Naruto (ナルト, Naruto romanized as NARUTO in Japan) is a manga by Masashi Kishimoto with an anime TV series adaptation. Its main character, Naruto Uzumaki, is a loud, hyperactive, adolescent ninja who constantly searches for approval and recognition, as well as to become Hokage, who is acknowledged as the leader and strongest ninja in the village.
The manga was first published in Ja-pan, by Shueisha, in the 43rd issue of the Shonen Jump magazine in 1999. VIZ Media publishes a translated version in the American Shonen Jump, and has translated roughly a third of the series. Naruto has become VIZ Media's best-selling manga series.
The anime series, produced by Studio Pierrot and Aniplex, premiered across Japan on the terrestrial TV Tokyo network and the anime satellite television network, Animax from October 3, 2002 and is currently still being aired. Viz also licensed the anime for North American production. Naruto debuted on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block on September 10, 2005, at 9:00 p.m. EST in the United States, and on YTV's Bionix on September 16, 2005, at 9:30 p.m. EST (since changed to 8:00 p.m.) in Canada. Starting on July 22, 2006, Jetix is showing the first 26 episodes of Naruto in the UK at 8.00 p.m. Starting on June 12, 2006, Cartoon Network began showing Naruto at 10:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Thursday, starting with the first episode.
Growth and popularity
The series' length and popularity is comparable to that of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball, another popular action-oriented shōnen manga. Naruto is the second-most popular ongoing shōnen series in Japan, behind One Piece. In fact, volume 7 of the manga has recently been nominated for a Quill Award for best graphic novel
Since its creation, Naruto has spawned a large number of fan sites that contain detailed information, guides, and active forums. Some of the first and most popular sites targeted at English speaking audiences were established shortly after the first English manga volume was released in August 2003.
Prior to the anime's North American debut in 2005, several scanlation and fan sub groups translated the series and made it available for free download on the internet. Although many such groups stop once a series has been licensed, there are some that have continued to translate new Naruto episodes due to the extremely large gap between the English and Japanese versions. Indicative of Naruto's continued internet popularity are the episodes subtitled by the Dattebayo fansub group, which are downloaded over 100,000 times within the first couple days, almost always surpassing 200,000 downloads within their first weeks.
Naruto has a large and colorful cast of characters, running a gamut of detailed histories and complex personalities and allowing many of them their fair share in the spotlight; they are also seen to grow and mature with the series, as it spans several years. Fittingly enough for a coming-of-age saga, Naruto's world constantly expands and thickens, and his social relations are no exception -- during his introduction he has only his teacher and the village's leader for sympathetic figures, but as the story progresses, more and more people become a part of his story.
The students at the Ninja Academy, where the story begins, are split up into teams of three after their graduation and become Genin, or low-class ninjas. Each team is assigned an experienced sensei, or teacher. These core teams form a basis for the characters' interactions later in the series, where characters are chosen for missions for their team's strength and complementary skills; Naruto's Team 7 becomes the social frame where Naruto is acquainted with Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno, and their sensei Kakashi Hatake, also called the "copy ninja" for copying thousands of ninja techniques with his Sharingan eye, forming the core of his world-in-the-making. The other three-man teams of his former classmates form another such layer, as Naruto connects with them to various degrees, learning of their motives, vulnerabilities and aspirations and often relating them to his own. The groups of threes is not limited to the comrades Naruto's age – groups in the story in general come in threes and multiples of three with very few exceptions.
Sensei-student relationships play a significant role in the series; Naruto has a number of mentors with whom he trains and learns, most notably Jiraiya and Kakashi Hatake, and there are often running threads of tradition and tutelage binding together several generations. These role models provide guidance for their students not only in the ninja arts but also in a number of Japanese aesthetics and philosophical ideals. Techniques, ideals, and mentalities noticeably run in families, Naruto often being exposed to the abilities and traditions of generation-old clans in his village when friends from his own age group demonstrate them, or even achieve improvements of their own; it is poignantly noted that Naruto's generation is particularly talented.
Many of the greater lingering mysteries of the series are questions of character motives and identity. The legacy of Naruto's parents, the goals that guide Kabuto Yakushi, the objective of the mysterious organization Akatsuki and the identity of its mysterious leader – these are only a few of the fundamental unanswered questions of "who" and, by proxy, "why" currently at the core of the series. The story is remarkably character-driven; the theme of causality runs inherently throughout the series as characters reciprocate for their past actions and relationships. In this respect, characters' respective destinies are very much intertwined, and large emphasis is placed on comradeship and 'bonds' between the community or individual.
Character names often borrow from Japanese culture myth and literature (such as the names borrowed from the folk-tale Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari), or are otherwise elaborate puns (see Hinata Hyuga); often there is a noticeable influence of the story behind the name shouldered by the character.
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