Why Naruto Censored An Unusual Anime Obsession

Naruto is one of the most popular anime of all time, but a certain part of it that's prevalent in the original manga series was censored. The original anime series was based on the manga by Japanese artist and author Masashi Kishimoto, which was in publication between 1994 and 2014. The manga inspired two anime series, multiple films, and several video games. The anime adaptation began airing in America on Cartoon Network in September 2005.

Naruto tells the story of a young orphaned ninja in a fantastical land. The child who highlights the show as the main character is guided by a demon that resides in him, which helps him become a better ninja. Throughout the series, Naruto and his friends go on several magical adventures while experiencing both the hardships and the good moments of growing up. While both the manga and the anime are really similar in terms of storyline and characters, there are some small details throughout that were censored for television.


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In the manga version of Naruto, the characters Naruto and Kiba use the middle finger gesture numerous times. It's used to express mild anger and frustration toward each other, but not used to express serious emotions or real fury. However, as Naruto was being adapted into an anime and being aired in multiple countries, the middle finger gesture had to be censored out as it typically has a negative and extremely rude connotation associated with it, particularly in North America. While a funny and much-loved gesture for readers of the manga series, it wouldn't fly in the anime adaptation. There are other elements of the show that are censored based on where it was aired, as well. For example, Cartoon Network had to censor out some blood and violence that the ninja show incorporated from the manga.

What Was The Middle Finger Gesture Replaced With In Naruto?

Naruto and Kiba running

Since the anime was mostly geared towards a younger audience, the middle finger had to be removed and replaced with a different gesture. Instead of flipping each other the bird, Naruto characters will shake their fists at each other in the anime series. The replacement of the middle finger with fist-shaking is reminiscent of Ross and Monica's double fist-bumping gesture in Friends that they used in lieu of giving each other the finger in order not to get in trouble with their parents.

The censored moments certainly do not take away from the brilliance of Naruto’s storytelling and plot. The anime is well-loved and a benchmark work in the genre for a reason. Naruto brings together lovers of the anime art style and fantasy to root for one young ninja to become the best version of himself–even if he can't always express himself as clearly as he does in the manga series.