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Naruto Director Hayato Date Stuck With The Show For So Long Because Of His Bond With Its Main Character

"Naruto" has joined the ranks of long-running anime like "Dragon Ball Z" and "Pokemon." These are shows that never really change, just transform into different iterations and find a way to tell new stories in the same world. While the original series ran for an already impressive 220 episodes, the follow-up series, "Naruto Shippuden," ran for more than double that with a staggering 500 additional episodes.

Though the series has continued to expand outward from there with additional spin-offs like "Boruto," which is still going strong with List 6, long-time director Hayao Date stepped away from the series following the end of "Naruto Shippuden" back in 2016.

For all 720 episodes of the two earlier series (via IMDb), however, it was Date who oversaw the adventures of the mischievous young ninja as he grew to fulfill his dreams and face off against his many dangerous adversaries along the way. Still, there was a good reason why Date stayed with the series for so long before his exit, and it has to do with his passion for the central character.

Date appreciated the emotional character development of Naruto

Hayao Date stopped in for a chat with Animation Magazine to discuss his long tenure on "Naruto" and "Naruto Shippuden" and the director confessed that it was his love of the titular character that kept him coming back for so many years over the course of the two series.

"I probably would not have been able to work on the series for so long if it had not been for my attachment to Naruto," Date explained. "However, he's the most difficult character to work with because we have to carefully depict the emotional progression of his character."

The tail end of the first two "Naruto" series finally sees the young ninja having attained his long-running goal of becoming the 7th Hokage and getting married to Hinata (Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh) after settling things with Sasuke (Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal for good. With that in mind, it's quite a long way from the youth's start as a troublemaker and outcast who fails in his studies repeatedly.

Considering the way that Naruto (Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan) grows and changes so gradually yet effectively throughout his life, it's easy to see why Date was inclined to stick with the character until his journey was over and he'd grown into a happy and responsible role model for his son in the following series.