This maybe very cliched of me but…
My favorite male anime character ever is Naruto.
I started watching Naruto at a tricky time in my life – I was living in a city I hated, doing an education course I disliked having just finished an undergraduate course I loved and where I had made loads of amazing friends, and my relationship with my boyfriend, who I was living with, was starting to break down.
When I was struggling to see any point in life Naruto came along with his knuckle-headed ninja ways, his determination to never give up and he really helped me get through that period in my life when I all I wanted at times was to give up.
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
I recently started reading Naruto from the beginning and I can’t count how many times Naruto cries during the first 30 odd chapters.
And I like that about him.
He’s a guy and a ninja who’s not afraid of show his emotions.
Naruto cares deeply about everyone he meets and sympathizes with them. When Haku dies in the first arc and Naruto shouts at Zabuza for treating Haku like a tool rather than a comrade… that part really hits. Haku and Zabuza were trying to kill Naruto and Team 7 – and at this point it is thought that Haku had killed Sasuke – but Naruto still cared about them. He cared that Haku wasn’t deceiving the respect he deserved, that he was being walked all over by the guy he died protecting.
It’s his ability to empathise with everyone he meets that makes him such a good person, and will make him a strong Hokage.
Naruto’s ability to show his emotions is what touches the people he meets – it’s how he forms bonds. He gets through to Gaara by showing that he too has experienced pain by being a jinchuuriki; he gets through to Kakashi, Sasuke and Sakura by showing his anger and frustration at being a slow learning by stabbing himself in the hand; he shouts out his dream at the top of his lungs to everyone he meets.
He doesn’t hide himself or his emotions.
He cares about his friends
This is definitely Naruto’s most endearing quality.
He didn’t have friends when he was growing up, because all the adults in the Hidden Leaf Village were afraid of him and the monster that was trapped inside him.
But when he joins Team 7 and starts to work alongside Sasuke, Sakura and Kakashi he ends up with a whole group of friends.
My favourite friendship in Naruto is between Naruto and Gaara. They’re fellow jinchuuriki who can relate to each other since they both grew up being feared by their villages, and both of them gain the respect of their villages and become their leaders. The scene when Gaara dies after having the One Tail removed from him, and Naruto’s crying is the moment that hit me the hardest, because all the pain and frustration that has been building up in Naruto about dealing with who and what he is suddenly comes out as a burst of anger and sadness. He hates that Gaara lost his life because the Akatsuki wanted the power inside him, and that he wasn’t strong enough to protect him.
I also love the friendship between Naruto and Sasuke – when Sasuke leaves it tears Naruto apart, because Sasuke was his first friend. He works hard and does everything he can to bring it back.
He doesn’t start off as strong
After starting to read Naruto I was reminded of how weak Naruto starts off.
He’s at the bottom of his class, and during his first real fight with the ninjas from the Mist he freezes up. He messes up his big moment to shine and in the heat of battle be becomes so scared he can’t move. I like that about Naruto – that he talks big at the start, but when it comes down to it he can’t do anything. And then after seeing how well Sasuke fights he decides that will never mess up again.
He refuses to give up
I think one of the most profound moments in Naruto is when Naruto confronts Obito and says “I’ll take that mask off your face.”
Even when the villages are losing badly against Obito, Madara and the ten tails Naruto still has the guts to stand up to his enemy as say that he’ll save him.
Naruto doesn’t see Obito as an enemy, just someone who has fallen down the wrong path – someone who needs saving.
He reaches out to him, offers him another chance – a chance to come back to the village and redeem his actions.
And he’s like that with every villain he runs into. Naruto doesn’t see people as bad or good – just as people.
Even when Nagato has killed a load of people in the Hidden Leaf and completely destroyed it Naruto still goes to confront him – not to fight him but to talk to him. He reaches out to Nagato, talks to him about Jiraiya and their master’s dream. He wants Nagato to see the error of his ways and to strive for redemption.
He’s an underdog that rises to the top
Naruto isn’t a talented ninja.
Unlike someone like Sasuke, who has natural talent, all of Naruto’s achievements are a result of hard work.
He works non-stop to master the rasengan, and then works even harder to turn that move into the rasengan shuriken. Then when he can’t perform that attack because of his chakra limitations he trains hard again to learn sage mode. And then he trains even harder to master Kurama’s power and work in tandem with him.
Naruto could have stopped at any point down his training path – he was plenty strong enough when he learnt the rasengan, but he kept going. He kept training and working hard to become even stronger.
And I love that about him, because – like me – Naruto has to work to achieve results.
And guess what all that hard work does?
It pays off.