Greetings and salutations, my fellow shinobi! To continue our journey into nostalgia, I thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at one of anime’s biggest shonen series, Masahi Kishimoto’s underdog story of Naruto. Also, this serves as continuation of our last topic on Jump’s Big Three. In case you need, a refresher, click right here.
While you might say that Naruto is still rather new for it to be considered nostalgic, well, I’d say otherwise. Kishimoto’s soon to be hit series first graced the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump on the 21st of September, 1999, just a few months of the new millennium. Naruto tells the story of its titular hero, Naruto Uzumaki, a young shinobi (ninja) who is shunned by the rest of his village, thus seeks recognition and dreams of becoming the Hokage (village leader). The series is told in two parts- the first taking place during Naruto’s pre-teen years, and the seconds is after a three-year time skip into his teen years.
For many adults like myself who are entering their 30s, the memory of Naruto is still rather fresh in our minds, and often at times, remember fondly reading those chapters once they’ve been translated online. I’m sure, most of us we’re still in our teen years when we did that. For us still in high school, found it relatable of sorts with Naruto with his struggles with trails and tribulations, overcoming acceptance, and love- ya know, teenage stuff. While yes, we didn’t faced threats like Naruto did, but the lessons still remained.
This also leads into the second part, of Naruto being a story of an underdog. At the core of the series, Naruto tells the journey of an underdog, and not just the protagonist himself, but other characters as well. Often being overlooked or underestimated by those more powerful, we see our hero(s) rise to the occasion and triumph over ever-increasing odds (Orochimaru, Nagato, Madara, etc…)
This begs the question, why do we love these underdog stories so much? For one, the underdog has a universal appeal, reliable feelings of empathy. They tap into the qualities we often find in ourselves and admirable in others. Second, the underdog is deeply rooted in achieving the impossible or defying the odds. Classic examples include Rocky Balboa in the original Rocky (1976), Rocky lost the fight to Apollo Creed in the end, but we still cheered for him. He may not have won the match but he certainly won our admirations.
Similarly, in Naruto chapter #450 or episode 175 of Shippuden, after defeating Nagato, a weaken Naruto slowly hobbles his way back to his village is he is greeted with joy and elation from the villagers. The Pain arc is considered one of the most dark and tragic moments for our hero, losing his mentor at the hands of fellow pupil, having his village destroyed, and nearly succumbing to the Nine Tails dark influence, yet he still prevails and finally be acknowledge by the village. All story elements found in not only for the underdog, but also in the hero’s journey- all of which resonate universally.
Now, the big question is, should you watch it (or read it)? Personally, I would say yes, please give this shonen classic a try. All the original Naruto anime is now on Netflix, while most of the Shippuden episodes have been made available (halfway through the Shinobi World War arc). The series is known for its bombastic fights with stunning jutsu visuals, but also for its more philosophical ideology of good and evil. If nothing else, it’s still a good show to binge that’ll surely tug at the heart strings.