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The Truth About Naruto's Most Divisive Poster

Naruto stands alone in the history of anime. While new episodes ceased over a decade ago, new movies have kept the Naruto legacy alive. The anime still has a loyal following, and now, you can watch the entire series, as well as other fantastic anime shows, on Netflix. The story of a young ninja working to become the leader of his village truly resonated with audiences, and anytime something new with the anime emerges, fans are quick to form opinions. However, even as something as simple as Blu-Ray cover art gets people riled up. 

Recently, Viz Media unveiled a strange piece of artwork to go on the Blu-Ray and DVD covers of an upcoming October 2020 release (via ComicBook.com), pictured above. Fans were quick to share their thoughts — mostly negative — on the artwork, claiming it Westernized the titular character, making him look more like a traditional comic book character rather than the manga figure he's been for years. In case you were one of those people confused and/or furious at the art, an explanation has now been offered: Whilce Portacio, a Filipino-American artist behind the cover art, did an interview with Crunchyroll where he spoke at length about why Naruto looks the way he does on the cover, and his reasoning for it.

Whilce Portacio wanted to use his comic book influences on the cover art

Whilce Portacio has worked on such titles as Uncanny X-Men, and while doing so, he had a certain amount of leeway. He could change costumes and put his own style on preexisting characters. That's basically the mindset he went into this cover design with. As Portacio stated, "When I first was exposed to Naruto before I got this job, I got the impression that he was just this feisty little kid, and I imagined all the feisty little Japanese kids I grew up with in Hawaii. But then when watching the DVDs and really absorbing for the first time a lot of the stories, I realized why he works. When you talk about leaders; when you talk about Scott Summers from the original X-Men, or even when Storm came in, and any other leader out there, they all have this one commonality, and Naruto has it in spades. That stubbornness, when they notice something is wrong — when they notice something just doesn't feel right for them — Naruto has that stubbornness to just keep going at it and going at it until he finally gets it right."

Basically, he approached it the way he has approached other characters in the past — recreating the character in his own vision, with his own artistic style — and admits that he didn't really understand the "current social thinking of manga and anime today." As for the controversy, he largely shrugs it off, responding, "I dive in a little bit, because I need to be aware, but not too much. One thing you learn as a 'professional creative,' especially if you've been able to last a little while, is really to have thick skin."