In the world of shonen anime and manga, it’s not uncommon for long-running series to have a few inconsistencies here and there. These inconsistencies can sometimes lead to retcons, which are changes made to previously established facts in order to make the story more coherent. One retcon that had a significant impact on the Naruto Shippuden series was the inclusion of the Tailed Beasts.
Despite seeming like a central aspect of the Naruto universe, the concept of the Tailed Beasts was not introduced until later in the series. While the One-Tails and Nine-Tails were present in the initial story, they were simply considered to be monsters or demons rather than sentient beings known as Tailed Beasts. Several instances throughout the series prove how the Tailed Beasts were never an initial part of the narrative, rather they were retconned into the series to further the Akatsuki plan and the show’s overall premise.
For instance, part 1 of the series had no mentions of the terms ‘Jinchuriki’ and ‘Tailed Beasts.’ Instead, most people simply referred to these chakra beings as demons or spirits. Even Shukaku and Kurama, the only Tailed Beasts in part 1, were never referred to as One-Tails or Nine-Tails. These terms suddenly became apparent right from the first arc of Shippuden, without any sort of exposition. This implies that the concept of Tailed Beasts was non-existent before Shippuden.
Another indication of the Tailed Beasts being a new concept to the series is the vague intel about the Akatsuki’s plans that Jiraiya shares with Kakashi in part 1. Jiraiya states that the Akatsuki might target Naruto for the demon fox sealed inside him, with plans to form an inexplicable jutsu with that power. However, the series was at a point where it would have made no sense for this information to be withheld, considering it was discussed so openly right after in Shippuden. This inconsistency can be attributed to the Tailed Beasts being retconned in Shippuden.
Furthermore, Shukaku and Kurama were simply creatures inspired by Japanese folklore and mythologies. The Nine-Tails Fox is a fox spirit famous in Japanese mythology, while Shukaku is based on Tanuki or Japanese racoon dogs – another element of the culture’s mythology known as Bake-Danuki. The number of tails conveniently fit into the narrative of the nine Tailed Beasts, making the addition of the other beasts much easier. Shukaku’s underwhelming strength is another indicator of One-Tails simply being a demon and nothing more.
In conclusion, while the Tailed Beasts seemed like a central aspect of the Naruto universe, they were actually a later addition to the series. The concept was retconned into the series to further the Akatsuki plan and the show’s overall premise. Several instances throughout the series, such as the lack of mentions of ‘Jinchuriki’ and ‘Tailed Beasts’ in part 1, and Jiraiya’s vague intel about the Akatsuki’s plans, prove that the Tailed Beasts were never an initial part of the narrative. Instead, they were simply creatures inspired by Japanese folklore and mythologies.
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