[From August Issue 2014]
“Naruto” is an ongoing comic strip serialized weekly in Shonen Jump since 1999. Through numerous battles, it portrays friendships and familial ties between ninjas. There are up to 69 volumes of the book version, and total circulation has exceeded one hundred thirty million copies. It is also very popular abroad.
The story begins with the hero, UZUMAKI Naruto training to become a ninja while studying at school in Konohagakure no Sato (Village Hidden in the Leaves) in the Land of Fire. Twelve-year-old Naruto does not have parents and the adults around him treat him coldly. This is related to an incident that occurred 12 years ago: the village of Konohagakure no Sato was badly damaged when it was attacked by Kyuubi, a demon fox with nine tails.
Naruto’s father was the fourth “hokage” to lead Konohagakure no Sato. To protect the village he sealed the nine-tailed fox into the body of newborn Naruto, afterwards losing his life. Because it is forbidden to speak of this, Naruto doesn’t know anything about it. However, because he carried the demon fox inside his body, the adults have kept Naruto at arm’s length.
Before the story was serialized, the setup was going to be that Naruto himself was the human manifestation of the Kyuubi. However, in a different book, author KISHIMOTO Masashi explained that he decided to change this setup in order that Naruto would be more appealing to readers. The story occasionally explores the fact that as a “human” whose body contains a Kyuubi, Naruto both feels cut off from others and craves acceptance.
The work is divided into two parts. Part One mainly depicts Naruto’s friendships in Konohagakure no Sato; those friends who will eventually team up with him. In Part Two, the world the story is set in expands. The conflict with ninjas from countries scheming to use the power trapped within Naruto heats up. Naruto finds himself in tricky situations again and again as he faces the various techniques of the ninjas. A large-scale war between ninjas breaks out and more and more people close to Naruto lose their lives.
Because they are ninjas, the characters live according to their own special code. The story fizzes with unusual vocabulary. However, the troubles and joys depicted are not any different from those experienced by readers. Meticulous attention to detail is taken over the circumstances and psychology of not just Naruto, but of all the characters. This is why there is no arch villain. While viewing the story from Naruto’s perspective, readers can also empathize with the ninjas attacking Naruto and his friends, and it’s this that gives the story its depth, making hearts race. This is perhaps the secret as to why the serial remains so popular after 15 years.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo