Foreign Friday: Naruto

“And we have the number one knucklehead ninja, Naruto Uzumaki!” – Naruto

This week’s Foreign Friday will be Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto.

The Story

In another world, ninja are the ultimate power – and in the village of Konohagakure [Hidden in the Leaves] live the stealthiest ninja in the world. But twelve years ago the Hidden Leaf village was attacked by a fearsome threat – a nine tailed fox demon which claimed the life of the Hokage, the village champion. Today, peace has returned, and a troublemaking orphan named Naruto Uzumaki is struggling to graduate from the Ninja Academy. His goal: to become the next Hokage. But unknown to Naruto and his classmates, within him is a terrifying force…

The Characters

Naruto is the hero: brave, strong, stubborn, stupidly optimistic, and a serious knucklehead. Within him lies the sealed power of the nine tailed fox, a tremendous force of sinister willpower that others either fear or covet. His close companions are his teammates Sakura Haruno, a female ninja (kunoichi) who boasts both a practical mind and a short temper; Sasuke Uchiha, a ninja prodigy with a tragic past and a vengeful outlook on life (he is also the female ninja idol); and their teacher Kakashi Hatake, an elite ninja with a long list of experience. As the series progresses, many more characters are introduced and play important roles, but just introducing them all would take up most of this blog.

What I Thought

Naruto is probably the series I anticipate the most. To be honest, I never thought that I would really get into this series, and the first few volumes didn’t raise my expectations much. It starts out with a juvenile feel, with a lot of comedy and episodic story arcs. However, as I continued to read, the full plot began to unfold, the characters became more developed, and the story really took off – to the point where I would plow through seven volumes in a half-day and forget to eat dinner. A lot of the plots have to do with concepts such as loneliness, the nature of courage, and friendship – trademark shonen themes. Kishimoto has formed a world that is full of creativity, and keeps a good balance between the seriousness of the underlying plot and the comedy which is a staple throughout the series. Naruto himself is a character that only gets better as the series progresses.

The series is broken into two parts: Naruto and Naruto Shippuden. The first part is geared for a younger audience (Naruto himself is between 12 and 14) and has a lot of comedy. The artwork is busier, and has a rougher look. Shippuden continues the story after a two year break (Naruto is 16) and seems to target an older audience. It has more drama, a deeper plotline, and less comedy. The artwork is different as well, with fewer lines and less busywork. It is very interesting to see the changes in the art as the series progresses. In my own opinion, the second half is the better of the two, but the first half shouldn’t be skipped. The use of magic, or “chakra” is well thought out, and gives rise to some interesting and inspiring uses (who wouldn’t like to have 360 degree x-ray vision that can span over a mile?) If there is one thing I need to complain about, it is the fact that the fights, while very interesting, take a long time to unfold. One battle can span an entire volume. That may be why Naruto just had it’s 51st volume released in the US with no definite end to the series yet in sight.

Naruto is an incredibly popular series both here and in Japan, and I’m sure that Kishimoto is a wealthy guy just by book sales. Naruto also spawned an equally popular anime series, which held around 260 episodes for part one and is now in it’s 7th season for Shippuden. Those fights scenes still take a long time (some over three episodes long) but it’s fairly faithful to the manga, and the filler episodes introduced are mostly worthwhile, adding in character development for secondary characters that don’t get a lot of screen time in the manga. There are also over six independent movies, art books, stationary, card games, video games, action figures etc, most available in America (that’s how popular it is).

As an interesting note, all the names in Naruto manga are kept Japanese style, with the surname first (it’s shown as Uzumaki Naruto), and the names of the Hidden Villages are still pronounced as Japanese words (like Konohagakure for the Hidden Leaf village). These details are changed in the anime.

Next week will be another series worth reading! Believe it!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

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    Oct 24, 2012 @ 15:03:14

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