In any media when something becomes very popular it gains its fair share of Haters. These Haters can have various reasons from the rational of it just not being their cup’O tea to the irrational of hating it just because it’s popular. In the end it breaks down to those who judged it after watching it and those who judged without watching it, be it from friends’ opinions, the web or otherwise, be it Nickelback, Michael Bay films or in this case, Naruto.
Generally if I do take the ‘Haters’ stance against something I like it to be something I have watched or read for myself (like the bible or twilight). Naruto on the other hand is difficult because it took a very long time to finish, thus most of its current haters are in the category of those who have not watched or read it to it’s conclusion. I did not want to be one of these people and therefore was determined to at least read the manga to its conclusion, because fuck watching 500 episodes of filler and flashbacks.
I have to say that while not in my top 10 or even in my top 50 anime that I have watched, I can see Naruto’s appeal. It’s your classic shonen that played on both modern sub-culture movements as well as more classical myths in a fantasy world that became a mishmash of the two, with both the technology to create guns but with powers and physical abilities that also made them somewhat (but not really!) obsolete in combat. Their biggest mistake in my opinion was calling them ninjas because though they share similarities in the weapons and martial arts they use they are more like flamboyant combat wizards, making the creators need to completely redefine the term to fit the ‘Naruto World’.
At least in the first half of the story I actually found the characters to be deeper than those of your average anime at the time. Masashi Kishimoto almost reinvented Sanderson’s Second Law of magic but instead of the Limitation being more important than the power itself the focus was put more on the social consequences of these powers. Wars, stigmas, taboos from these powers effect every character in this series to some degree or another but none so much as those of the main characters Naruto and Sasuke. Naruto was shunned since childhood due to being the vessel of a magical beast that nearly destroyed the village, giving him a loneliness complex and making the friendship theme actually have some semblance of meaning for a change. Sasuke on the other hand had his clan wiped out by his brother to stop an oncoming civil war breaking out because of the power of their genetically powerful eyes, the Sharingan. This makes him a brooding sadist who only cares about revenge until he gets it and then decides to go full retard.
Besides the consequences of a few wars from the past and the build up of both a civil and world war that take place during the manga itself, the plot essentially rotates around their (I’m not going to say friendship because it’s not) “relationship”. On the downside this creates some rinse and repeat fight scenes between them of which Kishimoto must create some REALLY contrived reasons to make them seem important, such as Sasuke somehow thinking that becoming a Tyrant the people hate together is better than them choosing their new leader for themselves. Yeah, Sasuke’s reasoning is pretty backwards, especially when he leaves at the end of the first half to be taught by someone who had his ass kicked by his brother in order become powerful enough to beat, wait for… his brother.
Like most massive shonen out there the key scenes are the long as hell fights in which both the minor and major characters are developed in copious amounts of flashback. But this generally happens just before they are about to be killed off. After a while most of the readers caught on to this and amazingly created its own form of self-spoiler. And it’s in this that lies the key problem with Naruto, it went on for so long that nothing was a surprise anymore to the point where jumping the shark would have been considered predictable. This is why I consider the first seasons to be better, it was still fresh with interesting character revelations, but in Shippuuden all you had to look forward to was the explosions getting bigger. Sure there were a few minor character deaths near the end but by that point they had lost so much context from the main plot that you just didn’t care anymore.
In conclusion Naruto was a too-long anime series that had some highlights in the first half but then devolved into a game of bad guy wack’a’mole with tacky Dragonball Z transformations. In the end I wouldn’t say I’m a Hater of Naruto, but I would say that Naruto is a very good lesson to be learnt of why you shouldn’t let your series run for over five hundred episodes or chapters and still expect people to take it seriously. A lesson the creators of Naruto should have learnt from the Majin Buu Saga.