A minute watching a kid run can speak volumes about how much anime they consume. Are their arms thrust out behind them? Is their head down, their back bent over, their legs churning along a diagonal axis? And are they wearing a headband with a swirly metal thing?
Yeah, that kid is running the Naruto run. And across the US over the next month, you'll see a lot of grown-arse adults doing it, too, at any of the dozens of Naruto run events that have cropped up on Facebook.
Naruto is an insanely popular anime about a ninja who dreams of becoming the best. But nevermind that; even if you've never seen Naruto, you probably remember one very intense person in your high school who used to run like the kid ninja. On the track course? Naruto run. On the way to class? Naruto run. Getting from school to their mum's car? Naruto run.
I used to dunk on that kid. But you know what? That kid was doing them. And now, that kid's grown up and moved to cities like New York, Montreal, Ann Arbor and Boston where, over the next month, they are organising Naruto runs, often with over a thousand interested attendees each. There's even one at Sydney's UTS, though it's happening in October. Two thousand six hundred people have expressed interest.
Stephen Baker, who manages a Copy Cat Printing in Maryland, started watching anime on Toonami like any other '90s kid in the US. Between Yu Yu Hakusho, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, none hooked him like Naruto. Every week, he and his friends would convene to discuss the latest episode. But although he's taken the Naruto run for a spin once or twice, regrettably, he says he was not the kid who ran like Naruto.
"I was not that kid but envied what that kid had," Baker told me over Facebook chat. "He ran like Naruto to class everyday and no matter what people said he continued on. Doing that in high school in the middle of Baltimore, dude had ?." Also on Facebook, Baker saw a friend share the September "Naruto run down Locust Walk" in Philadelphia, which had garnered over 7000 interested attendees. Inspired, Baker made his own event for Baltimore, which earned several thousand responses in just a few days.
"In Baltimore city where being an Otaku makes you the weirdo, hopefully people who aren't even otakus join in and have fun," Baker told me.
What might have spurred the recent Naruto run trend is the older, but now-viral WikiHow article "Run Like Naruto", which offers phenomenally earnest tips such as "Wear comfortable clothing that is easy to move in" and "Try acting like Naruto to get into character", as well as warnings that, while fans may imitate Naruto, any attempt to actually be Naruto will be unsuccessful:
In the Naruto series, characters often have their hands and arms straight out behind them to decrease air resistance. They have been training for years to increase their leg strength, so they do not need the extra power given by thrusting. You can imitate this run, but you won't be able to do it as well as Naruto: a non-existent power (called Chakara in the series) is used to increase their leg strength to make this running style effective. To visually imitate Naruto's ninja run, you just need to lean forward while running and hold your arms straight out behind your torso.
Like every WikiHow article, "Run Like Naruto" boasts many very special illustrations. Some combination of those images and its very serious advice on the topic of Naruto running attracted over 200,000 views to the page, along with a heated debate on the particulars of form:
Organisers say the events' forms are a little less structured. Nicholas Krywucki, who is hosting the McGill College Naruto run and used to "run around like a ninja after my cats" has a vague notion of how his Naruto run will actually go: "We will stand on lower field on the main campus, ready, set, go, and drop our arms and a giant gaggle of ninja-clad students from across Montreal will run 20-30 metres," he explained. He expects that somewhere between three to seven thousand Naruto fans will show up, which hopefully he'll have the Chakara to wrangle. Other organisers are a bit less… organised.
"I was thinking of making a flag and waving it," New York's Neill Chua said. "Or just yelling."