I was actually mischievously blackmailed into reading Naruto by a good friend over a decade ago. I don't remember why, but I didn't want to start reading Naruto, despite my friend practically begging me to pick it up, I was fighting it all the way. I think I was busy with work and I was already following a few different things at the time as well. My friend was just keen to have someone to talk to about Naruto, because no one else was reading this obscure little black and white manga at the time, and he wanted to discuss, speculate and rant about it with someone. My friend knew I had a certain propensity for manga and anime, so he decided he was going to inflict Naruto upon me, no matter what.
Much to my delight, Naruto proved to be a highly worthwhile investment of my time, or at least I thought so, and me and my friend would often discuss any and all aspects of Naruto as our friends would occasionally listen to us with a look of wry apathy. Once the anime started coming out, then all my other friends were hooked by the intriguing character dynamics, the ninja techniques, the comedic charm, the fluid animation and the exceptional action of Naruto. They were always asking me and my friend what was going to happen next. What about Sasuke? Does Naruto learn to control the Nine Tails? Naruto really opened up the world of Japanese animation to my friends, it was an unusually bonding experience for us all. Nowadays my friends actually watch more anime than I do, and Naruto was the catalyst for all that.
Although me and my friend had been friends for years and years beforehand, Naruto really managed to solidify our friendship in a way that it wasn't before. Suffice to say, Naruto has been a staple in my life for almost 15 years now, and every week (sometimes two) I have enthusiastically read the manga, no matter where I am, I make sure to read it. It has become such a constant in my life, that it's hard to believe that it's really finished. Every Wednesday has been the Naruto and Bleach manga double, I always knew it had to end sometime, but the realization is finally sinking in, they're over.
I have seen Naruto develop over the years from an irascible and ostracized young boy, to a heroic and stalwart young man, it's been quite the journey. It's not only Naruto either, Naruto has an extremely large array of complex and compelling characters with back stories that span numerous generations, it is quite the expansive world and I'm sad to see it go.
While western comic books go on and on for decades with various authors and illustrators working on them, manga is usually different, a manga is the vision of one man. Compared to western comic book characters like Superman and Batman who have been around for 70+ years, 15 years doesn't seem particularly long, but for those 15 years it was one man writing and drawing that manga. I don't know any comic book writer and artist that has worked on one title exclusively for 15+ years, as a result, I feel like manga can often be a more personal journey than a comic book can be.
Now that Naruto has officially finished, it kinda feels like it's the end of an era for me, because I have been reading Naruto every week for the last 15 years, and on top of that, Bleach is also ending soon, that's another manga that I've been reading every week for well over a decade now. Plus another manga I followed just wrapped up no more than a month ago too, so they're all finishing up on me. I've grown quite fond of these characters and mythologies over the years, I'm sad to see them go.
Well, they're not really 'going' anywhere, they're just not continuing, the anime will always be there for me to come back to if I want to, much like comic books and movies, they'll always be there. I still want to see them continue though, I don't think it'd be too hard to expand and continue their stories.
Once Naruto and Bleach have finished, then there is really no other manga that I follow anymore. There are plans for a few Naruto manga that will focus on some of the 'side' characters and there's a new movie due out at the end of the year, but by and large, Naruto is finished.
I did like how Naruto ended its run though, everything I wanted to see happen, happened. Which is exceedingly rare. Manga tend to have this bad habit of ending rather abruptly, so I'm glad we got a decent ending to Naruto, although I will say that the ending could have been explored in a bit more depth.
There's undeniably going to be a massive void in the shonen genre once Naruto and Bleach wrap things up, I only hope that their successors live up to the high standard that Naruto (and Bleach) helped establish. Hopefully Naruto will return in the future, and if it does, I will be reading it and watching it if I can.
Thanks for the memories Masashi Kishimoto.
Written by - The Sentry - 14/11/2014