For those that are unfamiliar with Naruto, the incredibly popular Japanese Anime cartoon, here is a brief introduction: Naruto is a fictionalized tale of Ninjas that is set in a fantasy land, with semblances of Japanese and Eastern culture. The fantasy land of the anime is a land of warring states and provinces. The main characters of the story are from a village called Konoha or the Hidden Leaf Village ". The ninjas of Konoha are raised from a young age to protect their village with their lives. The character Naruto began as a slightly arrogant and over-zealous youth, who in the current series has matured and grown quite capable. Naruto is unlike the other characters in that the former village leader (called the Hokage) used a high level magical seal to trap a mythical demon monster inside his body in an effort to save Konoha. The village leader died in the process, and Naruto grew up as a hated outsider. As the story develops Naruto learns to control the demon inside of him and use its powers for the forces of good. Naruto possesses many pertinent religious and philosophical ideas. This short essay will explain three of them.
1)Every ninja, good or evil, in Naruto possesses Chakra " which enables them to fight, use magical abilities and thrive. Forgoing the qi " concept of many East Asian religions, the Chakra of Naruto is similar to the Chakra centers of Hinduism and Buddhism. I have found the use of the concept Chakra fascinating in this anime series. It is a tangible force which grows and depletes based upon its use, rest and meditation upon. Evil characters in Naruto possess a clouded dark Chakra which other characters can identify and sense. The fact that the anime series has adopted this religious concept intimates a higher purpose to the series as a whole.
The concept of self-defense and self-preservation as opposed to revenge is highly valued in the theory. The Buddhist ideal of never returning enmity for enmity is fully endorsed. In the series there is a character called Sasuke who has devoted his life to vengeance for the sake of his slain clan. Whereas Naruto`s motto is usually to protect everyone " Sasuke`s is different; Sasuke wishes simply to become is powerful as possible solely for vengeance. In the original series, Kakashi Sensei warns Sasuke that a life directed towards revenge is empty and dark. Kakashi Sensei goes on to explain that a true Ninja fights only in self-defense. Now, 300 or some odd episodes later and a new series (Naruto Shippuden) Sasuke has matured into quite the evil villain.
The ideal of self-sacrifice is the last ideal I will explain. In Naruto every well-directed ninja is devoted towards protecting their village, their people and their loved-ones. They will lay down their lives to accomplish their compassionate goals. The idea is pseudo-Christian. When a character dies in Naruto they die a noble death for the sake of protecting, and teaching by example. The village leaders, are given their title of Hokage because they watch over their village and its people to the fullest extent. Likewise, they expect the same compassionate goals from their people.
As you can see Naruto is an anime with deep religious undercurrents. With such brilliant stories and thoughtful animation, it`s no wonder that Naruto has become some popular in the United States and elsewhere.
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