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Naruto Uzumaki (うずまき ナルト Uzumaki Naruto?) is a fictional character in the anime and manga franchise Naruto created by Masashi Kishimoto. Naruto is the main protagonist and titular character of the series. When creating Naruto, Kishimoto wished to keep the character "simple and stupid", while giving him many attributes of Son Goku, the main character from the Dragon Ball franchise. However, Kishimoto also added his dark past to make him unique. Naruto's initial design has been changed several times by Kishimoto, providing the character with different clothes to make him more appealing to Western audiences, in addition to being easier to draw and color.

In the series, Naruto is a ninja affiliated with the fictional village of Konohagakure. The villagers ostracize Naruto because the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox, a malevolent creature that attacked Konohagakure, is sealed within his body. As such, Naruto has ambitions of becoming the village's leader, the Hokage, in order to gain recognition amongst his peers. Nonetheless, Naruto maintains a cheerful and boisterous personality, allowing him to befriend several other Konoha ninja throughout the series, as well as ninja from other villages. He builds an especially close relationship with Team 7, the ninja team where he belongs, treating them as his family. Naruto appears in all of the series' films, as well as in other media related to the franchise, including all video games and original video animations.

Several anime and manga publications have expressed acclaim and criticism of Naruto's character. Some view him as a stereotypical manga and anime protagonist comparable to those in many other shōnen manga, while others have praised his personality as well as his development in the series. Nevertheless, Naruto has remained highly popular with the Naruto fan-base, placing high in several popularity polls. Merchandise based on Naruto has also been released, including figurines and plush dolls.

Creation and conception

When Kishimoto created Naruto's character, he incorporated a number of traits he felt made an ideal hero: a straightforward way of thinking, a mischievous side, and many of the attributes possessed by Goku from the Dragon Ball franchise. He also made sure to keep Naruto "simple and stupid." Kishimoto did not model Naruto after anyone in particular, instead conceiving him as childlike with a dark side induced by his harsh past. Despite this, he is always optimistic, a trait Kishimoto says makes him unique.[4] Naruto's personality is, by and large, childish in nature. Kishimoto frequently tries to show this when illustrating Naruto, such as depicting him mimicking a turtle like a child might do on the manga cover of volume 10.[5]

Naruto's wardrobe is based on clothing Kishimoto wore when he was younger; according to Kishimoto, using a pre-existing design would not have made Naruto unique whereas something original would have made him stand out too much.[6] The orange coloring of his costume is used to make Naruto "pop," with blues often being used to complement the orange.[7] Because Naruto is associated with spirals, swirl patterns are incorporated into his costume.[8] Initial illustrations of Naruto had him wearing boots, but Kishimoto replaced these with sandals, because he enjoys drawing toes.[9] The goggles that Naruto used to wear were also replaced with a hitai-ite, or shinobi headband, because the goggles themselves were too time consuming to draw.[10] The colors of his outfit, however, were one of the most difficult to choose by him. Additionally, he commented he wants to apologize to the anime staff for Naruto's design, considering it too difficult to make.[11]

Kishimoto said he is glad his character has blond hair and blue eyes. The editor of Shonen Jump in the United States added that he implied that the traits may have led the character to appeal to a Western audience. Kishimoto said that he most identifies with Naruto out of all of the Naruto characters. When asked why Naruto's favorite food is ramen instead of kitsune udon Kishimoto said that he personally liked eating ramen.[12][13] In the Naruto: Clash of Ninja video game series, Naruto is playable in various stages of the demon fox's manifestation characterized by a red-colored chakra. Kishimoto took inspiration from the presentation of these forms, imitating one of them for the manga cover of volume 26.[14] When designing Naruto for his Part II appearance, Kishimoto drew Naruto's forehead protector wider to make his eyebrows easier to draw, something that had bothered him in his previous design. He also noted that Naruto's pants made the character look childish. To remedy this, Kishimoto designed a portion of Naruto's pants to roll up, giving the character a more mature appearance.[15]

In the original Japanese versions of Naruto, Naruto often ends his sentences with the addendum "-ttebayo" (which achieves an effect similar to ending a sentence with "you know?"). Kishimoto wanted to give Naruto a childlike catch phrase, and "dattebayo" came to mind. Kishimoto believes the phrase complements Naruto's character, and serves as a verbal tic that portrays him as somewhat of a brat.[6] Throughout the beginning of the English dub version, "dattebayo" and "-ttebayo" were replaced with the phrase "Believe it!", both to mirror the effect and to match the character's lip movements.[16] The producers of the English anime stated that, of all of the characters, Naruto was the most difficult character to cast for, adding that Maile Flanagan "has Naruto down, from the mischievous side, that precocious twelve year old we learn to love, to the serious side."[17] Flanagan comments that she does not listen to Junko Takeuchi's (Naruto's voice actor in the Japanese series) records when performing Naruto, not wanting to imitate her voice, instead wanting a more "original" voice for him.[18]

Character outline

Personality

File:NarutoUzumaki Shippuden.jpg

Shortly after Naruto was born, his father, the Fourth Hokage,[19] sealed the dangerous Nine-Tailed Demon Fox within Naruto's body at the cost of his own life, leaving Naruto without a family.[20] As a result of him being the demon fox's host, the villagers of Konoha hold a strong animosity for Naruto. Thus, he never has a source of love or attention during his early childhood.[21] Desiring what he lacks in his early life, Naruto dreams of becoming Hokage, the village's leader, hoping that it will bring him the villagers' recognition and respect.[22] To assist him in gaining this title, Naruto possesses a fierce determination, always confident he can complete a given task with relative ease.[23] Although he does not always complete his tasks, Naruto's efforts prove successful as the series progresses; many characters reach the conclusion that Naruto will someday be an excellent Hokage.[24] Since his childhood, Naruto has commonly made jokes to attract attention. He sometimes goes to the point of transforming into a naked woman to ridicule whoever may be bothering him. This even causes his pupil, Konohamaru Sarutobi, to emulate his techniques and jokes.[21]

Occasionally, Naruto's determination results in those around him adopting some of his traits, such that in Part II his teacher, Kakashi Hatake, notes this to be Naruto's unique power.[25] In the aftermath of fighting Naruto, Gaara discovers that true strength is found in fighting for one's friends, not for oneself.[26] These character metamorphoses serve as the moral for the arcs they take place in, and subsequently become the creed for the particular character's life.[27] After Jiraiya's death, Naruto becomes determined to kill Pain, Jiraiya's murderer. However, he later decides not to kill Pain and that he will break the hatred's cycle as Jiraiya wanted.

Through his ability to change others, Naruto gains the friends he lacks during his childhood. Among the many friendships he forms, none are more prominent in the series than those he has with his two teammates: Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno. With Sasuke, Naruto shares a highly competitive relationship which he likens to brotherhood.[28] Though Sasuke betrays Naruto and the rest of Konoha at the end of Part I, Naruto maintains his attachment to Sasuke, readily lashing out at anyone who speaks poorly of him.[29] Naruto possesses a deep dedication to Sakura, rooted in the crush he has on her for years. Naruto's commitment to Sakura is so strong that he is willing to do anything to make her happy, vowing that someday he will return Sasuke to Konoha not only for her and Sasuke's sake.[30]

Abilities

File:Kyuubi Naruto2.jpg

Because of the demon fox sealed within him, Naruto has access to its great reserves of chakra, a form of energy which allows ninja to perform supernatural feats. This surplus of chakra allows him to perform ninja abilities that someone of his age would ordinarily be incapable of using.[21] Though portions of the fox's chakra constantly mix with Naruto's own,[31] Naruto can forcibly draw upon its reserves by either submitting to rage[32] or by directly asking the fox for a donation of its strength.[33] Once the demon fox chakra releases, a fox-shaped shroud envelops Naruto, with the number of tails, ranging from one to nine, indicating its current state of release. The fox also heals all of Naruto's potentially deadly injuries upon release. While each tail drastically increases his fighting strength, Naruto begins to lose his rationality as more tails appear, completely losing himself once the fourth tail appears.[34] Because the demon fox's power can quickly become a danger to those he cares for Naruto attempts to limit his reliance on the power,[35] and eventually manages to control it with his mother's help.

Naruto takes advantage of his expanded chakra reserves throughout the series. His first and most recurring example of this is the Shadow Clone Technique, which creates any number of physical copies of the user, but requires large amounts of chakra.[21] Though most ninjas can create only a few shadow clones, Naruto's vast chakra allows him to create hundreds of clones at once without worrying about fatigue.[36] He finds a number of uses for these clones, among them overwhelming opponents, scouting large areas, and training in a short period of time.[37] His ability to summon toads to aid him in battle relies on the fox's chakra, since he can only summon larger toads with the fox's help.[33] He also learns senjutsu, a power-enhancing ability derived from frogs and involving the gathering of natural energy.[38]

Naruto favors the Rasengan, a concentrated orb of spiraling chakra first created by his father.[23] When performing the technique, Naruto creates shadow clones to help him manipulate the chakra into its proper shape.[39] While capable of grinding into whatever it touches and causing great damage, Minato created the Rasengan with the intention of infusing it with his own elemental chakra.[40] Through repeated training with his shadow clones, Naruto infuses the Rasengan with his own wind chakra.[41] This results in the creation of the Wind Style: Rasenshuriken (風遁・螺旋手裏剣 Fūton: Rasenshuriken?), which damages anything it impacts on the cellular level but, when first used, also accumulates injury to Naruto. Through his sage training and mastery of Senjutsu, Naruto solves this problem by learning to throw the Rasenshuriken at his targets rather than ramming it into them.[42]

Plot overview

As the title character of the series, Naruto appears in every arc, and typically playing a prominent role for the duration of the arc. During Part I, Naruto drives few of the conflicts, as he spends his time improving his ninja abilities and pursuing his own goals while the overarching events occur elsewhere. Following the invasion of Konohagakure, by Orochimaru and Sunagakure, Naruto discovers Akatsuki, a fictional criminal organization that seeks to extract the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox from his body. Though Jiraiya drives them off during this first meeting, Akatsuki's interactions with Naruto become a more central conflict in Part II.[43] It is not until Sasuke attempts to leave Konohagakure that Naruto takes a leading role in the plot, joining a team of ninja dedicated to stopping Sasuke from joining forces with Konoha's enemy Orochimaru.[30] Naruto and Sasuke ultimately have a one-on-one battle, though neither can convince himself to finish off the other.[44] The two go their separate ways, but Naruto does not give up on Sasuke, leaving Konoha together with Jiraiya for two-and-a-half years of training to prepare himself for the next time he meets Sasuke.[45]

Upon his return to Konoha in Part II, Naruto begins to deal more actively with the Akatsuki threat. He first saves Gaara from Akatsuki's clutches,[46] and later proves instrumental in the downfall of Kakuzu.[47] After learning that Jiraiya has been killed by the Akatsuki leader, Pain, Naruto trains to the point that, when they finally face off, he defeats all of Pain's six bodies, and convinces the real Pain, Nagato, to leave Akatsuki. Still, Naruto dedicates himself to find and retrieve Sasuke. He and the rest of his team briefly locate Sasuke prior to his confrontation with Kakuzu, but Sasuke's rapid development provides an opponent the team cannot handle.[48] After creating his new jutsu, Naruto and company resume the search. Though they eventually find Sasuke's brother, Itachi, after losing Sasuke's trail they return home.[49] After learning that Sasuke has joined forces with Akatsuki, as well as the truth about Sasuke's past, Naruto decides to confront Sasuke himself.

Appearances in other media

File:ClashofNinjaGameplay.jpg

As the series' title character, Naruto appears in all of the series' movies. He normally appears as the lead character, often on a mission with Team 7. The first Naruto: Shippūden movie marks the first appearance of Naruto in his Part II appearance.[50][51] He also appears in all four original video animations produced for the series, helping Konohamaru find a four leaf clover in the first one,[52] joining his team in escorting a ninja named Shibuki to his village and helping him fight the missing-nin who stole the village's "Hero's Water" in the second one,[53] and participating in a tournament in the third one.[54]

Naruto is a playable character in all the Naruto video games. In several of the titles, it is possible to unlock and play as a version of him enhanced with the power from the Nine-Tailed Fox. In several games from the Ultimate Ninja series he is also playable with his own versions of Rock Lee and Might Guy's techniques while wearing their costume.[55] Naruto Shippūden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX marks the first appearance of Naruto in his Part II appearance in a video game.[56] He also appears in several crossovers video games which feature Naruto fighting against several characters from other manga. These games include Battle Stadium D.O.N, Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars.[57][58][59]

Reception

In every official Weekly Shōnen Jump popularity poll of the series, Naruto ranks within the top five characters, and has positioned in first place twice.[60][61] However, in the sixth poll, in 2006, Naruto lost his top-two status to the characters Deidara, Kakashi and Sasuke.[62] There has not been another official poll since 2006. Several pieces of merchandise have been made into his likeness, such as plush,[63][64] key chains,[65] and numerous action figures,[66] of both his Part I and Part II appearance. Junko Takeuchi's, Naruto's voice actor in the Japanese series, was the winner in the category "Best Voice Actress (Japanese)" from the 2009 Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation Awards for her work as Naruto.[67] He was also 6th in IGN's Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time with writer Chris Mackenzie saying that although "Naruto actually isn't the most popular character in his own series most of the time", he is "the engine that powers the franchise".[68] Mania Entertainment writer Briana Lawerence listed Naruto 8th in the article 10 Male Headaches of Anime criticizing his wish to make Sasuke return to Konoha no matter the pain he could suffer.[69]

Several publications for manga, anime, video games, and other related media provide praise and criticism on Naruto's character. GameSpot claims Naruto lives the ideal teenage life, as he is a ninja and eats all he likes, but, on the other hand, he is parentless and is shunned by the other villagers.[70] Anime News Network, calling Naruto "a bastion of optimistic energy"[71], comments that Naruto's fights are not as good as others fought by their partners,[72] but claim his fight against Gaara as one of his best moments in the series since it surpasses most shōnen stereotypes.[73] Active Anime noted, that Naruto "with his single-minded convictions, staunch belief in good overcoming evil, and sheer devotion and recklessness, may prove to be the unlikeliest hero ever".[74] However, another reviewer noted that Naruto is "always sympathizing with everyone and anyone", like a counselor.[75] T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews disagrees, noting, while Naruto is a "likable enough scamp", his type of character has been done before in many previous anime and manga series.[76] Deb Aoki from about.com labeled Naruto as "practical joker who’ll do anything for attention".[77] Joseph Szadkowski of The Washington Times noted that Naruto Uzumaki "has become a pop-culture sensation."[78]

Mania.com praised him as a good lead character, although mentioned Naruto's "blind stupidity" and "bullheadedness"[79][80] Nevertheless, after his fight with Gaara they praised his development as a good hero.[81] He's also complimented for "eternally optimistic view of things"[82], and overall character development.[83] Lawrence Rubin calls him "impulsive, hyperactive, attention-seeking and troublesome", adding that Nine-Tailed Demon Fox within Naruto's body is a "metaphor for the struggle to contain and channel intense and often negative emotion". Rubin also reckoned that "vanquishing of enemies in order to bring peace to his village is a powerful redemptive and ultimately transformative act" that helps Naruto to become a "complete and mature person".[84] DVD Talk liked his personality, while calling him an "impeccably boisterous kid".[85][86] DVD Verdict noted that his ego has the "size of a small mountain".[87] IGN commented on his relationships with Tsunade, as they "have really great chemistry",[88] with Jiraiya, as "they share so much in common"[89], and with Sasuke, as it shows "signs of maturity" in Naruto.[90] Active Anime also described the battle between Naruto and Sasuke as "emotional, suspenseful and laden with incredible action sequences fueled by bitter feelings".[91]

References

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