye.
- Sharingan (Mirror Wheel Eye) - Uchiha Clan - The ability to see all of an enemies movements exactly and copy them. Some have the ability to render someone completely hypnotized.
- Byakugan (White Eye / All Seeing Eye) - Hyuga Clan - The ability to see through anything. In combat it is used to see the lines of chakra and block them, making it so the enemy can't use abilities through acupressure.
Of course, there is a lot more that could be said about the abilities found in Naruto but that is a basic overview. Below is a commercial for one of the games - the anime lends itself well to being a fighting game. Watch the anime if you want to know more!
Concept: Tailed Beasts
Tailed Beasts are an important part of the story. There are 9 total, each with a number of tails 1-9. These are powerful beasts that have an immense amount of power and are almost god-like. Because these beasts are so strong they must be sealed in a human in order to be controlled. These beasts then effect the human by giving them much more power than normal. Two things come from this. One, they are feared by normal people. Two, they become weapons for the warring countries to use against each other and effect the balance of power immensely. Naruto has the 9 tailed beast sealed within him and starts off as an outcast, but learns to make friends and change his life and the world around him into a more positive world.
Understanding The Naruto Anime
To completely understand Naruto, you must watch it - at least from the start of Shiipuden. To get a complete understanding you may want to start from the beginning. However, I hope that I have been able to shed some light on this series for you. There is so much to love about this long running series and I hope that you give it a chance, even if it is hard to understand and seems like watching it would a giant task to undertake - its worth it!