A true cultural phenomenon since its creation in 1999, Naruto is still today at the heart of discussions among fans of the saga. And while it’s easy to follow the evolution of the orange ninja through the 72 volumes of Masashi Kishimoto’s manga, the anime version is less simple to follow than it seems.
Between the 11 films based on the license, the ten or so OVAs (special episodes) and the 720 or so episodes of the TV series divided between Naruto and its sequel Naruto Shippuden, one can quickly get lost. Because if the series faithfully follows the original manga, movies and OVAs are regularly interposed throughout the story. So much so that if you don’t pay attention, many spoilers can slip into one of them and spoil the fans who would like to discover the complete series. So here is the chronology to follow and without spoilers.
First thing to keep in mind for newcomers, the Naruto series precedes Naruto Shippuden (which takes place later in the young ninja’s life). Naruto features an overall arc of 220 episodes, while Shippuden has 500 (!).
Episodes 1-5 can be watched in one sitting and provide an introduction to the main protagonists. But after the end of the 5th episode, you’ll have to take an initial break to turn to the 1st OVA titled “Finding the Four-Leafed Crimson Clover”.
You can then chain episodes 6 through 19. Stop! Here launch the OVA Naruto The Cross Roads (2009). Although this is the 6th OVA from the series, it is actually discovered of a special episode that celebrates the 10 years of the anime series. It is then interposed between episode 19 and 20 to be well understood.
The Naruto series can then return to its course and you can then watch episodes 20 to 101. After this marathon, the OVA Mortal combat at the hidden village of Taki! is a must. Naruto will have to escort the leader of a secret village in the Land of the Waterfall. We can then launch the first feature film Naruto and the Snow Princess (2004), which is set in the same chronological period as the Taki Village OVA.
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Episodes 102 through 160 can be followed. But before you start episode 161, don’t miss The Legend of the Stone of Guelel (2005). A second film of about 1 1/2 hours that can be enjoyed right after The Battle of Okay’s Temple (the title of episode 160).
The main story will then resume from episode 161 until 196. It will then be time to watch a new movie called Special Mission to the Land of the Moon (2006).
Good news, you are then entering the home stretch to embark on the ultimate Naruto arc between episodes 197 and 220. You will then have finished the first series. It will be time to move on to Shippuden.
Much longer and more complex, Shippuden consists of 500 episodes, eight movies and six OVAs. Again, watch out for the timeline, since we’re starting from scratch.
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So start by familiarizing yourself with Naruto becoming more mature and revealing his potential between the 1st and 32nd episodes. This is where Naruto Shippuden The Movie – A Dark Omen (2007) enters the timeline.
Episodes 32 through 71 can be seen before launching the movie titled The Links (2010).
From the 72nd to the 126th episode, we go on to mark another break in the story with The Flame of Will. A movie released in 2009 and which marked, by the way, the 10 years of the birth of the manga.
The series resumes its story between episodes 127 and 143. Released in 2011, the film The Lost Tower (The Lost Tower – curiously untranslated) can then be viewed.
We continue from 144 to 196, before discovering yet another film (it doesn’t stop): Naruto: Blood Prison released in 2011.
From the 197th to the 219th episode, we slowly approach the halfway point of the series. But it is the OVA “The fiery Chūnin Selection Exam! Naruto vs Konohamaru!” (phew!) that you will have to watch. A special episode present in the bonus of Blood Prison by the way for those who would have the DVD edition.
We come to the climax between episodes 220 to 251, which can be watched before leading into the Naruto Shippuden: Road to Ninja movie. It should be noted that this passage is quite complex because while it is advisable to see this film in the interval 251-252, episode 271 is considered an introduction to this footage, while 311 is an outright prologue. Therefore, they should be discovered either together or after the fact.
For those who are still following along, it is in the second half of the Shippuden episodes that you have to hang on to follow everything. Thus, it is recommended to see episodes 252 to 483.
But beware, keep aside the four episodes between 484 and 488, as they can be seen just before a special OVA: The Day Naruto Became Hokage, which we highly recommend watching before diving into the new Boruto series, which features Naruto’s son. This little arc making the connection easier.
Also, you can embark on a final run that includes episodes 489-493, breaking them up with the ultimate Naruto The Last movie (2014) before picking up the last seven episodes of the series. And only then will you become a true ninja!