Naruto is not the only shonen manga or anime that has been changed or censored before reaching the U.S. and English-speaking audiences. Since anime often appears on children’s or cartoon channels, they’re often censored to be less violent or sexual or to remove off-color jokes or references, or even to just get rid of something that may be benign to Japanese audiences but offensive to Americans.
10 Loopy Fist
Rock Lee’s character is couched in kung fu tropes, from his fighting style to his Bruce Lee haircut to his clothes. So it’s no surprise the series deals with Drunken Fist, a martial arts style that depends on its user being drunk. Rock Lee accidentally drinks a bottle of alcohol in the series, which activates his Drunken Fist style, of which he is a master. In the American version of the series, he instead drinks a “potion” that makes him act strange, the technique called Loopy Fist instead of Drunken Fist.
9 Sexy: Boy On Boy Technique
Konohamaru learns a lot from Naruto, who he considers a mentor and role model. One of the things he learns is the Sexy no Jutsu, in which he creates a buxom naked woman using a transformation technique in order to catch his opponents off guard.
He creates a variation on this for women, particularly Sakura, which features Sasuke and Sai naked and about to participate in an intimate act. In the American manga, the characters are shown in silhouette so the details aren’t as obvious, and it doesn’t appear in any version of the anime.
8 Naruto Blood-Letting
As will be discussed later, violence in general is toned down a lot in Naruto for American audiences. But one of the early character moments for Naruto, who realizes that he needs to be strong and to set aside his fear, is when he stabs himself in the hand with a kunai knife in order to remove the poison that was on a weapon an enemy attacked them with.
It’s a big character moment for Naruto, who is making a choice to be strong and to carry on with their mission, instead of having to return to be treated for the poisoning in Konoha. But almost none of the actual blood-letting is shown on American television, downplaying the violent nature of Naruto’s choice.
7 Kaiza’s Death
In the Land of Waves arc early on in the Naruto series, Team 7 means a young boy whose stepfather was killed as an example by members of a gang running the town. In the Japanese version of the anime, the character is shown hanging on a cross where he is killed. He is shown this way in the U.S. version as well, but instead of having his arms tied out to the side, as if he’s being crucified, instead his arms are hanging at his sides, in order to avoid drawing comparisons to religious figures.
6 Neji’s Seal
The seal on Neji’s forehead, which is used to seal away the Byakugan once he dies, is different in the Japanese manga versus the American manga and is also changed for the anime, both in the U.S. and in Japan. In the original manga, the seal looks like a divine symbol of Hinduism and Buddhism, which is also a swastika.
In order to be sensitive to what the symbol represents in the West, the seal on Neji’s forehead is changed to an X instead.
5 The Sasuke/Naruto Kiss
This one is an interesting example because it wasn’t censored everywhere for U.S. audiences. It was specifically censored in the Cartoon Network dub of the series.
Sasuke and Naruto’s accidental kiss in an early episode of the series is one of the first jokes that really sets up their dynamic as they begin to work together as teammates. But it doesn’t happen at all in the Cartoon Network version and was removed completely.
4 The Music
Naruto is well-known for its opening themes. They are some of the most recognizable songs in anime fandom, and many people know them to be from Naruto even if they haven’t watched the series. But when the anime first started on Cartoon Network, the original opening theme wasn’t used. Instead, the series used a musical piece with no lyrics over the animation meant for the original theme, “I Wanna Rock.”
3 The Violence
As mentioned above, many shonen anime really toned down the violence when the series were brought over to the U.S. Naruto is definitely among them. Despite being a series about ninjas, in which the characters are fighting in battles and are often in life-threatening situations, overall, the violence is toned down in the U.S. version of the series. There’s particularly a lot less blood, and characters who suffer from bigger wounds often aren’t shown.
2 The Masks
At one point in the manga, Naruto is on a journey looking for Tsunade, and he stops into a shop selling masks. On the wall are two masks that people might recognize: one of Chiaotzu from Dragon Ball and one of a character from Kamen Rider.
Both of these masks were changed to be more generic in the American release of the manga.
1 Shikamaru Smoking
Later on in the series, Shikamaru takes up smoking in memory of his teacher Asuma, who dies in battle. Shikamaru is still only a teenager when he takes up the habit, and it definitely doesn’t fly with American audiences to have a teenage hero smoking. The smoking didn’t make it to the anime in either Japan or the U.S., but it was also omitted from the American editions of the manga.
Naruto is one of the most popular anime ever, but what changes did it undergo for American audiences? Religious imagery, violence & more are all here.