Aside from the other anime series that comprise the “Big Three” (or “Big Four”, whichever you prefer), the only anime you can successfully compare with Naruto is Naruto: Shippuden. Both based on Kishimoto’s manga of the same name, the anime series was divided into these two series, with Naruto following the titular character’s childhood, and Naruto: Shippuden following his adolescence and entry into adulthood. So, which of the two anime series is better – Naruto or Naruto: Shippuden?
Although both these series form an integral unit, Naruto: Shippuden is better than Naruto. The story of Naruto: Shippuden is much more interesting, offering more character development and deeper plots, the animation became a lot better and the overall importance of the sequel series is much bigger for Naruto Uzumaki than it was the case with Naruto.
The rest of this article is going to explore and explain the reasons behind this decision. You’re going to find out about the two shows and how and when they were originally broadcast. You’re also going to see the main similarities and differences between the two shows, after which we are going to further elaborate on which of them is the better show.
Although we have decided to write this using our usual categorization, due to the fact that we’re dealing with a two-part adaptation of the same manga, some sections are going to be a bit different, as we can only speak about the core manga or the overall influence of the material, rather than about each of the individual titles. The manga, since it was an integral unit, is one such example.
The Naruto manga was first published in 1999 by the Japanese publisher Shūeisha in the 43rd issue of Shōnen Jump Magazine, continuing its publication with a new chapter per week since then. The first 483 chapters are compiled in 51 volumes; the first was released on March 3, 2000 and the last on April 30, 2010.
The first 238 stories are known as the “first part” and constitute the beginning of the Naruto chronology, while the numbers 239 to 244 comprise a gaiden series focused primarily on Kakashi Hatake’s youth.
All subsequent chapters correspond to the “second part” that continues the original narrative. Several of these volumes include anime comics from each of the Naruto films, also published by the same company.
On October 6, 2014, Shueisha publishers announced that the Naruto manga would be published for the last time on November 10, 2014, after 15 years of being published in the weekly magazine Shonen Jump. Naruto ended its 15-year-long run as one of the best-selling and most popular manga series in history.
Since both these series are based off on the same manga series, the overall quality and importance of the source for both is equal, which is why we divided the points in this category.
Point: Naruto 1, Naruto: Shippuden 1
Naruto Uzumaki is a twelve-year-old ninja from the Leaf Village with the dream of becoming the hokage, the most important ninja in the village. Naruto has spent his childhood in marginalization and, during a fight with Mizuki, a traitor ninja, he comes to find out why: inside him is sealed the Nine-Tailed Fox, one of the nine hunters, gigantic supernatural demons.
After defeating Mizuki, Naruto is promoted to the ninja academy and is integrated into group seven composed, in addition to him, by Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura Haruno and the master Kakashi Hatake.
After various adventures, Sasuke decides to leave the village to train with Orochimaru and gain the power to kill his brother Itachi in order to avenge his clan, which he apparently exterminated without a clear motive.
With the unsuccessful attempt to redeem Sasuke and his consequent escape from the country, Naruto decides to leave the Leaf Village and undertake a long training with the master Jiraiya. After about two and a half years, Naruto returns to the Leaf Village and resumes his role as a member of team 7.
The Dawn Organization, dedicated to the capture and imprisonment of all nine hunters inherent in as many supporting forces to bring ending an enigmatic purpose, he is looking for Naruto, who will have to clash with some of his members.
With the death of his brother Itachi, Sasuke discovers the truth behind the extermination of the Uchiha clan; consumed again by hatred and revenge, the traitorous young ninja joins Alba to obtain from her the strength to destroy her native village. Naruto’s adventures then proceed in an attempt to defend himself and his village from the Dawn Organization as he tries to get his friend Sasuke back on track.
These paragraphs have given you a general introduction to the plot of the Naruto manga, but how does that reflect on the anime series? The anime follows the plot introduced in the manga, with only some minor modifications such as the decrease in violence and the extension of certain contents that are only mentioned in the manga.
Like the compilation volumes of the manga, the anime series has two parts. The first, with 220 episodes, was called simply Naruto and began on October 3, 2002, and the second, with 500 episodes, called Naruto: Shippūden, began airing on February 15, 2007 and ended on March 23, 2017.
The first anime television series takes its plot from the first 27 volumes of the manga. It aired from October 3, 2002 to February 8, 2007 on TV Tokyo for a total of 220 episodes, with the production entrusted to Pierrot and general direction to Hayato Date, while the characters of Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura and Kakashi were voiced respectively by Junko Takeuchi, Noriaki Sugiyama, Chie Nakamura and Kazuhiko Inoue.
Nine opening and 15 closing themes were recorded for the series, with composer Toshio Masuda taking care of the soundtrack.
Naruto: Shippuden, the second animated series based on the manga, adapted volumes 28 and onwards, until the end of the Naruto manga; it saw the participation of the same staff of the first series, except the presence of Yasuharu Takanashi, who replaced Toshio Masuda in the composition of the soundtrack. The series premiered on February 15, 2007, with a one-hour special episode airing on TV Tokyo, and concluded on March 23, 2017.
As you might have noted, the plot of Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden forms a single narrative unit and one cannot be watched without the other. Having said that, if you actually analyze the plots of these two parts, the plot of Naruto: Shippuden is far more intriguing, it is a lot deeper and it is much more important for the overall narrative, which is why Shippuden gets this point.
Point: Nauto 1, Naruto: Shippuden 2
Both Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden were animated by Pierrot, who also animated Bleach, the other major anime of the era. Now, Naruto was consistently praised for its high-quality animation from the beginning of the show until its ending. When Naruto began, though, the technology that the animators had at their disposition was relatively rudimentary when compared to what came afterward.
The overall quality of the animation was good, but the 4:3 aspect ratio, the use of templates and some minor animation errors are something that was normal at the time, but in comparison to Shippuden, it is something that has to be considered.
Naruto‘s animation has fluctuated over the years, as we have said. Seeing how animation standards evolved over the many years of Naruto‘s on-screen time, the show’s animation evolved as well.
This allowed the animators to do much more during the broadcast of Naruto: Shippuden, which is more than visible if you compare the later episodes of the show to the first episodes of Naruto. In that aspect, Shippuden made good use of the technology that the animators had at the time and created a show with superior animation.
Ultimately, Naruto: Shippuden simply has to win this point. Why? Because it’s newer. Namely, the animation standards were quite different when Naruto began airing than when it ended. With time, the technology behind the animation became better and Naruto: Shippuden made good use of that.
Pierrot did a great job animating both parts, just as it did with Bleach, but the technology allowed them to do a better job with Shippuden, which is why the second part gets the points here.
Point: Naruto 1, Naruto: Shippuden 3
Popularity and Earnings
In this section, like in the first one, we are going to talk about the general influence and popularity of the Naruto franchise. Namely, we simply cannot divide the shows in this segment because they’re an integral unit and on one really talks about the popularity of Naruto when compared to Naruto: Shippuden as they’re basically one and the same, especially since they’re based off on the one manga.
In general, Naruto has been well received commercially in both Japan and the rest of the world. As of volume 36, more than 71 million copies have been sold in its country of origin. In 2008, nearly two million copies of volume 43 were sold, making it one of the top ten best-selling comics in Japan.
Although volumes 41, 42, and 44 are also in the top 20, each of them has sold fewer copies than the above.
Overall, the manga sold 4,261,054 copies in Japan in 2008, making it the second best-selling series as well as one of VIZ Media’s most successful, accounting for nearly 10% of total industry sales in 2006.
The seventh volume published by VIZ Media was the first manga volume to win a Quill Award, having won “Best Graphic Novel” in 2006. The manga was also on USA Today’s most-read list (with volume 11 standing out) until it was overtaken by volume 28, which ranked 17th in the first week of its release in March 2008.
Volume 28 had the best commercial debut in its first week and was also the best-selling volume in 2008. During its airing, Volume 29 ranked 57th, while Volume 28 dropped to 139th. In April 2007, Volume 14 was awarded “Manga of the Year” by Diamond Comic Distributors to VIZ Media.
As of 2008, the graphic novel series was the most searched manga in the United States, with 31 volumes published to date, while the word “Naruto” was among the top ten most searched terms on Yahoo! in 2007 and 2008.
As with the first section, the points had to be divided. Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden are one single unit in the eyes of the fans and this category couldn’t really be divided in any way, especially since it’s so closely tied to the manga. That is why we presented this category like we did and why we ultimately decided to split the points.
Point: Naruto 2, Naruto: Shippuden 4
Naruto Vs. Naruto: Shippuden: Which Anime Is Better?
Now, you might be thinking – how is it possible to compare these two shows, when they’re actually one single narrative unit? Well, the reasons why the anime producers actually divided up the manga narrative into two parts are not that relevant here, as we know that the two shows form a single narrative unit, but as the numbers suggest, Naruto: Shippuden is the better of the two.
Why? Well, the overall story of Shippuden is much better. The plots are more intriguing, they’re deeper, they carry more weight and the character development in Shippuden is much better. Also, the animation got better over time, which is more a result of the technology evolving over the years than anything else, but still, it’s worth mentioning.
These are the reasons why Naruto: Shippuden is clearly the better of the two shows, but you cannot skip Naruto because of this and you still have to watch both, as they’re a single narrative unit.