Naruto, the beloved Japanese manga and popular animated series, has ceaselessly captivated audiences since its inception in 1999. As the fourth bestselling manga series in history, it has sold over 250 million copies worldwide, been published in countless languages, and appeared in 45 countries to date.
It follows the story’s titular character, Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja seeking to become the leader of his clan and the most powerful warrior of all time. With strong coming-of-age themes, Asian cultural references, romance, action, and intrigue, it’s no wonder why the tales of Naruto are so coveted. “Believe it!”
With such a popular manga, the story was quickly adapted into an animated series in 2002 for Japanese audiences. Three years later, Cartoon Network produced an English-dubbed version of the show, which ran until 2009, allowing Naruto to officially punch his way into the mainstream.
Let’s not forget about the incredible sequel, Naruto: Shippuden. Set two and a half years after the events of Naruto, Shippuden focuses on all of its familiar characters as they deal with more mature themes and higher stakes. The show premiered in 2007 in Japan and in 2009 for American viewers. Containing 500 episodes, Shippuden is truly epic. If you have the time, start watching as soon as possible.
It’s safe to say that Naruto isn’t going anywhere, but with such a wide reach, fans old and new may wonder who provides the unmistakable voice for the iconic ninja. To answer that, the question must be rephrased. It should really be who are the voices of Naruto?
First and foremost, credit must be given to the original Japanese voice actor responsible for bringing to life the character of Naruto: Junko Takeuchi. In the video below, she discusses her career, taking on Naruto, and her perspective on life. Well spoken and bubbly, Junko is not unlike the character she has been playing for almost two decades, proving without a doubt that she is a master of her craft.
When American audiences were introduced to Naruto, no one could mistake the character’s gravelly voice and robust tenor. We have voice actress Maile Flanagan to thank for that. The Hawaiian-born entertainer has voiced Naruto for about as long as her Japanese counterpart Junko, and with just as much love surrounding Flanagan’s thoughts on the well-known character.
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Here she is putting that love to the test, guessing who said what during her tenure as the next great Hokage.
Maile Flanagan is not just known for playing Naruto, though, having also had recurring spots on television shows like Lab Rats, Shameless, Grey’s Anatomy, The Amazing World of Gumball, and many others projects over the years.
Still, Naruto is Flanagan’s claim to fame and it’s clear that she has an incredibly intimate knowledge of the character. Even after all this time, she has never grown tired of the mantle she carries. Much like Naruto himself, Flanagan exists with a sense of unrelenting optimism that is only matched by her ability to enjoy life and have fun⏤and maybe eat some ramen along the way.
All of Naruto, Naruto Shippuden, and the spinoff series Boruto are available to stream on Crunchyroll.