Saturday, January 1, 2011

10 Things I Hate About Naruto

No One Piece this week... next episode is Jan 9, 2011. So for the time being I'll do this piece and on wednesday I'll drop my late (better than never) review on Shutter Island. I guess it goes without saying that I like One Piece ("ya THINK?"), but once upon a time I was a huge fan of Masashi Kishimoto's Naruto. At the time that I had started to watch the anime they were knee deep in the Chunin Exam Arc ,considered by some as the peak and highlight of the long running series, needless to say I was spoiled early. So what exactly happened to Naruto? Why did this one beloved series seen to fall from grace so early on? And why is it still adorning manga stands and japanese television sets (and computer monitors around the world)? Well... the answer to that last question lies in the side question "Why does Twlight have fans to begin with?" But if I had to number them, I'd say there was 10 REAL reasons as to why Naruto went from badass shonen about ninjas to gay (maybe) love story with almost no redeeming qualities.

We used to rule.

Top Ninja Means Jack

  Here's the deal, in the peak of Naruto's storytelling, we got to see two of the strongest Ninja (that we knew of) duel it out. I'm talking about the Fourth Hokage Vs. Orochimaru at the end of the Invasion of Konoha Arc. Easily one the best High Level Ninja fight in the series history. But the Invasion was just the third arc, so how is it possible that Kishimoto showed us the best of the best (one old and frail, the other pasty and frail) so quick? No one can say for sure, but every single high level ninja fight SINCE has been extremely disappointing by comparison. And I'm not talking about emotionally disappointing either. Sure the fight between the Hokage and Orochimaru had a lot going for it, not to mention an invasion happening during the fight proper, giving it a sense of urgency. But even as far as choreography goes, no high level ninja fight has come even close to matching this one. A sad thing since many opportunities were wasted : I'm looking at you Orochimaru/Jiraiya/Tsunade.

Sai and Haku are the Sexiest Girls

  Let's try an experiment. Out of these four pics, who are the hottest girls?



  I guess I should warn that there are TWO males up top there... but if you've never seen Naruto, you wouldn't know. And that's where the problem lies. See, other shows are less ambiguous about a character's sex. But with Naruto you never now until it's stated otherwise. Part of the problem is the characterization of the characters, another part of the problem is the fact that Kishi can't draw a female to save his life unless she has triple D size cups (thank you Tsunade). At least Bleach (with all the flak it gets) you can usually tell what is what. Same with shows like DBZ and One Piece. But with Naruto you're always one picture away from a "Crying Game" moment.

Plot no Jutsu

  There's nothing more infuriating for a reader than to feel cheated. And Kishimoto is the master of cheating his readers. On more than one occasion he has written himself into the proverbial corner. He'll have a character with depleted chakra and no techniques at his disposal to escape his predicament when BAM! All the sudden a character performs a miracle technique that we had NO KNOWLEDGE of and he also had enough energy to pull it off. Listen, I understand Shonen is all about beating the odds and doing miraculous feats. But you can't ignore your own rules as a writer. If you write something along the lines of "Jutsu uses Chakra and with no chakra you can't use techniques and if you do you can die" then by God follow that up. Don't allow characters to cheat this only because you can't find a way to exploit their predicament, other than to cheat your own rules. And really, if you're resorting to cheating your readers out by breaking your own rules in your own manga... something is clearly wrong with your skills. Don't even get me started on the Pain reviving everyone he killed during a war Jutsu, talk about a cheap asspull.

I eat clay nukes for breakfast.

 Kishi's Art Emporium

  Writing and drawing a longtime weekly manga is hard, I get that, I really do; but something about Kishi's art always bugged me. When Naruto first started the art was unique and dynamic, with every single panel bursting with personality; then something happened. Either Kishi stopped caring about Naruto, or he just got lazy. Regardless of which one may be the case, Naruto readers have been the sole victims of this. One look at the initial cover pages and one look at the newer cover pages makes the change more evident. His inability do draw someone to look different from Sasuke (more on that later) makes the lazier and simpler art style that much harder to accept. To illustrate my point:

Naruto... before the suck.

This is supposed to be a teenage girl mind you...

  I don't think I need to explain myself further...

Build up your Cast, Then Shatter It

  There's a good reason why the Cunin Exam Arc is considered to be the peak of Naruto's storytelling. During the time in said arc, Kishi decided to introduce us to the characters that were going to be, essentially, the pillars of his story. The different teams, the different ninja families, the different types of ninjas, etc. It was during this arc that most of the character development occurred via flashbacks and exposition. The cast of Naruto grew so much during this time that most fans (or even non fans) would've been hard pressed to not find a SINGLE character they liked. Neji, Tenten, Lee, Ino, Chōji, Shikamaru, Hinata, Kiba and Shino; all names that most Naruto fans know. And not only that, but most people agree that some of these characters are more well rounded, diverse and fun than our main character and antagonist. So what's the problem here? The problem, my dear reader, is that much like DBZ, the cast of Naruto has been reduced to a little bit nothing more than foot soldiers for Naruto and Sasuke's story. During the Chunin Exam we were told that each team member was crucial to the mission, how ninja's operate in teams of three because of that fact. By the time the timeskip occured, Naruto had become so much superior to his fellow ninja (some who outrank him by QUITE a bit mind you) that it made their involvement in any conflict pointless. Much like Yamcha and Tien in the later days of Dragonball, it's hard to watch characters that were once important and relevant to the story being there for no reason other than the sake of their appearance for nostalgia.

Seriously though, what the hell happened to you guys?

 The Art of Timeskips

  Timeskips, old as shonen itself and just as important. It's unusual for shonen not to have a month/year/decade timeskip. After all, training takes time. In the cases of Dragonball, One Piece, and even Bleach, timeskips usually mean something major: a long training session, a change of lifestyle, a change of the VERY world. In the case of the Naruto timeskip we got some character design changes (nothing major thou) and very little change of the world or characters. For the most part, the characters remained the same as they were before the timeskip. Naruto supposedly had some epic training with Jiraiya...but if his Rasengan variations is any indication (not to mention the fact that AFTER the timeskip he learned about his elemental affinity) he didn't really learn much. Just what the heck DID Naruto (or anyone else) do during the timeskip? The only character that had an impactful change was Sakura. Who went from the weakest Team 7 member (althou she had the best Chakra control) to the strongest female (physically) in Konoha... rivalling her teacher Tsunade. And while this trait of Sakura's carried on for the start of the timeskip, since then Kishi has yet to have her use this physical prowess of her. Almost as if he forgot, or maybe it has something to do with her having a vagina; I'll cover that later.

I've seen her done this like, twice. Seriously.

Naruto, the man of a 1000 Jutsu

  Goku, Luffy, Kenshiro, Makunoichi. Off the top of my head those are names of shonen characters who are combat geniuses. I mean that in the sense that they can adapt and overcome. They also have a plethora of techniques at their disposal to fight their opponents. Naruto on the other hand, not so much. Somewhere in the middle of part one Naruto learned the Rasengan (the Shadow Clone jutsu was learned on the first chapter, but more on that later) and since then he's learned a grand total of zero new techniques. Now, let's make the distinction between a technique and a form. It's not unusual if a shonen protagonist learns multiple forms that heighten their power in certain situations (Super Saiyan goku, Gear Second Luffy, Vizard Ichigo, etc), and Naruto has a buttload of forms. What I'm talking about is using techniques like everyone else in the Narutoverse does. Sasuke for example can use Fire/Lighting/Summoning/Magical Sharingan Hax and Summoning techniques... to name a few. Naruto has the Rasengan and ONCE in a while he'll summon a toad(or two) and they'll provide the means to an end for a technique. The second time he learned a technique was a Wind Rasengan (since the Rasengan is an incomplete technique). Now I don't know about you, but when the main protagonist of a long running series has less techniques than the average Chunin in the village something is amiss. Clearly Hokage material, eh Naruto? In his defense, the first time he performed it, it was quite amazing.

My name is Masashi Kishimoto, and I'm a Sexist.
    Oh Kishi, where do I start? Should I even bother trying to explain why I think the man is a sexist? I mean it's one thing that not ONE female character has been important or useful in the grand scheme of things. And don't give me that "Well, Tsunade is the Hokage!" malarkey. Every single political character in the Narutoverse has called her reign a phony, she's almost a transitional Hokage. When the position was given to her, it was because Jiraiya (whom everyone wanted to be Hokage alongside Kakashi) pushed for her to be selected. And why was she never considered anyways? Oh right, breasts. During the infancy of the various teams in the Chunnin Exam one thing was made perfectly clear, female members were either healers or strategic minds. Never the best of the team. Listen, I understand this is shonen, I really do. But in this day and age, it shouldn't be a far fetch that a  female character could, you know, kick some ass. Instead Kishi feeds us with some interesting lines from his cast, that give the notion that Kishi really REALLY hates women. There's also the fact that Hinata confessed her love to Naruto, almost dying in the process, and as of writing there has been ZERO response from Naruto about it. But he had a good panic attack for his real love Sasuke... which being me to my number two.

I wish this was a witty take on his views of women... but I think it's closer to home than we think.

 Kishi is gay for Sasuke

  I don't mean that in a funny way. I honestly think Kishimoto is in love with his creation of Sasuke. Since chapter one of Naruto he was depicted as the boy all girls wanted. And by extension the boy all other boys aspired to be. He was dark, mysterious, cool and collected; all things that Naruto wasn't. Our main character is clumsy yet friendly, chirpy, open, obnoxious and all over the place. Why would that be though? For the life of me I don't understand why Kishi opted to make the main character of the manga somewhat unlikeable, but at the same time I have to wonder why Naruto ,being so thematically different than Sasuke, is so adamant about finding Sasuke and bringing him back to Konoha. Essentially there can only be one explanation, which has been hinted at by Kishi himself. The story of Naruto is actually a gay love story. Now mind you, I would actually prefer if it were an open theme; since it would explain SO much. It would explain Naruto's inexplicable silence to Hinata (he's wanted to be accepted and liked for so long, yet he can't answer her confession?), it would explain his undying desire to being Sasuke back, and it --for damn sure-- would explain why he had a panic attack over Sasuke in the Snow Village. Seriously, he had a panic attack. Over a guy. Let that one sink in for over a minute or two. A teenage boy, had a panic attack, over another boy (who wants to murder im by the way). Oh Kishi, you're crying out to the world yet we refuse to answer back.
As of July 2012, and unless corrected, the only canon kiss in the series.
 Rock Lee ain't Sh*t

  Confession time: I love Rock Lee. There's no character in the entire Narutoverse that I like more. His goofy design, his hilariously bad flirting, his lack of magical hax jutsu, and his theme: hard work. In the early stages of Naruto, one of the main themes was hard work, how being destined doesn't mean jack if you don't work hard for what you want --boy did Kishi drop that theme hard-- and Rock Lee was the prime example of that mentality. When first introduced he looked like a cheap Bruce Lee knock off, with tackier clothing. He also decided to flirt with Sakura (then actually attractive) only to be rejected by her. When the Chunin Exam preliminary matches began, Naruto readers where treated to the best one on one fight between two ninjas (not high level mind you). As far as choreography, pacing, art (both anime and manga), and theme, no battle has come close. You had the Taijutsu (hand to hand) practitioner in Rock Lee  versus the Ninjustu (sand barriers in this case) monster Gaara. And in the short time Rock Lee was allowed to go all out, Naruto readers took notice. Unfortunately for us, Kishi doesn't like Rock Lee as much as we do. The last time Rock had a moment in the sun was when he went all Drunken Fist during the Rescue Sasuke Arc, and that was YEARS ago. The last time we saw him in action (as of this writing) was when he was getting knocked out by Sakura via smoke bombs, awesome. But hopefully he'll get another shot at glory, and maybe he'll finally unlock that Eighth Chakra Gate someday while drunk. The Universe might implode from it, but it'd be worth it.            



  1. It's a huge stretch to say he hates women. It's completely natural he gives male characters the protagonist role and keeps women in the background since he's a man himself and this is shonen. He simply never cared about female characters enough to develop them beyond the introduction, and it's not just the female characters but also all the characters up to the chunnin exam have become just a waste of space, Kakashi too. And when I think about it, sometimes I think it would've been better if Shikamaru had sacrificed himself along with Inoue and Choji to kill Kakuzu and Hidan, Gai had gotten killed by Kisame, and Kakashi and Tsunade by Pain, at least then we wouldn't have to deal with useless characters asking we take them seriously.

  2. Kishimoto is sexist for sure. I think that the whole purpose of him making Tsunade a hokage is to give people an example of how disaster would follow when a female do a guy job. Look at what other hokage can do and how badass they were when they were all bought back to life. Compare that to a hokage who's female and could not do any useful thing to help to win the war even though she's in half. It cannot be another way around. He is sexist. The shonen jump thing cannot fully explain how female are so useless and weak in naruto either, since Bleach which is also from shonen has so many powerful female characters that actually kick some asses in it.