The Naruto anime and manga series features an extensive cast of characters created by Masashi Kishimoto. The series takes place in a fictional universe where different countries vie for power by using ninja who can use supernatural abilities in combat. The Naruto storyline is divided into two parts, simply named Part I and Part II, with the latter taking place two-and-a-half years after the conclusion of Part I. The series' storyline follows the adventures of a group of young ninja from the village of Konohagakure.
The titular character of the series is Naruto Uzumaki, an energetic ninja who wishes to become , the leader of Konohagakure. During the early part of the series, he is assigned to Team 7, during which he meets Sasuke Uchiha, a taciturn and highly skilled "genius" of the Uchiha clan; Sakura Haruno, who is infatuated with Sasuke yet has Naruto's affection; and Kakashi Hatake, the quiet and mysterious leader of the team. Over the course of the series, Naruto interacts with and befriends several of his fellow ninja in Konohagakure as well as other villages. He also encounters the series' antagonists, including Orochimaru, a former ninja of Konohagakure scheming to destroy his former home, and the elite ninja of the criminal organization Akatsuki.
While developing the series, Kishimoto created the three primary characters as a basis for the designs of the other three-person teams. He also utilized characters in other shōnen manga as references in his design of the characters, a decision that was criticized by several anime and manga publications. The characters that Kishimoto developed were however praised for incorporating many of the better aspects of previous shōnen characters, although many publications lamented the perceived lack of growth beyond such stereotypes. The visual presentation of the characters was commented on by reviewers, with praise and criticism given to Kishimoto's work in the manga and anime adaptation.
When Masashi Kishimoto was originally creating the Naruto series, he looked to other shōnen manga for influences while attempting to make his characters as unique as possible. To complement Naruto, Kishimoto worked on creating a rival that was a "cool genius", as he believed this was "the archetypal rival character". After reviewing different manga for ideas, he ultimately developed Sasuke Uchiha. When creating the primary heroine, Kishimoto admitted, "I don't have a definite image of what a heroine should be". He eventually created Sakura Haruno, emphasizing "her energy and flirtatious spirit" as her primary characteristics. These three characters would be the mold for the other three main Naruto teams.
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