Believe It: “Naruto” will surprise you

So you’ve seen a spiky-haired orange jumpsuit kid running around lately, and you’re wondering: is this really worthwhile anime?

narutoI was first introduced to Naruto (pronounced NAH-ROO-TOE, with accentuation being on the “NAH” part if we’re sticking to Japanese and not the “ROO,” which you’ll find a lot of English speakers doing) at Comic-Con, seeing the costumes around and some manga and art. So I ordered the first disc up from Netflix and gave it a go. I have to admit, Naruto is obnoxious to a fault, but something about the series intrigued me, so I made it through the first four episodes and was hungry for more. (At the time, 1 disc was all that was available from Netflix).

I started the show with the English dub, which wasn’t too terrible for the first four episodes, but I find “dattebayo” to be less annoying than “believe it.” Besides, I find you lose a lot with dubs, so I’m a firm believer in subs first. (Yes, reading. Get over it!)

(Dattebayo, by the way, doesn’t actually mean believe it, but upon inquiring of a few Japanese friends, the translation works. Naruto is looking for a way to show everyone he’s “cool” and is basically using a catch phrase way of speaking to show them all that. Whether or not it works…. *grin*)

From a character arc perspective, Naruto is very well written, especially if you’ve come all the way to Shippuuden and gone back. Sure, he starts out as an annoying kid, but that’s what he is and as he gains confidence in himself, he sheds annoying layers one by one.

Basically, stick with it. Naruto will grow on you.

But if you’re like me, and a bit impatient with story arcs and “filler” episodes watching it all at once may drive you nuts. So I’m here to give you some recommendations to do a little editing, or at least let you know how long you’ve got until a particular arc ends.

naruto2

The ARCS: (see http://www.narutofob.com/naruto-episodes.html as a source)
Episodes 1-5 Basically an introduction to Naruto and key players in his story.

Episodes 6-19 The first major story arc. Naruto and friends are out to show off their abilities, and we get to know a little more about the 3 (Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura).

Episodes 20-67 The Chunnin exams: which is a three part and where more of the larger plot begins to be revealed. I think this is where I first became annoyed with pacing of episodes. Basically every character and their dog (literally) are going to have a one on one match a couple of times. If you like watching all the different characters go at it, you’ll be fine. If you’re like me, you’ll find the 1 1/2 speed button on your DVD player.

We also get more of an idea of a larger plot arc coming up which basically kicks off in Episode 68.

Episodes 68-80 Trouble in Konoha: the real villains come out to play and reak havok. The show takes on a different sort of persona after this when we say farewell to a major character. I was a little put out, but there’s enough going on to pull you through.

Episodes 80-109 Itachi, Tsunade, and more. Here we get the set-up for the rest of the series leading up into Shippuuden. Villains and training, villains and training. One thing you have to know about Naruto is you’re going to be in for a lot of training episodes. Get used to it, because from here on out you can count on seeing it often.

Episodes 110-135 Naruto and Sasuke. If you’ve been loving Naruto, this is the point in the series you’ve been waiting for. I’m trying to be more general not to post spoilers, but for me this was the best part of the series. Note at this point, however, an arc you’re going to want to see finish won’t happen until the end of Shippuuden. My whole point in making this post was for people like me who might have taken it easier and slower with Naruto if I’d known it’d be several eps down the line before seeing a plot arc finish.

136-220 The much dreaded “filler” episodes. (NOTE: If you don’t know what a “filler” episode is: episodes that have little or no relation to the “actual” story but involve the characters, though often not the main characters. Some describe it as the Japanese writer’s attempts to do their own episodes, which doesn’t always work out ;)). So now you’re hooked hopelessly on Naruto and you’re dying for new eps, well, welcome to about 100 tangent episodes. A lot of these, unless you’re kind of a Naruto purist, are a waste of your time.

My recommendation for filler eps

HIDDEN STAR VILLAGE: 178-183 Naruto and co. heads out to the Star Village with shinobi who have unique powers from a dangerous source. I guess I like this one for the character traits we see from Naruto.

KURENAI: 203-207 Shinobi girl has mysterious painting power. The third hokage’s past is further delved into and I just really liked the idea. I think it kind of foreshadows Shippuuden.

gaaraGAARA AND MATSURI: 216-219 Gaara is drawn out to rescue a student. I love Naruto, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the reason I watch the show is for Gaara. He’s my favorite character, and I’m still unsure as to why–at least completely. If you’re a Gaara fan, whether small or large, this filler story is worthwhile.

And 220! Why? Because it’s the end of the show. And then you’ll be all ready for Naruto Shippuuden which is far better than Naruto.

Why bother watching Naruto in the first place? Why not just skip to the better series? Well, if you want Shippuuden to mean anything to you and to understand why Naruto is as passionate about his friendships as he is, then use my guide and get through Naruto. It’s all worth it for Shippuuden.

And finally, questions you’re likely to have (without spoilers):

1. Is Sakura always going to be useless? No, she gets tough. By Shippuuden you’ll hardly believe the bad @$$ mamba jamba was ever as weak and useless as she was in the first episodes.

2. Who is Naruto’s father? Well, you can look it up online if you’re that impatient, but it’ll come in Shippuuden.

3. Are filler episodes done in Shippuuden? (-_-) Well… if you don’t count, let’s take a look at Naruto and how we used to be, then sort of.

4. Why is the Japanese version better? Is that a rhetorical question?

5. I’m cheap and I want to watch Naruto 100% for free. Where can I do that? dattebayo.com subs Naruto, but since it’s licensed in the U.S. the Naruto eps might be off the site. They still do Shippuuden. Anime4Fans, one of my links can also show you the way. And if you’re not too cheap and prefer better quality, Netflix will send you some (it is available as of September 23, 2008).

I’ll probably do a comprehensive Shippuuden when it finishes.

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