An Interview with Naruto Creator Kishimoto Masashi

Farewell, Naruto: The Curtain Closes on the World’s Best-Loved Ninja

Hey good morning, ohayoo and happy Saturday everyone!

This is a great article-interview that I wanted to share with all of you. I am not a big fan of manga or anime myself; however, I could say that Naruto has been the  only anime that I have watched so far (at least the first seasons and a few movies) and I absolutely loved it. I should actually re-start from season 1 in Japanese, since the last time I watched the whole thing was in English. If you haven´t  seen it yet, give it a try, I promise you won´t be disappointed. Oh by the way, the soundtrack of the anime, especially from seasons 1 to 4 is really good (I haven´t had a chance to listen to the last seasons yet, share some feedback if you have!) Click here if you want to check out the soundtrack as well.  *You can read the original article here.

Naruto is an exceptionally long-lived manga series. Its serialization began in 1999, when creator Kishimoto Masashi was just 25 years old. In the 15 years that have elapsed since then, Kishimoto has created an entire life for his protagonist—Uzumaki Naruto, a student at a ninja academy whose mediocrity in his studies belies his deep inner capabilities.

“When I first created Naruto,” says the veteran artist, “I was just setting out myself to become a mangaka, and I projected my own fierce desire to be recognized by those around me on my character.”

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At the time, of course, there was no way of knowing that this character would gain incredible recognition around the world over his decade-and-a-half-long run.

“With a magazine like Shōnen Jump,” explains Kishimoto, “you produce three issues’ worth of your material that’s up for consideration, and the editors decide whether to publish you based on that. If you make it past that stage, you’ve got about two months until your series kicks off in the magazine.” While this is the answer every manga creator hopes to hear, in general, it means only that an order has been placed for a short story arc. “The writer doesn’t have much time to prepare for those weekly deliveries and really polish the work. Usually, you don’t need much more than one or two full-length bound volumes worth of material.”

“When I first met the editors,” he continues, “I only knew one thing about my manga: that I wanted Naruto and Sasuke [his rival since childhood] to end the work with a climactic confrontation.”

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Naruto wrapped up with its 699th and 700th written instalments, carried back-to-back in the issue of Shōnen Jump that went on sale on November 10. The story Kishimoto has told over the past 15 years has been an epic one.

Naruto is set in the world of the “Five Great Shinobi Nations.” Uzumaki Naruto hails from Hi no Kuni, the “Land of Fire”—one of the five nations named for classical elements. Each of these nations has “hidden villages,” settlements home to schools for ninja, where they master the mystical powers that they wield in battle. Naruto is a student at the academy in the settlement of Konohagakure, where he dreams of one day becoming the hokage, the master ninja who leads and defends the village. He is not a particularly dedicated student, though, failing his graduation exam numerous times before finally making it to the lowest genin ninja rank. Placed in a ninja team headed by the elite warrior Hatake Kakashi, alongside his rival and eventual enemy Uchiha Sasuke and his love interest Haruno Sakura, Naruto sets out on the long and hard path to maturity.

Naruto himself has a dark secret: the presence within him of a powerful, monstrous nine-tailed fox, whose essence was sealed within him by his father—who lost his life in the process—when Naruto was just an infant. The five nations of this world once sought to control these giant beasts as a way to gain military supremacy, but they have now come to rest in human vessels scattered throughout the lands, producing an uneasy balance of power.

“The entire story of these tailed beasts started out as a simple way for me to get the fox into my manga,” says Kishimoto. “I loved Godzilla. I just wanted to draw a monster—something big that I could place in a battle. That’s why I decided to introduce the kuchiyose no jutsu, the summoning skills that let ninja call forth the weapons they need, or call a creature to their side to aid them in a fight. My intent from the start was to bring forth gigantic beings with these skills.”

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 The Blond-Haired, Blue-Eyed Ninja

So why ninja in the first place? Kishimoto notes the inspiration of Sasuke, an anime series based on the manga created by Shirato Sanpei. But what really inspired him as a manga artist, he says, was Toriyama Akira’s Dragon Ball. In any case, he says, he had little desire at the beginning to create a story that fit some standard “ninja manga” mold.

“I had a sort of defiant attitude from the outset—this idea that there was no need for a Japanese writer to do a story on something so Japanese as the ninja. I mean, look at my protagonist: he’s got blond hair and blue eyes. Sure, shinobi means the art of stealth, but I never thought this was a reason to cloak my main character in shadow. He wears an orange outfit, behaves flamboyantly, steps forward and proclaims his name. I wanted to create a ‘pop’ manga that turned standard concepts of ninja on their heads.”

Some final thoughts:

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Interview based on a November 17, 2014, interview in Japanese. Interview photos © Yamada Shinji.
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