I get excited by shows that surprise me or give me elements that I can identify with. When you empathize with a character you tend to become attached; you begin to cheer them on because you feel you have something in common with them. Of course when characters are written as more than ‘one-dimensional’ puppets, they also feel more real and usually that’s when growth happens. It’s amazing when a show can make you empathize with the villains as much, if not more so, then the heroes. In fact I think it is the mark of a great storyteller when the difference between the two (the hero and the villain) become very hard to distinguish.
Naruto Shippuden or Naruto: Hurricane Chronicles is the second anime series about a young ninja who has more heart than common sense, vowing to one day become the head ninja in his village. Naruto is an annoying, loud-mouthed little kid when we were first introduced to him in the first series; it seemed he always had a need to prove himself or perform greater than another member of the village. At first glance a person might ask “Why would I care about such an annoying little brat in a bright orange jumpsuit?” Well it’s not so much of what he does or his annoying behavior but the reason behind his behavior that makes it compelling. .
Naruto is an orphan who grew up alone and was always shunned by most of the people in his village. This caused him to try harder and harder for approval, but no matter what he did it wasn’t good enough to be accepted. So instead of being ignored he went wild, adopted a louder, in-your-face attitude and constantly committed acts of vandalism in order to get noticed by the village who insisted on ignoring him. Shippuden takes place about 4 years after the original series ended so we pick up with Naruto when he’s around 16.
Being a teenager doesn’t mean he’s all grown up either. He’s still immature, still trying to take the easiest way out of situations… but he is learning. He gets mentored from certain teachers who leave him with plenty to grow from and that’s where the show shines brightest. When you see a decent portrayal of a character learning from his past behavior, it’s not supposed to be an instant transformation; it’s gradual, but you do notice the difference.
The most unique aspect to me about the show isn’t just Naruto but the villains he faces. Several times I enjoyed the ‘black and white’ nature of anime; good versus evil, bad guys getting killed by good guys, etc. Sometimes a writer would try to explain the actions of a villain but never to the point where you want him to win or at least survive the fight. In Shippuden, Naruto identifies with almost every villain. Why? Because the writers of Naruto understand that no one wakes up in the morning one day and says ‘ I’m going to be evil from now on!’ Everyone has reasons for doing what they do, whether we agree with them or not. Every person justifies their own actions and they never consider themselves the bad guy. Most of it comes from past treatment by those around them; Naruto knows all about being treated badly by other people… yet he still chooses to do the right thing.
The fight sequences are another reason to watch. It’s not just a “ I’m stronger than everyone in the universe so I’m going to win” kind of match up. There is a lot of strategy and planning that goes into these performances and I have yet to be disappointed when it came time to see some serious beat downs. These are my most satisfying moments in anime as I shout out loud and laugh with enjoyment.
Naruto Shippuden is a perfect example of why I watch anime. It’s a testament to something being more than what it seems and if you like a good story and a good villain (as crazy as that sounds) than you’ll like this.