Despite ending more than ten years ago, Naruto is still popular and the sequel Boruto is going strong with the recent reveal of a brand new villain. Recent chapters have also revealed major revelations about an old fan-favorite character and even confirmed the existence of vampires.
These new arcs are exciting but there are classics in Naruto and Naruto Shippuden that fans keep returning to. Out of the 48 total arcs there are a ton of fillers, but chiefly it’s only the manga-canon arcs that fans pick as their favorites. The anime arcs all showcase great animation and style along with the manga’s great writing, making the best ten tough to determine.
10 The Land of Waves
All stories have to start somewhere, and for Naruto, that was the Land of Waves arc. The arc is simple and short, only taking up nineteen episodes of the original anime run. However, it’s those episodes that establish everything exciting to come in Naruto. The protagonists form Team Seven and complete their first mission.
The tension between the main trio, wrangled by their teacher Kakashi, is already rampant and there is an exciting duel with the mysterious Haku and the fierce Zabuza. The tailed beast forms and Sharingan are glimpsed here, but not fully explained which hints at what’s to come. All in all, the arc is low stakes compared to others, but a great start for the series.
9 The Five Kage Summit
In direct contrast to the Land of Waves’ simplicity, The Five Kage Summit arc is dripping in complexity. The leaders of many great ninja nations come together to discuss what to do with the Akatsuki. This results in an arc full of political turmoil. It does a great job of expanding the world; bringing in characters previously only mentioned.
The arc also has emotional stakes as well. Naruto’s promise to return Sasuke is put to the test while Sasuke attacks Killer B and becomes an internationally wanted terrorist. It creates a lot of doubt in Naruto and Sasuke’s relationship.
8 Sasuke Recovery
Also known as the Sasuke Retrieval arc, this arc marked a turning point for Naruto, both the character and series. The story had its dark moments, but that darkness would amplify here. Sasuke had left the village of Konoha, and Naruto forms a group to get him back. This arc marks the debut of Naruto’s promise that would carry until the end of the series.
Part of the appeal of the arc was that a lot of characters got to shine. Characters like Choji and Temari got to flex their skills and save lives against Orochimaru’s lieutenants. The arc ends with a climactic battle between Naruto and Sasuke which would change everything going forward.
7 Akatsuki Suppression
The Akatsuki Suppression Mission is a more understated arc in Naruto Shippuden. It comes between an underwhelming arc and a plot-critical arc and concerns itself mainly with a battle with Hidan and Kakuzu, who aren’t among the organization’s most notable members. However, the arc comes with a lot of emotional weight as well.
The teacher of Team 10, Asuma, dies during the initial conflict. This isn’t a shock, but it does allow for flashbacks about the history of Team 10 and the Akatsuki. Following this, Shikamaru conducts a plan to pursue the fleeing Hidan and Team 10 then takes him out, protecting peace in Konoha for the time being.
6 The Fourth Shinobi World War
The Fourth Shinobi World War is actually several arcs in one. Some would even consider the ending arcs, like the reveal of Kaguya, to be part of this arc. This is because the Shinobi World War is the defining climax of the story that everything had been leading up to. The biggest appeal of the arc for fans is at the beginning and end.
The start of the arc sees the trio finally reunite after spending so much time apart and how much they’ve all changed but in different ways. The ending of the arc becomes a massive gambit pileup for Madara Uchiha, often considered one of anime’s best villains.
5 The Tale Of Jiraiya The Gallant
Jiraiya, Naruto’s mentor, is a polarizing character. His status as a perverted comic relief character made him controversial for some viewers but The Tale of Jiraiya the Gallant arc is what rescued him in the hearts of many a viewer. It all begins with Jiraiya’s last stand against the dreaded Akatsuki.
This segues into a flashback expanding on his backstory. It shows him raising the orphans that would go on to oppose him in the future and both his kindness and his lack of forethought. The arc ultimately ends in his death, but it cements Jiraiya as one of Naruto‘s most memorable characters.
4 Kakashi Gaiden
Kakashi Gaiden is meant as a bridge between the original Naruto and the Shippuden time skip in the original manga. In the anime, it actually appears a few arcs into Shippuden. It’s still quite important though, as it answers one of the biggest lingering questions of the early show: what did Kakashi mean when he said everyone important to him was dead?
The arc begins with the death of Obito and Kakashi’s acquisition of the Sharingan however, Obito himself is saved by Madara and conditioned into villainy by him. Horribly, Kakashi is forced to murder their mutual friend Rin making this a harrowing arc that sees the corruption of children by a literal ancient evil.
3 The Fated Battle Between Brothers
The fated battle between brothers is another arc that had been building since the beginnings of Naruto. Sasuke had been gunning to kill his corrupted evil brother since viewers first met him and the battle they shared in the midst of Shippuden was one of the most epic in the series. However, its ending and revelations make many a fan cry.
When killing his brother, Sasuke should’ve been happy but was horrified due to a major reveal. Itachi did not kill all the Uchiha for no reason, but because he was approached by the government with a deal where he could kill the clan and save himself and Sasuke, or they would kill them all. This corrupt government reveal puts Sasuke on a different path and recontextualized Itachi completely.
2 The Chunin Exams
The second major arc in Naruto is where things really got going. It took the large cast introduced in the first arc, added more, and expanded on most of them in solo fights. These exams were basically a tournament arc like one would see in other shonen at the time making these Chunin Exam fights some of Naruto’s best.
The fights in the arc can range from silly to serious. One of Naruto’s fights claims victory with a fart. In contrast, Rock Lee’s fight with Gaara is one of the series’ most iconic, as he drops his weights in a dazzling scene. The arc establishes Naruto as a story about many characters, not just the main cast.
1 Pain Invasion / Two Saviors
The Akatsuki leader, Pain, has appeared, and he’s after Naruto. He already killed Jiraiya in a previous arc, and after the Fated Battle Between Brothers arc, anything could happen. That proved true, as Hinata finally declares her love for the protagonist after holding it in for years. This was something fans were unsure would ever happen.
Energized by the revelation, Naruto would confront Pain in a stellar fight. Not only are the mechanics of the fight interesting, but Naruto actually manages to get through to the misanthrope. He emphasizes with him and talks him down without forgiving his actions. It’s a stellar win for the character that sees him championed as a hero by the people of Konoha; a moment of triumph for the former outcast.
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