When a fan is invested in a fictional character, that character is prone to facing a lot of scrutiny if he’s not consistently presented in a manner that compliments how he was first introduced, especially in coming-of-age stories that follow said character’s physical development from birth to adulthood. In the world of anime, where hairstyles and facial expressions are crucial to the overall visual aesthetic, fans can be extremely critical of any visual change in direction when it affects popular characters. Unfortunately, Naruto is a character that falls into this category.
Naruto is one of the most outgoing anime characters in history, and his spiky blond hair quickly became a trademark of his personality. It didn’t hurt that the look was visually exciting, but it was also reminiscent of Naruto’s father, Minato Namikaze⏤the fourth Hokage. Many fans have grown accustomed to Naruto’s signature hairstyle and expected to see him don the same one after growing up with it throughout the Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden series.
In The Last: Naruto the Movie, fans were introduced to an older Naruto with a very different look. Gone were the boisterous spiky locks that distinguished him from everyone else. Instead, Naruto was given what folks would call a “buzz cut,” which was short and plain. Fans immediately complained about Naruto’s new look, but the hairstyle remained, as Naruto has now sported it through the majority of his son Boruto’s series. This begs the question: why did Naruto cut his hair in the first place?
There are a couple of theories on that. For one, Naruto is getting older. He’s now married with two growing kids⏤one of which is just as much of a handful as he was as a kid⏤so it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Naruto has begun balding. The hairstyle could also be a sign of Naruto’s maturity since keeping a shortcut is indicative of an adult who is well-kept.
Then again, Sasuke, Kakashi, and Shikamuru have all kept their hairstyles for the most part and are still relatively responsible adults, so that theory may not be strong enough to hold its own weight.
Another possibility is that Naruto wanted to distinguish himself from his father, Minato, and have a hairstyle that was unique from the trademark spiky locks they both share. Although he was clearly proud of his father, there’s a good chance that Naruto wanted to establish his own path with his own style, and changing his appearance was a good way to do it.
Or it could just be a case of creative change on behalf of Masashi Kishimoto in an attempt to provide the character with a new look to usher in a new era of change. It wouldn’t be the first time that creators have done that with an anime character. Just recently, Bleach creator Tite Kubo changed Ichigo Kurosaki’s hairstyle. The strawberry blond Soul Reaper’s hair is no longer scruffy and unkempt. Now married to Orihime with a kid of his own, Ichigo’s hair is also much shorter. In fact, it’s reminiscent of Tony Stark’s hairdo from Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War. It’s possible that Naruto’s current look is simply Kishimoto’s way of signifying a change in the times.
But since Kishimoto has never publicly addressed the reasons himself, this is all just speculation. Regardless of the reason, fans are still not happy with Naruto’s new look and continue to express their nostalgia for the good old days when Naruto’s hair had more life in it. Unfortunately, it seems that they’re going to have no choice but to accept the truth: if Kishimoto was going to change Naruto’s hair back, he would have done so by now.