My Year with Naruto

Ever since I got into anime, I suddenly stopped going to the cinema. After a two year absence, I finally stepped foot into a movie theatre to see… wait for it, a Naruto movie, Ninja Clash in the land of Snow. Believe me, you’re not the only one who was surprised, I was too! It was around this time last year that I was first introduced to a spikey haired blond kid in a orange boiler suit going by the name of Naruto Uzumaki, so in homage to everyone’s favourite punk, I’ve decided to take a look back at what has been a crazy year.

It’s been just over a year and a half since everyone’s favourite ninja kid debuted on our TV screens. I was a little cynical at first when I heard about the show as it was launched on us amidst a flurry of publicity and hype, which had initially made me think of it as just another kids show. But when I actually sat down and watched it I found out just how heartfelt and thoughtful Naruto really is.

At one point my little brother approached me six months ago to say, “What is Naruto?” Impossible, I thought. How could a kid not know who Naruto is? But then he pointed out that I watch more kids cartoons than he does. Which is… technically true! I then spent half an hour explaining the Naruto world, who the characters are and the story so far. Unbelievable as it may sound, there are still people in this world who are somehow immune to the endless Naruto merchandising machine.

One of the most amusing moments happened whilst Naruto gave one of his now famous speeches. You know the one I mean. The, “One day I will be Hokage and then everyone will have to respect me,” speeches. At which point, my mother tells me that I should be more like Naruto. Needless to say, I was left speechless. Me? Be more like Naruto? She must be joking… right?

But this got me thinking . Naruto has been through a lot. No parents, always having people look down on him his whole life, but despite it all, he never gives up. Even if no one else believes in him, Naruto Uzumaki believes in himself and is working hard to achieve his goal. With his indestructible self belief and his uncanny knack for causing trouble, it didn’t take me long before I started cheering him on. In a world where kids are told they cant do this, or be that, Naruto is a breath of fresh air. In some respects, and I can’t believe that I’m about to say this, but Naruto is actually a surprisingly good role model. He gets trampled on, a lot, but he’s the kind of kid who will get back on his feet and keep trying no matter what.

So just what kind of impact has Naruto had on the UK anime scene? Well, you can’t go to expo’s without seeing that blonde spiky hair, now familiar orange boiler suits, or fans proudly wearing their hidden leaf village headbands. Naruto’s appeal is both universal and generation breaking. What was once exclusively aimed at a small community has now expanded at a surprising rate. Naruto has made anime more accessible and maybe even just a little bit more mainstream. Hearing kids talking about the manga volumes in a bookstore. People watching new Naruto episodes on their laptops, it seems everyone has their own Naruto story.

To find out more, I spoke to a couple of Naruto fans to find out what their year has been like and this is what Beth, (pictured as the cloaked Itachi on the right) from Brighton and Meg from London (pictured below as Sasuke) have to say:

Nargis: How did you get into Naruto?

Beth: “I got into Naruto reluctantly, both my friend Emilie and I thought it looked pretty rubbish and over hyped to be honest but her little sister got her into it and she eventually persuaded me so I bought the first boxset and then I was hooked.”

Meg: “I heard a lot about it on the internet a long time ago from some of my American friends, and then my friends over here started watching it too. So I just thought ‘why not?’ and started reading the manga.”

Nargis: What kind of an impact has Naruto had on your life over the last year?

Beth: “As I’ve been anticipating the releases of the boxsets it’s kept me up to date with other anime releases and made me aware of other new anime I might be interested in. My brother says that I have become, ‘Exceedingly irritating,’ as I have become obsessed with ninjas.”

Meg: “A larger impact than I thought an anime would. I’ve met some of my best and closest friends through Naruto who I would never have met otherwise. It’s also inspired some of my artwork, and encouraged me to take up learning martial arts again. I was always interested in studying martial arts, but Naruto was just the extra bit of encouragement. I now do Karate and Ninjutsu.”

Nargis: Has Naruto helped to make anime more mainstream?

Beth: “I don’t really think Naruto has helped that much to make anime more mainstream, I think that’s mostly Studio Ghibli’s influence since Spirited Away. To me, Naruto was already hugely anticipated by the anime community over here than anything else. Of course showing it on Jetix will have helped but I think a big proportion of those tuning in were already anime fans.”

Meg: “I think it has. Most people think of Naruto first when someone mentions anime. Not that it’s a bad thing.”

Nargis: What’s the best thing about cosplaying as a Naruto character?

Beth: “Being a ninja of course! All the Naruto character costumes are pretty cool so there’s lots of choice!”

Meg: “So many things have happened. One of the funniest would be when we went to Thorpe Park in Naruto cosplay for a friend’s birthday and we were standing in Burger King and some guy walked in and said really loudly ‘It’s Akatsuki! You guys can’t just walk in to places like this!'” 

Ninja kids at The British Museum

Do you have a Naruto story to share? AUKN would like to hear from you, AUKN are inviting Naruto fans to post their stories below.