Naruto is a shōnen, fantasy, martial arts manga series written by Masashi Kishimoto and I’ve recently started watching the anime adaptation of it (strictly Naruto for now, not Shippuden yet). Today I’m going to be chatting about the second arc in the series, which is called The Land of Waves arc and covers episodes 6 through 19. You can check out my first impressions for the Prologue arc (episodes 1 to 6) and musings on why I finally picked up the anime in this pink link. Please note that there will be spoilers in this post, so if you’ve not acquainted yourself with the franchise and don’t want to be spoiled, I recommend you read this at your own discretion.
The Land of Waves arc follows Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi-sensei as they take on a mission that is slightly higher than the kiddoes current rank due to Naruto’s insistence. For this mission they have to escort an older dude named Tezuna to his home in the Land of Waves, where he can finish building a large bridge that shall change the economic face of his village for the better. However, due to significant amounts of corruption, the current leader of this village, Gatō, is against the bridge getting built and thus wishes to assassinate Tezuna for inciting people to rise against him.
Land of Waves Overall Musings
My overall impression of these fourteen episodes is that it’s an excellent example of what to expect from the Naruto anime moving forward. You have your group baddies who are being led by one big baddy and the ninja are sent in to take care of the problem. There will be a lot of talking amid the fighting in order to provide the tragic backstories that shall evoke the appropriate emotions needed to get invested in the plight of the situation. Then sentimental words will be exchanged, usually led by Naruto himself, and then there will be fighting and changes in attitude or sides. In a nutshell, that is what the Land of Waves arc consisted of, and from what I’ve read of the manga so far, it’s a rather formulaic narrative technique that takes place in nearly all arcs superseding it.
On the surface it sounds rather boring and redundant, however, those fight scenes and those baddies that sprout up, even with their semi-predictable motives, have such fantastic depth to it that it makes watching the series so worth it. There is one specific fight that I’m eagerly (impatiently) waiting to get to in this franchise. Unfortunately for me, I’ll have to wait until Shippuden before I get to it. It follows this same recipe, but the fight scenes are so fucking fantastic and those cheesy, cliché sentimentalities are quite infectious and affecting by then.
I think what makes this method so extraordinary, and the reason it works well for Naruto specifically, is because it shows us that no matter what our past is like, we are always capable of change and in a single moment no less, either for the better or worse. This is a very strong message to give to kids. Life is about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. It’s also about that whole nurture versus nature debate that has been going on for millennia. The series takes those two distinct motifs and uses it to teach the sole lesson of “it doesn’t have to be forever.” Growing up I hated to see my friends being told they couldn’t make mistakes or that their errors would define them until the end of time. That is not true at all, and it was always heart-breaking to see how this train of thought would impact them as they grew older. If a person truly wants to change their lives, if they are so unhappy and so unfathomably lost, they can find their way and embrace joy again, they just have to be willing do it. On the flip side of that, they can also make choices to fall deeper into the black pits of malevolence because they just have no concept of what affection and a nurturing compassion looks like. That’s basically the gist of Naruto. There is always the question of light versus dark and which path is ultimately the better choice.
The Parallels of a Nurtured Upbringing
Naruto is an orphaned boy that no one wants anything to do with because of what his body harbours, unbeknownst to him. In the Land of Waves we meet another boy named Haku. He was born with a very special ability that is unique to his bloodline and because of that he was ostracised and hated, to the point that anyone with his bloodline, or other bloodlines with specialised abilities, were hunted down and slaughtered. He watched his father murder his mother and then turn on him. The only way to save himself was to use that very same ability to kill his attackers and escape. Haku eventually meets a dude named Zabuza and their brief encounter was enough for Zabuza to feel some kind of kinship with the boy. He took him under his wing and became his mentor.
Zabuza has a dark history of his very own and that contributes to the lessons that he teaches Haku. His whole perception for moving forward consists of fighting for vengeance and forcefully taking what he believes is his or was taken from him. With Haku, he shows the boy that they are strong ninja and their strengths can help them rule the village better than anyone else, especially better than the people who treated them like trash.
Naruto, on the other hand, has a similar disheartening history, however, he also had people like Iruka-sensei who taught him the meaning of being compassionate and how anger shan’t ever lead to joy. Iruka-sensei recognised the loneliness in Naruto and did what he could to help prevent that negative emotion from festering into a malicious hatred for all living things.
This dynamic of what being nurtured truly means, and the various forms it can take, is so exceptionally contemplative to me as someone who has struggled with understanding the myriad ways that their mum chose to “nurture” them as a kid. While my backstory isn’t one of death and agonising loneliness in the same scope as Naruto and Haku, it still has plenty of solitary angst in it. Kids who may be struggling with similar circumstances will watch this and know that they don’t always have to feel unwanted or irrelevant in their lives, as well as what acting on hatred can do to their ability to love or respect others, and that is pretty neat, not to sound all gushy myself.
Another parallel that we see is when Naruto meets Tezuna’s grandson, Inari, who lost his father to the corrupt leader of the village who used him as an example to oppress the villagers with terrible fear. Inari is a kid who is very, very sad and lonely. His suffering was almost tangible to me as a person of colour who has been oppressed for pretty much their entire lives. Watching Inari cry in his room by himself for his deceased father and this sense of helplessness was quite overwhelming at times. Yet, it highlights another path that Naruto could have gone down. However, that ramen-obsessed idiot realised very early on his young life that crying isn’t going to help him feel better about himself, and that was a moral that he teaches Inari, a moral he learned from Iruka-sensei. Later on in the series, Inari then takes that same moral and imparts its wisdom on to the villagers to help inspire them to take back their home for themselves.
The power of a single moment’s compassion and emotional nourishment is such a profound fucking thing. A thing that I had no appreciation for about five years ago but have since then learned to be grateful for quite a bit in my life, thus opening up new realms of self-care and respect for being alive. Remnants of the seemingly simple ideal of “nurturing” is the key to the Land of Waves arc and it’s what made it pleasant and somewhat irresistible to sit through.
Changes from the Manga
The biggest difference that I have seen in the anime versus the manga is how toned down the violence is. Don’t get me wrong. There is still plenty of violence and bloodshed, however, it is far less graphic in nature. I’ve shared a couple examples below, but they are major spoilers for the fight!!!
For the first example we have the scene where Haku appears in front of Zabuza to protect him from Kakashi’s Chidori attack. In the anime we see Kakashi’s fist in Haku, closer to the surface of his body, but in the manga that fucking fist pretty much impales Haku. It’s outstanding. The second example is when Zabuza kills Gatō. In the anime, he slices the shit out of him with a kunai in his mouth. In the manga, Zabuza straight up fucking takes that motherfucker’s head off.
The fiend in me definitely prefers the more vicious and blood-spraying depiction of those deaths in the manga rather than the anime, although I am very intrigued to see how the fight scenes shall differ in Shippuden as its technically for a slightly older audience (if they are different). These slight differences shall keep me from feeling too bored or burned out while I read the manga and watch the anime side-by-side, so there is that to be grateful for.
If there is anything specifically that I don’t particularly care for with Naruto, it would have to be the recaps at the beginning of almost every episode. I would be less bothered by it if those titbits were short and succinct rather than essentially showing off the second half of the previous segment. I feel like it’s a genuine waste of time and space that could be devoted to more fresh storytelling. Hell, it would even cut down on the number of episodes it takes to complete one fucking fight.
I also don’t particularly care for all of the chit-chat that takes place. I know this is a common trait in shōnen anime, but it does feel a bit exhausting mentally, particularly when you sit down to binge about five or ten episodes in a row. They are ninja who are supposed to be extremely talented with sneak attacks and stealth, but when you stand their chatting for six episodes, I feel like it defeats the whole damned point. With that said, I have been enjoying the information on Kekkai Genkai and the three main types of jutsu, as well other things, in an animated form. It’s far easier to digest rather than in manga form where my inclination is to just skip it all because of all the monochromatic boxes and arrows. My ADHD cherished this a lot.
Last thought, and I know this may sprout up some controversy, but I cannot stand Sakura! She is the most annoying fucking thing in the series and I just want to punch her into silence every time she’s on the screen, holy hell. If you like Sakura, that’s perfectly cool and I’m not judging you. Most of my favourite characters in this franchise are the worst pieces of scum ever, so I’m in no place to judge. I merely can’t stand that girl with ever fibre of my being. Yay for personal preferences.
The next arc is the Chūnin Exams arc and that spans forty episodes. Once I get through most of this arc, I shall be caught up to where I am in the manga and then I can read and watch them together at a regular pacing, which I’m very excited for! This is one of my favourite arcs with the characters being kiddoes, so I know that I can look forward to it with much more pleasure in my soon-to-resume watching escapades.
Thank you so much for visiting me today! I appreciate your support. I wish you a lovely day ahead.
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