Synopsis - Naruto
Uzumaki Naruto is a young orphan who has just graduated ninja school,
and is beginning the next phase to becoming a master ninja. Along with
fellow classmates Sakura (who he has a big crush on) and Sasuke (who
*Sakura* has a big crush on), he trains under Master Kakashi, doing
apparently "easy" jobs that always somehow turn into Major Ninja
Naruto more than eagerly participates in all of this in order to become
a Hokage, the highest rank a ninja can achieve. Why is he so eager? Because
he wants to prove himself to his home village which shuns him - because he
carries within him the spirit of the nine-tailed fox demon that nearly
destroyed his tribe thirteen years ago.
Naruto is currently the up-and-coming Big Thing among anime fans.
Everybody keeps talking about this show and how great it is - a popularity
poll on AnimeNfo.com has it running in the top three even before its
release in North America.
And yet once again I find myself befuddled as to why this show is
getting so much buzz and hype. If it were the Shonen Jump newbies pushing
this show, then I would understand, but it's really the long-time hardcore
fans who are raving about Naruto. Everywhere you look online, people are
talking about "ninjas! ninjas! ninjas!"
So with all the hype, I gave it a shot. I normally like shows like this,
with action, thrills, comedy ... and yet, something wasn't quite right. I
think it's because it's one of the most predictable shows I have ever seen.
They practically tell you the entire story in the first episode alone if
you see the right signs (which they make VERY obvious).
Listen to this: a Downtrodden Hero (tm), who is shunned by all his
peers, but secretly encouraged by his teachers and his all-knowing Town
Elder (tm), can instantly master Ultimate Techniques (tm) that no one has
used in centuries, as long as he's not in class - then he's a total
goof-up. He makes a vow that he'll become the Greatest Ninja Ever (tm), and
by the end of the first episode, you know he's going to achieve it. And
that's only half of the clichés that you see to start off with!
While Naruto is a likable enough scamp, his type of character has been
done so many times before. Yuusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho, Haru from Rave, Goku
from Dragon Ball ... he is The Shonen Jump Hero Archetype (tm). By this
point, it's getting kinda lame. Of course, the girl, Sakura, he has a crush
on ... is a two-faced bitch. And his "rival", Sasuke, is the
calm, cool, collected, angsty ... Rival Type (tm). I mean, really, you're
supposed to *like* them? The only characters worth really mentioning in
this show are Master Iruka and Master Kakashi, who are cooler than the
leads. If anything, the show should be named "Kakashi" and not
Naruto. Even then, Kakashi is not much more than a Man of Mystery (tm),
though at least he's got an interesting quirk or two, being rarely seen
without his romance novels ("Make-Out Paradise", anyone?).
But this is an action series, and you generally don't want action series
for the characters. So how's the action? Well, the animation *really*
should be better. Not that's it's bad ... but it's mediocre. This show
actually *does* have more visual tricks and handles action better than most
Studio Pierrot anime. The biggest drawbacks, though (and they are big) are
the character designs and the color palette. Kishimoto Masashi is an
average artist at best, and his style simply doesn't translate well to
anime. But the color palette - ugh, it looks like they used a toilet to mix
all the colors. Everything looks like it was shaded with ... well, what you
normally find in a toilet, lots of poop brown and pee yellow ... it's the
worst coloring job I've seen next to Bounty Dog (and there was only *one*
Bounty Dog). This really is the least visually appealing anime I have seen
in a long time.
Musically, Naruto is a mixed bag. The opening themes are all really bad
wannabe metal, and the first ending theme would be cool if they only had
someone who was able to sing in English. As for the actual background music
... it's actually really good, with neat traditional-sounding chants and
drums and instrumentation that set the background and mood much better than
the visuals do. It has this wonderful primitive-yet-fantastic feel to it
that simply *works*.
So with all that said, one would think that I would give this the lowest
rating possible. Right? Ehh, actually, it is pretty fun and a good starter
series, and would probably do very well on Cartoon Network. But does it
deserve the hype it's getting? I don't think so.