Where the openings almost always focus on what's currently happening in the anime, endings have a bit more leeway. They give the anime teams a chance to really experiment with different styles and not worry about the current happenings. Some will choose to focus on a specific character, such as Hinata or Sakura (who is obviously a favorite of the anime team, as every other ending seems to be focused on her), while several others like to take a look at the rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke from different angles. And then still others just try to make things fun and showcases the characters in situations we wouldn't normally see them in, such as a high school setting, or lying around on the beach or taking part in crazy dancing parties. A lot of the endings can be a bit blah, and I'll normally skip those every time after the first watch, but there are a few really strong ones that I'll sit through every time for various reasons, be it the images, music, or particular creativity on display.
There's twice as many endings in the series as there are openings, since endings change four times a year, where as openings only change twice, so rifling through them and narrowing it down did prove to be a bit tougher on these. I was a little surprised to see just how bad almost every single Part 1 ending was, save for the very first ending in the series, which itself was only good enough to get an honorable mention from me. Shippuden actually has quite a few really good ones, however, which left me with a couple more honorable nods in addition to the list, which actually consists solely of Shippuden endings. So anyways, first up, let's get those honorable mentions out of the way then move onto the main list:
Naruto Ending 1 - Wind
Naruto Shippuden Ending 14 - Utakata Hanabi
Naruto Shippuden Ending 15 - U Can Do It!
#5: Naruto Shippuden Ending 21 - Cascade
This is one of those Naruto and Sasuke ones I was talking about. This one seems to be inspired by the awesome OVA that came out a while ago which showcased the two's rivalry through the series, culminating in a fantasy battle we've yet to see between the two. This one does something similar, featuring awesome fight animation as the "camera" pans around the two engaged in a combat yet to take place. It then hints at the shift in power scale that's been happening in the series, for better or worse, with the seemingly Dragon Ball Z inspired powerups at the end before the two clash in an eruption of energy. The song's not the most memorable, but the fight animation is among the series' best, and makes this one stand out even against some of the fights in the actual anime itself.
#4: Naruto Shippuden Ending 19 - Place to Try
Another Naruto and Sasuke one, and now, looking things over, I notice that most of this list consists of this variety. I guess the anime just happened to hold up a particular level of quality when it came to endings focusing on these two. This one seems standard enough, really just looking back at their various encounters throughout the series, but backed by a rockin', fast paced track that really compliments the images (I especially love that awesome guitar opener). If this one had a weaker song I might not have chosen it, but the song choice was perfect, and elevates this up as one of the better in the series.
#3: Naruto Shippuden Ending 11 - It Was You (Omae Dattanda)
Where as the #5 pick was chosen mainly for the animation and the #4 was mainly for the song, here's where we finally see a mixture of the two coming into play together in my decision making. The music is among the catchiest that the series has ever had, and the imagery is some of the most series defining that the anime has produced yet. Yeah, a lot of this ending consists of fairly still images, but they're powerful ones nonetheless, and backed by a powerful track that makes this one of the best endings yet.
#2: Naruto Shippuden Ending 6 - Broken Youth
I love this one purely for its simplicity. Where the others might showcase certain characters or combat scenarios, this one instead chooses to tell us a quick little story. Naruto and Sasuke are portraying samurai-like characters with reputations following them, and as the two cross paths, they recognize one another. The tension builds as the two consider their plan of attack, only to decide against it and carry on at the last second. It's so simple, and yet so striking all the same, well cut together and played out. I actually kinda wish there were more like this, where they use the ending to try and tell us a short story rather than an amalgamation of images, but this one's pretty unique in this regard, which makes it stand out all the more for it.
#1: Naruto Shippuden Ending 25 - I Can Hear
Similar to how Newsong inspired me to sit down and take a look at Naruto's openings, this is the one that inspired this post. I was just thrilled by this ending when I first saw it, a feeling I haven't felt towards either an opening or an ending since the aforementioned Newsong and its dancing ninjas. There's just so much going on with this one, and I find it all fascinating. I feel that it's about trying to find your own path in life and not turning back, emphasized by Naruto acknowledging all his senseis pointing out their paths, only to turn away and walk his own. And when Shino initially turns away from his path, it shows to us the hesitation we may feel with the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but you've still just gotta go through with it, as shown when he finally makes up his mind and charges forward.
We see characters acting out in ways not normally seen, such as Shino's frantic rush, or Shikamaru and Choji getting in each other's faces, or the complete opposite as Lee and Neji calmly walk to their destination. And all the while, the series' ladies all lip sync to the song's engrish bits. I mentioned some of the catchy songs above, but I seriously think this may be the catchiest ending yet. It just has such a light hearted and youthful tone to it that you can't help but latch on to. So this one's got it all, and above all, this one is loads of fun without being too cheesy about it.
So there you have it then, my Top 5 Naruto Endings. I'm gonna keep up the Youtube videos for now, but if things are anything like they were when I posted the openings list, it won't be too long before Youtube pulls 'em down, so watch 'em while you can!
Edited May 11th: And Youtube's already pulled them. Still, though, look them up and check them out if you can!