[dropcap1]T[/dropcap1]here are some things you recognize about your childhood looking back. By the time I was in middle school I knew how to put someone in Bret “The Hitman” Hart’s submission finisher, The Sharpshooter and knew what if felt like to be placed in The Figure 4 Leg Lock. By the time I entered High School I mastered the Forward, Down-Forward + Punch motion in fighter video games (ya boy was nasty). Then in college I got into this anime about a young ninja in the game trying to get his in the world. That show was Naruto and I been throwing them Hidden Village gang sign hand seals ever since.
Naruto got me through college man. I wasn’t that into Bleach and One Piece started off a bit too goofy to me (I fux with it now) but Naruto was always that perfect balance of humor, action, (flashbacks) and drama. I delved into the anime on a binge hard as fuuuuuuck (subs over dubbs my ninja). Once I caught up, I found the manga and went all the way back and read it forward as not to miss anything. I introduced the manga to my best friend Ian and he was BOUT that life immediately. We once didn’t speak to each other for a week due to an argument over the policies and actions of The 3rd Hokage Sarutobi. That is how deep this shit was for us. THIS IS LIFE MY NINJA. Life as we know can be bitter sweet tho, as the Naruto series has come to conclusion. All amazing things must finish and it really feels like we are sending a friend we grew up with on his way with a viking funeral as their ship (and who the fans shipped) drifts off towards are dvd collection and bookshelfs.
Now, I ain’t gotta tell you what the series meant to us as black / brown youth because Danez Smith already let you know why the hood & Black twitter bangs with Naruto. For me, as an avid reader of (american) comics, I’ve never seen a series that focused so much on the supporting characters struggles and tribulations. That is the pure genius of Masashi Kishimoto. Honestly, Naruto doesn’t get his due till about 60 episodes into the series during the Chunin exam arc. At one point Shikamru even says, “Naruto, you’re the type that could never be the lead of a show or have a comic named after you”. That shit was dead ass hilarious and ironic as Shikamaru takes it upon himself to become Naruto’s advisor when he eventually becomes Hokage. Kishimoto did a lot of world building much like Jonathan Hickman in his run on comics and his own book “East of West”.
Out of the “Rookie 9” (title for Naruto’s and his other classmates) and including the year older “Team Gai” students, there is a character that the reader will either identify with or root for. This is a book where Naruto was the main guy and he was the purest underdog in the game since Rocky but you find yourself saying, “When am I going to see Kiba again?” or “Whats going on with Asuma?”. We became mad invested in other characters, like Hinata’s struggle to be more confident and get through her confidence (we see how Naruto’s influence helped with that), Neji’s view on fate making him act like a dick (till Naruto fixed that with an uppercut), Sakura and Ino having to put their friendship to the side and handle business, Shikimaru…. just finding life bothersome (and being a low key genius). Everyone is going through some type of struggle that you can identify with. I gravitated towards Rock Lee not having talent for ninjitsu and having to rely on all just his fists and how far his body could be taken.
Then, just when you started fucking with all the characters from Naruto’s village, Naruto started making friends from other villages like Gaara of the Hidden Sand, or when he earned Hidden Cloud Village’s Killer B’s respect. Kishimoto started making that world larger and larger as we gravitated out of Konoha / The Land of Fire and into the other 5 great lands we had been hearing so much about. DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED WHEN WE FOUND OUT THERE WERE BLACK NINJAS AND A BLACK KAGE (A the Raikage) THAT GOES SUPER SAIYAN!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT?!?!
Moving away from characters there are so many defining moments in the series as well, When Jariya got killed THEN THE NINJA WILLED HIMSELF BACK TO LIFE?!?!? That ain’t some shit you can learn in ninja academy class. can’t nobody teach you that. That’s like having 490 lbs on the bench-press and you struggling with the bar on your chest yelling at ya spotter, “FUCK YO HELP” then launching that shit into the air.
When Naruto had to deal with the loss of his mans Jiraya, when he had to get that pep talk from Shikamaru, when he had to go away and learn from the toad sages. Naruto had to go to the gym, get his fucking weight up, get his hands right, read up on how he got his name, go back to them push ups, pull ups, and dips, develop a new flow with a jutsu and frog kumate to go along with it. Then on top of learning how to get his zen natural energy in he was hearing about Pain coming into his village? B-boying on his set? MOVING ROUND BUILDINGS LIKE THEY WERE FURNITURE UP IN THERE? Uzumaki Naruto couldn’t stand for that fuck boy shit. He came back home with with new red cloak & scroll on his back like they were the 3017 pair of Air Jordans (shits aint even out yet).
Or when Naruto was getting that student loan treatment from Pain and was locked down like he was doing a bid up North, then watch that assist from the kunoichi that stepped in to risk her life for his ass. Who that you ask? Not Sakura, not Tsundade, but THE ANIME BAE HINATA HYUGA! She CAME UP IN THE TRAP TIRED OF PAIN PUT HIS HANDS ON HER MAN! Hinata gave -34 fucks if she was out matched, she confessed her love then went in for that all she could eat buffet. Oh yes, I’m a NaruHina shipper. Sorry, (not sorry) but who else stepped the fuck in like this? Ayebody else was on the side line and the shyest girl of them all came out, said what she had to say, then proceeded to throw them hands. The anime expanded on them scenes and ya boy cried. I said it. I cried. AHHHHHHHHH!!! WHO THE FUCK BETTER WITH THE HEART THAN HINATA B?!? COME ON.
There are a multitude of other moments as well, when the squad rolled out to get Sauske back, Itachi’s appearence for the first time, When Gai unleashed that 6th gate, Shikimaru becoming the first chunin of his generation, the death of the 3rd Hokage, Raikage power-bombing Sauske, Ten-Ten letting them weapons rang out in the ninja war, Choji getting his weight up literally going Godzilla on the battle field, WHEN MADARA APPEARED AND LAID OUT HIS PLANS TO FIX UNEMPLOYMENT BY DISTRIBUTING 1099 AND W-4 FORMS FOR THAT JOB OVERHAUL THAT CREATED MAD NEW JOBS BY BEING PROVIDED THAT WORK FROM HIM PERSONALLY!
When Gai opened the 8th gate kicked Madara so hard he broke his own leg saying, “FUCK IT”, when Sakura displayed that chakra control that might be surpassing Tsunade, WHEN TEAM 7 GOT BACK TOGETHER FOR THE DRIVE BY AND GANG BANGING?!?!? There are too many moments to name or even try to cover but thats the beauty of what Naruto has given us. Different arcs and stories. Every major battle meant something as well. Naruto learned the pain of loss from fighting pain, that he would have to subdue his own need for revenge in order to break the cycle of the ninja world. Naruto taking the steps for progress is what changes people as well. He was out there trying to give the tailed beast their freedom, they ain’t see that shit. Naruto even got Kurama, the 9 tailed fox to come in for a hug and join the cause. Everybody loves this kid. This kid is the future.
A future we got a glimpse of (and will get more insight into) coming to fruition. The war is over and everybody grown up, we saw the ninjas that had kids together. Shout out to Naruto x Hinata shippers, their kids are cute but Choji and Karui’s kid ChoCho won my heart.
Now, I know some folk didn’t rock with Naruto like that. This ain’t for yall. This is for the mutha fuckas that got the original forehead protector. The full steel shit thats sharp as fuck on the top and ya cut yourself on it a couple times when you strapped it to your side. This is for the cats that run with their arms wailing behind them knowing that actually doesn’t help increase their speed but its looks cool as fuck in the anime and his hilarious to do in real life. If you ever held your hand behind you then threw it forward shouting, “Rasengan”? Then this one is for us right here. This was our time man. This was ours. Although Naruto is gone and over, it’s always going to be just a summoning jutsu away from our bookshelves when we need to run back down nostalgia highway.