Naruto anime vs. manga, which one should you start with?

The Naruto manga vs. anime debate is strong for both sides, but which one is better for new fans?

Whether it’s movies or television shows, adapting a novel or comic book can be difficult. Some moments just don’t hit as hard in one medium or the other, and sometimes pacing can feel off after the jump. On top of that, more than a few series end up wildly diverging from the original source material.

But how do the Naruto manga and anime fit together? Here are the key differences between the two and which one is worth getting into for fans of the series.

Naruto manga vs. anime: What’s the difference?

The only difference between the Naruto anime and Naruto manga is the overwhelming amount of filler in the anime.

The anime faithfully follows every story beat of the manga and takes very few liberties with major plot elements. The key difference is that it takes much longer to actually get to these story beats.

There are multiple full seasons of filler in the Naruto anime. On occasion, this adds to the overall story. For example, there is one pivotal moment in the first Naruto series where a character makes a significant decision based on some brutal defeats they suffered. The anime has a filler arc that reinforces this further by adding another blemish to their record.

The trouble is that a significant portion of the filler doesn’t relate back to the story at all and can be skipped missing any character development or story progression. Looking strictly at Naruto Shippuden, fans categorize almost 200 of its 500 episodes as filler.

Another important distinction is the Naruto manga’s artwork versus the Pierrot anime animation. Masashi Kishimoto’s artwork still holds up, though the end of the series has notably less diverse character designs.

The animated version is somewhat the opposite, with less detailed animation for the first seasons that quickly ramps up in quality. Some of the early fights, especially Gaara and Rock Lee, still look great.

Is the Naruto anime better than the manga?

The Naruto manga is generally better than the anime. This is due to its greater focus on important story elements and its more manageable length.

There are actually more episodes of Naruto anime than there are chapters of the manga, but the story as a whole isn’t really significantly expanded. This isn’t to say that there aren’t redeeming facets to the filler.

Naruto has an extremely large cast of characters and many of them exit with little fanfare. Many of them get a greater spotlight in the anime. If a character from the manga resonates but doesn’t get much attention, there’s a decent chance there’s a filler episode or two about them.


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