It is the end of an era for the manga shōnen genre. The long-running series Naruto ended its serial run in Weekly Shōnen Jump last week. Created by Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto lasted fifteen years and became one of the most recognised and popular manga and anime of all time. Not that this is actually the end for Naruto. The anime is still going, the manga is getting a movie called The Last: Naruto the Movie, and there is the hint that the manga will get a sequel focusing on the characters’ children. In honour of the original manga ending, I’m going to run through eleven of my favourite moments or characters from across the story. So grab your overly unnecessary large shuriken and nine-tailed demon foxes, and let’s take a look back at Naruto.
Disclaimer No Jutsu: This article contains major spoilers for the whole of the manga, and is likely to be biased, feature potential character bashing, questions regarding elements of the story, and unadulterated praise of certain characters who I love and adore. Believe it!
11. Shadow Clone Jutsu
I wanted to begin this list with something from the very first chapter, that also got me into the series. In the first chapter/episode, Naruto Uzumaki starts off as a troublemaking failure who just wants recognition since he has spent his life unaware why everyone hates him so much. He learns he is the container for the Ninetailed Demon Fox, and witnesses his teacher Iruka defend him from the crazed ninja Mizuki. Realising someone does care for him, Naruto uses a ninja move he learnt from a sacred scroll: Shadow Clone Jutsu. Summoning an army of clones, Naruto kicks Mizuki’s ass, and finally earns his headband and becomes an official ninja-in-training.
10. Team Seven
Team Seven is made up of the manga’s main protagonists Naruto, Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura Haruno and their teacher Kakashi Hatake. There are a lot of flaws within the lead characters that effect their usefulness as a team and as individuals (i.e. Sasuke’s angsty jerkassery, Naruto’s habit of charging into fights headlong, Sakura being utterly useless for the first half of the manga). But together they work very well, and act as foils to each other with Kakashi being the quiet mediator.
It is through the first half of the manga where Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke are at their best and while they butt heads, they are a fantastic tag-team-trio, even though Sakura sits on the sidelines while Naruto and Sasuke do the heavy hitting. After Sasuke leaves, Team Seven is reshuffled, with new members joining – namely the socially useless Sai, and Kakashi’s on and off replacement Captain Yamato who is frankly a very wooden character (ba-dum-bssht!)…he uses wood-based powers. Moving on.
If there is one thing I love, it is a team of supervillains and Akatsuki (Japanese for “Dawn”, “Daybreak” or even more brilliantly “Red Moon” if you know their true plan) were great fun. A group of rogue ninja, Akatsuki’s goal is to capture the nine Tailed Beasts, absorb them into a statue to create the legendary Ten-Tailed Beast and gain world domination by trapping mankind in an permanent illusion cast onto the moon.
Each member of Akatsuki is monster-like in some way or another – Sasuke’s brother Itachi who murdered his own family (for complicated reasons), shark-like Kisame who wielded a living sword, mad bomber Deidara, puppet master Sasori, black-and-white Zetsu, crazy death-worshipping Hidan, Kakuzu who can escape death by assimilating the hearts of others, Konan who uses origami-based weaponry, Pain and his army of clones, and their leader Tobi. Really great and memorable villains.
08. Gaara of the Sand
Perhaps one of the most compelling characters from Naruto was Gaara of the Sand. Essentially an anti-thesis to Naruto, Gaara is what might of happened to Naruto if he went mad rather than try to earn recognition, having another of the Tailed Beasts sealed inside him. Gaara starts off as a very creepy, sinister villain who just stares at people menacingly and using his sand powers to kill anyone he deemed a threat.
Naruto realised they were alike and they became friends, Gaara eventually become the Kazekage (leader) of the Sand Village and a very popular character in the manga. He probably goes through the best character development in the story, emphasized when he willing aids Naruto and co. in the attempt to retrieve Sasuke after he goes rogue. He forms strong bonds with his siblings Kankuro and Temari, and became commander of the Allied Shinobi Forces.