What I Learned from Naruto (a Kid’s Anime)

I remember watching an episode of the Anime Naruto as a kid, but I found the hero annoying, so I stopped (it’s based on a super popular Japanese manga series created by Masashi Kishimoto).

After someone told me the series is pretty good and has some depth to it, I decided to give it another chance. I’ve watched it, not all episodes but a lot of them. I could fill pages about where I found the story and character development to be illogical and incongruent, but overall I liked it and there were some philosophical themes that stuck with me; And I’d like to share my thoughts on them before I forget everything.

Aside from the pretty universal and Shōnen-typical themes like friendship, teamwork, training hard and fighting your (inner) demons, there are 3 themes I found particularly interesting, because they go beyond what you typically see in kid’s stories:

  1. A pretty nuanced portrayal of ADHD, isolation and childhood neglect: In the beginning, Naruto is a terrible student, a class clown who annoys everyone with his pranks. It becomes obvious that he feels isolated and tries to get attention this way, as he essentially grew up on his own (by the way, I’m not sure why he didn’t get foster parents after his parents died – but this Ninja world is a pretty brutal Spartan-like society in general, it seems)
  2. Is talent or effort more important? Or: Are genetics everything? A character named Rock Lee has little talent but still becomes an amazing Ninja because he trains harder than everyone else. However, this message gets somewhat contradicted by the strongest heroes Naruto and Sasuke essentially having all the best genes
  3. (This is what I thought about most): Grown men bonding with and mentoring boys. It seems that this has been corrupted culturally, even me writing this I think “this sounds sketchy”, which is really sad. Most of us probably didn’t have caring male role models in our lives. More often than not, our fathers were cold and absent or straight-out abusive.There are lots of studies showing how essential positive male role models are to the development of both boys and girls (especially boys seem to do poorly in life without father figures).

In the Anime, Naruto would’ve probably ended up dead or “succumbing to the dark side” if not for teachers and mentors being kind and caring and teaching him valuable skills and life lessons. The most wholesome relationship to me is between the characters Guy and Rock Lee (they even dress alike and usually end up crying after propping each other up) 

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