In 1999, a blond haired brightly dressed ninja made his debut in Shonen Jump Magazine. 15 years, and 200 million copies in print world wide, and 700 chapters later, Naruto has published is final chapter.
Widely popular in Japan and United States, as well as other countries, the series has enjoyed a steady following of dedicated and casual fans alike. It was one of Jump’s “Big Three” along with Bleach and One Piece when all three were the driving force behind the magazine. And while Bleach has taken a hit in popularity and One Piece is still insanely popular, Naruto has been, for the most part, a constant hit for Jump. Of course, it’s popularity has gone through ups and downs but mainly it’s almost always been in the upper tiers for Jump.
Naruto began with a mischievous orphan boy who longed to become Hokage (leader of his ninja village) and prove his worth to the villagers and fellow ninjas. Dwelling inside, unbeknownst to him, lies the Nine Tailed Fox. A being of incredible power and anger, the Nine Tailed Fox nearly destroyed his village when he was an infant. Those who remember the incident treat Naruto as a monster and a nuisance, while their children follow suit and treat him as an annoyance. Through hardships, friendships, and betrayal he forges his own creed, his ninja way, by which he lives his life and makes strong bonds with friends who once wouldn’t give him the time of day and grows to become a powerful ninja in his own right.
The manga is known for its stylized action and comedy. While it started out in a more comedic tone it didn’t shy away from battles and deaths, becoming progressively darker as the sees went on without losing it’s initial charm. And while, in my own opinion, the end became a bit over the top and the final battle a but underwhelming, the story wrapped up nicely with a good payoff for the long term fans who stuck it out. The last few chapters felt a bit rushed but the final chapter was a giant love letter to the fans who wanted to see what became of the many characters we came to know and love (or hate in some characters cases).
Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto, has announced with the end of the main series that there will still be more Naruto to come. “The Last: Naruto the Movie” will be released in Japan on December 6. The movie takes place two years after the last major arc in the manga but before the final chapter. There will also be a new mini series beginning in spring of 2015 following all new characters in the Naruto Universe. Kishimoto has announced that there will be more to come.
Whether you loved, hated, and didn’t even know what a Naruto was, the cultural impact of the series can be felt all over the world. It was a good 15 years. We laughed, we cried, we asked “what the heck is going on?” Whatever emotions you had, Naruto has been a larger part to the anime community and won’t be forgotten anytime soon. The anime is in the final arc of the manga, not accounting for added filler arcs it should end soon as well. Some 15 years, 600+ episodes, 7 movies, 50+ games and unfathomable amount of merchandise later, Masashi Kishimoto and Naruto have both deserved a good long rest. Thank you for the many years of entertainment. Dattebayo!!