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One of the most important manga and anime series to ever release is Naruto. The Naruto history and overview is understandably extensive due to being around for a couple of decades. The craziest part is that it is still going strong even today.
When it comes to manga and anime series, there are few that are more detailed and storied than the Naruto history and overview. To help with this, I am going to go over everything you need to know to get started, whether you want to read the original manga or watch the anime series.
Bottom Line Up Front
Naruto is one of the most successful and beloved manga and anime series to ever release. Launched in late 1999, it has spanned not only the turn of the century but a total of just over 15 years of consistent publication. It is also one of the best-selling manga of all time, with more than 250 million copies sold worldwide. It follows the story of the titular ninja hero, Naruto, on his journey to becoming a Hokage.
What Is Naruto?
Naruto is a massive manga and anime series that has been running for more than two decades now if you consider its sequel part of the same franchise. There are only a handful, if that, of manga series out there that can claim to have even remotely similar success as this series.
Naruto follows the story of a young boy named Naruto who is on a mission to become the next Hokage ninja. It is a deep and challenging goal and one that he is not alone in. The story follows him and his friends as they try to work together to reach their goals and save the world in the process.
The Naruto series is a classic shounen series that is geared towards kids, specifically boys, ranging from pre-teen to teenage and beyond. The series is quite colorful, showing off the different villages, teams, and ninjas that are all over the world.
While colorful and at times quite funny and lighthearted, the Naruto series does not shy away from the dark and more mature elements at the same time. I definitely would consider this an all-ages manga and anime series, but there are some parts that are quite serious and relentless.
Do not let the kid-friendly nature of much of the series fool you, as it does have latter moments, in what would be considered the Shippuden era, in which it has some twists and moments that are tragic and even exceedingly violent at times.
In the end, though, Naruto has a uniquely broad appeal that makes it work for almost all ages and genre fans. That is likely why it is one of the first, if not the first, manga and anime series that many fans started with. As such, it has a lot of nostalgia factors associated with its lengthy history.
Naruto History: Manga
For starters, in the history of Naruto, it all began with the original manga. Beginning on September 21, 1999, that fateful day just before the end of the 20th century would see one of the most impactful manga series to ever release and kick off an entire era of manga and anime fans.
The Naruto manga was created by the legendary creator, Masashi Kishimoto, who would essentially build an unbelievably successful empire off of this single manga series. That said, the story up until the memorable launch of the series in 1999 was a rough time for the young manga creator.
Growing up, Kishimoto was inspired by many of the other manga and anime greats that were out at the time, like Dragon Ball and Doraemon. This inspired him to try his hand at creating his own manga, which led him to pursue a career of that in the 1990s.
During this time, he created several one-shots, which are one-off manga chapters that a writer will release in order to possibly get some creative inspiration or as a pitch of sorts for a full-on series. This would eventually lead to his first series in Karakuri, which ultimately failed.
Just before and after the failure of this series, Kishimoto was working on other one-shots, including one for Naruto in 1997. At first, his second manga series was not meant to be a shounen one, but one that would be darker and more geared towards older audiences.
When those initial pitches did not work out, he tried his hand at making Naruto into a full series, and it panned out wonderfully in the end. The Naruto series was picked up in 1999 by Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, and the rest is basically history at this point.
The Naruto manga did not take long at all to become a hit in Japan, earning Kishimoto various rewards and accolades. Furthermore, it was only a few years later that it made its official debut in the United States and other parts of the world, finding that it was a hit there, too.
It would continue its scheduled publication in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine for just over 15 years until its final chapter on November 10, 2014, enjoying one of the longest runs for a modern-day manga. This meant that it had a whopping 700 chapters in total by the end of its run.
This is an impressive number and one that even the most popular shounen manga out there are only able to reach a fraction of in their time. Like other series, those 700 chapters were then taken from their weekly publication in the magazine and compiled into physical book volumes.
In total, there are 72 volumes of the manga in circulation now, with every single one available for purchase around the world. There is no doubting the overwhelming success of Naruto that cements it as one of the most important and greatest manga series of all time.
Naruto History: Anime
Of course, like any great manga series out there, the popularity does not simply end with the manga itself. In the end, a Naruto anime adaptation began, and it would cover basically all 700 chapters of the series, plus a whole bunch of filler moments, during the course of its time.
It would take a few years for the anime adaptation to begin, starting on October 3, 2002. About three years after the beginning of the manga, the anime adaptation began, and it was produced by Studio Pierrot of Yu Yu Hakusho fame.
This studio would have the daunting task of retelling the manga series in anime form, and it turned out that this was just about popular as the original form of the property in the end. The first anime adaptation of the Naruto anime series would run for almost five years until February 8, 2007.
During that time, the first legendary run of the anime would happen with an impressive 220 episodes in total. What someone might realize about this situation is the fact that the manga was not yet over by the time the original Naruto anime came to an end.
In fact, the manga would run for another seven years. The likely reason for this conclusion was probably due to the fact that the anime did not take long to catch up to the manga, given that episodes could cover more than a single chapter every week.
In the end, this led to more than 80 episodes of the first anime to be filler content or essentially extra moments that were not shown in the manga. Despite the end of the first part of the anime, the show would continue the very next week with a new episode but in what was considered a new show.
This show was known as Naruto Shippuden, the sequel anime series and the continuation of the manga storyline. Like the Dragon Ball series, it was a new name for the show, even though the manga continued with the exact same run. The series began on February 15, 2007.
It would run for more than ten years, concluding with the 500th (770th in total across both series) episode on March 23, 2017. The series did not end there, either, as it would also include 11 movies based on the Naruto anime that would appear over the course of the series.
Three of those movies were based on the original Naruto anime, while the final eight were based on the Shippuden version. Despite there being so many films, most of them were actually considered non-canon when compared to the events in the manga.
Only the final two movies that finished off the storyline of Naruto, Sasuke, Hinata, and the gang and the Boruto Naruto movie are considered canon, actually.
Chakra and Jutsu Explained
Like many shounen manga series out there, much of the storyline in Naruto revolves around the ninja and the various powers that they each have. The powers that the various ninja have come down to the chakra inside of them that they channel in order to make those powers occur in the real world.
The chakra that each ninja has is used to activate various arts that are known as Jutsu. There are many different kinds of Jutsu, with each person basically having their own versions that they use throughout the series. However, they can each fall into three distinct categories: Ninjutsu, Taijutsu, and Genjutsu.
These categorizations are there to really divide up the chakra-based abilities into their various functions. Starting with the Genjutsu, these are the trickster mystic arts that some ninja will use to mess with their opponents and try to confuse them in battle.
This can come in a number of different forms, such as creating an illusion to deceive someone or summoning effects in the real world that seem real and are there to mess with the person. However, what is notable about the Genjutsu is that, unlike other jutsu techniques, none of them are actually happening. They are solely built for deception.
From there, we come to the Taijutsu, which as the beginning of the name indicates, are meant for more physical, combat-based techniques. This is the most basic form of combat as it does not require the classic Naruto signs or even chakra in some cases in order to do it.
The Taijutsu techniques are physical ones that many users will use in the series in order to engage in the most primitive form of battle. Last but not least, we have the Ninjutsu, which is the most well-known and popular form of the Jutsu techniques.
Ninjutsu is also likely the most varied and complicated group of arts since essentially everything that is not deceptive-based like the Genjutsu, and physically-focused like the Taijutsu fall into this category. This is where many of the summoning techniques, battle powers, and various abilities will fall in the Naruto universe.
This is also where many of the ninjas will use the classic Naruto hand signs in order to activate their chakra and use their various Ninjutsu abilities.
The manga series for Naruto is set in a fictional world that is not unlike the real world. The start of the series focuses much on the village of Konoha, where much of the story takes place but expands beyond the walls of that town over time.
The general idea for the village of Konoha and the locations where the ninja live is largely based on Japan itself. In fact, many of the settings that are shown in the manga are based around the Okayama prefecture where the manga creator grew up.
That said, what is fascinating about the setting of Naruto is that it blends much of the older history of Japan with the modern-day technology and conveniences that we have right now. While the village of Konohagakure seems initially like it is set in the past, this is not necessarily the case.
After all, there are more modern-looking buildings that are seen in the Naruto series, like convenience stores, electricity, and the like. This unique blend of the shinobi’s era in Japan and the present times help to give a distinct look and feel to the Naruto series.
Main Heroes: Team 7, More
The cast of Naruto is vast, and, again, we could spend an entire page (or five) just going over everyone that is introduced over the course of the 700 chapters of the manga. That said, the core cast that readers need to know about is seen from the very opening moments of the story.
First and foremost, there is Naruto himself. The titular character is the star of the series, and for a good reason. A young, blonde boy with an orange outfit is a ninja growing up in the Konohagakure village. At the time of his birth, the nine-tailed fox known as Kurama is embedded in him.
The problem is that, because of this, many of the villagers stay away from him, and he grows up with a rather lonely existence. That said, he remains extremely positive, believing in his goals of eventually becoming Hokage—the story centers around him and his journey to that point.
In the process of training as a ninja, Naruto joins Team 7, which is a group that is led by their teacher, Kakashi. The leader of the group, Kakashi, has a tragic past and wields the powerful Sharingan. He teaches the three main members of Team 7 how to become ninjas.
Another member of Team 7 and the best friend of Naruto is Sasuke Uchiha. While the main character is Naruto, much of the manga is also telling the story of his best friend and rival Sasuke. Sasuke is a reserved and cold person, not really letting anyone in except the members of Team 7. That said, he truly cares for each of them and will do anything for them.
Last but not least, the final member of Team 7 is Sakura Haruno. The only female member of the group, she has a kind heart and is the emotional core of the team. Her possibly romantic feelings for certain characters are also at the crux of much of the discourse in the early parts of the manga.
Beyond these core characters, there are many other main heroes in the series that come from the other teams in the village. These include fan favorites like Hinata from Team 8; the sand jutsu wielded Gaara, and Rock Lee.
With much of the story surrounding Naruto and the gang, the term “Hokage” is something that consistently comes up. It is the goal of the series as Naruto aims to become the next Hokage in the village. As for what it literally means, it basically translates to “fire shadow.”
In practice, the Hokage is the leader of the village, and there are have been several prior to the start of the manga. Once one leader steps down or passes away, another steps up to take their place as the person who guides the village and protects them from harm’s way.
Despite the fact that most everyone in the village wishes to stay away from Naruto, his goal in life is to become the next Hokage, or leader of the village, and protect everyone in the process. That is why he sets out to learn more about being a ninja while never giving up on his dreams.
Main Antagonists: Rogue Ninjas, Akatsuki
Of course, every major action manga series out there would not be complete without its fair share of villains, and Naruto has plenty of them throughout the more than 700 chapters and episodes. Like with the main heroes, it would take many pages to go through each of them.
That said, the bulk of the main villains throughout the manga can be divided into two distinct groups: the rogue ninjas and the Akatsuki. The rogue ninjas are just that: ninjas who formerly served the Hidden Leaf Village and have now shirked their duties for one reason or another.
In the process, they have now been considered enemies of the village and will be attacked on-site if seen. Several of the early manga villains before the time break are rogue ninjas, while not necessarily all of them are inherently evil.
And then there are the villains that appear in the second half of the series after the time gap. In this section, many of the antagonists are part of the Akatsuki group. They are an evil organization that is comprised of mostly rogue ninjas with nefarious goals.
They are mostly seen causing trouble for the main characters in the second half and even starting entire wars to take down the heroes of the series. There are other villains and groups beyond just these, but going into too much detail about them would be considered spoilers. Just know that there are plenty of interesting and unique protagonists to check out in the Naruto series.
Where to Read and Watch Naruto
If you find that it is time for you to check out Naruto for yourself, it really depends on whether or not you want to read the manga first or check out the anime. When it comes to the original manga, you have two choices: reading the digital versions online or buying the physical volumes.
The volumes are pretty self-explanatory as you can choose between buying them online through a retailer like Amazon or heading to your local bookstore to pick up the physical copies that they have. Though Naruto is a few years old at this point in time, it is still one of the most successful manga around and can be commonly found.
It might even be available at your local library like it was at mine, where I started reading the Naruto manga at a young age. On the other hand, if you wish to watch the anime, the best place to do so is Crunchyroll. The anime streaming service has all episodes available there for you to watch from beginning to end, including both the original Naruto series and its Shippuden sequel.
With all of this said about Naruto, you might be wondering who and what Boruto is. Though Naruto the manga ended in 2014, a sequel manga was later released in May 2016. The sequel follows up on the events of the Boruto and Naruto film, telling the story of the son of Naruto, known as Boruto.
If you find that you’re done with Naruto or want to make sure that you have plenty of content to consume in this universe, worry not, as Boruto is going strong today and will likely be doing so for the foreseeable future with more than 60 chapters and counting, and 220 episodes of the anime adaptation.
Question: Was Naruto based on a true story?
Answer:Though Naruto could take place in an alternate version of Earth and Japan itself, it is not necessarily based on a true story. That said, there are a lot of elements that reveal that the series is taking some tidbits from the real world. A lot of this is seen in the parts that have been taken directly from real-life Japanese ninja.
There are parts like the stealthy nature of the characters that lent themselves to the more magical features of the ninja in Naruto, in addition to the signs themselves that are fairly reminiscent of signs that were used by martial artists and others in Japanese culture. So, while not based on an actual real story, Naruto does incorporate some real-life parts into it.
Question: Who killed Naruto?
Answer: Even having this question in itself is considered a spoiler, but you should turn away now if you are a brand new reader or watcher of Naruto. That said, if you continue to read, know that some of the bigger twists in the series, especially in the latter half, are going to be discussed.
Still here? Well, let me first start by stating that Naruto is alive and well in the sequel manga, Boruto currently. Of course, that would mean that there is no reason for this question of how he died to even exist then. However, while he is alive now, this was almost not the case at one point in the story.
Towards the tail-end of the manga, there was one of the final arcs about the Fourth Great Ninja World War. During this war, villains like Obito and Madara Uchiha enacted their plans in order to take over the entire known ninja world. In doing so, Obito separated Naruto from Kurama, the nine-tailed fox that has lived inside him since birth.
The problem with this is that the separation of the two could lead to Naruto’s death and that almost happens before Obito has a change of heart and restores Naruto back to himself. After this occurs, there are more fights that happen that almost lead him to his death, but he remains alive regardless.
Question: What is the overall story of Naruto?
Answer: Without going too much into spoilers about the overarching story of Naruto, we can give some general glimpses into what it is all about. And even if I did want to summarize the entire thing, Naruto is one of the longest manga series ever, so that would require its own post entirely.
The general crux of Naruto is about a boy who grows up mostly alone and wants nothing more than to have family and friends of his own. His goal in life, besides that, is to become the next Hokage, and he wants to train as a ninja until he reaches that point. Naruto the series is about his journey to meet his goals and what happens along the way.
Question: What is the main message of Naruto?
Answer: This is a very difficult question since you could argue that it is a subjective one. Given how long the Naruto series is, there are a lot of different messages and life lessons that you could take from it. And every person who consumes it could take a different meaning from the series, too.
But I will give you the main message that I have taken from Naruto and why. For me, I think the main message is that of believing in one’s self, their friends, family, and their dreams. This is something that Naruto himself embodies and shows the reader/viewer consistently by never giving up. To me, it feels like this is the message that the manga creator wished to impart to fans.
Without a doubt, Naruto is one of the most popular manga to ever release, and there will be few that will ever even come close to touching the success of this amazing series. That’s also why this Naruto history and overview could only touch the surface of everything about this unbelievable series.
So, if you want to find out more about Naruto and some of the aspects that you should know about, we have plenty of coverage for you to explore. In fact, our friends at AnimeListy have created an extensive look at the various fights that have happened over the years between the main characters, Naruto and Sasuke.