Naruto is based on a manga series by Masashi Kishimoto.
One episode of the anime tends to cover one or two chapters of the manga, so by the time the last canonical arc of the anime came to an end, the series was quickly catching up to the manga. At that point, the anime switched to anime-only filler episodes to give time for the manga to broaden the gap; there ended up being 85 filler episodes produced. When the anime returned to producing manga-adapted episodes, the series title was changed to Naruto Shippuden.
Naruto Uzumaki, the main character, is loud, hyper, and rather unpredictable. He's an adolescent ninja who wants to be recognized and aspires to become the Hokage; the Hokage is the ninja in the village who is acknowledged as the leader and the strongest of all.
12 years before the start of the story, the village was under attack by the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox. The Fourth Hokage sacrificed his life and sealed the demon inside Naruto, who was a newborn at the time. The Fourth Hokage, who had been hailed as a hero for this, had hoped Naruto would also be respected in the same light as the containment vessel of the demon. However, the villagers shunned him instead, and regarded Naruto as the fox demon itself.
The Third Hokage made a decree which forbade anyone from discussing or mentioning the attack of the demon fox to everyone, even their own children. Naruto spent his childhood as an orphan without friends, family, or acknowledgment; and the adults in the village passed down these attitudes to their children. Since Naruto couldn't force others to befriend him, he got attention the only way that he knew how to - by pulling pranks and causing mischief.
In the first episode, Naruto is tricked into stealing a forbidden scroll. By reading the scroll, Naruto taught himself the Shadow Clone Technique, which has become Naruto's signature move. With this newfound knowledge, Naruto is able to save his teacher, Iruka Umino. Through saving his teacher, Naruto learned that he is the vessel of the demon fox; he also learned that someone besides the Third Hokage actually cared about him. By learning the Shadow Clone Technique, Naruto was able to graduate from the Ninja Academy.
The series follows Naruto and his peers as they go through personal growth and development as ninja, with emphasis put on their interactions with each other and the influence their backgrounds have on their personalities. Naruto finds friends in Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno, who are assigned to be part of a three-ninja team with Naruto.
From watching the first Naruto series, as well as what I've been able to see of Naruto Shippuden, I can see that Masashi Kishimoto has done a lot of "world building"; he has created a cast of characters that viewers can identify with, and he has also worked at building an overarching story that's very compelling.
In the United States, Naruto is licensed to Viz Media. The series made its debut on Cartoon Network's Toonami block on September 10, 2005. Unfortunately, Cartoon Network did not acquire the nights to Naruto Shippuden; instead, this series aired on Disney XD, but as of this writing, Disney XD no longer airs it.
The Naruto anime franchise has spawned several films, as well a collectible trading card game and a number of video games. Personally, I would recommend the Naruto franchise to anime viewers who are 12 or 13 years of age and older.
|Naruto||220||2002-2007||Hayato Date||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto: Find the Four-Leaf Red Clover!||1||2003||Hayato Date||Studio Pierrot||N/A|
|Naruto: Mission: Protect the Waterfall Village!||1||2004||Hayato Date||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto: Hidden Leaf Village Grand Sports Festival||1||2004||Hayato Date||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow||N/A||2004||Tensai Okamura||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto||1||2005||Hayato Date||Studio Pierrot||N/A|
|Naruto the Movie: Legend of the Stone of Gelel||N/A||2005||Hirotsugu Kawasaki||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto the Movie: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom||N/A||2006||Toshiyuki Tsuru||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto Shippuden||304||2007-ongoing||Hayato Date||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto Shippuden the Movie||N/A||2007||Hajime Kamegaki||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Bonds||N/A||2008||Masahiko Murata||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto: The Cross Roads||1||2009||?||Studio Pierrot||N/A|
|Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Will of Fire||N/A||2009||Masahiko Murata||Studio Pierrot||Viz Media|
|Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower||N/A||2010||Masahiko Murata||Studio Pierrot||N/A|
|Naruto the Movie: Blood Prison||N/A||2011||Masahiko Murata||Studio Pierrot||N/A|
|Naruto the Movie: Road to Ninja||N/A||2012||Manraj Pannu||Studio Pierrot||N/A|