Among the Mt. Rushmore of Anime stands a bust of Uzumaki Naruto, one of the beloved faces of Shonen Anime. Most anime viewers in the early 2000s had Naruto, the show’s protagonist and lovable klutz, to keep them company.
Many contemporary internet memes and cultural phenomena have their origins in his show. Whether it’s the signature ninja run, where he runs forward, body tilted at 45 degrees with hands creating a plane parallel to the ground, or hand seals, complex hand manoeuvres to signal secret techniques, these are recognisable by any anime fan with a pulse.
Its influence has seeped into mainstream culture, permeating trends like Fortnite and Jordan brand fashion collaborations. Discussions such as whether he can beat Goku, Saitama, and other top action-anime heroes populate YouTube and well-known forums. Seeing an edit of Sasuke getting choked by your favourite celebrity will never grow old, too.
Simply put, if there were a “Hollywood Walk of Fame” for anime, he and his programme would have their own gold star.
With the 20th anniversary of Naruto looming we thought we’d throw down our biased 10 best Naruto episodes of all time! Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.
1.) A Clash of Fate: You Can’t Bring Me Down
The amount of filler episodes in the Naruto series has been a significant talking point in the anime community. A filler episode is one where the events within it are not relevant to the overall arc or storyline. Since there are so many unnecessary fillers, few people bother to give the show and its 700 episodes a shot.
A gem of an episode that neatly resolves a minor plot thread can be found among the muck of fillers. In this episode, Mizuki, the series’ first villain, returns to the show to seek revenge. During Naruto’s first encounter with the hostile adversary, his teacher, Iruka, saves him. This time, Naruto uses all his newfound skills to return the favour and protect his sensei from the attacker.
In an anime not typically known for its romantic undertones, this hit the mark for many viewers. One of the series’ worst kept secrets up until that point, Hinata’s love for Naruto reached its climax. It could not have happened in a more tense and emotionally-driven scene, as Hinata had to protect her love from one of the series’ most polarising antagonists, Pain.
With each devastating blow delivered to her, you would think that this is a love story with nothing but a bad ending. An unmistakable final blow is dealt to the brave heroine in a scene that will live long in the hearts of many. Overcome with emotions, Naruto’s powers awaken with the help of love, both past (from his parents) and present.
3.) Planetary Devastation
With the climax of the events from the previous episodes, the series was left on quite a cliffhanger. The shock of Hinata’s apparent death rocked both fans of the series and Naruto himself. This brings a state of mind to the hero that stimulates powers within himself. He obtains the power of the Kyubi’s tails against Pain, progressively losing all control until he’s completely overcome.
Pain is one of the series’ most infamous antagonists. It is no surprise, considering how integral he is to the storylines involving some of the show’s most compelling characters, such as Jiraiya. Never a one-trick-pony, his character has many layers to it; you will never find a straightforward discussion on him. He will forever serve as a fascinating case study for anime villains, whether in terms of his motives or the ethics of his conduct.
4.) Gaara Vs Rock Lee: The Power Of Youth Explodes
This episode contains perhaps one of Naruto’s most iconic and influential scenes. The moment Rock Lee took off his ankle weights and revealed that he hadn’t used even a fraction of his strength up to that point in the series is unforgettable. At that point, Lee looked nothing but a goofy comedy act with his slick lollipop hair and budget Bruce Lee look. It made viewers question who they thought was the strongest academy student.
Gaara’s sand manipulation skill had made him seem formidable and invincible up until that time. This sequence gives naruto fans goosebumps and a sense of wonder. As one of the earliest episodes, it’s one of the most nostalgic parts of the show, one that’s sure to put a tear in the eye.
5.) Thank you
The Kurama Chakra form is one of Naruto’s most powerful techniques. It covers him in a bright yellow flame, granting him many passive abilities. This is Naruto’s go-to ability going forward; he gained it through befriending and forging the perfect bond with Kurama, one of the nine-tail creatures.
A touching moment with an unknown lady occurs during this battle with Kurama. Naruto doesn’t understand he’s actually confronted his mother at first, and he’s thrown for a loop as the event unfolds.
Throughout the story, our protagonist has gained abilities anytime he has had meaningful moments of compassion and connection with his loved ones. Just like Naruto, viewers probably could not contain their emotions, giving their moms a warm hug as they entered their basement.
6.) The Tale of Jiraiya the Gallant
This episode features the tragic end to the story of one of the most beloved characters in all of Naruto Shippuden. Slightly controversial due to his not-so-gentlemanly behaviour at times, Jiraiya’s death is arguably the series’ saddest and most shocking tragedy.
The constant back-and-forth tension between him and the Six Paths of Pain evoked an ominous and threatening feeling. As Jiraiya was often displayed as an unstoppable force, struggling through this long-winded battle was never a good sign. Unfortunately, he did not make it to the end, dying a hero’s death, warning Konoha village of the arrival of the remaining Paths he could not stop.
An old adage says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will Disappear.” The death of his mentor paved the way for Naruto’s meteoric rise as the series’ main protagonist.
7.) A Plea from a Friend
This entire arc is the most emotionally taxing in the whole series. The bond of Though it had its ups and downs, the friendship between Naruto and Sasuke looked unbreakable. From when they first kissed back in the second episode to when Naruto used his Sexy Harem Jutsu against him, you’d never think they’d reach this level of escalation.
The two battle it out throughout this incredible seven-episode arc, with Naruto seeing this as a chance to protect Sasuke. He feels he’s lost a member of his family because the latter decides to defect from Konoha. This admission is what disgusts Sasuke to his core, saying he’d never truly understand his situation. It’s an unfortunate situation where both have severe parental issues. Maybe they both just need a warm hug.
8.) The Union Sign
Naruto and Sasuke have fought on five separate occasions throughout the entire series. Their second entry into the top 10 Naruto episodes of all time revolves around the very last time they fought. The two traded blows like never before in a brutal battle that utilised all the tricks and techniques they learned throughout their adventures.
The battle ends in a gruesome, impactful scene with the two having their arms severed, holding hands through blood marks painting the silhouettes. As they seemingly bleed out, memories of their childhood together flash through their minds. Thankfully, they survive the gauntlet through the strongest jutsu in the entire series: the power of friendship. Well, they can thank the controversially useless Sakura, too.
Thankfully, Naruto and Sasuke don’t always make the top 10 episodes of Naruto all time just by fighting one another. Sakura also does more than appear helpless most of the time and at the most convenient times (like when the two need their arms healed before they bleed to death). These three are known as the famous Team 7, led by the ever charming Kakashi.
The four are regarded as equals this time, joining forces to stop and seal Kaguya in her dimension. It is the 400-episode-old nostalgia that propels this episode into the top 10. Not only is it a sentimental callback to what drew so many people into the series in the first place, but a reminder of simpler times. On top of this reunion, the spirits of all the kage that aided them could rest in peace. The cherry on the top was Naruto, bidding his parents a final farewell for the last time.
10.) Kakashi Vs. Obito
Kakashi, who paved the way for the success of another famously overpowered blindfolded mentor in modern Shonen, headlines the last entry on this list. Let’s face it, the admirable and charismatic man walked so that Jujutsu Kaisen’s Satoru Gojo could run.
Anyway, parallels aside, his battle with ex-teammate Obito was one of the more stylistic and tactical combats the series has seen. As two of the older and respected shinobi, the two put on a show worthy of an Emmy nomination. Jawdropping action sequences, littered with parallels to their scrimmages as young kids in the academy, create this exhilarating struggle. A momentous affair containing more than just the two characters, it is an all-out brawl that more than deserves a place on this list.
Did your favourite Naruto episodes make this list? Naruto will always be regarded as one of the most iconic stories ever animated, regardless of all the debates regarding its length. Given the state of anime today, it just doesn’t hold up very well for this reason. Even if it acts like a childhood friend you may have outgrown, it is always there to keep you company; it is simply the comfort food of anime.