Critical Analysis: 3 Painful Problems With Naruto
Naruto changed lives. It was like the second coming of Jesus and converted much of the western world to obsess over Japanese culture. Playgrounds across the country kids mimicked Naruto hand signs, ran with their arms behind their backs, and roleplayed as their favorite characters.
Sure, shows and manga like One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Full Metal Alchemist did their part in exposing the Western Countries to Japanese entertainment. But there’s something about Naruto that felt different, at least at the time.
It was a mature show aimed at kids. It explored themes like violence, destiny, and love while delivering tactical fights between well-written characters. The Naruto hand signs and special ninja powers were cool, but this show excelled in the writing.
Then it fell off hard. It’s tough to attribute one reason for the fall of Naruto, so today, let’s blame three things.
3. Story Problems: Bad Writing After The Pain Arc
The writer of Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto was on top of his shit when writing the original series. Well into the series’s second half, Shippuden, Kishi (as fans often call him) was still writing fire.
The second half starts strong focusing on the fan-favorite Gaara, and the soon-to-be fan-favorite group the “Akatsuki.” It wasn’t until after the “Pain” arc when Naruto shifted gears and started to suck.
Namely, everything the series built towards — the 10-tails, Tobi’s identity, and an unprecedented all-out war fell flat. Much of the penultimate “War” arc felt like a piercing drone in which the writer forgot what made the series special.
No, it wasn’t Naruto hand signs or insane, over-the-top power being thrown left and right. It was the tactical battles and superbly written characters that fans loved.
Even if you didn’t like the ending of the infamous “Pain” arc; the battle between the antagonist and Naruto is the last time the series felt great.
2. Favorite Characters Being Forgotten
“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” – Anton Chekhov
The difference between the writing of One Piece and Naruto is that the former prioritizes the characters that make it special. One Piece is ramping up into its epic conclusion of a pivotal arc; the characters we meet are front and center.
Conversely, Kishimoto abandoned the characters that once made the series great. With the exception of Naruto, Sasuke, and Kakashi; the rest of the original cast is irrevelent by the end.
Characters like Neji become a plot device. Rock Lee, Gaara, Shikamaru, Iruka, and other fan-favorite characters become terribly outclassed by villains; and soon serve no purpose in the series.
Kishimoto buffed up Naruto and Sasuke to such extreme levels that they didn’t have to rely on anyone else but themselves. This was a terrible mistake on Kishi’s part.
1. Deus Ex Machina
Deus ex machina ravages the final moments of Shippuden.
Naruto receives a healing power — which no amount of Naruto hand signs could’ve conjured up — and heals the dying Might Guy. Kakashi, a Sharingan recipient is able to unlock the fabled perfect Susanoo because the plot requires it. And Itachi, as if he wasn’t already overpowered enough, acquires another broken technique called “Izanami.”
The secrets of Shippuden aren’t masterfully laid out from the start. Instead, the series feels rushed by the end. Also, it’s written with none of the previous stories in mind.