Check out the staff's favorite moments in celebration of Naruto's 20th anniversary!
The anime adaptation of Masashi Kishimoto's Naruto is celebrating its 20th anniversary today and it's not an overstatement to say that it's one of the most beloved Shonen anime of all time. You can ask just about any anime fan about their favorite title and Naruto will easily be among their top 10.
With over 700 episodes, the Naruto franchise’s longevity is a testament to its appeal and influence. Every one of us has a scene we like to rewatch and relive the magic over and over again.
So, in celebration of Naruto's 20th anniversary, our Editorial Staff is here to show some love and reflect on some of our favorite moments of the series.
Sasuke Learns the Truth About Itachi
Naruto holds a special place in my heart. Like so many, Naruto was the first series I truly and deeply fell in love with as a kid. I remember racing down to my living room at the start of every weekend to fire up the old DVD player and listen to “Haruka Kanata” by ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION blast through my staticky television speakers. When I think about my favorite moments from this legendary series, a couple come to mind — Naruto holding Sasuke’s dying body in his arms after their fight against Haku and Zabuza, Rock Lee taking off his ankle weights during the Chunin exam, Sasuke using Chidori for the first time in his fight against Gaara, Naruto bowing his head to the fourth Raikage to beg for Sasuke’s life.
Those pivotal moments are undeniably iconic, but there’s one scene that sucker punches me in the gut like no other moment from the series, and that’s the scene from Episode 141 where Sasuke learns the truth about Itachi and the Uchiha clan’s fall from grace. I will be the first to admit that Sasuke can be a difficult character to root for, but, as a lifelong Sasuke stan, watching his entire world come crashing down felt like having my own heart ripped out of my chest. Sasuke never wanted to hate his brother, but circumstance and duty dictated he do so. The simultaneous heartbreak and relief he felt learning that his brother was loyal and loved him until his final breath was so perfect and painful at the same time. The closing scene where Sasuke, standing at the edge of the ocean as the soundtrack swells, is finally allowed to grieve for his brother never fails to throw me into emotional turmoil.
The moment represents such a monumental shift in Sasuke’s character that there was no way I wasn’t going to choose it as one of my favorite moments in all of Naruto. After nearly 400 chapters in the manga and 360 episodes of the anime, Sasuke was finally done with his quest to avenge his family and now could avenge the one person who deserved justice more than anyone else: his brother, Itachi. Say what you will about the direction Sasuke’s character took in the latter half of the series, but at that moment, I think everyone could understand what drove Sasuke to seek retribution and burn down the institution that did nothing but exploit and manipulate him and his brother for their entire lives. And above all, how could I possibly leave out the moment we finally saw Itachi give his brother his final forehead poke?
- Kristine Don, Senior Manager - Editorial
Iruka Believing in Naruto as a Ninja
According to Masashi Kishimoto himself, there was only one moment that Naruto grew as a character. After that moment, we follow Naruto’s path to become the greatest ninja of Hidden Leaf Village. That moment happened in the very first episode of the anime. During all his childhood, Naruto was treated as an outcast, with no friends or family to support him. Trying to prove his value, Naruto puts a lot of pranks in the village to call attention. But there was one person in the whole village that believed in Naruto, that he would become a great ninja: Iruka-sensei.
Knowing that Iruka-sensei cared for him and believed that he would become a great ninja one day is everything Naruto needed to overcome all the loneliness and sadness he felt until that point and started to face many challenges in the future full of determination and without hesitation. Since then, he made friends and became a beloved person in the Hidden Leaf Village and even in the whole world.
- Samir Fraiha, Senior Contributing Writer - Portuguese
Minato and Kushina Protecting Naruto
Growing up as an orphan without parental love is a hard lot. Being shunned by the villagers without being given a (good) reason for years is another issue. Naruto lived in rejection and uncertainty for years until his friends became his new family. When he learned that his parents — Minato and Kushina — sacrificed themselves for him, it reduced me to tears.
The Nine-Tails bursts out of Kushina and is once again unleashed on Konoha; all on the night Naruto was born. To protect the village and the boy from the impending danger, Minato seals half of the Nine-Tails’ chakra into Naruto, which the fox naturally tries to prevent. Mother and father throw themselves in front of their boy and pay with their lives. As a result, we see little interactions with his father throughout Naruto’s future, which are some of the most beautiful and saddest scenes in the entire series.
The climax of this love takes place in Episode 249 “Thank You” when Kushina gets to meet Naruto and tells him her story. She apologizes for not being by his side when he was growing up; for not showering him with love; she thanks Naruto for being born and making them his parents. This moment moved me to tears, as he finally got to feel real maternal love.
- Melanie Höpfler, German Editor
Gaara's Sand Coffin
I'm a big fan of any time the stakes get substantially raised in a series, and for my money, this was the moment in the very early days of Naruto. The first time you see Gaara use his brutal Sand Coffin to kill a team of Amegakure genin in Episode 34, you get a clear picture of how far this particular villain (at the time) would be willing to go.
This, of course, rears its head again in Episode 48, which features the iconic moment in which Rock Lee drops his weights to reveal his true speed and strength. While that would be an easy pick for a favorite Naruto moment — and it's definitely in the top 10, easy — the fact that Gaara still ends up mercilessly crippling Lee with his Sand Coffin move, albeit to a lesser degree than before, after all that flashy action, further underlines the dangerous potential Gaara contains.
Putting this all in the context of Gaara's tragic backstory and his ultimate redemption makes for one hell of a character arc, and those first moments of reckless uncertainty are something I'll never forget about the series.
- Joseph Luster, English Editor
Naruto’s Epic Entrance
After Jiraiya’s passing, Naruto went through really hard and dark times… but that finally started to change when Naruto decided to train in Mount Myoboku, a legendary place where all the toads that Minato, Jiraiya and Naruto himself have summoned live.
However, nobody could have ever predicted that during this period that Naruto was out of the Hidden Leaf Village, Akatsuki’s creator Pain would strike an incredibly powerful attack on the village. The whole Pain's Assault Arc was very nerve-wracking, and after killing Kakashi and knocking out most of the village’s Chunin, Jounin, and ANBU, we couldn’t help but hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. The thing is, Naruto was unreachable during his period at Mount Myoboku — which he needed in order to perfect his Sage Mode…
When Pain hit his absolutely devastating Shinra Tensei upon the Hidden Leaf, there was nothing left! Really. And if it weren’t for the Hokage’s quick actions to use Katsuyu to protect everyone, nobody would have survived that. Everyone who survived couldn’t believe their eyes… everything was destroyed. There was nothing left. There was no hope.
Well, there was one hope: Naruto! And Sakura knew it — we can feel this when she screams from the top of her lungs for him. At the moment, Naruto is summoned in the Hidden Village — using Sage Mode — and on top of Gamabunta… Chills, literal chills! To me, this is until today the best anime entrance ever! The whole arc culminated in this moment and now we just want to see Naruto kicking Pain’s butt.
This battle changed Naruto’s life… The whole village now saw him as a hero — not the kid with the demon fox — and you can’t tell me you didn’t cry when everyone was screaming and cheering his name!
- José Sassi, Portuguese Editor
Naruto vs. Kiba
That exciting and famous cliffhanger at the end of Episode 44 was unforgettable for Naruto fans in Latin America, because of the curious (and certainly unofficial) decision to change the translation of Naruto’s last line.
Naruto’s last phrase was changed from “If you compete with me for the name of Hokage… you will be the loser” to “Lo siento, puedes olvidarte de ser Hokage porque… ¡Soy el más perrón aquí!” (something like “I am the bravest dog here!”) Now, the hardcore fans from both Naruto and LATAM Dub said on that time that, since Kiba Inuzuka behaves “like a dog” (at least on that part of the story) and maybe because of his love for Akamaru, the phrase in Spanish was “more accurate, even than the original.” Of course, this caused serious discussions with other sectors of fans from the series. The point is that the scene is so emblematic in the region, that even now, Latin American otakus use that as a reference and as a meme!
- Julio Vélez, Spanish Editor
You Shouldn't be Eating Ramen Alone
Watching Naruto is like drinking cocoa in a warm blanket next to a fireplace because the series radiates so much warmth and coziness even with such an enigmatic plot. The drama evolves but disappears just for the couple of fillers between the main story which Episode 311 “Prologue of Road to Ninja” actually is about. You can watch it at any time and feel at home like you just met your loved ones for Christmas. Isn’t it the best feeling, right?
Nothing drastic and important happens in “Prologue of Road to Ninja” because Naruto, Sakura, Rock Lee and others came from a mission and had a day off. Uzumaki couldn’t come up with a better idea rather than eating ramen and playing cards with his two shadow clones. Maybe it’s a good way to escape loneliness in your free time, but Naruto still felt quite empty inside and didn’t know how to embrace these emotions fully. His sulking was noticed by optimistic Rock Lee who couldn’t stand the depressing atmosphere in Naruto’s apartment and invited him and others to the public bath — the rest was history.
Such a simple episode shows what real loneliness could feel like when you are surrounded by a lot of people and offers a pretty predictable solution — don’t be afraid to reach out. Invite them to spend time together either playing cards, eating ramen or taking a bath together. Honestly, right now that’s how I picture the whole Editorial Team in Crunchyroll because if anyone is sulking then someone will come and invite them to a public bath (figurally speaking).
- Asya Zabolotskaya, Russian Editor
Naruto Rejecting Sakura’s Confession
Naruto began his journey as an immature young man, seeking to make as much noise as possible to get the attention of those around him and thus alleviate his loneliness. He also had a clearly unrequited crush on Sakura Haruno. When he ended up on the same team with her and Sasuke, the person he wanted to be friends with, Naruto couldn't be happier.
Life would soon give him a reality check. Sakura was in love with Sasuke and he left them because of his desire for revenge. Eventually, time passed, and needing to stop Sasuke at all costs, Sakura decided to try to trick Naruto by declaring “her love” to Naruto. She intended to free him from the promise to save Sasuke, but at this moment the young ninja showed that he was no longer a child, much less a fool.
Hearing the words that he always wished for, Naruto reacted with disbelief, and then showing great growth, he exposed Sakura. “I hate people who lie to themselves!,” said Naruto, who was not only able to let go of his love for her and move on, but also understood that he wanted to save Sasuke of his own will.
- Amílcar Trejo Mosquera, Senior Contributing Writer - Spanish
A Lighter to Avenge a Beloved Master
Asuma is probably the master that all of us would like to have. Despite his smoking habit, he draws the very best from his students, albeit bestowing them silly nicknames. His death has afflicted not just all the fans of the series, but above all, his pupil Shikamaru. Asuma acts not only as a sensei but also like a father with his students, bringing them often to the restaurant, usually paying more than he should because of Choji's huge appetite.
All his backstory and his relation with the other characters, mainly with Shikamaru and Kurenai, makes it even more agonizing the moment of his death. In that very moment, after a series of heart-wrenching flashbacks related to his students around him, I think it's impossible not to feel an overwhelming contempt against the despicable Hidan. Shikamaru hasn't really let go of his beloved master, as he never abandoned the Zippo he used to light up his cigarettes.
Before inflicting the fatal blow to the nasty assassin, he ignited metaphorically one last time the cigarette of his former master in the shape of a smokey memory, closing the loop of pain and revenge. Only once he has defeated Asuma’s assassin he managed to let go of the anguish that was haunting him. I believe that the moment of his vengeance, using precisely that lighter, is epic as much as melancholic.
- Francesco Ventura, Italian Editor
Naruto vs. Sasuke: The Final Fight and Unison
How does one pick just a singular moment when there are an abundance of iconic scenes that captured our hearts? Like Kakashi vs. Obito, Jiraiya's death, the resurrection of the hokages to name a few.
But if I had to do it then it's fair to pick Naruto and Sasuke's final battle at the Valley of the End starting from Episode 475. Not only does this battle define the pinnacle of the entire series but it also puts a closure to a torment that plagued both of them for a very long time. The greatness of this confrontation lies in many factors like the fantastic animation which captured the fighting techniques brilliantly — going back and forth between past and present gave us an overview of the ongoing struggle that afflicted them.
The battle ends in a tie but Naruto's optimism and persistence won. He was never the type to give up on himself nor on his people, let alone his closest friend. What moved me was how the plot marvelously showed two boys going through similar anguish, yet both of them took it differently. We're products of our childhood indeed, and when both of them embraced the conflicted inner child inside of them; they found peace. The path toward healing began right there — and that's when Sasuke decided to put an end to himself and surrender to unity with Naruto instead of loneliness into the shadows. That alone is a revolutionary move to make, don’t you think?
- Nada Ali, Arabic Editor
Now it's your turn, what's your favorite Naruto moment? Let us know in the comments.