At 4:19 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 4, the Diag was packed with freshmen looking for Angell Hall. Suddenly, as the clock struck 4:20, the whoops and hollers of University of Michigan shinobi echoed over the trees. Heads darted toward the corner of North University and State Street. A plethora of anime cosplayers was barreling towards the Block M.
In a momentous display of solidarity, courage and love of meme culture, about 200 students pulled themselves up by their ninja sandals, threw their arms into the wind and booked it across the Diag as a part of the “Run Across the Diag Naruto Style” Facebook event. Naruto, a popular Japanese anime, features a young shinobi (dubbed as ninja in the U.S. version) named Naruto Uzumaki and centers around his quest to be a respected ninja.
According to the Facebook description, the event spawned from a previous event in Pittsburgh titled “Come to the Smash Mouth Concert Dressed as Shrek” and gained further popularity in the infamous “UMich Memes for Wolverteens” page.
For those unfamiliar with the particular techniques of running like Naruto, wikiHow reports proper form mandates a true shinobi should lean forward with your back straight, keep your head up to look for oncoming enemies and hold both arms behind you for maximum speed.
Engineering junior Veronika Bayer, who created the event, led the pack of meme enthusiasts in full Naruto cosplay with the orange jacket, pants and headband. She cited meme and troll culture as the main reasons for the event’s popularity online and the large physical attendance. She also said many of the attendees watched the Naruto anime when they were younger and can now unleash their inner child as they run across the campus they love so much.
“Michigan is a place where everyone can learn how to be free and enjoy themselves and really embrace themselves in all of their weirdness and quirks,” she said.
LSA senior Kim Truong donned her Naruto jacket and waited patiently as more and more people gathered before the event. She said she felt very comfortable with her fellow anime fans and could really let loose and feel free.
“It’s just a way for people to show their inner anime weeb and show up in public and do the things they only did in middle school and relive those glory years,” she said.
Before she left to gather for the sprint, Truong made a hand signal and prepped for her time to shine.
“Kage Bunshin no Jutsu,” she said, a recognizable line from the show.
LSA junior Anna Bergson was lucky enough to witness the run from the Diag and said she was not aware of the event beforehand. On the first impression, she said she was stunned.
“I was super psyched,” she said. “Thankfully, we got there just in time. The clock hit 4:20 and they come out sprinting. One of the best moments of my life.”
About 1,100 people marked themselves as “Going” on the Facebook event and about 3,900 people said they were “Interested,” which is much more than the actual number of students who attended. Nonetheless, Bayer was impressed with the turnout. Bergson chalked this lack of attendance up to the dark clouds appearing before the event was slated to start.
“I think that because it was about to rain, I think it was circumstantial,” she said. “They would have come. They came with their hearts.”