I’ve been following Naruto since it started and I must say, when I first started watching it I fell head over heels for Naruto, Sasuke and the gang. The storylines were powerfully driven by a mix of drama, comedy and action like no other anime or manga before it. I laughed at Naruto’s silly harem antics, sat at the edge of my seat when Zabuza captured Kakashi in the water prison during the first encounter and was brought to tears when the handicapped Zabuza shed a tear for Haku before charging into Gato’s army to reap his revenge.
Now-a-days, gone are the compelling story lines with thoughtful comedy, engaging action and sensible drama.
Naruto has gone the way of Dragonball Z, destroying everything that was good about the original 135 episodes, opting to draw out story lines to create tension rather than use good writing to the same effect.
Naruto Shippuuden started off pretty cool by re-introducing us to new, more grown up versions of our favorite characters in the slow pacing that we’d gotten used to between story arcs. The series quickly picked up the pace with the abduction of Gaara by Akatsuki and from there the series began with it’s ups and downs. The exciting action was back with a punch as various characters faced off in the next 30 episodes or so, climaxing with the epic battle between Sakura and one of the coolest villains of all time: Sasori of Akatsuki. Unfortunately, throughout this entire arc we were forced to deal with boring side stories and blatant stalling (think dragonball when goku and villain exchange glances for 3 episodes or so) so the anime wouldn’t catch up to quickly with the manga like it did last time. I don’t know about any of you, but I’d rather sit through 5 filler episodes and keep the actual story line fun to watch than turn the entire show into a yawn fest.
And what now? Now, Naruto has just taken down a pseudo kyubi in an agonizingly long arc that I swore up and down was filler due to the fact the whole thing was basically a regurgitation of the first Sai arc.
When Naruto started I cared about the characters. Now it seems that Masashi Kishimoto is more concerned with plowing through story arcs to make his paycheck than he is with creating an engrossing story. What a pity, I’ll be on the look out for a new favorite anime.