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Anime is a popular form of animation which started in the 1910s in Japan when animators began experimenting with making comic pictures move using techniques pioneered by American cartoon producers. Now it is a billion dollar industry.
For anyone who is not personally involved with the world of anime, the realm of cartooned Japanese fantasy can seem like a busy and strange place and, it is! Huge flying daggers, tiny but powerful animal friends, static facial expressions and bizarre hairstyles can be off-putting to the untrained eye but the millions of fans can’t all be wrong, can they?
One of the most popular anime series is Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto which tells the tale of a struggling teen ninja, Naruto Uzumaki and his attempts to become Hokage or the ‘best ninja’ in his village, Konohagakure. Kishimoto’s narrative, first published in 1997, was originally designed as a one-shot comic, meaning that the whole story would be told within one issue but his characters and animation were thought to be so intriguing that the comic has become a massive series on Japanese and North American TV with feature length episodes and videogames to boot. This series is a great starting point for those new to anime as it shows that the genre is not as two-dimensional as the animation suggests!
In terms of plot, we follow the personal tribulations and development of the main protagonist and his allies, Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno. Under the command of the expert sensei Kakashi Hatake, the three friends form the village-serving Team Seven. The three grow in confidence as they help their fellow-villagers and get to know one another. However, they happen upon hard times as the village is continually terrorized by political assassinations and maneuvers to fill the role of Hokage.
On that note, one of the most interesting characters in the Naruto series is Sasuke’s brother, Itachi. He features mostly as a cutting-edge protagonist, hell-bent on destroying members of his own Uchiha clan, causing an obvious split between him and his brother.
As Sasuke attempts to understand the killings, it is slowly revealed that the village leadership of Konohagakure previously made the skilled Itachi murder his own people in order to avoid a coup planned by the Uchiha leadership. Itachi accepts his mission with reluctance before going undercover, joining a criminal organization known as the Akatsuki in order to protect his village.
Itachi is a great example of the kind of depth an audience can expect from high grade anime series’. Itachi comes across as a brooding and methodical killer with vast political knowledge and a heart of steel. He is regularly polled among the best-loved characters in the entire anime scene even though he does not have his own series. This is also reflected in the fact that he is commonly the main character in the videogame editions of the Naruto series.
So, anime may not be for everybody, but for those who are eager to get started, the Naruto series must be the best place to start if for no other reason than Itachi Uchiha is one of the most well-rounded and interesting characters in anime, if not any genre of animation or TV-based entertainment. If you don’t believe me, just type his name into an image search and look at those red eyes…what haven’t they seen!?