Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto

Mar 9, 2011

Naruto is a long-running series with all the power of hype that that entails.  It begins as the story of a clumsy, none-too-bright boy who wants to become the greatest ninja ever.  This is, as one might expect, not terribly easy.

I was more than a little leery of venturing into such a well-publicized manga.  I've been burned before by popular works that have all the texture and depth of fast food, but I figured I'd give it a try.  Fortunately, it is a long running series, so the initial toilet humor was easy to breeze past until the plot and characterization started kicking in.  Even then, I don't think there's a moment where it passes the Bechdel Test.  If a lack of strong female characters is a deal-breaker, I'd probably give this a miss—even when they're supposed to be strong, they're relegated to the background or otherwise dismissed—but if that doesn't matter to you, or you can deal with it, then the guys are worth sticking around for.

The titular character, Naruto, starts out as a loud, obnoxious child of twelve, but slowly grows into an oddly charismatic boy due to sheer persistance and positive outlook.  His teammates, Sakura and Sasuke, start out respectively as a flighty, mooning, tempermental girl and a brooding, taciturn boy, but both develop in their own ways.  Assorted teachers, companions, and enemies gain depth and sympathy throughout the series, to the point where Naruto is actually consistently not the most popular character in his own series (the honor frequently going to Sasuke or their teacher, Kakashi).

While this is insanely popular with young teenaged boys, the series as a whole offers a lot to anyone who likes fast-paced action mixed with touching character development.

Reviewed by Library Staff