12 years ago, I started watching a show that would change my life. I am proud to say that it was Naruto. In my later years of high school, I had started to get interested in Anime and Manga but it was more of a casual thing, with only a couple of shows ever really grabbing my interest. Girls and Homework were far more important than wasting time in front of a screen watching any type of show when I was 16. But in the later part of 2005 I was dragged into the world of Naruto and by extension Bleach, by a friend of mine at school who was also a fan of the shows.
From the first episode, I was hooked. I clearly remember marathoning the first 100+ episodes in a handful of days during a holiday period. Not only was the story interesting but the action was exciting and the character development was something that I hadn’t really seen in traditional western shows. At that time, Anime was shown on TV only during a very specific period of time, very late at night and only ever the same few shows. I was already a fan of Cowboy Bebop and Orphan, but the difficulty of access to it made it unappealing to me.
Given my history with the show, even if in the last 8 years I haven’t watched more than a handful of episodes, I felt I needed to sit down and watch the very last episode of Naruto Shippuden. For the sake of homage to the series as a whole and the impact it had on my life.
It was while I was watching this final episode that I came to the realization that the concept, characters, and whole feel of the show was no longer one I could enjoy, or even overly appreciate. I found myself mentally critiquing the characters and feeling annoyed at their shortcomings, which I knew about well in advance of watching the show but felt they should no longer have them after so much time to develop and grow.
It was an interesting experience, that I will admit, to go back and look over a show that meant so much to me as a teenager and young adult. To see it now, with the same flaws it had back then, only more magnified now that I have watched so many other shows that are better in their execution of relationships and dialogue.
But regardless of being let down by my nostalgia for the show, I will always hold Naruto and Bleach in a special place in my heart, if for no other reason than they helped shape me into the man I am today. I wouldn’t be writing and talking about things I love so much if not for the inspirations that they provide.
Despite my reservations and critiques of the show it became, I am glad that the show was made and that I got to experience it when I did. I hope that others feel the same way. It was a hallmark of its time and has helped countless numbers of people to be introduced to the ever-expanding world of Anime as a medium. So, thank you Hayato Date for your Direction, thank you to all the cast and crews who worked on it during its decade plus of air time and thank you for watching it with me. Without you as well as myself and everyone else who helped to turn it into such a tremendous phenomenon, we wouldn’t be who we all are today.