Screw you 2nd Hokage and your lengthy thematic explanation of the Sharingan. (And also for being a jerk.)
Fictional storytelling in a wonderfully powerful tool for expressing one's outlook and philosophy because it subtlety conceals themes in a way that is entertaining. There is; however, a fine line between using fiction as an extended metaphor and being explicitly preachy. I'm prompted to make this point because of chapter 619 of Naruto. To those of you that don't read Naruto; don't worry this isn't a review, and I will try to explain the examples used here in a way that doesn't require knowledge of the series.
I have nothing but love for Naruto, but if there's one thing its author Kishimoto Masashi is has no clue of; it's subtlety. The old writing adage of "show, don't tell" is usually reserved for revealing character growth or important exposition, but it is equally applicable to the subject of theme; in fact even more so. And doing both, which is what was done is this case, treats your audience like idiots.
In chapter 619 of Naruto it is pseudo scientifically explained that series deuteragonist, Sasuke's, power grows from loss transformed into hate. If that is immediately off putting to you then you might not be a fan of the shonen genre. Its cheesiness isn't what made it so deplorable. It crossed the line because the audience already knew it. Emotional bonds and their ability to drive a character towards good and evil is one of the most prevalent themes of Naruto. Sauske wasn't the only character that grew stronger in some way due to his bonds; every character did!
Theme is the entire essence of a story, and formulating that theme in an entertaining way is a great way to get an audience to pay attention to it. However when used unsparingly and in the most obvious fashions it becomes condescending towards the audience. Naruto doesn't just place a theme in a proverbial sack of bricks and beats you black and blue with it. It then asks you if you've understood, and follows by picking up another baseball bat shaped theme, and bashing you with it.
So you've understood the power of emotional bonds?
Now let's talk about parental obligations.
What makes all of this absurd is that all of the themes of Naruto are cleverly concealed within the entire way the title characters home village, Konoha, operates. Each ninja goes to an Academy when young to learn about the village history and basic ninjustu. These children are protected by their teachers when the village is in crisis; illustrating the theme of protecting the future.
Naruto's former academy instructor has one or the most endearing roles in the series.
Once the cadet ninja graduate they are formed into three man teams with a more experienced senior ninja as their team captain and in charge of their further development. These characters all grow together and bond. Many of these young ninja are members of clans that possess unique skills that their parents pass on to them. The main characters even gain additional mentors. Later they enter exams where they compete against fellow village ninja, and ninja from allied nations for promotions. Most of the cast established their lasting friendship through by competing in this exam. After the promotion a character becomes eligible to lead teams, teach in the academy or oversee the exams. During the course of their growth the characters learn their roles within a team, and gain an abundance of skills from their parents, teachers, team captains, and mentors. The themes of peace, growing up and guiding the next generation are all covered in this mechanic.
The village itself is figure headed by a ninja that is not only the strongest ninja in the village, but the most respected, the Hokage, and this status is the goal of the main character. The hokage also takes up the role of the village patriarch (or matriarch in Tsunade's case), and places the safety, welfare and growth of the village as a primary importance.
This patriarch metaphor is illustrated clearly when it was revealed that a former Hokage was literally the main character's father. (unsurprisingly)
There we also have the themes of a loser rising to greatness with hard work, and themes of parental obligation. It's all there for anyone willing to look past the awesome ninja action and see the story for its core. I understand that sometimes it is necessary for a theme to come out explicitly; occasionally it can be heartwarming, and Naruto has had its fair share of endearing thematic moments. However at other times Naruto can feel like a preachy, condescending broken record. It's a shame for such a well-crafted and entertaining tale to be blemished by these kinds of moments.
As always comments are welcome!