Once Naruto’s narrative focus became centered on a major villain, it lost a lot of its magic and charm. The story was always better in the beginning.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Naruto is one of the world’s most popular and beloved manga series of all time. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for its sequel series, Boruto. Naruto is not without its faults either, and as the series approached its finale, it changed so much that many fans fell off with it. A look back at the start of Naruto reveals what made it so special in the hearts of fans in the first place, and part of this is due to the lack of a major villain.
Part 1 of Naruto – as the name suggests – introduced fans to the ninja world and its many characters that would come to be loved. Part 2 occurs after a time skip and begins when Naruto returns with Master Jiraiya to the Hidden Leaf Village. At this point, everybody had aged up a bit, and the narrative of the series became focused on the villainous organization known as the Akatsuki. Almost every important aspect of Part 2 revolved around them, a stark contrast from the whimsical and free-flowing nature of Part 1.
The lack of a major villain in Part 1 is what made Naruto such a unique series and set it apart from its competition. Many stories follow their own version of this narrative structure: introduce the heroes, introduce the villains, explain why the villains need to be beaten, put the heroes on a path to beating them. Naruto didn’t do this. The whole point of the story was about growing up and becoming a ninja, and many of the conflicts and plot points stemmed from the relationships and interactions between the characters. The series did have its villains who had their own goals, but none of them served to be the sole focus of the story, dictating the entire narrative direction.
Part 2 is when the series changed and followed the aforementioned plot structure. Once the Akatsuki were fleshed out, beating them became the focus of the story, and gone were the days of the series being a humorous and relatable tale about growing up. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but many fans will say that this is when the series dropped in quality and became burdened by common issues such as boring cliches and power creep. Some would even say Naruto should have ended after the Pain fight.
As strange as it sounds, Naruto was a much better story without a major villain. In the beginning, overcoming the bad guy wasn’t what hyped up and inspired the fans. It was always much more entertaining and rewarding to see Naruto beat his rivals by training and slowly growing stronger and wiser. That was what made Naruto special.
More: Boruto is Making Naruto’s Hokage Dream Crumble Before His Eyes