Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Entire Naruto Storyline Finally Explained

It's not quite as sprawling as laughably long animated series like One Piece, but jumping into the world of Naruto at this point is still quite a daunting task.

The long-running and beloved show, based on Masashi Kishimoto's manga of the same name, follows a young ninja named Naruto Uzumaki as he navigates a world built around mystical control of in-born, elemental abilities. It takes long enough to tell the story of his training in these arts that many of the young fans of the show age right along with him.

The show is split into two separate storylines: the original Naruto following the young ninja-in-training as a child, and Naruto: Shippuden picking up with his later exploits as a teenager. While you might think this would make it easier to digest, the two shows come to a whopping 720 episodes between them. To give you a better idea of scale, the Adult Swim anime block Toonami began airing Shippuden's 500 episodes on a weekly basis in 2014. They are scheduled to finally wrap the series in 2024.

Before you get discouraged by the massive pile of cartoon ninja-related homework, let us walk you through the world of the series. You'd be hard-pressed to find any story that needs 720 episodes to wrap itself up, but that doesn't mean the eventual tale told by Naruto isn't worth a bit of investment.

A world of ninjas

Both Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden are set on a fictionalized Earth where people are born with innate, elemental chakra powers. The world, as it exists, is divided into five global powers and some smaller countries. These countries are named and organized around the dominant elemental trait of the people who live there.

For example, the five great powers are named the Land of Earth, the Land of Wind, the Land of Lightning, the Land of Water and the Land of Fire. The countries are ruled over by monarchs and protected by a warrior class of ninjas who have honed their elemental powers. These armies are maintained by training young people who show promise in hidden villages that double as academies. The young ninjas are frequently called upon to perform tasks using their powers, sustaining the village by earning money while also building up their experience.

It's in this world that we are introduced to an impetous young orphan with a chip on his shoulder: Naruto Uzumaki.

Raw talent

Naruto's parents were incredibly talented fighters for the Land of Fire, and his mother Kushina contained powers that were beyond even the most gifted ninjas. Her immense reserve of chakra allowed her to be a rare carrier of a demon spirit called a Nine-Tailed Fox. These beasts were sealed inside humans who could control them, giving them incredible powers while also making them responsible for containing the monster.

Naruto's mother was attacked by the leader of a renegade ninja group when she was most vulnerable: during the birth of her son. The attacker was able to unseal Kushina's beast, and the resulting rampage destroyed the Uzumakis' home village. Both of Naruto's parents were killed in the fight, with his father sacrificing himself to stop the beast's destruction. In the process, he sealed a portion of the beast inside his infant son.

The orphaned Naruto containing this power at such a young age, and that power coming from a beast that destroyed his village, made him an outcast even as the village looked after his well-being.

Brash and unsocialized, Naruto makes himself a bit of a nuisance if only to get people to look at him. He pulls pranks on the local villagers and frequently offends his elders for a break from the typical wide berth that people who know his origin give him. The village is largely happy to him leave when he's sent off to have his talents crafted at ninja academy.

Growing friendships

Once in the Academy, the cast fills out with a whole crew of young ninjas. We come to learn that they are all trying to be the best possible fighter in the Academy, though their motivations are quite different.

Naruto longs to be revered for his fighting talents because of the neglect he endured for most of his life. He develops a friendship with his classmate Sakura Haruno and a rivalry with the preternaturally talented Sasuke Uchiha. While Naruto is constantly frustrated by Sasuke's talent, and the way that it keeps Naruto from being held up in the highest regard by his trainers and classmates, the pair eventually become close friends.

Through this growing friendship, we learn that Sasuke is equally driven by a tragic origin story. His entire clan was murdered by his older brother Itachi, who is a member of the shadowy organization of rogue shinobi who killed Naruto's parents. Sasuke hopes to become a skilled fighter so he can seek out his brother and kill him.


We learn that Sasuke was always compared to his older brother, and it tormented him in the same way Sasuke's gifts bothered Naruto. He could never quite measure up. He returned home one day from training to find that his brother had killed his entire family. His brother projected visions of the grisly murders into his Sasuke's mind, and when Sasuke asked why he would kill their clan, he told him it was a test of his abilities.

Sasuke's fascination with revenge drives him mad. He goes rogue and abandons his friendships with his classmates. His choice to pursue life outside of the structure of the villages and kingdoms pushes him down into the criminal underbelly of the shinobi world. He joins a group called the Sound Four after he becomes frustrated with the speed at which his ninjitsu skills are developing.

Leaving the village

The first series is brought to a close by the end of Sasuke and Naruto's friendship. The young ninjas clash after the Academy tracks Sasuke down. Powered by the substances that the Sound Four have given him, Sasuke is much stronger than he was when he ran away from the Academy.

The incredibly intense fight forces Naruto to call upon the beast trapped inside of him. Even so, he is overpowered by Sasuke. Though he does not wish to be foiled by any further attacks from Naruto, Sasuke ultimately spares his former friend's life. He feels that killing his unconcious friend would make him too much like his brother. In a symbolic gesture, he leaves the head protector he wore at the Academy by Naruto's body.

In the background of all this, there are looming attacks from rogue leaders and the secret organization called Akatsuki. Knowing that the potential for global war is brewing, and that Naruto will have to get much stronger to face the coming threat, a renowned ninja named Jiraiya takes Naruto out of the academy for personal training.


The timeline jumps forward several years between the end of Naruto and the beginning of Shippuden. The series begins with an older Naruto returning to the academy and we learn the progress of his friends. The trio at the center of the series are all training under legendary ninjas in individualized programs. Sakura has become an incredible healer, Naruto's abilities are much improved, and Sasuke is still on the run under the tutelage of the disgraced shinobi Orochimaru.

The new series deals with the older ninjas fighting against the growing forces of the Akatsuki, who stage bolder and bolder attacks on various cities as cover to attempt to steal the sealed beast powers that a small class of fighters like Naruto possess.

At the same time, the series offers a resolution to Sasuke's years-long quest to exact vengeance on his brother. Sasuke finds his brother and they engage in a long, drawn-out battle that features several feints and mind projections. Using their illusory ninjitsu abilities, the brothers go through several battles that end in gruesome and psychedelic ways, only for it to be revealed that the battle has yet to start outside of their minds.

Terrible tragedy

The pair eventually do fall into a pitched battle, blasting each other with ever-increasing attacks. Sasuke notices that his brother is off, and determines that Itachi was weakened before the start of the fight.

Eventually overcome by his injuries, Itachi approaches his brother, who can also no longer fight. Itachi taps Sasuke on the forehead before dying of exhaustion, leaving a bloody trail down Sasuke's face.

When Sasuke awakens after collapsing, Itachi's true backstory is revealed. He learns that Itachi murdered his clan as a part of his sworn oath to protect their home. The elders of the Uchiha clan were planning a coup, thereby throwing the relatively stable Land of Fire back into a series of small wars. Itachi, who was a child during the last Great War between the nations, realized that turning on his clan was the only way to prevent uncountable deaths. He killed his entire family and was labeled a traitor, but all the while he was working in service to his country.

The traitor status served a dual purpose, protecting Sasuke from being viewed with suspicion and allowing Itachi to infiltrate the rogue shinobi organization Akatsuki. He worked as a spy for the Land of Fire, passing on information about their battle plans to leadership and keeping himself alive just long enough so that his brother could come and have his revenge.

Revenge and more tragedy

Sasuke is not the dyed-in-the-wool patriot that his late brother was. Seeing the machinations of his home laid plain, and the way they were willing to sacrifice his entire family for their own well-being, pushes Sasuke to the actual areas that his brother was only engaging in as a double agent.

The murder of his clan and his all-consuming quest for revenge had effectively ruined Sasuke's life. He turned his back on his friends and his home, left the Academy before his training was over, fell in with an evil shinobi who nearly destroyed him and ultimately murdered his last living relative, all in the service of a lie. Figuring all of this out led him to vow that he would see his village burned.

His new goal in life becomes "the the complete and utter destruction of Konoha." He joins the Akatsuki to further his goals.

Immediately before the battle between brothers, more is discovered about the organization to which Itachi nominally belongs. In a battle between Naruto's mentor Jiraiya and Akatsuki leader Nagato, the core ideology of the group is revealed: They hope to unleash all of the sealed beasts in one attack (called the Infinite Tsukuyomi) that will seal the entire world in a dream forever.

The group is made up of disillusioned Shinobi who, seeing the effects of several great wars between nations, hope to put a permanent end to the concept of war. Jiraiya is killed in the battle before he can share any information about the group and its leadership.

Mask off

The leaders of the Five Great Nations meet to discuss how to deal with the growing threat of the Akatsuki. Leaders of the rebel group send Satsuke to attack the meeting and leave the leaders in a weakened state. Sasuke fails in his mission, and the Akatsuki are unable to demand anything from the global powers. Instead, the Akatsuki declares war on all five nations, prompting a global battle with allied superpowers on one side and an incredibly dangerous splinter group on the other.

The leader of the group, who has gone under the name Tobi throughout the series, is the same person who attacked Naruto's parents on the day of his birth. Then, as now, he seeks the spirits to create the superweapon that would turn the world to a dream state. He is frequently shown as masked, but in his declaration of war, he reveals he's a surviving member of Sasuke's Uchiha clan named Obito. He joined the group after he was thought to have died in the last Great War. Like many of the series' older characters, the bloodshed he had seen made him a staunch pacifist. However, when he couldn't force the leaders to cave to his demands, turning over their beasts in service of his plan, he started yet another world war.

Returning to the fold

The rebel group, lead by yet another believed-dead member of the Uchiha clan, is eventually successful in launching their superweapon. The havoc brought upon the world by the revival of the Ten-Tails beast forces a few of the series' baddies to re-evaluate their priorities. Tobi eventually turns on the entire project, sacrificing himself in an attempt to save the world.

Sasuke also begins to question the current world order, and reflects on his brother's commitment to keep his homeland safe. He opts to join the side of the great nations, and while he is viewed with distrust by his former colleagues, he ultimately helps thwart the beast that was released on the world.

Sasuke vows to remake the world under a better system, and after the war ends, he attempts to kill the five leaders as his first step toward a better world. This leads to a series-culminating battle between Naruto and Sasuke. They admit that they both view each other as brothers. The battle ends with both characters grievously injured and slowly bleeding out. They spend several days lying next to each other, talking about their bonds and atoning for their various wrongs. Ultimately, they are found by Sakura, who heals them both so they can remove the dream world weapon used on the world.

Extra credit

If that's somehow not enough, there's plenty more Naruto out there in the world. We'd be remiss to not point out that the entire series is based on a manga that ran for 15 years. There are 72 volumes in the comic, written by Masashi Kishimoto, and its insane popularity makes it one of the most easy-to-find books in the genre.

There are also continuing adventures from Naruto's son Boruto. His story has been ongoing since 2016, and is still cranking out new manga at a pretty steady clip. He's also featured in his own movie, one of 11 films that the series has produced so far. One movie, The Last, picks up after the events of Shippuden and follows the core of the series as they go on a mission to stop the moon from falling.

It would take you nearly 12 days of non-stop watching to get through it all, and countless more to get through the manga. If this summary made you feel like diving in, we'll see you in six months.