Is it actually time to talk about Naruto as if it’s nostalgic? I mean I guess sure, why not. So first things first this show has more in common with Dragon Ball than starring an orange and blue clad lovable idiot. That being if you should watch it subbed or dubbed. Honestly both have advantages.
Subbed has the better voice cast for sure, and lots of little subtlies that are absent from the English dub, dattebayo. Lots of the changes happen to just be the quirks of Japanese language. Something purists will get all hung up on for sure. So if you need those little bits of Japanese life like the verbal tics often added ad the end of sentences desu. It’s a fuller richer experience, but one that requires all you attention.
The dub lacks almost all of these, but that is fine really. They are more than just catchphrases ya know. Each can be broken down to what they actually are saying. Something that most subtitle options will ignore or just leave in Japanese anyway so it’s kinda pointless. It goes with the old do you translate the attacks or leave them in Japanese. Do you call it Special Beam Canon, Demon Impaling Light Killing Gun, Light of Death, Makankosappo, Killing Laser Gun, or Demonic Penetrating Light Death Cannon? Little choices like that greatly change the experience for the viewer. So does censorship. Another big reason Naruto fans say to watch it subbed. I’m currently plowing through the dub on Hulu and aside from some clunky moments were a scene was in both the TV broadcast and the uncensored version it’s fine. Mostly just directly avoiding the term sake. That said it’s still very understandable what they are talking about the few times they call it something else.
Okay okay, I get it moving on. Just pick a language and go for it. Just does it hold up? Surprisingly yes, it does. The original series is equal parts young spirited adventure story and a slice of life about people with extraordinary abilities. Focusing on a whole class of young ninja on the day they graduate from the academy as well as their teachers and squad leaders. You get a decent amount of time with everyone in the village. You really start to feel familiar with Konoha as a whole.
This might be because the Ninja Storm games let me actually run around the town with various degrees of polish. Sometimes the AI can uh… get confused as to what to do. Yet still lock my controls so I can’t move. Not that I’m still upset after 4 years.
Just like, save your games kids. Every chance you get hit save. So this series does seem a little melodramatic at start. I promise that goes away quickly. What your left with is a group of balanced and believable archetypical characters who you will see yourself in to an uncomfortable degree. They do have the same problems you expect from teenagers in an anime, but in Naruto they call each other out on it. Sometimes even themselves. Sakura Haruno is a self absorbed try hard. Who is constantly shown her weaknesses and nonstop failures. It eats at her nonstop. Even when she tried harder, got determined, and gave it her all she still failed.
Like always everyone else bailed her out. The boy she looked down on the most almost died to do what she couldn’t. It took her days to even come to terms with everything. The classic series it her hard over and over. Yet she still kept trying. It takes her longer than most but she finds her own place. Naruto who wanted only to be acknowledged. To have atleast one person see him and respect him. To have even one person love him. Eventually wins over even some of the hardest hearts to be his friend. A boy nobody wanted goes out into a life based around death and destruction yet finds a way to use his hurt to build trust and understanding across enemy lines. Just not like in Dragon Ball where they become friends. Sometimes he has to be the one to kill them himself. The series as a whole maintains a level of realism with the character interactions. A rare treat in most shows anime or not. Let alone the fact that you get to see them grow up series to series.
It’s the most impressive part of Naruto to me if I’m being honest. I mean the show is still running at the time I am writing this. It’s been 19 years and now most of the main cast has grown up and had kids if their own. I can’t particularly weigh in on Boruto I only watched a little bit of that series. Honestly it wasn’t the quality I had come to expect from Naruto. Not saying it’s bad, but more saying how much I enjoyed Naruto and Shippuden. The shows will drag on at times. You will get so invested you just want them to get to the point. Even on my third rewatch of the entire Naruto run I find myself tempted to skip ahead. Yet I have to hold myself back. Every big emotional pay off is honestly dependant on the scenes before it. Watching clips out of context really doesn’t do it justice. Naruto is a rich suspense filled tale of ninjas, beasts, betrayal, and the very fabric of at the core of not only the ninja world but the origins of ninjitsu itself. So if you got some time to kill and want a longer story to fill it with give Naruto a watch. I mean there has to be something there if it’s still going strong almost two decades later, right? Huh? Oh I know, I didn’t touch on the plot at all. Either you know it already or you don’t. If you don’t then you should just watch it okay. Or well here, not to long ago these giant beasts roamed the world. To keep humanity safe these monsters were sealed into the body of hosts who keep them contained. Naruto was chosen to be the host for the nine tailed fox. At that time, during that fight his father and mother were both killed. With no remaining family to raise him and every adult only seeing him as the embodiment of that monster he was cast aside. Growing up alone and with no idea why seemingly only he was treated different he decided to show them all his worth by aiming to become the strongest ninja in that town, the hokage, and then maybe people will validate him with the respect and admiration others seem to get without question. Only the real events of that night are not known to most. Even more have no idea who his parents really were. That his father was the 4th Hokage. An evil organization is secretly operating behind the scenes to gather.these people who have the beasts sealed in them putting Naruto, and his hometown, in their crosshairs. All while old grudges come back to offset the uneasy peace Konoha has come a bit to used to since the last Great Ninja War. See, honestly that’s like next to nothing. That’s the backbone of the plot. It really shines with watching the day to day problems and one and done missions that have to happen amidst this big connected story as the world slowly closes around Naruto and those who come to love him.
It’s pretty easy to find. So grab a streaming service and check. If you don’t have Hulu, I know it’s there. I’ll come back later to give a full review closer to the 20th anniversary of the show so maybe watch it now to be ready for spoilers.