Naruto Fans Are Nearly Unanimous Regarding Their Pick For Best Story Arc

With over 700 episodes of Masashi Kishimoto's "Naruto" anime series, there's a mountain of the story to dig through. If the plot of "Naruto" could be measured by height, it'd probably tower over the Demon Fox Kurama. That may sound intimidating to anyone who's never had the chance to watch these mystical adventures of a loudmouthed ninja with a healthy love for ramen and his comrades. But aside from some skippable filler "Naruto" episodes, the franchise is rich with so many can't miss plot points and story arcs that easily stand among some of the best within all of the Shonen genre.

For those wowed by tournament-style arcs where the supporting cast gets to shine, like in "Yu Yu Hakusho," "Naruto" offers the "Chunin Exam." During the "Itachi Pursuit" Arc, the series presents a tragic fight between brothers that's as violent as it is heartbreaking. And the "Akatsuki Suppression Mission" Arc arguably showed off an emotionally charged revenge tale more thrilling than Liam Neeson's "Taken" trilogy. But if we're talking about the absolute best story arc in all of "Naruto," fans may have already made their near-unanimous decision.

Many fans regard the Pain Arc as one of the best

In a 2021 Reddit post that asks if the "Pain's Assault" Arc could be considered one of the best arcs of all time, Naruto fans didn't appear too divided in their answer. In fact, one fan may have answered best by posting, "Absolutely, yes. The world shall know pain." In the story arc, which spans episodes 152-169 and 172-175 of "Shippuden," Naruto has to contend with the Akatsuki member known as Pain, who invades Konoha, leaves a massive path of destruction, and ultimately forces Naruto to step up his abilities. 

Pain's actions in Konoha serve as the biggest threat at that point to Naruto and his friends. But as one fan noted, they also make the Akatsuki appear as the significant threat they were always poised to become in the series. "Believe it when I say this, I have yet to find a villain organization that matches the Akatsuki In how well they act, look, and work," u/hdudbdhdvd wrote.

"Pain's Assault "is a pivotal moment where Naruto finally gets that coveted Shonen power upgrade. The hero appears for the first time in Sage Mode during this point, with abilities that feel more in place with "Dragon Ball Z," only because Pain is also at that level. But as some fans pointed out, what makes the arc shine, is that Pain is also the first villain who personally forces Naruto to confront the concept of hatred. "Pretty much, I mean, not only did it have a big impact on the story but also its main character, as Naruto was faced with the reality of hatred in the world he lived in and thus grew up," u/Eloquence wrote. Pain takes Naruto's patented "Talk No Jutsu" through the ultimate test.

Kishimoto had a difficult time writing the Pain Arc

Perhaps the most straightforward action Naruto could have done to conclude "Pain's Assault" was a dramatic final battle to the death. When we list the numerous sins Pain did against the hero, ending the story with a fight certainly seems like the direction the story was preparing to take. After all, as one fan mentioned, Pain killed Naruto's mentors, Jiraya and Kakashi, though the latter was quickly revived. The villain destroyed Konoha. And as poor Hinata finally confessed her love for Naruto while trying to protect him for a bit, she almost lost her life too. Instead, Naruto's final clash with Pain came through words, not fists and jutsus.

As series creator Masashi Kishimoto told Anime News Network in a 2015 interview, ending their confrontation through talking was tough to write because it forced the hero to forgive. "It was difficult because it was the very first time Naruto truly forgives his enemy," Kishimoto said in the interview. "I didn't want the conclusion of their confrontation to be in battle but through talking, so to bring that all about was quite difficult." Naruto's act of forgiveness may have been challenging for Kishimoto to write. Still, it also forced the character to understand better the feeling of hatred from loss on a personal level, like Sasuke. Without Pain, Naruto may have never been able to pull his friend Sasuke from the darkness at the series' ending.