It’s been 15 years since the Naruto series first appeared in an issue of the Japanese manga collective Weekly Shonen Jump. Since then the manga and the resultant anime series have both attained colossal acclaim, with the former amassing 695 current issues split into 70 volumes and the latter currently sitting at 601 episodes. Creator Masashi Kishimoto has been hinting at a definitive ending for some time now, but some fans have been waiting for it much longer than that.
The end has arguably been in sight for the better part of the past 5 years, with all the loose ends being systematically tied up one by one. This has resulted in a run of increasingly epic narrative arcs, manga and anime that share DNA with Naruto often close out this way, raising the bar higher and higher and posing more and more powerful threats until the principal characters become nothing short of godlike. The same thing happened with Dragonball Z and later Bleach, both of which outstayed their welcome to some degree.
Thankfully as far as Naruto is concerned, a satisfying narrative conclusion appears to be on the cards, everything is being curtailed with a confrontation that Kishimoto has been building up to since the series transitioned from Part 1 to Part 2 (referred to in the anime as Naruto: Shippuden) in 2005, skipping the clock forward 2 years. The last issue (that being the 700th) will be released in Weekly Shonen Jump on November 10th, which means that at time of writing, the series has 5 issues left to wrap everything up (roughly 100 pages). The anime has always lagged behind the manga for obvious reasons, but a film called The Last: Naruto the Movie (alternative title Grammar We’re: (Not) Sure How It works) will hit Japanese cinemas in December.
The anime is going to take a lot longer to wrap everything up than that, so the likelihood is that, as with all the previous Naruto movies, it will have no consequential bearing on the main plot. Most films based on anime shows do this, such as Pokemon and Dragonball. From the perspective of some who’s been reading the manga for the better part of a decade, this is very welcome, exciting news. Naruto has remained engaging for all that time but the pacing has been frustratingly lethargic, with the action often being bogged down by long sections of flashbacks and arbitrary side-plots. I honestly thought that this final battle, final as it seemed, was going to take at least 20 issues to conclude, instead we’re getting 5, which promises a tight, thrilling final crescendo.
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