There were a few classic animes or manga for people of my generation. The earlier part consists of stories like Slam Dunk or Flame of Recca, and then later we have Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist. Today, I will talk about Naruto and why I think it is so popular. For non-anime or manga lovers, I will try to explain it in a way you can understand.
Naruto is a ninja anime where the main character is a boy called Naruto. The story started off with Naruto as an orphan whose parents were dead and the whole village ostracised him for habouring a monster which earlier had nearly destroyed the village. That monster was put in his body by his parents.
Despite having no friends (network), talent and resources, Naurto aimed to be the Hokage (top leader) of his village. As he did so, he became stronger, contributed more, gradually got the recognition of others and finally he was not alone as he saved the world and became the Hokage with the full support of everyone else.
For those of us who watched this when we were young, we probably thought we were just excited for its battles. The shounen (teenage male) aspect of this anime meant that there were many fights, which got us all geared up with anticipation. Whether it is becoming the Hokage or the Pirate King, whether it is about saving a friend from execution in Seireitei or getting back all the body parts from the Gate, the central theme of all these characters are common – an average person who works hard with everything he can, to the point he may sometimes die from it, and risking everything he has against all odds to chase after a dream.
Of course as we now know, main characters have the protection of the script. Admittedly, when we were watching those stories, we did not think so deep about stuff like network and resources, politics and economics as well as the circumstances of life itself. Just simply endless fights and the main characters’ constant improvement born from hard work was enough to drive us to loyally wait in front of the computer every week for each chapter of the manga or for each episode of the anime to be out, for over 10 years.
For us young people at that time, these characters told a story of endless possibilities, that with persistent hard work, we will one day reach the skies. We were young and we can fall. We will get up and we will try again. We will grab hold of our goal one day for a better future and defeat all the bad guys. Just like how when we graduated from school we were excited and filled with energy, eager to put in the effort and achieve the success one day.
Yet, among all the shounen anime out there, Naruto perhaps was the more conflicting anime in the genre. What started off as a hot-blooded youth achieving success through his own hard work ended up with him achieving success mainly due to the resources given to him by his parents and ultimately his own bloodline. For example, without the support of the 9-tailed fox he will just be the average commoner no matter how hard he worked. I will not get into that much here.
But similarly as adults, we are hit hard with the reality right in the face. We are just an average tool in one of the many mass production processes. We will never make it as high as we hope to be simply because we do not have enough resources. We failed again and again on unfair grounds such as the stock market. We learnt about double standards. We learnt that meritocracy was but a scam they told the masses. We learnt that inflation is meant to reap off the commoners. We learnt the system was set up to ensure our slavery and that we will never achieve freedom if we do what they said. Over time, we lost our motivation. Some decided to cruise through. Some gave up trying for their dreams and resigned to fate as an average person who will never achieve anything great.
Gradually people stopped believing in themselves. They recognised that they will never be in the champion team which wins the basketball match. They will never be the hero to beat down the bad guys and uphold justice. Rather than saving someone they love, they could not even save themselves.
This is not to say that we should not recognise our ability and continue to daydream about things we can never achieve. It is important to recognise the limits of our ability and to take the course most suited for us. However it is also just as important to set aside some time everyday to continually improve ourselves and to raise our limits a little at a time, so that one day when the opportunity comes, we are able to grab hold of it and advance another step towards the dream we once had.
Years later as you lie down on the bed, will you regret not doing what you can to grab hold of that youthful dream you might have had? Nobody is saying you got to do your best and sacrifice everything for it, but realistically and consistently, putting in the time and efforts will lead you to somewhere unexpected.
Afterall, despite his resources, Naruto will never get to where he is without hard work.
Slam Dunk’s movie was disappointing. But prior to knowing that, people watch it not because it is a movie on the level of Hollywood, but because it allows people to re-live their youth once more and perhaps to remember that energy and hope they once had. The selling point of Slam Dunk was not the story, but the reliving of memories of thousands of viewers. It disappointed in the end, but that is another piece of article which I will not go into.
Man cannot have youth and the feelings towards youth at the same time. Many of us do not have the wisdom and the experience during our youth, but now that we have it, let us not forget the hope, the passion and the dreams we once had, at a time when we were not afraid to fall and get up repeatedly, because each time we get up we believe the next one will lead us to our goal. Life is not a fairytale. There is no such thing as guaranteed success if you work hard. In fact, the harder you work, the more you fail and the harder you fall. But to not do anything and lie flat all the way, at least for me will mean maximum regret on my deathbed. We work, while keeping eye on our goal, hoping one day to reach a place where we truly belong.