A Look Back on the Leaf


If you’re an anime fan of a certain generation, then there’s no doubt that you were really into Naruto at one point in your life. Although anime had definitely broken outside of Japan and into the United States and beyond well before it thanks to the dedication of the fans that came before, Naruto really changed everything. Debuting in Japan on October 3, 2002, the anime adaptation taking on Masashi Kishimoto’s original manga series really brought things to a worldwide level. At the time, it was pretty much inescapable no matter what anime you might have been into at the time.

It’s been 20 long years since Naruto‘s anime first premiered, and it’s honestly pretty wild looking back on just how far the franchise has come since that debut. The anime’s success not only garnered a huge slate of feature film releases, video games, spin-off novels and manga, but a huge sequel series that is getting a huge fanbase in its own right to this day, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. In these two decades, the series has changed quite a bit. For those not lucky enough to be around during its heyday, the amount of changes could be a surprise. 

It’s been a long and winding journey for Naruto’s anime, and this 20th Anniversary has gotten all of the older fans like me really in our feelings about the whole deal. It was the first anime for many fans of my generation, and will likely continue to be one of the big action pillars we celebrate for 20 more years to come! Read on for a break down on some of the anime’s long 20 year history along with how fans are looking back on this milestone rune! 

Naruto: 20 Years Later

(Photo: Pierrot)

Masashi Kishimoto first launched a one-shot named “Karakuri” back in 1995, and while its initial science fiction premise (featuring an elite team formed by the government to fight against a viral outbreak) seemed far removed from the Naruto we would eventually get, it did have some of the roots we’d see in not only the one-shot for Naruto himself released a couple of years later, but the full manga version that kicked off with Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine back in 1999.

This manga was such a success that the series was then adapted into an anime by Studio Pierrot that premiered on October 3, 2002 in Japan. It was later licensed for an English language release by Viz Media, and really exploded in the United States when the English dub premiered on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block in 2005. When looking back on the series, this is likely the version fans will remember most fondly. The first era of the series lasted for 220 episodes in total, and had some of the most memorable arcs in the entire series overall.

This is not only where fans were introduced to one of the best tournament arcs of all time with the Chunin Exams, but it’s also when Naruto’s rivalry with Sasuke Uchiha was at its strongest too. Naruto was dealing with the Nine-Tailed Fox inside of him, and the more he gained “control” over it, the weaker Sasuke felt as a result. This superiority complex combined with his need to avenge his dead family eventually sparked the major conflict for the much messier, but bigger second era of the series.

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Shippuden: 20 Years Later

(Photo: Viz Media)

Things really gotten into a wild direction with the debut of the second half of the series, Naruto: Shippuden. Following a time jump where Naruto left the Hidden Leaf Village to train for several years, the series reintroduced much older versions of the characters we met the first time around. This is also when the series grew far more complicated with not only a group of ninjas banished from their respective homelands named the Akatsuki, but also when we started to see more of the other ninja countries, more of Sasuke on his own missions, and of course, deadlier fights.

This second era of the series also has some massively memorable moments of its own such as Naruto’s fight with Pain, Asuma and Jiraiya’s big moments, and much more as Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura were all trying to really figure out their own paths. Funny enough, this is also when it became tougher to actually check out the series. Though Viz Media was able to show off some of the English subtitled releases back in 2009, the English dub ran on Disney XD for less than 100 episodes before being removed completely.

To give you an idea of how little of a run that actually is, Naruto: Shippuden itself runs for 500 episodes. When you don’t account for the original material in the anime, that’s a huge chunk of the story that many fans didn’t get to see until it was made fully available for streaming years later. It’s when the series got diluted just a bit. While it wasn’t as hype as it was when it first began (also in due to many more anime taking the center stage at that time), the series came roaring back not long after.

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The Fourth Great Ninja War: 20 Years Later

(Photo: Viz Media)

When talking about Naruto: Shippuden, you ultimately also have to break it into two distinct parts. Kicking off with the 13th “season” of the anime, the Fourth Great Ninja War spanned the larger part of Shippuden’s run overall. It almost feels like an entirely different era for the series overall, and it’s because the fights get so grand in scale with Ninjutsu that go to galaxy levels of power that it’s a completely different series from when it all began. It’s especially noticeable when looking back and seeing where it all began.

But this is also where some of the most memorable scenes from the series are such as Kakashi’s final fight with Obito, Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura’s final fight against Kaguya, and then Naruto and Sasuke’s several episode long fight at the end of the series overall. It was a huge undertaking for many reasons, but it was also the kind of fun weekly experience that was really emotional when it all came to an end.

As we know by now, however, this was far from the end of Naruto’s franchise. Following some new feature films, we got a whole new sequel anime and manga series out of it.

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Boruto: 20 Years From Now

(Photo: Pierrot)

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations first premiered in 2017, and while it started out life as a manga series without Kishimoto directly writing it himself, it has since gone to be a huge success of its own. With over 260 plus episodes under its belt at the time of writing, the sequel series has not only expanded more of the changing world outside of the Hidden Leaf Village but has done some wildly experimental things.

There was a time travel arc where Boruto met the young version of his father (where Boruto also got to meet Jiraiya), new ninja technologies that make jutsu easier, a new set of Otsutsuki Clan members as the main villains, and there’s still one major plot it needs to resolve in the future after a likely time jump. But this is all coming in the future, as the franchise moves ahead into its next 20 years, let’s see where it all goes from here!

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Thanks for the Memories!

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Never Forget

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