What is Naruto …?
Written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto is a Japanese manga series with an anime adaption. The main character, Naruto Uzumaki, is a loud, hyperactive, unpredictable adolescent ninja who constantly searches for recognition and aspires to become a Hokage, the ninja in the village acknowledged as the leader and the strongest of all.
Masashi Kishimoto first authored a one-shot of Naruto in the August 1997 issue of Akamaru Jump. The plot differed substantially in that Naruto was the son of the demon fox instead of being the container, and the story was placed in a more modern setting. This early version of Naruto already had the ability to transform into a sexy young woman – but when he did so, a fox tail sprouted. Kishimoto then rewrote the story to its current form, which was first published by Shueisha in 1999 in the 43rd issue of Japan’s Shonen Jump magazine. As of volume 36, the manga has sold over 71 million copies in Japan. Viz Media publishes a translated version in the American Shonen Jump magazine. Naruto has become Viz’s best-selling manga series and to date, the first 27 volumes are available in English.
The first of two anime series, produced by Studio Pierrot and Aniplex, premiered across Japan on the terrestrial TV Tokyo network and the anime satellite television network Animax on October 3, 2002, and is still being aired. Viz also licensed the anime for North American production. The first series lasted nine seasons, while Naruto Shippuuden began its first on February 15, 2007.
Naruto debuted in the United States on Cartoon Network’s Toonami programming block on September 10, 2005, and in Canada on YTV’s Bionix on September 16, 2005. Naruto began showing in the UK on Jetix on July 22, 2006. It began showing on Toasted TV on January 12, 2007 in Australia, which features the German dub opening, although it could be watched on Cartoon Network in 2006.
Twelve years before the events at the focus of the series, the nine-tailed demon fox attacked the village hidden in the leaves, also known as Konoha. Powerful enough to raise a tsunami and flatten mountains with a swish of one of its tails, it created chaos and slaughtered many people, until the leader of the Leaf Village – the Fourth Hokage – sacrificed his own life to seal the demon inside the newborn, Naruto Uzumaki. The Fourth Hokage, who was celebrated as a hero for sealing the demon fox away, wanted Naruto to be respected in a similar light by being the containment vessel for the demon fox.
Konoha, however, shunned him, regarding Naruto as if he were the demon fox itself and mistreated him throughout most of his childhood. A decree made by the Third Hokage forbade anyone to discuss or mention the attack of the demon fox to anyone, even their own children. However, this did not stop them from treating him like an outcast and as a result he grew up an orphan without friends, family, or acknowledgment. He could not force people to befriend him, so he sought acknowledgment and attention the only way he knew – through pranks and mischief.
However, that soon changed after Naruto graduated from the Ninja Academy by using his Shadow Clone Technique, a technique he learned from a forbidden scroll that he was tricked into stealing, to save his teacher, Iruka Umino, from the renegade ninja Mizuki. That encounter gave Naruto two insights: that he was the container of the demon fox, and that there was someone besides the Third Hokage who actually cared for and acknowledged him. His graduation from the academy opened a gateway to the events and people that would change and define his world, including his way of the ninja for the rest of his life.
The main story follows Naruto and his friends’ personal growth and development as ninja, and emphasizes their interactions with each other and the influence of their backgrounds on their personalities. Naruto finds two friends and comrades in Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno, two fellow young ninja who are assigned with him to form a three-person team under an experienced sensei named Kakashi Hatake. Naruto also confides in other characters that he meets throughout the series as well. They learn new abilities, get to know each other and other villagers better, and experience a coming-of-age journey as Naruto dreams of becoming the next Hokage.
A young ninja from Konoha who encases the spirit of a demonic fox that attacked his village around the time of his birth. His primary motivation throughout the series is to become Hokage, or in other words, the village leader. During the beginning of the series, Naruto was a simple-minded prankster who wished for acceptance. However, as the series progresses, Naruto develops into a more much mature character, although he still retains some of his childhood traits. Naruto possesses a fierce determination, always confident he can complete a given task with relative ease. Because of the demon fox within him, Naruto has access to its great chakra reserves, allowing him to perform jutsu that someone of his rank would ordinarily be incapable of using.
Sakura initially has an infatuation for Sasuke, praising him at every juncture, and heaping scorn upon the less skilled Naruto. Over the course of the series, she begins to shed this singularly driven persona, and grows more appreciative and accepting of Naruto. Within Sakura resides “Inner Sakura,” a manifestation of her inner emotions that, aside from comic relief, represents Sakura’s actual opinion on things when she outwardly displays something opposite. While she is shown to be very proficient with basic ninja abilities during the few battles she participates in, Sakura lacks any unique traits that set her apart from the rest of Team 7, however her teacher, Kakashi Hatake, notes that Sakura has an excellent control over her chakra
His primary motivation throughout the series is to avenge the destruction of his entire clan by killing his brother, Itachi Uchiha, a task he pursues at all costs. Sasuke displays confidence in his abilities. He is as such unwilling to work with his teammates, Naruto Uzumaki or Sakura Haruno, believing their skills to pale in comparison to his own and therefore making them useless if he is to ever kill Itachi. These perceptions are quickly proven wrong, for despite their failings, Sakura is an excellent source of information and competition with Naruto acts as an effective way to get stronger. While his confidence in himself is ever-present throughout the series, Sasuke slowly begins to rely on those close to him. While he was initially cold and singularly driven by his revenge, he becomes more empathetic through his relationships with other characters, most notably Naruto Uzumaki, who he comes to consider as a rival and his best friend.
Like his father, Kakashi is considered a genius shinobi, graduating from the Ninja Academy at age 5 and achieving the rank of Chunin at 6. At the age of 13, Kakashi achieved Jonin status. He is fairly dispassionate compared to his subordinates and fellow Jonin, almost never showing emotion. He often says things that sound harsh but mean well, such as suggesting that Rock Lee brought his career-ending injuries on himself by using forbidden taijutsu techniques. While Kakashi is willing to help his students, he remains somewhat aloof and unwilling to let anyone get too close to him, noting that he no longer has anyone important to him. Though he evasively says that he has “many hobbies” when asked about himself, he is commonly seen reading Make-Out Paradise, an adult and probably pornographic novel authored by Jiraiya that is a runaway bestseller in the Naruto world.
A childhood friend of Sakura Haruno. Sakura and Ino became aware of each others affection towards Sasuke Uchiha and therefore ended their friendship so they could properly compete for his love. The two maintain this rivalry until the end of their match in the Chunin Exam, after which they begin to rekindle their friendship. Nevertheless, the two maintain a competitive relationship and constantly attempt to outdo the other. During their feud she became superficial, thinking highly of her looks and having no problem telling people what she thinks. As a member of the Yamanaka clan, Ino works in her family’s flower shop and specializes in mind-altering jutsu. With the Mind Body Switch Technique, Ino can transfer to another’s body and control it as her own for a short period of time.
Shikamaru is an extremely unenthusiastic person, and as such lives his life avoiding work. His plans on life reflect this aspect of his personality, as he plans to be an average ninja making an average salary, and retire once his children become independent. In his free time he typically takes naps, watches clouds, and plays strategy games such as Shogi and Go. In the instances where he can’t avoid these situations, Shikamaru tends to remark “what a drag”. He is fully aware of this side of his personality, even dubbing himself “the number one at running away.” Despite his lazy tendencies, Shikamaru is extremely intelligent. When the need arises, Shikamaru is quick to abandon his lazy nature and act appropriately to complete a mission or save his teammates. Using his Shadow Imitation Technique he can capture the shadow of an opponent to either keep them immobilized or force them to mimic his movements
A long-time friend of Shikamaru Nara. When his fellow peers would keep Choji from playing with them because of his size, Shikamaru would stick up for him and spend time with him instead of playing with the others. Because of Shikamaru’s willingness to look past Choji’s deficiencies and recognize his true strength, Choji came to view Shikamaru as his best friend who he would do anything for. Choji is characterized by his love for food, his favorite being Korean barbecue, general snacks and sweets, and basically anything that is edible. As a member of the Akimichi clan, Choji’s style of combat focuses on increasing his size. At the series’ start he uses the Multi-Size Technique to serve this purpose, reshaping him into a large, round form. Once in this form he can use Human Boulder to tuck his limbs inside his increased mass and roll at opponents at rapid speeds.
The leader of Team 10 and the son of the Third Hokage. After having a falling out with his father during his younger years Asuma left Konoha to pursue his personal interests. Upon returning, he begins a long-standing relationship with Kurenai Yuhi, whom he frequently appears with. After the creation of Team 10 Asuma begins to spend much of his free time playing Shogi or Go with Shikamaru Nara, though Asuma has never been able to beat Shikamaru. Asuma is a laid-back individual, and does not get himself involved in things unless necessary.
The eldest daughter of the Hyuga clan’s main branch, and thus is the heiress of the clan. Her father trained her to use the clan’s more basic abilities such as the Gentle Fist style of combat, though in time he came to deem her a lost cause and abandoned her to Kurenai’s care as he began training her younger sister instead. Hinata has a long-standing crush on Naruto Uzumaki, which has been present since their time in the Academy. Her feelings for him are rooted in his determination, confidence, and strength, all of which she feels she lacks.
He is characterized by his almost symbiotic relationship with his dog Akamaru, as the two are always seen together. Kiba is extremely devoted to Akamaru, and he is more than willing to risk his own life if it means saving Akamaru. Kiba has acquired a few dog-like qualities from the time he has spent with Akamaru, such as being able to understand Akamaru’s barking and disliking any food that he can’t chew on. He is also very loyal, and despite often being overconfident, he cares deeply for his teammates’ well-beings. This is most evident in his attempts to remove his teammates from harm’s way as well as his constant attempts to avoid hampering his teammates’ progress.
He fascinated with bugs; most of his spare time is spent watching bugs and he often makes analogies to bugs when talking. In addition to liking bugs, Shino is characterized by his emotionless, solitary, and collected way of doing things. He speaks very bluntly and never allows emotion to interfere with his judgment, sometimes offending people in doing so. Despite his odd personality, Shino has a very strong sense of connection with his teammates and allies, first seen when he regrets being unavailable and therefore unable to help with retrieving Sasuke Uchiha. From that point further he resolves to work on his teamwork skills, even helping Hinata Hyuga to improve her abilities.
The leader of Team 8, Kurenai acted as an Academy Instructor for many years, eventually becoming a Jonin soon before the start of the series. Once Team 8 was formed, Hinata Hyuga was left in her care. Kurenai has since begun to act as a parent for Hinata and tries to help her in overcoming her own weaknesses. Kurenai has a long-standing relationship with Asuma Sarutobi, with whom she frequently appears. Despite this, the two deny being a couple and try to write off the amount of time they spend together. Kurenai specializes in genjutsu, and as seen in the anime is very proficient with it.
Lee is very dedicated to Guy, modeling his appearance and many of his habits after Guy’s. One such trait is his unwillingness to give up, always being optimistic and confident that he can complete a task. This has resulted in his personal goals in life being to defeat a “genius” such as Neji Hyuga and to make Sakura Haruno his girlfriend. Lee is unable to use ninjutsu or genjutsu. As a result, Lee’s dream is to become a splendid ninja by using only taijutsu. Through Guy’s mentorship, Lee has become very proficient with taijutsu, mastering the Strong Fist style of combat and being able to open the first five of the eight chakra gates. While Lee’s training has made him a formidable opponent, he is a natural-born user of the Drunken Fist.
A child prodigy of the Hyuga clan, yet because he is a member of the clan’s branch house he is not permitted to learn the clan’s most secret techniques. At the start of the series, Neji hates the main house and its members because of this, readily attacking his cousin, Hinata Hyuga, when given the chance. Neji is also plagued by the belief that one’s destiny is inescapable, and that a weak person will never be able to get stronger. After being defeated in battle by Naruto Uzumaki, someone who has time and again proven his “destiny” wrong by getting stronger, Neji has a change of heart. He abandons the idea of a predetermined fate, and resolves to get strong enough to never lose a battle. As a Hyuga, Neji possesses the Byakugan, which grants him a nearly 360-degree field of vision.
Tenten is the least seen member of the primary Konoha ninja. She strongly believes that female ninja can be just as skilled as male ninja. As such, her goal in life is to someday be as great as Tsunade. Because neither Tenten nor Neji can train on the same level as Guy or Lee, the two are usually seen together having more “normal” training sessions. As a result, Tenten has come to hold Neji’s abilities in high regard. Tenten specializes in weaponry, and according to Guy she can hit a bullseye 100 out of 100 times, although strong winds can deflect her attacks. In battle she summons varying types of weapons from the scrolls she carries with her. Tenten’s most powerful technique is Twin Rising Dragons, which rapidly summons dozens of weapons that she can throw at opponents in quick succession and then controls them with wire for continued attacks.
The leader of Team Guy, much of his time with his team is focused on Rock Lee. Because Lee’s goal in life is to master taijutsu, Guy’s goal has become to help Lee achieve this dream, dedicating his free time to teaching Lee all that he knows about taijutsu. Guy lives his life by his own “My Rules” philosophy, which involves setting tougher self-imposed penalties for failure in the belief that the punishment will make them stronger. Guy specializes in using taijutsu, though unlike Lee, does so as a matter of preference on his part. Through his mastery of taijutsu Guy specializes in the Strong Fist style of combat. Likewise, he can open at least six of the Eight Gates, with each gate giving him more power for short periods of time. As the self-proclaimed rival of Kakashi Hatake, Guy has developed an effective counter against Sharingan users by focusing on their feet, Guy can both predict the movements of the enemy and negate the hypnotic abilities of the Sharingan that require eye contact.
He is the youngest child of the Fourth Kazekage, making him the younger brother of Kankuro and Temari, and is commonly known as “Gaara of the Desert”. Gaara is a foil character to Naruto, having virtually the same childhood experiences, but reacting to it in a much different way, resulting in numerous comparisons and contrasts with Naruto. Gaara was trained by his father, but raised mainly by his maternal uncle, Yashamaru. Because of the power of Shukaku, the villagers of Sunagakure hated and feared Gaara, seeing him only as the monster sealed within him. He became emotionally withdrawn, all but silent, and consumed with a bitter loathing for everyone but himself. He learned to find pleasure and eventually a reason to live in annihilating the numerous assassins sent to kill him – and by extension, anyone who threatened his existence. As the host of Shukaku, Gaara possesses the ability to manipulate sand, typically moving it through the air to serve various purposes.
Temari is generally overbearing, if not crude, toward those around her, often not being afraid to speak her mind. She seems to value peace, and questions Sunagakure’s justifications for going to war with Konoha. Temari is a keen analyst, and can deduce an opponent’s strategies and weaknesses soon after a battle begins. For actual combat she uses her giant iron fan that, in addition to serving as a makeshift club, she can use to glide upon for short distances. The fan’s primary usage is for performing Cutting Whirlwind Technique (English dub “Wind Scythe Jutsu”), which creates guidable gusts of wind that she can use to attack opponents over long distances. Temari is also able to use the fan as a medium for summoning Kamatari, a one-eyed sickle weasel that creates gusts of wind, akin to a storm, that are capable of decimating an entire forest.
Kankuro has shown to be a rather violent and brutal opponent, often leaving his opponents in extreme pain after battle. He is a talented puppeteer and at the moment has three puppets in his arsenal. Karasu (“Crow” in the English dub), the first of Kankuro’s puppets to make an appearance, is highly offensive, having numerous concealed weapons and being able to detach any of its limbs for separate attacks. Kuroari (Black Ant), the second of Kankuro’s puppets, is used to capture opponents for assassination purposes. Sanshouo (Salamander), the third of Kankuro’s puppets, is not seen in action in the manga. In the anime, Sanshouo is shown to have a hollow body that Kankuro can take cover in to defend against attacks.
As a child, Jiraiya and his former teammates, Orochimaru and Tsunade, were students of the Third Hokage. After leaving the Third’s tutelage, he traveled the world and discovered the residence of the toads, who trained him to call upon them in battle. Despite the fact that he periodically leaves Konoha, Jiraiya has maintained a strong allegiance with his hometown. He will also often come back to Konoha, even if it to just spy on women in the bathing house. During Orochimaru’s invasion of Konoha, he helps fend off the invading forces in order to protect the village. When Konoha finds itself in need of a new Hokage after the Third Hokage’s death, Jiraiya volunteers to look for Tsunade so that she can become the Third’s successor. He later decides to train Naruto, and along the way teaches him The Fourth Hokage’s technique, the Rasengan.
The Third Hokage is a former student of the First Hokage and Second Hokage. Because of his name, Sarutobi, the Second Hokage called him “Monkey”. He is the father of Asuma Sarutobi and the grandfather of Konohamaru. The Third was called The Professor due to his vast knowledge of jutsu, purportedly knowing all the jutsu within Konoha. During the only battle he is seen in he utilizes a number of attacks that deal with spiting fire or manipulating earth. The Third also has a personal summon: the Monkey King, Enma. Enma can transform into an indestructible, extendable staff that the Third can wield with great proficiency. Despite all of his abilities, the Third seems to have had some sense of lecherousness in him as he spends much of his free time talking to young girls and even succumbs to Naruto Uzumaki’s Sexy Technique on one occasion.
Through her past, Tsunade came to lose faith in the title of Hokage, believing that only fools would want such a position that would, as she believed, inevitably require them to sacrifice themselves as all the previous Hokages had. While she would maintain this mindset for many years, meeting Naruto Uzumaki causes Tsunade to reject each of these ideals. Tsunade is a compulsive gambler who has the unfortunate disadvantage of having terrible luck. As a result, she has been elevated to a comical status as “The Legendary Sucker” for the gross profits others have made off her misfortune and gambling addiction. Tsunade’s trademark ability is her superhuman strength, which is derived from her excellent chakra control. By storing chakra and releasing it at the point of contact, she can enhance her strength to the point where she can break through boulders with her bare hands or create a gigantic crater by simply kicking the ground.