Standing on the brink of a new era for Naruto, I’ve turned back the clock to look at my favourite moments from the series; fair warning – hyperbolic fanboyisms ahead. I started watching the show in 2003 with a cheap 15″ CRT monitor and two tinny sound blasters, at the time I wasn’t interested in anime and hated bloody subtitles. 4 years on and I find myself hooked up with a 24″ LCD flat-screen, 6.1 Dolby Surround Sound system and I’m writing on my own anime blog. What the hell happened?! Honestly, I blame Naruto.
5. Haku “killing” Sasuke
“What’s with that face, you total moron?” utters an impaled Sasuke, as the stunned Naruto wakes to discover his arch-rival has probably saved his live at the cost of his own. “Why did you save me?”, “How should I know… I hated you…”, “But… Why? Why me? I never asked for this!”, “I don’t know! My body just moved on its own… Idiot”.
I love that dialogue, it beautifully epitomises their begrudging respect and friendship without getting all sappy on us. When I first sat through this scene I was stunned, on the edge of my seat, completely captivated by the drama unfolding before me.
4. Gaara breaking Rock Lee’s spirit
To say this fight was awesome is probably the understatement of the decade. Amidst the sheer surprise of seeing Rock Lee go all out for the win and Gaara playing up to his sick, sadistic personality type, I was blown away by how exciting and unpredictable it all was. Tragically, it ends with Rock Lee losing. He is the Rocky Balboa of anime; mediocre talent but limitless determination and GUTS, and I mean a whole lot of GUTS. The match-up was perfectly balanced between Lee’s physical martial arts and Gaara’s long-range, supernatural control of sand; the ensuing carnage is a credit to the visceral brilliance and inventiveness of Naruto at its best.
3. Naruto becoming a hero
Up until the Invasion of Konoha arc, Naruto had been a bit of a punk, an adorable one, but still quite yappy and annoying. Fighting with Gaara he comes of age; fulfilling his obvious potential of becoming a true (super) hero.
Hated and ignored for most of his young life by school mates and neighbours alike, the outcast, without a moments hesitation, proudly lays his life on the line to protect them all. It’s a powerful and moving sentiment, a feeling that’s beautifully conveyed by the biggest action set-pieces seen in the series.
Brief Interlude: Favourite Opening Theme
Opening Theme No. 5
Song: Seishun Kyousoukyoku
Sasuke leaves Konoha in Orochimaru’s barrel-o-evil with “the five” ninja slash friends sent to retrieve him; looking back on it, the mission was never going to end well for our heroes; after all, it was Sasuke’s decision to leave. No, I’m still not over it. SASUKE YOU BASTARD1!!11!
I loved this OP within 5 seconds of glimpsing the moody artwork; the clear look of seriousness, regret and dejection reflected on the faces of Naruto and Sasuke as the shaky camera blurs in and out of focus on their silhouetted shapes. The next scene is “the five” standing a-top of cliff, all noticeably concentrated and composed, while the camera spins around their circle formation; it feels utterly cool. We hardly ever see Chouji without food, and here he’s not only empty handed, but running too. The fat dude is running.
2. Zabuza’s last stand
“Don’t look away; it’s the end of a man who lived desperately”.
The climax of Zabuza’s and Haku’s story is the strongest section of Naruto, that it comes so early in the series means that it’s often forgotten; this is an injustice. Episode 19 is especially heart breaking for the previously cool-as-ice Zabuza’s (knife in mouth) tearful breakdown and uncontrollable rage; he comes to a brutal, bitter sweet end, having been stabbed dozens of times in the back, the swords still hanging from his flesh, lamenting Haku’s sacrifice, regretting their parting of ways. In short, Zabuza was a fucking cool character, and this episode made me the anime fan I am today.
1. Sasuke defeats Naruto, the end
Looking back on it now, I feel stupid, but the truth is that I never expected “my hero” Naruto to lose against Sasuke. Yet again, Kishimoto dealt me a back hander; well done good Sir. I was majorly deflated by the outcome, a depressing feeling only amplified by the ensuing years of unrelenting filler beginning immediately afterwards.
To this day I’m still in awe of episode 133; its theatrical animation quality, explosive drama and most of all, fist pumping action choreography. If you’re yet to be convinced of what Naruto has to offer, this is the episode to watch; an all too short, flashy tour-de-force that is not only the dramatic peak of Naruto’s ever bubbling story, but also one of the single best episodes of pure action anime produced for a decade.
So then Naruto fan boys and girls, let’s get emotional; what are your favourite moments from Naruto? Your favourite opening or ending theme? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!