Naruto is downplayed by the more ‘sophisticated’ members of the anime community, largely because of it Shonen demeanour and its failings in its penultimate moments. But on reflection Naruto has some unrivalled moments in the medium of Shonen animation. Naruto excels in fight scenes, it’s a Shonen after all, and a Shonen without interesting fight scenes is set out to fail. Several fight scenes standout out famously from Naruto’s long run in Weekly Shonen Jump, the fights between Rock Lee and Gaara, both fights between the primary characters: Naruto and Sasuke among many others all live on in the Shonen zeitgeist. However, I would like to bring your attention to two standout fights both in creativity and choreography that had me in disbelief on initial viewings: Madara’s introduction destroying the allied Shinobi Forces and Kakashi’s penultimate battle with Obito.
Madara’s reckoning on the Ally Shinobi Forces is an introduction to a new character (one that been teased since the beginning of Shippuden) and it’s the best in the series. Madara appears and the tone immediately shifts, by the presentation alone the audience immediately understands that this is a bad motherfucker and shit’s about to go down. The army of Shinobi roar with nervous fortitude and charge at Madara and he just pulverises them entirely with only named characters we are familiar with getting any counter-offence in at all. (there’s a neat moment from Tamari and Gaara shines here as well.) But after carving through hundreds of soldiers, with standout animation and creative Ninjutsu choreography, Madara cements this moment as unrivalled with his comet commanding technique after his awakening the Rinnegan. The massive rock amazes the viewer, we haven’t seen anything at this level yet, and now in his introductory fight Madara is outclassing everything we’ve ever seen. But the true climax of this fight is after the heroes manage to stop the first sky-blocking boulder, and Madara delivers a terrifying line by asking Onoki what he’s going to do about the second one? With a quick cut to the appearance of a second boulder just as gigantic as the first the audience realises they’ve been introduced to one of Naruto’s strongest characters. This is a moment were the audience vicariously freaks the fuck out through the characters in amazement. Additionally, to all the ongoing action, this scene is also laced with intrigue because between attacks and testing his abilities he’s also questioning Kabuto and exposition is tangentially leaked in the subtext of their conversation about the plan of the masked fake Madara that we would come to know as Obito. This is a quintessential way for an overpowered character to make an ever-lasting first impression.
Whereas Madara’s battle was an introduction to a character, this fight between Kakashi and Obito was the climax of both characters stories. After this Kakashi doesn’t really contribute to anything (until he’s shoehorned in at the last second) and Obito isn’t really Obito anymore. This fight has the weight of a long-term story, intrenched in both characters very foundation, they are intertwined with each other, and that is reflected in the uniqueness of their fight. This fight has two predominant elements; the friendly, flashback childhood duel between the two of them and the battle to the death happening in present time. These two elements distinctly juxtapose each other while also contributing emotional weight to each other. The flashes between the two ongoing battles creates a direct connection between them; moves are being repeated from their previous fight and reflected in the present one. Therefore, the audience is treated to 7 minutes of nothing but owe-inspiring Match Cuts between the battle in the past and the battle in the present. This is highlighted most proficiently by the parallel use of the fireball technique from Obito and the corresponding mud wall technique from Kakashi. This combination of Jutsu occurs in both fights one different scales and is portrayed through both lens. But the moment entrenched into my mind, and the clinical reason for my bewildering love for this fight is when the two fights finally address each other. The battle in the past has concluded and Kakashi has won, Minato gives the order for the two comrades to give the commemorative union sign, but before this can happen and before Obito can do the right thing, the contemporary version of himself pulls the past Obito back from past Kakashi and goes for the kill and contemporary Kakashi appears saving past Kakashi to deal the final blow with the fight ultimately ending with both intertwined Ninja impaling each other with their techniques. All this combined allows for the best fight in the entire Naruto franchise and an unrivalled moment unmatched in the Shonen medium.
Fundamentally, Naruto has unrivalled moments that shouldn’t be largely downplayed by the anime community because of the series shortcomings in other areas. Maybe overall the bad outweighs the good in Naruto or Vice-Versa but the bad things shouldn’t undermine the legitimately exceptional elements of the series and those elements should be praised for their creativity and execution.