The Philosophy of Naruto. (1)
Since I was a child I often remember myself rushing home from school to catch the latest episode of Naruto whilst having my lunch, which often was instant noodles in a desperate attempt to resonate with Naruto’s ramen addiction so I really cannot say that Naruto has not had its impact on me. Recently, I held a playful discussion between me and my girlfriend, and to my horror, she had deemed Naruto as a children’s show and just a cartoon. This enraged my morals and I could feel my soul bend, so I had decided to begin my defense and contemplate on the philosophy engrained in it to show that it is more than just a kid’s show.
Strains of philosophical topics such as Nihilism, Absurdism, and Stoicism are some of the most prominent themes in the show, albeit displayed so in a childish manner at times. There may be spoilers in this article so I would suggest for those who have not binged through it urgently do so.
The most generously applied theme to the series was the idea of Overcoming. Almost every single story from the jump centralized itself around the overcoming of hardships and breaking through them. This theme can most efficiently be summarised by Nietzsche’s 3 Metamorphoses in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
The 3 Metamorphoses depict the spiritual transformation of the soul. Nietzsche firstly depicts the first stage of our soul in the form of the Camel; the animal which endures the great burdens of expectation by society, for example, the need to be college-educated or the need to have a partner if not it seems like something is wrong with the person. Eventually, the Camel who can usually withstand societal burdens now has his soul tainted with vindication and resentment towards society, upon this epiphany he can either continue trudging through this lone desert with a gradually increasing burden further weighing on him or he can transform himself into the Lion. The Lion is the second stage of the metamorphoses, one finally realizes that one can create his values and that nobody is holding the soul back provided if one ignores these societal expectations, the Lion is the Camel who has partially transcended conformation and says, “I will.” in resistance to the dragon. The dragon is a symbol of Society and on his scales read the commandments of society in the form of, “Thou shalt”, and for every “Thou Shalt” by the Dragon, the Lion roars “I Will” back, resisting society’s desire to drag one into its the expectations imposed with such superficiality. Lastly, the Lion transforms into the Child. This occurs when the spoken “I Will” completely resists the values of society and is founded on the created values by the individual. The child represents a new beginning to life, basing decisions on the individual rather than what society deems as good or bad with complete abandonment of the conventional morals.
How the hell does this have anything to do with Naruto? Well, at the beginning of the series when we are introduced to Naruto he is in the form of the Camel. Ostracised by society for having the Nine-tail demon spirit, all he could do was attempt to overcome and bear society’s burden on him. He watched as friends and peers could return home to a family and felt alone so much that he looked at other outlets to provide him the attention he solely desired. This stage of his is well evident in pre-Shippuden Naruto, much of his values and virtues are cultivated in this part of the seasons but he has yet to resist society’s reach on him.
In the Sasuke Recovery Mission Arc, Naruto had decided to abandon much of the rigid moral system that society had placed onto him and decided to single-handedly chase down Sasuke. He is confused by the path that Sasuke takes, and questions his intentions of defecting from their home village. What this signifies is Sasuke’s transformation from the Camel into the Lion, Sasuke begins to refuse the traditional method of growth and decides to take his own path. We know he is a Lion as he hesitates at the moment to kill Naruto, symbolizing his remaining connection to society’s expectations in the form of belief that camaraderie is still expected; a trait he later abandons well displayed in his numerous attempts to kill everyone around him. Naruto is confused by Sasuke’s intention as the Camel is unable to understand the spiritual transformation undertaken by the Lion and thus he dedicates much of his next few years trying to empathize and understand Sasuke’s defection alongside maturation. This arc begins Naruto’s metamorphoses from a Camel into the Lion amidst the confusion.
In Naruto Shippuden, we see that Naruto returns under the tutelage of Jiraiya. Having grown both physically and spiritually, and with the stronger support of his friends who have unknowingly begun to respect him more for his unique outlook on life. This return and growth symbolize Naruto’s firm footing as the Lion. His values revolve around his brand of respect and I believe he began questioning the scales of Good and Evil. He begins to understand that some values and virtues transcend Good and Evil. An example of this would be, that to his village the enemy was Pain but to Pain, Naruto, and everything society represented were the enemy based on his opposing scale of Good and Evil. With this being said, who was supposed to be deemed as right? Both willed the execution of violence and both defended their supposed truths.
Naruto’s moment of “I will” to “Thou Shalt” comes as he approaches Nagato and decides to forgive him despite the anger that was built up by the killing of his master, the leveling of his village, and the murder of his friends. Upon this moment of overcoming the expected values, Naruto solidified himself as the Lion ready to transform into the Child.
With this transition to the Child. Naruto begins to envision the world through his wishful values and believes that if cultivated fairly will bring peace, this metamorphoses incorporates another Nietzschean theory known as the Will to Power (Will be touched on in later articles). Once Naruto had created his values and resisted society’s expectation of him, his firm belief in them begin to allow him to envision how his Will to power and his values could create a better world, wanting all to see his values as what should be deemed as Good and Evil.
Naruto’s philosophy of overcoming was very admirable. However, it is the complexity of the “villains” that have added amazing levels of depth to the show and is one of the reasons why I have so much love for the show. Towards the end of Shippuden, Madara reveals his infinite Tsukuyomi. Its purpose was to reflect the Sharingan’s effects of a dream unto the world, in which everyone would be unconscious and would be living their best life as they want it in their dreams — ending conflicts as we know it. This idea of Madara Uchiha was the fruition of the 3 metamorphoses that he had undergone and was the idiosyncratic method that he had chosen to assert his Will to power and spiritual transformation.
Throughout this arc, we see the sheer magnitude of power within the resolve held by the 2 who had transformed and willed themselves to their highest spiritual potential. One was depicted as Good while the other as Evil, yet both proposed them with good intentions for the world. I believe it is up to the viewer’s interpretation to judge which proposal was better for the world.
I present the 2 proposals clearly and I hope you can see them without attachment of prior experience to the anime. Firstly, is that the world falls into a deep dream but within this dream, everyone lives their lives in the manner they choose creating eternal happiness, however, it is only superficial as it is a deception creating in their minds. The second option would continue the current world as it is, with modern morals to avoid conflict of the past. This also means that more wars and sadness will continue but at least done so in a manner that is veritable and non-superficial.
Those who have watched Naruto would know that the former was Madara’s goal while the latter was Narutos. In many discussions that I have opened, without information that this is the plot of Naruto to avoid bias, many have chosen the former. So I implore you to question and to appropriately align along with your strong values which proposal would have been better.
I would like to emphasize that my views do not represent any cooperation or entity. These are no means of an attack on anyone’s right of speech, views, or religion but rather to explore and share my train of thought. I ask not for everything to be taken in strict correctness but rather for you to read or look for other sources to formulate an individual opinion so as to appropriately discuss and learn.