10 shonen anime tropes made popular by Naruto

Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 cover (Image via Namco Bandai)
Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 cover (Image via Namco Bandai)

Naruto has many shonen anime tropes, and therefore, many of them have become popularized and replicated. Some are timeless, like the underdog and the determination factor. Others, like fillers and talking an enemy down, are almost unique to the series.

This article will dive into 10 shonen anime tropes made popular by Naruto.

Note: This article will contain spoilers for Naruto and other popular anime. It is strictly the author's opinion.


These shonen anime tropes were made popular by Naruto

1) The underdog

This trope is usually applied to the titular Naruto Uzumaki and others like Rock Lee. The series has characters that are either pushed or looked down upon against people and beings who lord their status and power over everyone else.

It's become a staple of shonen anime ever since, with characters like Deku from My Hero Academia and Asta from Black Clover being prime examples of this trope. It's still fun to watch these underdogs go from outcasts to realizing their dream, like Naruto going from outcast to Hokage.


2) The inner demon

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The Tailed Beasts are sealed up inside people to control their power and keep people safe from them. Sometimes this is exploited to be used as war weapons, but otherwise, the various ninja villages leave the hosts of Tailed Beasts well enough alone, as seen in Gaara's case.

The inner demon trope usually has a Jekyll/Hyde origin to it. This particular variant concerns literal demons being inside people. Several examples show Naruto's influence on the trope, like Hollow Ichigo/Zangetsu in Bleach, Liebe from Black Clover, and Sukuna in Jujutsu Kaisen.


3) Talking down the opponent/enemy

Naruto helping Gaara, one of many people he helped (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Naruto helping Gaara, one of many people he helped (Image via Studio Pierrot)

This, admittedly, may be a Naruto staple that might be more annoying to anime fans than anything else. But the power of reasoning and kindness genuinely reaching an enemy is an excellent trope to have regardless. It's the mark of a true hero to try to deescalate a situation before resorting to fists, if at all.

Naruto's influence can be seen with Yugi Moto in Yu-Gi-Oh! He had to mind crush Kaiba, who came around after being talked down from his megalomania. Gon vs. Hanzo in Hunter x Hunter ended without a punch thrown by Gon. There are multiple other examples in other shonen like Pokemon and Digimon that feature this too.


4) Determination is key

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The "never give up" spirit is alive and well in Naruto. Audiences can see it in his sheer determination to become Hokage and later rescue Sasuke. Then in Sasuke's revenge quest and when Sakura caught up to them. Determination is symbolized in the Will of Fire in this series.

You don't need to look far to see this trope across shonen anime. It practically defines Goku in the Dragon Ball franchise. Beyond that, Deku's determination to become a hero in My Hero Academia, Asta's to be respected in Black Clover, and Light's to become a god in Death Note are all examples to be taken from this.


5) Filler arcs everywhere

Onto a much more negative trope on this list, filler arcs. Filler arcs are entirely dedicated to letting the manga catch up to the anime. This is a negative trope, as filler is usually a waste of time. Naruto has great fillers, but it's the sheer abundance of them that makes this one negative.

This one isn't exclusive to Naruto, but it permeates shonen anime fiercely. Fairy Tail was infamous for its bad fillers. Bleach had the Bount arc as infamously awful. Dragon Ball Z originally had the Longest Five Minutes in the Frieza Saga and the Garlic Junior Saga.


6) Flashbacks during fight scenes

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Another negative issue is flashbacks during fight scenes tend to linger. These are usually at the center of every major villain fight. The action is interrupted to tell the villain's story. A better idea would be to give the villain some time to get their backstory out before the fight.

This abrupt interruption is everywhere. Naruto isn't exactly the only one to do this. Bleach had flashbacks during the Soul Society arc that lasted for several chapters. Attack on Titan had those, too, though they weren't entirely intrusive.


7) Generational trauma and breaking the cycle

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Naruto may not be the first shonen or the first anime to address generational trauma or break the cycle of hatred, but it does do a good job. The Curse of Hatred placed on the Uchiha by Indra was broken after the fourth great ninja war. Pain's endless hate against the world was alleviated by Naruto, among others.

It means setting right a generational wrong, helping stop a grudge or a war. Fullmetal Alchemist and Brotherhood had this happen thanks to Roy Mustang and the aid he was given.

Class 1-A tries to help stem the villains trying to make society slide backward while helping people. Eren Yeager is an example of what happens when it's not dealt with properly in Attack on Titan.


8) Morality questions, especially in the military

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Did you know about the aforementioned generational trauma that black ops dealings aren't clean and sometimes not strictly necessary? That's the entire point behind the story of Danzo Shimura and the Root organization. Kakashi gets hit with this, too, as trying to undermine your village isn't the most moral thing either.

Extreme obedience versus what's right. This is again seen in Attack on Titan. Armin had to make an impassioned speech to stop Eren, Mikasa, and himself from being executed. It can also be seen when Roy Mustang and the other State Alchemists become participants in the Ishvalen Massacre in Fullmetal Alchemist, the list goes on.


9) Cool mentors

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There's no shortage of cool and awesome mentors, from Kakashi to Tsunade to even Orochimaru. This particular trope would usually have the mentor die or be forced to retire for the next generation to take charge, as Jiraiya does die, but none of the others stay dead.

All Might and Gran Tarino in My Hero Academia are solid mentors. Yami from Black Clover, Aizawa from My Hero Academia, Biscuit Kruger from Hunter x Hunter, Genkai from Yu Yu Hakusho, and Takeda from Haikyuu all count as mentors that can keep up with their students.


10) Fights of strength and ideologies

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In shonen anime like Dragon Ball Z, victory tends to go to the strongest. There's usually nothing else tested about the hero except strength, whereas in Shippuden, the heroes are challenged physically and philosophically.

Naruto vs. Pain is about peace, Itachi vs. Sasuke is about revenge and sacrifice, and everyone vs. Madara and Obito, you get the idea.

My Hero Academia features the fight against the Hero Killer Stain and his overwhelming killing intent and condemnation of the Hero Society and system. Hunter x Hunter had Mereum and Netaro fight over who the actual monsters are. Luffy vs Katakuri from One Piece was a battle of authenticity.