“Naruto” is a lot of things, but one of them is certainly not “competently written”. Despite a strong start early in it’s much-too-long life span the “Naruto” series has seen a great many story archs, character introduction, and character deaths that make little to no sense whatsoever when given even the slightest bit of thought afterward (and for clarification’s sake I should remind you that fanboys and girls do not do much critical thinking). I’ve taken the liberty of jotting down a few of these odd story elements and breaking down just how stupid they are. Here we go!
1) The Elemental Affinity Test
Remember when the writers pulled that time skip crap as an excuse to power up their characters without being inconvenienced by the task of showing us how all these characters grew? Well, during that entire time Naruto was off in the woods somewhere having some private time with Jiraiya. And despite the fact that he spent three years in private training with one of the most powerful ninjas in the known world it turns out he’s only any good when someone makes him go ballistic and he completely loses control, thereby allowing the Nine-Tailed Fox inside of him to temporarily take over and rearrange a mountain side. All of the people he graduated from basic training with are now chuunin level ninja or higher, and apparently everyone had spent all that time he was gone watching “Dragonball Z” because suddenly ninjas weren’t measured by how stealthy or tactically advanced they were but how many mountains they could blow up and rivers they could redirect.
Evidently all that time training with his mentor was a complete waste because Naruto simply couldn’t measure up against anyone, including people he’d previously beaten in hand-to-hand combat just three years prior. He didn’t bring anything to the table anymore. He needed a power-up! And what did the writers come up with? The elemental affinity test.
Basically, it’s revealed to Naruto (and thus revealed to us) that when you hold a special piece of paper it will react as if under the influence of one of the elements that apparently all ninjas are naturally aligned. For example, if your elemental alignment is water then the paper will dampen, if it’s fire the paper will burn, and so on. It turns out that Naruto was wind all this time and didn’t even know it. And now that he does know he can undergo some proper training and get that level up he needed to fight all these ridiculous ninjas around him. Brilliant, right?
Why This Doesn’t Make Any Goddamn Sense
Since I had you exercise your brain a little, a lot more than most Naruto fans ever will, let’s do it again, only this time think back to the very beginning when the whole gang was together and they were about to undergo training directed by the famous Kakashi. Kakashi was famous for a lot of things, like being a decorated war vet, but the immediate concern at the time was that before Team 7 he had never passed a single group and allowed them to move on to become genin. Do you remember why this was the case? It was because he was in the habit of explaining ninja fundamentals by using them on his students.
This guy was really goddamn serious about training kids to become professional murderers for hire (as he should have been). In fact, I’m convinced that the only reason he didn’t outright kill his students is because that’s what the chuunin exam is for and he didn’t want to ruin all the fun.
You’d think that a guy who was this serious would take the time to hand Naruto and the gang these pieces of paper after they passed his entrance exam in order to better their training. Imagine if Naruto had begun sharpening his control over wind way back then, before he ever learned how to summon a giant toad or use a technique that only one other guy ever could and didn’t even master before fucking dying. Why didn’t the elemental affinity test occur earlier on in young ninja development? It seems pretty important! Is the paper really expensive or something? Even if it is I think the potential gain is worth the expense and I don’t think Konoha is a poor village by any stretch of the imagination. No one even mentions it until Wood Man brings it up after the time skip.
Nice going, “writers”.
2) Sage Mode
After Jiraiya wastes three years on teaching Naruto next to nothing he’s given an assignment involving some good old fashioned ninja work, spying. Some dude called Pain (or Pein or however the goddamn scanlators spelled his stupid name) has everyone worried and Konoha needs some intel on him pronto. Who better to spy on a guy who freaks out the Hokage than one of the most powerful ninja to ever live? This actually makes perfect sense for once.
Unfortunately, Jiraiya is discovered at some point during his mission and ends up needing to defend himself against an enemy who is incredibly powerful but no one knows anything about. He could literally be capable of anything, as far as the old guy is concerned, so he has to pull out all the stops in order to get out alive. He does this by initiating something called sage mode, a state where the user takes on the physical characteristics of a toad and taps into a strain of chakra that is incredibly hard to use in vast quantities. Jiraiya’s trump card is revealed! All these years his ace in the hole was to become more ugly and thus more powerful. Genius!
Why This Doesn’t Make Any Goddamn Sense
Sage mode was never even mentioned in the series up to this point. Ever.
Previously we were lead to believe that Jiraiya was as powerful as he was because he was skilled in an obscure discipline (toad-related ninjutsu) and had decades of experience under his belt, a great deal of which coming from the previous Ninja War. Sage mode basically makes these assumptions completely false: he wasn’t considered powerful because he was a better fighter or because he’s a better tactician, he’s powerful because he has a super secret shape shift ability that makes him like a toad-like super saiyan.
And that’s not even the real problem here. This could very well have been possible if Jiraiya hadn’t been caught in no less than two conflicts where going into sage mode would have resulted in certain victory.
The first time was when he encountered Itachi and that shark dude in a hotel after Sasuke has one of his many emo fits and runs off without back up. At the time he seemed worried about the outcome of the fight, but he was still able to put two ridiculously powerful ninjas in a situation that forced them to flee and protect the genin under his care, all without even considering the possibility of going into sage mode. It’s possible that he simply felt like the situation was under control and that he didn’t have to bother using his hidden ability on a couple of youngsters he wasn’t all that scared of to begin with. But as a result of his negligence both Itachi and shark man escape. If he had initiated sage mode he likely could have beaten both of them at that point and two major threats would be accounted for before they ever became the enormous problems they turned out to be.
The second time was when he and Tsunade fought Orochimaru in a crazy battle where enormous summoned creatures were slithering all over the place. At one point Jiraiya gets hand-to-hand with Orochimaru himself but fails to win the day. Again, if he had access to sage mode at this point then why didn’t he use it? By all accounts he could have very easily beat the piss out of Orochimaru, back-handed Kabuto, and basically ended the major conflict of the story right there. If he failed in a big way that day Tsunade and Naruto would have been killed. Was that not good enough reason to use sage mode? Why didn’t he use it to secure almost certain victory?
Because the writers obviously hadn’t made it up yet.
3) Itachi Is A… Hero?
Itachi and everything he’s ever done in the series is problematic from multiple standpoints due entirely to poor planning and even worse execution. Early in the book/series Itachi is established as a villain capable of unspeakable acts of cruelty because, before the series ever got going, he had performed the horrifyingly impressive feat of eradicating an entire clan of super powered ninjas all by himself, presumably for some kind of personal gain (or because he was a total asshole, they never explain why before the time skup). He never denied that he committed this atrocity and even admitted it to his younger brother, the only person he spared during his rampage. As a result, Sasuke, the previously mentioned younger brother, made it his life’s mission to avenge his family by seeking out and destroying their killer, his dickhead of a brother.
Fast forward a few million chapters/episodes to when Sasuke finally confronts Itachi. Finally, Sasuke has the chance to punish the man who murdered everyone he held dear and robbed him of his innocence, of a normal life! But when it came down to it things got complicated, and the writers try to throw a weird curve ball at us: that Itachi was actually a hero who loved his little brother more than anything in the whole wide world and did everything for the betterment of society!
Well, kind of.
It turns out that Itachi was a double agent caught in the middle of a coup attempt by his family, the Uchiha clan. You see, the Uchiha were actually a bunch of assholes who secretly thought they were the master race and wanted to take over the Hidden Leaf because that’s what master races do. To aid them in their quest for domination they enlisted Itachi, who had displayed incredibly potential at a young age, to infiltrate the Leaf’s powerful ANBU division and provide them with valubale intelligence to help them plan their coup. To his family, he was spying on the upper echelon of the Hidden Leaf Village, gaining precious information to better their attack. But in secret he revealed his family’s plans to Hidden Leaf officials in hopes of avoiding conflict. Through Itachi, the Hidden Leaf attempted to quell all thoughts of a violent uprising before it ever got started. So far, so good. This is actually downright interesting!
Unfortunately the talks didn’t go so well, and after a long while of receiving no positive results the Hokage, Sarutobi at the time, decided that the Uchiha clan had to be wiped out in order to avoid war. A perfectly reasonable thing to do when things aren’t going your way, just murder everyone who opposes you and call it a day.
You know, Sarutobi, while you’re at it send the guy who is directly related to them to do the job. That seems like a really good idea. It’s cool that Itachi managed to do it with almost no help at all but how did they know he could do it? They didn’t send anyone from the Leaf to help at all? What if Itachi failed and their plan was revealed? Whatever, I’m sure it’ll work itself out!
On top of all this insanity Itachi discovered the existence of Madara, a super old ancestor of the Uchiha clan who was trying to initiate another ninja war and get the Hidden Leaf Village destroyed. Being the kind, caring mass murderer he was Itachi managed to get Madara to not do this by promising to wipe out his entire family. Somehow this made sense to Madara so he not only agreed he actually kept his word (for awhile).
So, Itachi is actually a misunderstood hero who did everything he could to avoid a senseless war. Hooray!
Why This Makes No Goddamn Sense
First, Itachi murdered dozens of people, including non-combatants. That fact alone really weakens the whole “hero” angle that the writers were going for.
Second, the manga/anime implies that every single member of the Uchiha clan was in on the coup and wanted nothing more than to rule the universe with an iron fist. At no point is the possibility of detractors within the family acknowledged other than Itachi himself, despite the fact that folks like Sasuke existed who had no idea that a coup was even being planned. And even if everyone other than Sasuke knew about the coup it’s pretty unlikely that everyone other that Itachi was hell bent on raping and pillaging the hapless citizens of the Leaf village. It’s almost certain that when the day came to kill everyone Itachi killed at least a few innocent people who had no intention of attacking anyone and may even have been fighting the move in high-level meetings among the Uchiha leadership.
But it gets more fucked up than that.
Japanese clans like those in the “Naruto” universe were not militaries, they were collections of people brought together by the belief of sharing a common ancestor. And as we already well know clans need new members to stay strong, and one of the best ways to do that is to have children. The very existence of Itachi and Sasuke prove that the Uchiha clan allowed clan members to bang each other in order to create more precious offspring. Add to the fact that the Uchiha clan was powerful because of their unique bloodline ability known as the sharingan and you have a pretty exclusive club running, probably with distant cousins banging distant cousins to “keep it in the family”. Someone’s gotta make babies to keep the clan strong, and Itachi’s family invariably rose to the challenge, if you get my meaning.
But whose to say that other members of the clan didn’t do the same?
Now, it’s never mentioned anywhere explicitly but we’ve already established that it’s more than possible that Sasuke wasn’t the only young Uchiha running around at the time of the massacre. In fact, it’s very probable that other clan members had children as well, perhaps even newborn babies nestled in their little cribs, apparently supporting the coup in their own baby ways.
But Sasuke was the only survivor. Which means… OH MY GOD ITACHI KILLED BABIES!
Er, heroically killed babies? I guess?
Fuck you, “Naruto” writers.