By Li Lai,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
First series in popular franchise has fights, stereotypes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Japanese cultural references include shinobi/ninja, kabuki, the game of shogi, and food items (ramen, natto, okonomiyaki, grilled squid). Festival traditions can also be seen, such as catching goldfish, mask-wearing, and water balloons.
Major themes include self-sacrifice to protect others and teamwork to overcome the odds. Hard work, training, and perseverance eventually pay off. It's more important to have grit than natural-born talent. Happiness isn't found in money, but in friendship and community. On the other hand, fatphobia and sexism run throughout the series; at one point a character says "guys prefer slender girls," only for a woman to chime in, "That's exactly right!"
Positive Role Models
Naruto harbors deep empathy and sacrifices himself to protect others. Village leaders protect their residents. In some cases, perseverance and sacrifice may go too far: One character pushes himself past physical barriers over and over, nearly dying many times, but his foolhardiness is treated as inspiring. One villain-turned-ally kills several people early in the series but never sees consequences; instead, main characters are quick to forgive him. A negative role model is Naruto's mentor Jiraiya. Always chasing a drink, looking for naked women at hot springs to peep at, and spending all his money (and Naruto's) on escorts and sake, he's cast as a positive influence on Naruto solely because of the powerful shinobi skills he can impart.
Naruto is blond-haired and blue-eyed, while most characters, across hundreds of episodes, are light-skinned. Women can fight and hold positions of power but are stereotypical -- mainly used for emotional storylines, weaker than male shinobi, focused on healing or defensive arts, worried about weight and appearance. They spend a lot of time crying and needing to be saved. Sexist behavior is played for jokes, like Naruto's teammate making sexist quips or a mentor being a peeping Tom. Fatphobic characterization of Choji, who constantly eats junk food and attacks others by turning into a human bowling ball. During his backstory, he's repeatedly called "fatso." His ultimate form, 100 times stronger than his regular self, is skinny. Disability clichés include a main villain with paralyzed arms who's obsessed with finding a cure and a minor character with frail health who wants to die rather than live with disease. Across hundreds of episodes, no LGBTQ+ storylines. And when a male villain briefly takes over a woman's body, a horrified village leader calls him "an inhuman monster" -- ostensibly for pursuing immortality, but the subtext is transphobic.
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Violence & Scariness
Fights are frequent but mostly bloodless -- at most, viewers see puddles of blood on the ground or light bleeding at injury site. Potentially scary monsters include reanimated corpses, a three-headed snake, swarming beetles and spiders, various demons, a broken doll marionette, a giant slug and giant larvae, a two-headed wolf, a shark, and a flesh-eating haunted castle. A war between villages causes many deaths (not graphic or bloody). Main characters' tragic backstories mention murdered families and parents. Torture, both physical (non-graphic repeated stabbing) and psychological (forced to relive parents' murder). A subplot has villagers in danger of being buried alive in coffins. Sexual violence includes a main character who peeps at naked women, a villain who hypnotizes a young woman and compels her to seduce a man (he wakes up from the spell before it's too late). A young shinobi's boob is grabbed by a monkey-type creature. Attempted suicides by minor characters are stopped by heroes.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Naruto uses "sexy jutsu," a skill that transforms him into a naked woman to distract opponents. (Clouds and strategically placed objects cover breasts and crotch.) Men visit hostess bars and brothels, where women wear short dresses, cleavage visible. Characters soak in hot springs; usually nothing explicit can be seen, but in one instance, a woman's back and butt are on display as a frog character watches lewdly. A kindergarten-age boy rubs his face in a woman's cleavage. A man fights shirtless for several episodes. Accidental boob grab over the clothes. A young shinobi watches the shadowed silhouette of a naked woman behind a waterfall. Crushes between characters. A man splits the seat of his pants, butt cheeks visible for comedy.
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No swearing, but characters use put-downs like "loser," "jerk," "idiot," "fatty," "freak," "fatso," and "flat-chested."
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Products & Purchases
Plenty of tie-in merchandise is available.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink sake, and drunkenness is used for humor. One character exhibits unhealthy behavior like stashing sake in her office and sneaking drinks. Another spends all his money (and others') at bars and wakes up with hangovers. Another drinks to unlock his superpower, dubbed "drunken fist." Habitual smoking by a professor who always has a cigarette coolly dangling from his lip. A giant toad is never seen without a pipe in his mouth.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Naruto is the first anime series in a massive franchise that includes spin-off shows, video games, and movies. Expect lots of nongraphic violence, potentially scary monsters, and traumatized kids with dark backstories, including one main character whose family was murdered in front of him. Potty humor occasionally comes up, like when a monkey-type creature and dog pee on characters or when Naruto farts a cloud of gas that attracts an insect to his butt. The show presents sexist behavior that goes unchecked, gender and disability stereotypes, and fatphobia. Language avoids swearing but leans on identity-based taunts like "freak," "fatty," "flat-chested," and "idiot." Still, Naruto's overall tone is optimistic and light-hearted, with positive messages about perseverance, empathy, and teamwork reinforced over and over again throughout the series. Thanks to exciting action sequences and a large universe of related content, this is a hit show that appeals to young and old anime fans alike.
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What's the Story?
The hugely successful anime series follows the trials and tribulations of an orphaned adolescent boy named NARUTO (voiced by Junko Takeuchi in the original version and Maile Flanagan in the English dub) as he progresses through Ninja Academy and beyond. Along the way, he struggles to develop his physical skills as a shinobi and his social interactions with peers. As an infant, Naruto wound up carrying the spirit of the demon who attacked his village, killing many -- including Naruto's parents. This curse caused Naruto to be ostracized by the other villagers, but, thanks to the kindness of an instructor and with the support of new friends along the way, Naruto marches toward his goal of becoming one of the world's top shinobi.
Is It Any Good?
This hit series tugs at the heart by following the psychological, physical, and social challenges of young shinobi and the villagers they're charged with helping. Among the fighters, Naruto might be one of the loudest and most naïve -- obnoxious to some -- but his unyielding spirit takes him far.
At 220 episodes long, the series keeps viewers interested through exciting fight sequences, dynamic animation, and a plethora of cliffhangers. Though the pacing can stall at times, especially when multiple plots run parallel and no action takes place beyond cutting back and forth between tense situations, the feel-good messages and beautiful friendships makes this an easy watch.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Naruto's unyielding drive to become a top shinobi. How does his perseverance make you feel about your own challenges?
Naruto stands out among the other characters for his empathy. Can empathy ever go too far? How would you treat someone like Gaara, who had a difficult upbringing but killed several people?
Do you consider the female shinobi in Naruto -- Sakura, Hinata, and Tsunade -- strong women? Why, or why not?
How do characters use teamwork to achieve their goals? Do you do this in your own life?
- Premiere date: September 10, 2005
- Cast: Johnny Yong Bosch, Maile Flanagan
- Network: Cartoon Network
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Perseverance, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: June 7, 2023
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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