As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hello everyone! I’m Mokugyo, a proud anime lover and otaku writer for MANGA.TOKYO.
December is cold in Japan. Really cold. So cold in fact that I debate with myself everyday if I should go out or not. I wish I had some serious ninjutsu powers and have my own shadow clone do my chores for me. Sadly, I don’t live inside the world of NARUTO. His doppelganger art could have come in handy.
Nevertheless, since it’s highly unlikely that I will suddenly acquire ninja powers, I have some interesting trivia to share with you about NARUTO.
NARUTO is a manga series by Masashi Kishimoto which was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1999 to 2014. In the series, Naruto trains himself to become Hokage, the ninja village leader, and fights against a bunch of other ninja villains.
Although the manga’s serialization has already come to an end, the anime series is still going on here in Japan. NARUTO’s sequel, BORUTO, is currently being serialized in Shonen Jump on a monthly basis. However, BORUTO is not being illustrated by the original author, Masashi Kishimoto.
NARUTO is a smash hit both domestically and internationally. Here is one good example that clearly represents NARUTO’s massive worldwide popularity: In a British movie called Attack the Block, one of the characters says the surprising line, ‘Lock your door, do your homework, watch NARUTO’. It’s quite rare for Japanese manga and anime titles to be brought up as a reference in foreign productions.
The word ‘ninja’ means a person who acts in stealth. The main job of the real-life ninja was to assassinate enemies quietly in the dark and steal confidential information for their masters.
For this reason, real-life Japanese ninja were covered in camouflage-friendly dark-colored costumes such as black, brown, and navy. That’s why almost all ninja from ninja-featured comics, movies, and dramas are covered in dark-colored clothes.
However, in contrast to these works, the protagonist Naruto has blond hair, blue eyes, and is dressed in a bright orange costume. This unique, impressive look of the protagonist was exactly what made the manga stand out from the rest. It was pretty unusual for us to see a ninja in a flashy costume.
On top of the protagonist’s unusual look, NARUTO is set in an unique imaginary world. Ninjas usually appear in works that are based on Japanese history, but NARUTO chose to go its own way and put a little fantasy in the mix.
NARUTO was a tremendously popular work. For that reason, during the publishing of the final chapter, there were numerous events being held all across Japan.
A special countdown was posed in Tokyo Station, counting down to the chapters left. A huge NARUTO board was placed in Shibuya so that fans could write their own messages. These projects are unique and not even the most successful titles get to have them.
NARUTO’s domestic circulation as of 2015 has amounted to 140 million copies. In comparison with this number, ONE PIECE‘s circulation has surpassed the 300 million copies.
Both are Weekly Shonen Jump’s flagship manga titles, and in fact these two big titles greatly contributed to the popularity of the magazine in the 2000s. Just as these figures suggest, ONE PIECE has stayed in the top position with its overwhelming popularity and overshined NARUTO. However, the situation is different in overseas countries. NARUTO’s popularity outside Japan is stronger than that of ONE PIECE.
Also, according to a special conversational session between NARUTO’s author Masashi Kishimoto and ONE PIECE‘s author Eiichiro Oda, they had actually been paying close attention to each other. This special session can be read in NARUTO’s official guidebook 道-MICHI- that was released to celebrate the closure of the serialization. Eiichiro Oda and Masashi Kishimoto are both rivals and sworn friends who have together played the leading role that boosted the reputation of the popular magazine.
On ONE PIECE‘s opening page in the issue of Shonen Jump’ that contained NARUTO’s last episode, there was a secret message from Eiichiro Oda for Masashi Kishimoto that says, ‘Thank you for the great work’. And in response to this message, ONE PIECE‘s cross-bones symbol was drawn on Hokage Rock in NARUTO’s last chapter.
This mutually-inspired relationship between these two famous manga authors has generated much attention among the fans. This is an unshakable testament that they are both rivals and great friends.
NARUTO’s author Masashi Kishimoto has once talked about his influence from AKIRA. AKIRA is a mega hit science fiction action comic series by Katsuhiro Otomo that was first released back in 1982. The manga foresaw that the Tokyo Olympics would be held in 2020 and attracted a lot of public attention.
In the series, special boys with supernatural abilities fight in a near-future Japan. The series was adapted into a widely popular anime movie by Katsuhiro Otomo himself. AKIRA is considered by many fans as a must-see classic anime title.
AKIRA’s noteworthy characteristic is, after all, its sophisticated and detailed depictions. The futuristic city and the characters are extremely detailed, but also clear and neat. The work’s outstanding, innovative artwork was pretty impactful in the 1980s. It is said to have significantly influenced the future of Japanese manga and anime.
In NARUTO, for example, we can see that strong influence in its elaborately drawn city views. Although NARUTO is about ninjas, it has some sci-fi world-like aspects in it. The city views seen in NARUTO are quite close to those of the modern world.
Also, in NARUTO, the characters often transform their bodies while using their abilities and this slightly monstrous body transformation is similar to that of AKIRA. In AKIRA, a character ends up losing control of his excessively enormous supernatural power and his body suddenly mutates into a grotesque, giant creature.
If you’re a NARUTO fan and still haven’t watched AKIRA, I strongly recommend it!
Masashi Kishimoto has talked about his Dragon Ball influences several times. Dragon Ball is about protagonist Goku’s great adventure searching for the dragon balls, which can fulfill any wish when all the balls are collected. The story begins with Goku’s childhood, but later escalates to massive battles on a cosmic scale. It has been around for so long that Goku grew up and had two sons, Son Gohan and Son Goten.
Masashi Kishimoto has confessed that he was planning to publish NARUTO as a three-part work. In his initial plan, Naruto was going to be Hokage at the end of the second part and the third part was going to be about Naruto’s son, Boruto.
However, as it turned out, he ended the NARUTO series with the second part and the third part ended up becoming the movie BORUTO. The BORUTO manga is currently being serialized. The work is being handled by another illustrator.
His concept of writing both the stories of the protagonist and of his son’s was actually inspired by Dragon Ball.
NARUTO’s author, Masashi Kishimoto has a twin brother named Seishi Kishimoto. Surprisingly, his twin brother is also a manga author and has released several works such as O-Parts Hunter and Blazer Drive. Although he is not as famous as his older brother, he is a very skillful manga author. Masashi sometimes gives him advice as the most successful of the two.
Masashi Kishimoto has mentioned that he is already building the plot for his next work. According to him, it will be a sci-fi story and he has already finished with the character designs. I’m really curious to find out what kind of manga it will be!
NARUTO is a story full of hardships, friendship, amazing battles, and of course, ninjas! If you haven’t seen the anime yet, I highly recommend it. It has already been announced that there will be a Hollywood adaptation and that BORUTO is going to have its own anime adaptation, so this is your chance to be up to date.