Out of every television show I have ever seen, there is one that holds a special place in my heart. It is simply titled Naruto, and it is the show that changed my life for the better. While you may be skeptical that a mere television show can change someone’s life, I must assure you that it is not a hyperbole. Let me explain. It all started on a cool summer’s night when I was only thirteen-years-old. That year I was on a nostalgia kick and I watched many shows from my childhood. One show that I could never bear to watch was Naruto. It seemed too violent for my younger self, but once I became thirteen, I felt like I had matured enough to handle it. And so, I searched it up online and after the first episode, I was hooked.
Naruto is an anime that follows the story of a young boy who was left without parents as an infant and must struggle for survival and acceptance in a world that rejects him. I do need to mention that Naruto is set in a world where people fight as ninjas to protect their villages from their enemies. Ninjas are able to manipulate their spiritual energy, called chakra, to create powerful attacks. Some ninjas can create fireballs, others can manipulate water, some can heal injuries while others can create multiple shadow clones of themselves. It is hard to describe in words, but I would definitely recommend searching up some fight scenes from Naruto, the animation can be amazing at times.
On the day of Naruto’s birth, his village was in the midst of destruction by a rampaging demon fox spirit. To protect the village and its people, a powerful ninja sealed the fox spirit within Naruto. Unfortunately, as Naruto grew, the people of his village ostracized and bullied him. This is because when they looked at Naruto, they did not see a child, but a demon. Despite this, Naruto becomes a high-spirited goofy kid who likes playing pranks on his teachers and classmates. He isn’t the best student, if fact, he is one of the worst. And yet, he believes in his ability and potential. This belief is the core theme that is presented throughout the show. While no one really believes in him, in actuality most people look down on him, Naruto believes in himself and fights to protect his friends.
This message is one of the reasons Naruto changed my life. I am quite a shy person and I never had much self-confidence. I’m not sure why, but I always had this idea in my head that I am a failure and will fail at everything I do. I thought that everyone was better than me, so there wasn’t any use in trying. However, once I started to watch Naruto, this idea began to shift. The show did not completely cure me of my insecurities, but it did give me a small boost of encouragement. When faced with a challenge, after watching Naruto, I would start thinking, well what would Naruto do in this situation? Would he give up? No, never! I mostly focused this newfound self-confidence into school. My high school would rank its students by overall averages and would post your average on the school’s Honor Roll list. When I was thirteen, I started on the bottom of the list. But, after 3 years, I was able to consistently be ranked number one. I attribute this gradual growth to perseverance in the face of difficult subjects.
Okay, now back to Naruto. The show begins with Naruto at thirteen-years-old, who just graduated from the local ninja academy. Once graduated, he is placed in a team with his sworn rival Sasuke Uchiha, his crush Sakura Haruno, and his new teacher Kakashi Hatake. Throughout the show, Naruto and his team are faced with enemies that are either planning to destroy their village (Konohagakure) or capture Naruto himself so that they may gain the power of the demon fox within him. While some ninjas are bent on killing Naruto, he still sees the good in them. He speaks to their pain, tries to understand why they have decided to hurt others, and ultimately helps set them on a better path (usually through lots of heart wrenching battles and intermittent discussions). This is one of my favorite parts of Naruto. No antagonist is truly evil, they have their own personal backstories and trauma that lead them to hold certain beliefs, which affect their goals and actions. No one is considered a lost cause. People can grow, change, and become better people.
There is also a sub-plot in the show regarding the character Sasuke, whose entire clan was killed in a single night by his brother Itachi. Now, Sasuke’s goal is to gain enough power to kill his brother, no matter the means or the cost. This leads Sasuke towards a dark path of moral disengagement, and away from his village and his friends. One of Naruto’s main goals is to save Sasuke from himself, bring him back to the village and restore their friendship. The bonds of friendship is another main theme of Naruto. Friends help and support each other, both in battles and through emotional struggles.
This theme even carried over into real life. Naruto, and anime in general, has brought me closer to so many special people in my life. As a young girl, I would watch Naruto with my younger brothers. My youngest brother was only three-years-old at the time. While we all grew into different people, Naruto will always be something that brings our family together. This show even helped me make a friend. In 2017, I was at one of the lowest points of my life, and all I wanted was a friend. Then, one day, I decided to wear a shirt with Naruto and Sasuke printed on it. As I walked into statistics class, something magical happened. A girl called out to me, and said that I had a nice shirt, which then prompted me to ask her if she wanted to be my friend. Since then, we have become quite close friends and I love her very much. I can’t imagine my life without her. And yet, without Naruto, our friendship might have never happened. Finally, watching Naruto thrusted me head-first into the world of anime. From there, I watched Death Note, Bleach, Dragon ball and more. Anime became part of my personal identity. I’m not sure what draws me to Japanese animation, but there are many people who are drawn to it as well. So much so that McGill has its own anime club. I joined the club last year and have met so many kind people, and even made some wonderful friends. This is why Naruto is so close to my heart. Not only does it tell its audience to believe in themselves, but it also brings people together. And for that I am eternally grateful.