Naruto, Now and Then
Unlike most people, I am a relatively late comer to the Naruto craze; I started reading and following it for less than year. The reason I was late to the game was the series being it was too popular and popularity more often than not ruins a series in the shonen genre, like the Bleach anime. However, I jumped into it with full steam, blowing past 300+ chapters in about 2 to 3 days. On one hand it was a typical power up, beat’em up series, but it had something very rare in the character of Uzumaki Naruto.
Unlike the Ichigos, the Gokus and the others before and after him, Naruto represented someone with nothing when you’re first introduced to him. Sure he had his village, but instead of being a full member he was more of an afterthought until he became a problem (namely the 9 tails). Sure, his teacher gave him company but he had no one to call a friend. It was that characteristic that drew me to Naruto, for all of his inevitable power upgrades, all his quirky behaviors and dialogue, it was the fact that here was a kid that was alone in the truest sense of the word. Yet, he still powers on despite being essentially a 2nd class ninja in his own village with his elders essentially humoring and pitying him (until Kakashi). Kakashi in this case proves to be a believable first teacher of Naruto, his values are independent of Naruto’s with the focus on individuality; Kakashi pretty much gave Naruto the opportunity to become Naruto and not the boy with the demon (much like how Naruto did the same for Gaara down the line).
The way Kishimoto incorporated how Naruto gradually overcomes his loneliness into the traditional shonen power up plot is what makes Naruto unique. From this perspective, you can reasonably see why Naruto acts the way he does towards everyone and for everyone. As someone who had nothing or very little, he values everyone he meets regardless of their faults until proven otherwise. While the more recent chapters have had less of this, the most recent chapter of this writing (489) shows promise to return (at least partially) to what made this series enjoyable for me; the deeper motives behind the actions were there in the beginning, maybe they’ll return.