No one could argue against the fact that Naruto is one of the most famous anime series ever. However, there has been contention about whether it could already be considered a classic anime, especially since it only finished recently.
Nonetheless, Naruto is already a classic anime. Its popularity, longevity, influence, and story elements are proof of this. Many people in the West only got into anime because of Naruto, and its impact was felt even by those who have not watched it.
Of course, I do understand that some anime fans may still be skeptical about calling Naruto a classic anime. As such, I will further detail my arguments and defense in this article. Let’s get to it!
What makes Naruto a classic anime?
There are five elements that make Naruto a classic anime:
- Cultural impact
- Influence on other anime
- Timeless story
Diamond Lobby recently conducted a study to determine the most popular anime in the world. It examined 187 countries, and the results showed Naruto was by far the most popular anime series globally.
According to the study, Attack on Titan was the second most popular anime, followed by Pokemon and One Piece.
It paved the way for anime’s proliferation in the West and served as a gateway to many anime fans. Although it took a while to gain traction, eventually, millions of viewers were pulled in.
It has gotten to the point that even non-fans or people who have never watched anime can look at someone wearing a shinobi forehead protector (otherwise known as a Konoha headband) and recognize where it’s from.
Many people go on about the importance of military and economic power to Japan’s standing in the international arena. However, the cultural impact of anime on this generation is also something highly regarded.
Anime is one of the primary reasons why people around the world are eager to explore the wonders of Japan. It brought a revival to the curiosity and mystery surrounding Japanese tradition and history.
And one of the anime that was able to contribute most to this cultural power is Naruto.
This assertion is backed by the fact that the National Art Center in Tokyo had an exhibition studying the cultural impact of anime, manga, and games, and Naruto was considered as one of the contemporary trailblazers that successfully promoted Japanese culture.
In fact, Naruto has become so embedded in modern culture that even Western rappers like Snoop Dogg and Soulja Boy have made references to him in their songs.
Shows like Ben 10 and Adventure Time, and comics series like DC Super Sons and Deadpool have also paid homage to him in their stories.
Fun fact: Naruto was referenced in The Simpsons “Tree House of horror XXV” episode. Bart dressed up as Naruto while the rest of his family dressed up as other anime characters.
Influence on other anime
An anime’s influence on other works is a good way to measure its established value. Naruto proves its worth as a classic in this regard, as many other anime took inspiration from its plot points, themes, and characters.
For example, there is Black Clover, an anime wherein a young orphan boy wears a headband, has a group of close friends, and they go on to fight many battles. Doesn’t that sound familiar? 🙂
And Naruto didn’t just influence other anime individually; it also affected the Shonen genre as a whole.
Before Naruto, heroes had relatively simple motivations for saving the world: they just want to protect their loved ones from evil people. This was the archetype popularized by Dragon Ball Z, followed by other anime.
But then Naruto came about, where the characters had varying motivations, and the heroes themselves were sometimes murky in their intentions. It made them much more complex, well-rounded, and honest, and this became the standard for main characters after that.
You may also watch this video to explore more of Naruto’s influence on other anime:
An adventure anime isn’t really unique, but the way Naruto goes about the journey of its characters is special and meaningful. Every character has a purpose and a story – even the villains. The way they were developed is also purposeful and heart-warming.
Take Naruto himself, for instance. Unlike other famed heroes such as Harry Potter and Superman, Naruto had to work his way up and prove himself.
He did not receive any special treatment. In fact, he was bullied and ridiculed as a child, but that did not stop him from growing into his own person.
Understandably, this story would resound with many people who feel as if they’re alone in their suffering. It also gives them hope for their future, as Naruto is basically the incarnation of someone who worked hard for his dreams and reached them.
Add this to the stunning and well-executed fight scenes, and you have for yourself an anime that people would keep going back to. It is a story that would resonate through the ages.
Naruto only began its run in 2002, making it considerably younger than other anime that are considered as classics. This, however, should not be an issue, as it ran for 15 years and reached the peak of its popularity as it was nearing its end.
To this day, many new anime watchers are just discovering and getting hooked on Naruto — a full 19 years after its first release. This speaks to its longevity and lasting power as a classic anime.
How do other classic anime compare to Naruto?
Other classic anime like Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Full Metal Alchemist contain similar elements to Naruto, as they all involve a main shonen character, a group of friends, and an adventure journey leading them to become the most powerful in the land.
While the anime mentioned above are considerably older than Naruto, they were also popular and groundbreaking in their heyday.
Although the numbers would tell us that Naruto is far more famous by the numbers, we must also consider the fact that we live in a time of globalization and the internet.
In terms of impact, Naruto can be likened to Sailor Moon. The latter had young girls around the world clamoring for a moon stick, also known as the Sailor Moon wand. It is quite similar to how Naruto fans keep a Konoha headband somewhere in their merchandise collection.
Sailor Moon also popularized the genre of mahouka girls, and encouraged femininity and girl power, which were themes not as widespread during that time.
It was also one of the few shoujo anime to break into Western consciousness.
Then there’s Hunter x Hunter and Yuu Yuu Hakusho, classic anime that inspired Masashi Kimoto when he started writing Naruto. Here’s a good video specifying the similarities between Hunter x Hunter and Naruto:
There are similarities in terms of plot points, fight scenes, and even character detailing. Nonetheless, they all prospered and became classics in their own accord.