True Life: I’ve been an anime nerd before it was acceptable to be an anime nerd. My first anime was Vampire Hunter D, followed by Project A-ko; I was five, creeping on the Sci-Fi channel. Sailor Moon is my absolute favorite, it developed my personal belief system and how I view the world. But Naruto is a very close second. This anime is about a boy who isn’t respected, seemingly weak and incompetent, and has a literal demon inside of him, who wants to be Hokage [leader of the Leaf Village]. He defies all odds, you discover how much innate power he has, and he utilizes the power of the demon inside of him to save the day. The story of Naruto and Kurama/Nine-tails Fox Beast could be a metaphor for making peace with your inner demons.
Naruto was a Jinchuriki, a vessel for the Nine-tails Beast, and because of how evil the beast is, he was ostracized and hated by his community. While growing up, people ignored him, bullied him, and he was rejected. His cohorts and superiors truly thought he would amount to nothing, and mocked him when Naruto declared he would become the Hokage. When he was angered and emotionally pushed to the brink, the Nine-tails would seize the chance to attempt to take over his body with hate. When people know about someone’s depression/mental illness/demons, we tend to excommunicate them from social circles, and resent them for something they are born with. It has been shown that there are genetic components to mental illness, and we all are born with our individual struggles. Some people are more susceptible to darkness than others.
Despite Naruto’s proclivity to darkness, he also was born a good-natured person who believed in himself and the good of others. The Nine-tails chakra was immensely powerful; however, Naruto’s own chakra was even more powerful. His chakra often suppressed the Nine-tails chakra, even when the Nine-tails would taunt him, saying Naruto is nothing without him, has no power without him, and cannot progress as a ninja without him. This reminds me of the daily struggle you deal with when you have a mental illness; every single day is a battle, and it is not a weakness to have depression. Your mental illness often taunts you, promising to take over your body and life. It is a testament to your own mental fortitude to persevere while battling a malicious internal force.
Later in the series, it is revealed that his father put the demon inside of him because he believed that Naruto would be able to wield that power. While training to battle the big villain of the series, Naruto learns how to control his demon, and utilize the demon’s chakra, much to the chagrin of Kurama. Kurama eventually comes to the aide of Naruto and befriends him, because he sees that Naruto truly wants to save the world and make it a better place. When Naruto was mocked for having the Nine-tails, told he must have hated his life, Naruto replied “Who are you to tell me I am unhappy with having the Nine-tails inside of me.”
The biggest paradox of healing; accepting that you aren’t okay and meeting your demons with compassion. It is imperative that we extend compassion not only to others, but compassion to ourselves so we can wield the darkness inside of us for good. Naruto does not do this alone; he has the help of his friends, his mentors, and the spirits of his dead parents. At the end of the day, the onus of responsibility relied on him to take control, and he rose to the challenge, became Hokage, and the naysayers recognized his strength and power. It is okay to not be okay, it is okay to have a mental illness, and never let anyone make you feel less than.
Persevering and working on being the best version of me is My Ninja Way because I have the Will of Fire inside of me. That is what I’ve learned from Naruto, and I hope you learn that, too.