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NARUTO #1 -- Retro Review

We take a fresh look at the pilot of this seminal series. Does it hold up, or is everything cool we remember just ninja tricks?

We all have that one anime that made us realize this was more than a fleeting interest and turned it into a full-blown hobby. For me that show was the original NARUTO, which I watched with the anime club at college. And so for auld lang syne, I decided to revisit the very first episode of NARUTO and see what I thought about it, nearly 10 years later.

And you know what? There's still a lot to love about this ol' chestnut.

I love when a show with a deep fantasy world starts off in media res, and NARUTO does just that. Sure it starts off with a flashback that fills you in on the evil Nine-Tailed Fox Demon thing, but it really gets going when perpetual troublemaker Naruto Uzumaki has to run away from his teachers using all the ninja tricks he knows. Then right after that you're thrown into the concept of a Ninja Academy, which I can only presume is the Japanese equivalent of Hogwarts.

It's strange to me how much they put into the relationship between Naruto and Iruka too, since later on Iruka is all but replaced by Kakashi. Especially since Kakashi is closely tied to the Uchiha clan and Iruka has a very emotional connection with Naruto.

Must... stop... farting...!
Must... stop... farting...!

And the art! Vibrant colors always keep me entertained, and this show is dripping with them. All the major characters stand out in their design, and encourage speculation of their involvement in the story down the line. The semi-realistic style of the show also really helps it be memorable, too.

Thankfully, the music is just as epic as I remember it being—I could listen to this soundtrack all day long. Such a badass fusion of classical Japanese instruments and modern rock. Yoshida Brothers, eat your hearts out.

Sure they really barrel through the story in this first ep. Sure Naruto makes a couple of derpy faces. But you know what? This is a damn fine show and a satisfying chunk of story. I have to hand it to my old anime club president: he couldn't have picked a finer show to hook an anime neophyte.

So what was your gateway anime? Have you watched any of your old favorites of late, and did they hold up? Let us know in the comments below!

Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.

Lurkeroon Dec. 23, 2013 at 10:24 a.m.

Believe it!

The first episodes of Bleach are nothing compared to the later episodes, but Naruto pretty much stayed the same throughout. Bleach turned out to be more like DBZ while Naruto followed the track of One Piece. By that I mean the powerups and abilities in the later episodes of Bleach make the initial abilities seem humorous. After watching DBZ it was tough to enjoy Dragonball and after seeing the later episodes of Bleach the early episodes were real boring.

Murphix staff on Dec. 23, 2013 at 10:31 a.m.

@Lurkero: Funny you mention BLEACH--it's next in the queue!

sickVisionz moderator on Dec. 23, 2013 at 11:08 a.m.

I think this is actually the only canon episode of Naruto that I haven't seen before.

If you like him and Iruka, there's a filler episode that really fleshes their relationship out way more than any canon one I've seen. They usually browse over the death of Iruka's parents but this filler had him waking up in a cold sweat, treating Naruto pretty shittily, and Naruto sitting alone in his room looking like he was about to commit suicide or something. It was a very a Shippuden take on classic Naruto material where it's all a bit darker and less comedic than the typical Naruto approach.

Kino88on Dec. 23, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
Mine was Pokemon, can't say I have ever gone back to see it again since 2001, That's when Dragon ball Z and the rest of the toonami line up came along, Then once I started online streaming, shit got real!,
EllysPeranion Dec. 25, 2013 at 7:27 a.m.

I have to admit that I waited a couple of years before watching this. Mainly because the more... enthusiastic Naruto fans (you know the ones) had given this show a bad odor for me. Still, I'm glad that I did. As for my gateway anime? I think that it was probably El Hazard. I was at a convention and they decided to show the dub as a part of a "not all dubs are evil" screening. And I fell in love with the visuals, humor, and pacing. And the bevy of anime babes, yes, but still. (Ah, Alielle, you're affections would never be refused by me, sweetie.)

Murphix staff on Dec. 25, 2013 at 4:30 p.m.

@EllysPerani: The El Hazard dub is superb!

takashichea moderator on Dec. 25, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.

Since I didn't have cable until college, I used to watch Naruto on Toonami at the neighbors' house. We were young, and we didn't know manga series existed. We just watched every Saturday night for our weekly Toonami ritual thing. Being young, you didn't care about the quality of the show or its VAs. You just watched it because it was fun. When you're an adult, you see Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, and other Shonen series as less enjoyable.

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