Masashi Kishimoto's smash hit anime/manga franchise Naruto has captured the imagination of action and shonen fans around the globe for years now. This ninja action series follows the tragic boy Naruto Uzumaki on his quest to become the village leader (Hokage) and become the world's top ninja. He has everything to prove, and plenty of terrifying villains to fight and new allies to meet.
Overall, the boy ninja's quest is split into two parts: the original first story, and then Shippuden, set two and half years later. Shippuden features an older, wiser Naruto who's a powerful ninja, but he's up against the biggest and baddest foes in the world. How do the two story halves of Naruto compare? There are some good reasons to love each half of Naruto's journey.
10 Part 1: Naruto Has A Lot To Prove
This is true for most stories, since the hero starts out with little more than a dream and a quest. In this case, Naruto Uzumaki has a long road ahead of him: dealing with the inner Nine-Tailed Fox, graduating ninja school, earning the respect of his squadmates and peers, and of course, the quest to become Hokage and earn the admiration and love of his village. When your hero starts out as a 12-year-old boy with a lifetime's worth of pain and misery, you can't help but root for the kid.
9 Shippuden: The Plot Fully Unfolds In Shippuden
The later acts of any story is a time to showcase the entire plot, and Naruto Shippuden doesn't disappoint. The first half of this story is really just Naruto's quest to become Hokage and protect the village, but Shippuden boasts a huge and engaging plot that really puts everything at stake. The Akatsuki, once a mysterious and shadowy organization, has unveiled its true plans. Now audiences will be at the edge of their seat, waiting to see how the heroes can overcome these odds and save the day.
8 Part 1: More Fun
Not that Shippuden is dull. But the first act of Naruto has plenty of humor and hijinks during the tightly plotted story, and even comic relief can end up acting as part of the plot. Remember how Jiraiya and Naruto went nuts over a beautiful woman who passed them by in a village? It was fun to watch the mega-perv Jiraiya chase her, but in fact this was part of Itachi's cunning plan to separate them. And it's always nice when one of Naruto's jokes or silly observations relieves the tension a bit. That kid is a riot.
7 Shippuden: Ups The Stakes With Major Deaths
Naruto's entire village was dealt a serious blow when the Third Hokage fell in battle in part 1. But when Shippuden rolls around, a lot more of the good guys are going to fall in battle, and this really ratchets up the tension and stakes like never before. By the time Naruto has emerged triumphant, many of his beloved friends and allies are buried and gone, and that will always weigh heavily on our hero's heart. No victory without sacrifice!
6 Part 1: The Full Team 7
Here it is, the core of Naruto's part 1. Not long after graduation, Naruto is teamed up with the tough girl Sakura Haruno and the kid genius Sasuke Uchiha, under the tutelage of the quirky but brilliant Kakashi Hatake. It was a joy to watch these young ninjas learn to get along, annoy each other, fight as a team, and generally grow up together. This made it all the more tragic when Sasuke went rogue to pursue ultimate power. Any other memory of team 7 is a fond one.
5 Shippuden: Sasuke's Rise To Power
Speaking of Sasuke, it's a thrill to watch his dark rise to power over the course of Shippuden. He learns all sorts of terrifying new jutsu to devastate his foes in battle, and he even forms his own team to mirror Naruto's. On top of that, he's not just a villain; Sasuke seeks revenge on Itachi, only to learn the truth of the Uchiha Clan and the Leaf Village's founding. Now, Sasuke's quest expands in scope, and he carves a bloody swath through the Naruto world. He even takes down Danzo, the sixth Hokage!
4 Part 1: The Mystery Of Orochimaru And The Akatsuki
The snake-loving Orochimaru, and the shadowy Akatsuki, first appear in part 1 to challenge our heroes. Orochimaru's quest to become a supreme being is just beginning, and the Akatsuki serve as a fascinating and mysterious foe to face. For now, it's chilling to see this organization at the edges of the world, plotting... something. The tension and mystery is tantalizing, and it makes for a great lead-in to Shippuden. Done right, mysteries can draw a viewer right in, and Naruto does just that in part 1 with the Akatsuki.
3 Shippuden: Older Characters
While it's fun to see the kids of team 7 grow up together, at some point the viewers are done with slapstick and are ready to see these heroes really mature. We get that in Shippuden, and while Naruto still has his light side, he's really a proper young man by now. He's responsible, brave, smart, and he'll give anything and everything to fight the forces of evil. It's a wonderful payoff from watching him struggle to grow up and gain recognition in part 1.
2 Part 1: Naruto vs Gaara
This was a duel that's sure to bring a tear to the eye in part 1. At first, Naruto and Gaara of the sand are enemies, as the Sand Village was duped into helping Orochimaru assault the Leaf Village. Gaara is a boy with a tortured soul, driven to bloodthirsty rage and sadness at his lonely and cursed life. He and Naruto clash during the Leaf Village battle, tailed beast vs tailed beast, until they are exhausted. It is then when Naruto confesses that he, too, suffered the life of a tailed beast host. His heart is laid bare, and it wins over Gaara on the spot. Truly inspirational.
1 Shippuden: An Expanding World
While Naruto did some exploring in part 1, such as visiting the Land of Waves, the world of Naruto truly expanded in Shippuden. This time, Naruto and friends explore every corner of the globe, and he meets people from the Land of Clouds, he visits the Land of Iron (with samurai!), and more. Through flashbacks and memories, we even see the Land of Rain. And early in Shippuden, viewers can explore the Sand Village in great detail as Gaara fights desperately to protect it from an Akatsuki raid.