Compared to some of its contemporary shounen titles, Naruto draws heavily on a variety of religious and mythological sources to inform its narrative, themes and cosmology. Kishimoto's use of explicit Hindu, Buddhist and Shinto motifs has already been discussed in a number of places. Common elements identified include deity names for jutsu, shamanic activities such as obtaining the eyes of others to 'see' as they do, making pacts with animal and other nature spirits, summoning 'demons' such as Susanoo, etc (Shinto, heavily associated with the Uchiha clan); Jimmu Tenno motifs for both Rikodu Sanin and later Naruto himself, such as his magatama and staff of 6 rings, manifestation of Gedo Mazu upon a lotus, etc (Buddhist, heavily associated with the Senjuu/Uzumaki clans); chakra, the 6 lokas (worlds) and 6 components of the bhavachakra corresponding to the 6 paths of Pein and referenced with the Rikodu Sanin as well, the Garuda, Jashin religion (apparently influenced by the Thug cult) and the battle between Indra and the Ashuras, complete with spiky hair imagery for his protagonist (and to a lesser extent the antagonist) frequently associated with ashuras (who are known for great rage and passion) - probably derived from Toriyama's Dragonball, a major influence on Kishimoto (Hindu, many elements absorbed into Mahayana Buddhist culture).
However, relatively little work has been done examining Christian influences to date, though some have already pointed out elsewhere that there seem to be a number of Christian references appearing, especially towards the end of manga/anime series, for example:
- Kaguya, a woman who ate forbidden fruit from a powerful tree and brought powerful but potentially evil forces into the world (chakra from the chakra tree) (Eve);
- two of her descendants who were "brothers" (Asura/Indra then Naruto/Sasuke) fighting each other (Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau);
- Sasuke, a betrayer who turned his back on his best friend for personal gain (Judas), yet Naruto repeatedly attempts to win him back, even to the extent of proclaiming his willingness to die in the effort (Jesus, the good shepherd); this eventually works and Sasuke repents and seeks forgiveness for his behavior (prodigal son);
- Naruto as a messiah figure who was prophesied (by the Toad Sage) to save the world (plus his 'Christ the Redeemer' poses on high points, e.g. chap. 245);
- Naruto as the new Sage, who was the progenitor of the ninja world (Jesus as the new Adam);
- wooden memorial crosses marking the graves of Zabuza and Haku;
- frequency of resurrection jutsu (by Pein, Madara, Kabuto etc), even mass resurrections of the dead;
- Adam Barkman has suggested the use of crucifixion motifs (presumably referring to Kakashi's tortue by Itachi and/or the rongusodo ninja ato: waiya haritsuke jutsu) as having Christian significance.
The heavy use of religous and mythological themes at the heart of Naruto, suggests that these may not be coincidental parallels. (This does not necessarily suggest that these examples were exclusively derived from Christian sources, e.g. the cosmic conflict between Naruto/Sasuke could be influenced by the primordial 'brotherly' conflicts in both Hinduism (Indra vs the Ashuras) and Christianity (Cain vs Abel) simultaneously.)
One potential source for such themes could be Kishimoto's favorite movie The Matrix, known to be a source of some artistic inspiration as well (The Art of Naruto: Uzumaki, 2007), which is filled with many overt Christian themes and images.
Is anyone aware of other sources that discuss Christian influences and sources on the text, e.g. interviews with Kishimoto, academic texts, discussion groups, etc?