The Naruto television show, Shippuden is the second half of a Saga that remains popular on a global scale while drawing new fans. The mystical nature of Naruto’s world is the perfect backdrop to real-world concepts like loyalty, sacrifice, loss and growth.
You get to walk with our heroes as time forces them to evolve and gain new insights into their pasts, their identities and the world into which they were born. The Naruto television show also unveils many of the hidden forces behind the events that happened in Naruto, the first half of the saga. Our heroes get to learn a lot of this information right along with us. This new-found knowledge forces our protagonists to make tough, sometimes painful decisions that ultimately mold them into wiser, more mature people.
Before we dive into the plot of Naruto Shippuden, let’s set the scene by going over the major players and the formative events of Naruto’s universe.
Naruto television show characters: Heroes, antiheroes, villains and their world
The storytelling of the Naruto manga does not lend itself to a linear storyline. Many of the powerful but invisible forces that drive the saga are revealed in flashbacks. This article takes a different approach, though. We start at the very beginning.
The protagonists of the Naruto television show are born into situations that are not of their choosing or their making, just like the rest of humanity. Throughout the course of their lives, subtle forces place these characters in trying and often impossible situations. Their circumstances force them to make hard choices. Depending on the character and their spiritual state, the decisions that the individual makes may turn out to be noble, misguided, evil or tragically human.
By starting at the beginning and going from there, you get to catch a glimpse of the unseen hands that direct the paths of different characters. You get to see how each individual deals with the hand they were dealt.
Naruto’s world: An overview
Naruto’s saga starts centuries before his birth, on an unnamed continent on an earth-like planet called Earth. The continent where Naruto lives is home to five powerful Shinobi or Ninja countries. These countries are loosely based on different chakra elements, specifically:
- The Land of Earth
- The Land of Water
- The Land of Wind
- The Land of Lightning
- The Land of Fire
Each of the five great nations gets its name from the type of chakra that is dominant in that land. In each of the countries, there are people that can harness their individual chakra to perform amazing, often mystical feats. The most notable of these are the Shinobi, or the Ninja class, whose job it is to master chakra, harness it, manipulate it and use it in service to their respective countries.
This brings us to the Shinobi, a major source of power for the five great nations. Now, the five great Shinobi nations are powerful because they are the main economic players in their world.
They are also powerful because they have the military might to protect their interests. An integral part of this muscle is the Ninja or Shinobi. The Ninja class of each great Shinobi nation lives in its own hidden village.
In Naruto’s world, there are five Shinobi villages that are more powerful than all the rest. These five are the only villages to have a Kage or village ruler. It just so happens that each of the five great Shinobi nations is home to one of these villages. Every hidden Shinobi village is named after its country in some fashion:
- The hidden stone village or Iwagakure is the hidden village in the land of earth. The Kage of the village is referred to as the Tsuchikage. The ‘Tsuchi’ prefix denotes ‘Earth’
- The Land of Water has ‘Kirigakure no Sato’ or ‘hidden mist village’. Its Kage is referred to as Mizukage, where ‘Mizu’ denotes water
- The Land of Wind has Sunagakure no Sato, or ‘hidden sand village’. The village leader is known as the Kazekage
- The Land of Lightning has Kumogakure or ‘hidden cloud village’. Its Kage is referred to as Raikage
- The Land of Fire has the hidden leaf village or the Konohagakure. Anything pertaining to the village is described as Konoha. The Kage is referred to as the Hokage
And so our story begins, right at the origin story of the most powerful Shinobi village of them all. The origin story of the hidden leaf village explains a lot of things that occur on the Naruto television show, including the origin of the Shinobi and the ability of humans to harness their chakra. The story unfolds over the span of centuries. It starts like this:
1. The god tree: The life source of Naruto’s planet?
The planet of Naruto’s Saga is rare because it supports life. At first glance, the planet manages to support life because it is ‘cultivated’ by a god tree. Cultivated for what, you ask? Most cultivated things end up serving the purposes of their cultivator. Wheat, corn and intelligence assets are cultivated.
The god tree on Naruto’s earth starts its life as a seed from a space meteor. As humans fight countless wars, blood soaks the earth and nourishes the seed, which grows into a giant god tree. It becomes an object of worship for the people of earth. The tree feeds on more than just blood, however. It also absorbs the natural energy of its host planet, and the life force of every life form on that planet. In eons or even millennia, the tree drains this energy, effectively draining life out of the planet.
Once every thousand years, the god tree bears chakra fruit. Humans don’t go near it because they believe that approaching the god tree or touching its fruit has deadly consequences. But fruit is no fun when left alone.
2. The Otsutsuki clan
This is a clan of horned celestial beings that are partial to chakra fruit. So much so that they spend their time and resources searching for planets with signs of life. Their thinking is that living planets are likely to have a god tree that feeds off the natural energy or ‘life force’ of the planet.
This is why they send their matriarch, along with a delegation, on assignment to Naruto’s earth, in search of a god tree.
3. Kaguya Otsutsuki: The Mother of the Shinobi
If the Shinobi had an ‘Eve’, Kaguya would be it. Her clan sends her to earth to find the god tree, which she does. She also finds humans who are constantly and dutifully feeding the god tree with war.
As she spends time on earth Kaguya forms an attachment to the planet and its people. Her empathy for humanity moves her to stop humans from fighting each other. She manages this great feat by eating the chakra fruit and using its power to place a portion of humanity in a dreamlike state. In this dream state, humans live out an illusionary version of their lives.
This construct has similarities with the simulated world of the matrix movies. Also like the matrix movies, the now enslaved humans become an energy source, as Kaguya slowly drains their souls into the god tree.
At first, humanity views Kaguya as a benevolent goddess on account of the planetary peace she enforces. Humanity slowly catches on as they realize the cost of Kaguya’s version of peace. By then Kaguya has borne twin boys with a human king and the chakra fruit slowly turns her kindness into something else entirely.
4. Chakra and the Otsutsuki clan
Kaguya’s mission to earth was to find the god tree, secure its fruit and harvest the chakra inside the fruit for her clan. However, Kaguya makes a life among humans, which sidetracks her. Though Kaguya eats the chakra fruit in a bid to help humanity, everyone pays for her decision in the end. The problem is that eating the fruit directly is taboo, even among the Otsutsuki. Here is why.
Chakra fruit nourishes the Otsutsuki with chakra, or life force. It is chakra that powers of supernatural abilities of the Otsutsuki. A continuous supply of chakra also keeps the Otsutsuki young and immortal.
These celestial beings need a supply of chakra to replenish their ever-draining reserves. So when Kaguya keeps the chakra fruit for herself instead of harvesting it for her clan, she betrays them.
5. A benevolent being turns bad
The continued intake of extracted chakra already makes Otsutsuki cruel and power-hungry. Eating the fruit directly has far worse effects.
Kaguya knows the rest of her clan will eventually come to earth to claim the god tree and its fruit. She prepares for this eventuality, for two reasons. One, she wants to help humanity in her own warped way. Two, eating the fruit has created an all-consuming thirst for power in Kaguya. She wants the chakra fruit and all the chakra on earth for herself.
So she drains as many humans as it takes to keep the god tree thriving and fruitful. Seeing her true face, humanity starts to view her as a demon.
True to her ‘demon’ form, Kaguya starts to eye the chakra that she passed onto her sons.
6. Kaguya’s sons: Hagoromo and Hamura Otsutsuki
As she looks at her grown sons, Kaguya thinks that it’s only right that her children return the chakra she passed on to them. She merges with the god tree and morphs into a demon known as ten tails. In her previous state, Kaguya ruled the earth with a cruel hand covered with a velvet glove. As ten tails, she is a downright terror.
So, the brothers do an epic takedown of their mother to save themselves and humanity. Using their inherited superhuman abilities, Hamura and Hagoromo seal ten-tails’ body in a rock, which they send into space to become a moon. Right after they extract her chakra and seal it inside Hagoromo.
Hamura goes to the moon to guard ten tail’s husk. He takes the remaining Otsutsuki delegation with him, leaving Hagoromo to contain ten tail’s spirit on earth.
7. Hagoromo Otsutsuki, the father of the Shinobi
Kaguya Otsutsuki was the first being to use chakra on earth. Her sons were the first earthlings to do so. So Hagoromo spends his life teaching humans how to focus and use their chakra in the pursuit of peace through love.
Hagoromo has two sons. Indira, the firstborn is talented and loving. Slowly, he turns evil, with lots of help from Black Zetsu, a malevolent entity. His love and humility turn into a cold and distant pride. He also has his own ideas on the use of chakra. Indira perfects ways of harnessing chakra to perform the kinds of superhuman feats that are common with the Shinobi, so his philosophy becomes peace through war.
The second son of Hagoromo is Asura Otsutsuki. He stays true to his father’s vision of peace through love. So guess who gets to carry on their father’s legacy?
8. The Uchiha and Senju clans of the Naruto television show
At first, Indra makes peace with being passed over by his dad. Then Black Zetsu gets in his ear and he decides to take power for himself. This results in a clash between Indra on one side and Hagoromo and Asura on the other. Outnumbered and outmatched, Indra loses and leaves his family.
His descendants inherit his innate power as well as his thirst for domination. It turns out that Black Zetsu is a creation of Kaguya. One that she created as her sons neutralized her. The mission of Black Zetsu is to reassemble Kaguya, so it must keep her spirit alive however it can. Kaguya and Indra’s nature is evident in many Shinobi, especially the Uchiha, Indra’s descendants.
The descendants of Asura are the Senju clan, and they too inherit different manifestations of their ancestor’s power.
The Senju and Uchiha clans produce powerful Ninjas who earn their living as mercenaries. When the Uchiha get a contract to fight for one side, the Senju gets a contract to fight for the other. In this way, the two clans continue the war of their ancestors.
But war is exhausting and two children from two opposing clans dream of a day when endless fighting is a bad memory. They grow up to be great warriors and the pride of their respective clans, but they never quite let go of their dream of peace.
So they unite to form the Hidden Leaf Village in the land of fire. The family is back together again, but can they overcome their history?
Nine tails: The story of Naruto Shippuden
As far as we can tell, no one gets to choose their lineage. This includes Naruto Uzumaki and his sometimes friend Sasuke Uchiha. Our story starts as Naruto Uzumaki sits at life’s poker table as an infant. This is the hand he is dealt.
The nine-tailed beast attacks the hidden leaf, causing untold suffering and death. To contain the beast, the village head (or Hokage) seals the beast inside his son, sacrificing his life in the process. His orphaned son becomes nine tails’ jinchūruki or host, which is a thing that happens ever since Hagoromo sealed ten tails within himself.
Jinchūruki are shunned and ridiculed by everyone, which makes for a lonely existence. For this reason, Naruto spends his life trying to earn approval and acceptance. He dreams of becoming a Kage, the ultimate sign of approval.
2. The consequences
The Uchiha and Senju are unified into a powerful Shinobi village, but the lack of war is not the same thing as peace. The Uchiha had a reputation, real or perceived, of being power-hungry subversives. After nine tails’ attack, the other Konoha clans began to suspect them. The Uchiha notice the cloud of suspicion cast over them and they resented it. By the Uchiha clan’s numbers, this was the latest addition to a sky full of clouds so they planned a coup.
Was it because the Uchiha are naturally subversive or were they driven to this course of action?
3. Hard choices, false choices
A few pacifists in the Uchiha clan inform the Konoha leadership of the brewing plot. While the Kage wants to resolve the problem by giving the Uchiha more seats at the table, Danzo Shimura, the Konoha spy chief, has other plans.
Without the consent or knowledge of the Konoha leadership, Danzo approaches a double agent from Uchiha and gives him two choices. Wipe out his entire clan and save his brother, or let the coup happen and see his brother die along with the rest of the Uchiha. Is this another case of an Uchiha clan member backed into a corner?
4. The cost of peace
Sasuke Uchiha sat at life’s poker table as a young child and watched as life dealt his cards. One day, he came home, only to witness his brother murder his parents. Somehow, Sasuke escapes the fate of his clansmen. His brother manages to get away and join a criminal organization of Ninja assassins.
Orphaned, angry and completely alone, Sasuke vows to avenge his clan by killing his brother. He continues his training as a Shinobi, motivated by his duty to his exterminated clan. He finds a friend in Naruto Uzumaki and for a while, they walk the same path.
Naruto television show: A long journey gets longer
Naruto Uzumaki has a good heart and a desire to please everyone. Most importantly, he wants the best for Konoha and all Shinobi for that matter. He aspires to the most elusive of goals: Peace through love.
As a child, Naruto was not the most accomplished student. That designation belonged to Sasuke Uchiha, whose natural ability and the need for revenge propel him to greatness.
Still, Naruto has one thing going for him. He is no quitter. Not when he fails, not when he loses the friendship of Sasuke and not when he is forced to make impossible choices.
The Naruto we see in ‘Naruto Shippuden’ is older, a little wiser and far more skilled than the young hothead from the ‘Naruto” anime. He returns to Konohagakure after two years of intense training. His failure to deter Sasuke from the path of revenge is a burden he still carries, and he has no intention of giving up on his friend.
Naruto Shippuden: Beating long odds
There are always unseen hands that make the world-changing moves in the Shinobi world. More often than not these forces use some of the main characters of Naruto Shippuden as pawns.
A prominent example of this pattern is the actions of Sasuke Uchiha and those of his brother Itachi. As Sasuke pursues his brother, he starts to lose his sense of right and wrong. He seeks mentorship from people who use him to advance their own agendas. In time, he fights and kills his brother only to find out what his brother did to save his life. When he finds out the circumstances behind the elimination of Uchiha, Sasuke’s heart breaks some more. So like many Uchiha before him, Sasuke turns on Konohagakure.
This sets him on a collision course with Naruto, who only wants his friend back. While Naruto goes through many trials and battles on behalf of his village, Sasuke moves against Konohagakure every chance he gets. Going up against Sasuke and his mentors is good training for Naruto. He learns to counter the moves of forces that are not always visible. He starts to win, with the help of unseen hands that seem to be on his side.
Naruto television show: Old battles fought anew
As you get deeper into the anime you start to see old conflicts play out, centuries after they start. Naruto and Sasuke become major players in this conflict. Though they cannot fully understand why they are drawn into a conflict they don’t fully understand, the two men face each other in a series of battles that ultimately reveal their true selves.
It is with a new sense of understanding that the different characters of Naruto face down (or aid) a menace that threatens the very existence of their world. Many of them find honor in the face of annihilation. Many others lean into their darkest tendencies.
Exploring different themes in the Naruto television show
The anime puts almost every character through loss, frustration and heartbreak. It then explores how different individuals react to awful circumstances. As a result, many philosophical questions come to light:
- Is peace achieved through force or love? Does it take a little bit of both?
- Is peace a realistic goal or is it just the stuff of beauty pageants?
- Does our history define our destiny, or do we have the freedom to choose our own paths?
- What is the true worth of sacrifice when it is misguided?
- Can one person really carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and pull it off, or is it too much to ask?
- Which is worse, our inner demons or external monsters? This question applies on an individual and societal level.
Naruto television show: An anime that defies time
The Naruto anime began its life in 2007 and its second chapter (Naruto Shippuden) concluded in 2017. Yet the saga has not dated or lost any of its relevance. Here’s why.
The Shinobi world of Naruto Shippuden is bound by the overarching principles of purpose, duty, sacrifice and honor. Despite and because of these constraints, different characters live as fully as they can. That’s the magic of Naruto Shippuden. You get to see heroes from a mystical world fight world-ending monsters while living surprisingly human lives.