Naruto Season 1

By Adam Cook, 20th May 04
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The Naruto series is based on the manga of the same name and centres on a young ninja in training that goes by the name (you guessed it) Naruto. Now Naruto is not just any ordinary ninja, he has an evil power sealed inside his stomach that makes all the residents in his village distrust him. The main drive behind the series is for Naruto to train up to become a more powerful ninja. In this quest, and like all ninja's before him, he has to form a three person team and complete challenges. The majority of the first series explores the ninja's quest to become stronger and gain recognition from his villagers.

As mentioned earlier, Naruto is part of a team of other rookie ninjas. They are;
Sasuke - A quite young man and the most proficient rookie ninja from the village. Naruto views Sasuke as his greatest rival both in terms of talent and for the affection of...
Sakura - Is the female of the group and is the smartest ninja in her year. What she lacks in talent she makes up in her knowledge of the art of the ninja. She is in love with Sasuke.
These three pupils are under the watchful eye of Kakashi, one of the most powerful ninjas in their village.

These four form the foundation for the series and are the main characters that the audience gets to watch grow. However there are a

whole host of other ninjas that pop up throughout the series and it is likely that they will take more prominent positions in later seasons and episodes. The four main characters however provide an interesting dynamic to the programme with each character revealing more and more about their histories as the series progresses. Like wise their relationships continually change. It is also nice to see a titular character that is not fighting for revenge, but rather fighting for acceptance. That said there are the inevitable revenge subplots thrown in for good measure too.

The first season of Naruto is merely setting the stage for subsequent episodes. The nature of the ninja art is quite complex in areas so a large portion of the first series relies on exploring these areas in more detail. For example a couple of episodes focus on using the power that ninjas rely on (known as chakra) and the methods by which ninjas learn to control this power. Whilst these episodes are not the most interesting they are necessary in order to explain and understand the impressive battles.
The battles in Naruto on the whole are well constructed and genuinely imaginative. They also provide an opportunity for the three rookies to put their lessons to practical use. Like many anime series though, the battles are often long drawn out affairs with some of them lasting four or five episodes before being resolved. The reason

for these protracted fight sequences is largely due to the series rather annoying insistence on providing flashbacks to earlier episodes as a means to explain what has, or is about to occur. Now if you are to watch the episodes on a weekly basis this recapping may actually be quite useful, however, if like me you watch the series in a couple of sittings, the repetitive nature of the storytelling can become tiresome. There is so much emphasis on flashbacks that each episode (lasting around 25 minutes) only has about 15-20 minutes worth of new content. This will not necessarily effect other peoples' enjoyment of the series, but I am becoming some what bored of anime series relying on this method of story telling.

Naruto does have a good balance of action and comedy (accompanied by a sprinkling of melodrama in all the right places). In fact if it wasn't for the slow pace and overuse of flashbacks then Naruto would be an exceptional series. Very few series can capture the three elements of comedy, action and drama as convincingly as Naruto does. This is accomplished due to the well rounded and interesting characters. Even the main antagonists show humanity and the audience is able to find out about their histories and the reasons they are in their current positions. There is a strong emphasis on history throughout the series. Every character has an interesting back story

that provides the viewer with a greater understanding of the world that Naruto lives in. Likewise the history of the ninja in general is also expressed to further provide the audience with a fully functioning world to become immersed in.

The animation throughout the series is of a reasonably high standard, but the animation noticeably improves as the series continues as the animation becomes more fluid and some nice 3D effects are implemented in the last couple of episodes. The colours are always vibrant and Naruto has a fairly unique art style at times.

The music is infectious and I can guarantee that you will be humming the theme tune after the first couple of episodes. The music during the episodes is also catchy with a reoccurring percussion piece throughout the series. The sound effects and voice acting for the most part is spot on and further reinforces the overall quality of the series.

Naruto is a very good series. Its deep and well rounded characters provide an interesting focal point whilst the concepts behind the ninja art and the impressive balance between drama, comedy and action make this potentially one of the great animes. The over reliance on flashbacks and slow nature to the storytelling is a hindrance though, and whilst it does not ruin the series it does stop it from becoming a classic. I look forward to getting my hands on season 2.

By Adam Cook, 20th May 04

Naruto

Naruto anime review

Country of origin
Japan

Format
Series

Year of production
2002

Production
Studio Pierrot, TV Tokyo

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