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Naruto For Naruto-Haters

Avoiding Naruto? For years, I avoided it like my life depended on it, fearing another mindless DragonBall Z sort of affair. You know, the kind of show that inspires a lot of 12 year-olds to make anime music videos set to Insane Clown Posse songs.

Thankfully, that's not the truth. Read the story of how I stopped worrying and learned to love Kishimoto's bomb.
I fancy myself something of an anime snob, although I realize that's a ridiculous title when you're discussing Japanese cartoons. I don't care. I've been watching anime since I ran home from nursery school every day to watch Star Blazers in 1979; I collect everything by Gainax like a good little nerd. I've paid my dues and I want my small sense of superiority, no matter how insignificant and misguided it may be.

I absolutely avoided Naruto for several years. I heard people raving about it and saw scores of cosplayers at conventions. It had the

Let's be clear. If you've already watched Naruto and didn't like it this article's not for you. It's okay; not everybody will like it. This article is aimed at people who, like myself at one point, spend their days avoiding Naruto like it was particularly nasty tropical disease.

Excuse: Naruto Is The Next DragonBall Z


I don't find this to be an accurate comparison at all. In terms of depth and overall feel, Naruto is more like Rurouni Kenshin than anything else. Naruto and Kenshin share an emphasis on character interaction, drama/melodrama, and "strategic" action.

Excuse: Naruto Is Mindless


I actually find it more thought-provoking than most anime. This is, of course, like saying that a certain NFL linebacker writes better iambic pentameter verses than other NFL linebackers.

Having said that, Naruto has a surprising amount of depth. The world it takes place in is a very detailed place with lots of intricate details and an interesting fusion of ancient and modern technology. There is also a large cast of supporting characters which allows for some pretty complex relationships between characters and villages.

At its heart, yes, Naruto is "only" shonen martial-arts anime. But all the fans I know agree that it's the characters that make the show, not the action. The action is well-done but it isn't really the focus of Naruto.

Excuse: The Fans are Annoying


This excuse is actually invalid, because all anime fans are extremely annoying creatures. In fact, fans of everything are pretty annoying. If you judged everything on this criteria, you'd spend your entire life living alone in a cafe, eventually killing yourself when you realize how annoying some spelunkers can be.

Excuse: There Are Too Many Episodes


It's true - as of February 2005, the television series is up to 120 episodes and the manga is up to 247 chapters with no signs of slowing down.

There are two reasons why this shouldn't be your excuse. One, it's the sort of series where you can easily watch three, four, or five episodes in a row without blinking. I have a hard time sitting still for anything, but I find myself glued to this show. Two, it's not going to stay unlicensed forever. It's only a matter of time before some American company snaps it up and at that point the fansubs will go bye-bye. I will try to support the American releases, but paying for 120 episodes on DVD is not something anybody will be able to afford. So watch it now, while it's downloadable for free.

Excuse: I Don't Want To Watch It Because It's Too Popular


You'll still be a nerd setting in your bedroom, watching Japanese cartoons. Does that make it un-popular enough to please your palate?

If you ever feel that Naruto is "too popular", walk into a random bar and start talking about it. I guarantee your illusions will be dispelled instantly - or perhaps you'll make some unexpected friends if you find some bikers that happen to like anime. Either way, you win. Sort of.

Conclusion


In my mind, there are two ways to produce something really cool. One way is to produce something totally original. The second way is to take an existing genre or idea and breathe new life into it by simply executing really, really well.

Naruto takes the second route. Sure, it's just shonen action comedy. It's not wildly original and it's not going to change your life.

But it's simply done so *god damn well*. I've watched many thousands of hours of anime in my life, which is inching dangerously close to thirty years in length. One hundred twenty episodes into Naruto, I don't think I have ever had a more enjoyable anime viewing experience in my entire life. The characters are memorable and I find myself geeking out over them in way that I have *never geeked out over anything in my life*.

I don't know if you'll like Naruto, but it's certainly worth giving it a shot if you're an anime fan that's been avoiding it.

I'd like to thank the OtakuBooty forum members for helping me. A lot of the ideas in this article came from this forum thread.
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