I’ve been circling around this particular pillar of the Holy Shonen Trinity, all the time I’ve been shogun of Anime Vice. Maybe it’s because the episode count seemed too daunting. Maybe it’s because I was introduced to the franchise through X-Play reviews rolling their eyes about the lameness of the games (and the number of times “Believe it!” was uttered therein). I just never got into it.
Either way - - always better late than never - - so we’re here.
Whenever I watch the first episode of a long-running, super-popular series, I squint real hard and try to spot which specific details might’ve spelt success from the onset. Putting this in sequence with BLEACH and ONE PIECE’s openers, I noticed all three jump straight to their heroes doing cool stuff.
There’s no slow build-up. We don’t get blank-slate norms who must be summoned to adventure before they start kicking ass. Luffy already has stretchy powers from eating the Devil Fruit and he’s striving to be king, Ichigo already can see ghosts and he’ll punish anybody bullying those ghosts, and Naruto… well, he’s already leveled up several times, apparently. This opener’s so front-loaded with lore, it felt like I missed about six episodes, at least.
What’s striking is that, while this sort of haste can usually be to the detriment of most series, it actually seems beneficial here. Sure, the show’s breathlessly rattling its set-up off so it can get to the wish fulfillment (Naruto vastly overpowering his foes with the various jutsus), but that wouldn’t be enough. While it might take some hurried and clumsy steps to get there, this episode shows us to the most dramatic moments of Naruto’s young life.
Seriously, not only do we learn the horrific curse of his birth, not only do we get the gut-wrenching (sort-of) death of his mentor, but we also get a Lucifer-like temptation wherein he must choose to be a hero or a villain. That’s the sort of heavy, dramatic moments you normally get the climax of an arc, not the introduction. The show has to bend some rules to go straight for the jugular, but the effect is crucial, because we’re now rooting more for Naruto than we would’ve if he were just another mischief-making orphan. And that's what'll hook an audience for hundreds of episodes.
This is my take, anyway. I'm sure we've got plenty of mega-fans in the community - - what's your take? What did this show do right from the beginning? What's the secret of NARTUO's success?
Watch, “Enter: Naruto Uzumaki” and decide for yourself.
About the Author
|Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk|