I get a lot of eye rolls and grief-filled sighs when I tell people that Naruto is my guilty pleasure anime.
“How could you like that?”
“Ugh, Naruto is so lame!”
I receive dissertation-level arguments about why no one should ever watch this show. It borders on insanity, the disdain out there for poor Naruto and his friends. Considering how popular the franchise is all over the world, and continues to be with the anime Boruto: Naruto Next Generations now 120+ episodes deep into it’s run, it’s funny how the voices of its detractors overwhelm those of its fanbase. It’s interesting how that always seems to be the case.
Look, I get it, Naruto isn’t for everybody. There are hundreds of filler episodes that have nothing to do with anything. The plot is well short of being a masterpiece. So. Many. Flashbacks. And, of course, why do they run with their arms at their sides like that?
Although there may be many reasons to hate on Naruto and his adventures in ninja land, I can give you some reasons why it’s not as bad as you think. Here’s three reasons Naruto is my guilty pleasure.
1) Naruto may be annoying, but he’s woke AF
Seriously, say whatever you want about how you don’t like his voice, clothes, antics, overuse of “dattebayo” or whatever. One thing no one who has watched enough of this series can deny is that Naruto is wise beyond his years when it comes to certain things. That wisdom goes beyond the usual shonen tropes of train hard, never give up, friends are your strength, and so on.
Have you noticed how Naruto always fights against the cycle of hatred? It’s a prominent part of the discourse between him and Pain during their fight, and a recurring theme throughout the entire series. Naruto may not be the smartest ninja in the land, but even he knows if that vicious cycle is ever to stop, it has to end with him. He hated Pain so much it made him sick, but Naruto wouldn’t take revenge on him when they finally meet face-to-face. At that moment, he sought to understand and empathize with his adversary instead. He never hated Sasuke for seeking revenge. Instead, he wanted to drag him out of the darkness that consumed him, no matter the cost.
Naruto is more than aware of the pain of loss and the cycle of hatred that is caused by vengeance masked as justice. He seeks to break the wheel that humanity is trapped in because of their pain and hatred. He doesn’t ignore that pain or dismiss it. Naruto always does the hard work of understanding and empathizing. If that isn’t woke, I don’t know what is.
2) You will know every character inside and out
How many movies or TV shows have people complained about for having a lack of character development? You won’t ever have that problem watching Naruto. Admittedly, the flashbacks can be a bit much at times when you’re hungry to get back to the action. “Okay, everyone has a long, sordid past… get on with it already!” Believe me, I get it. Let’s take a moment to look at the bright side of it for a second.
Virtually every major and minor character in the Naruto universe gets a detailed look at their past, or at the very least, a flashback or two to provide vital information about why they are a certain way or do certain things. If there’s one luxury having hundreds of episodes between multiple series affords you, it’s the ability to develop your world and the people inhabiting it. The viewer will never want for any information about any character, or the world around them. You will know them inside and out. I think that’s a huge win for fans of any series.
3) You could learn a lot from Naruto
This is more a credit to Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto for creating a character and a story from which you can learn so much. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult, the message of not giving up in spite of the challenge ahead of you should resonate. “I never go back on my word” is not just a saying for Naruto, it’s his mantra, his way of life. He is wholly devoted to being impeccable with his word and pushing through all obstacles in his way. That’s some sage wisdom that could carry any of us to our greater desires.
Kishimoto’s views on war, the cycle of pain, hatred, and vengeance, human emotion, and the value of understanding one another are profound. These are all things we should think about more carefully than we do. I’m not telling you to idolize Naruto or think it’s the most philosophical or righteous anime that ever existed. However, there are some nuggets of wisdom there if you look and listen.
What else do you think makes Naruto a great anime? Is it completely unbearable? Sound off in the comments section below!