Graphic Novels are a newer genre of books, and for a lot of people an easier way to connect with reading nowadays. I have personally read many different graphic novels over the years, anything from memoirs, classics turned into graphic novels and manga as well. If you’re not familiar with the term, a graphic novel is a novel length book that has a comic bookish style of art and panels to go along with it. To make it clearer, it’s a novel length comic book, but that’s a very simple way of explaining it. Anyway, I also mentioned the term manga up above, and that is essentially a Japanese graphic novel. They also tend to get made into anime and that is the term used for Japanese animation. Manga also read from right to left, rather than left to right (as we are used to). I personally have been reading manga for a very long time now and today I want to talk about one of my favorite manga, Naruto.
Naruto is a series that consists of 72 books and each book has about 5-6 chapters in it. Naruto is written by Masashi Kishimoto. The story is told in two parts, the first part which spans the first 27 books and then the second part which spans the last 45 books. The first part of the story follows his pre-teen era and the rest follow his teens. Naruto has become the fourth best-selling manga series of all time and originally started in 1999, and went until 2014. There is a sequel series, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, which started in 2016 and is ongoing as of this blog.
Naruto Uzumaki is a young ninja in the ninja academy at the Village Hidden in the Leaves, or Konoha. He is known to be a mischief maker and everyone in the village finds him to be a nuisance. Naruto was orphaned after his parents died in the last great ninja war on the night of his birth. He has no friends and gets into all kinds of trouble in order to get attention from the adults. He always tells everyone that he will become Hokage one day. A Hokage is the leader of the Village and almost always the strongest ninja of the land. (There are five great ninja lands and 5 Kage that led the biggest village in each. Konohakagure has the Hokage, Iwakagure has the Tsuchikage, Sunakagure has the Kazekage, Kumokagure has the Raikage, and Kirikagure has the Mizukage.) This makes everyone laugh at him as he can’t even produce a shadow clone of himself properly. The only person who acknowledges him is his Sensei (teacher) Iruka. However, even Iruka can get angry and tends to hold Naruto in a higher regard due to Iruka being like Naruto when he was younger.
On the day of his graduation exam from the academy, Naruto fails to produce a clone and fails. Sensei Mizuki from the Ninja Academy approaches him, and tells him about a scroll that can help him create the Clone Jutsu that Naruto was struggling with. This scroll contains Jutsus that are often dangerous and therefore forbidden to learn and because of this the Hokage keeps it locked in his residence. However, if he got it, Mizuki told Naruto that if he can learn one technique from the scroll, Iruka would probably pass him on his graduation. So, Naruto steals it and gets away to the forest where he starts studying. The Hokage finds out the scroll is missing and sends ninja out to find Naruto, Iruka Sensei is the first to find him and questions why he had the scroll. Naruto tells him that Mizuki said to take it, learn something from it and show Iruka so he would pass. Just then they are ambushed by Mizuki and he asks Naruto to give him the scroll. Iruka explains that Naruto was used by the other sensei and to not give it to him.
Then Mizuki tells Naruto why no one in the village likes him. Long ago there was a war with the nine-tails demon fox spirit. The fox went on a rampage and basically destroyed the village, and in order to save it the Fourth Hokage had to take drastic measures. He decided to seal the demon fox into a person (known as a host or Jinchuriki). This person was baby Naruto and in doing so the Fourth Hokage perished. So, everyone sees the fox when they see Naruto. There is a total of nine of these “tailed beasts” and almost every big village has had a Jinchuriki. Almost every host of the “tailed beasts” is treated very similarly to Naruto because people fear that the host will lose control over their seals and the beasts will come out. He then tells Naruto that his own Sensei (Iruka) lost his parents in the attack on the village.
After Naruto hears this, he gets upset, Mizuki notices the change and tries to attack him with a gigantic shuriken (a shuriken is a ninja tool that looks like a star and has sharp edges) but Iruka gets in the way. When Naruto sees his Sensei covering him from the attack, he gets scared and runs away, with Mizuki following after him. Iruka catches up to Naruto first to tell him that Mizuki is coming after him. Naruto attacks Iruka and it turns out that it was actually Mizuki. But in a twist of events the “Naruto” Mizuki was following was actually Iruka. Mizuki warns Iruka that if Naruto was able to learn the unsealing Jutsu from the scroll, then the demon fox inside Naruto could use the scroll to release the seal. Iruka agrees, but says that Naruto is different than the fox. Iruka acknowledged him as one of his excellent students and as a member of the Hidden Leaf Village and as such he would do anything to save Naruto.
Naruto was listening and when Mizuki attacks Iruka, Naruto intervenes and tells him not to touch his Sensei and if he did, he would kill him. Mizuki challenges him and Naruto creates the symbol that he learned earlier from the scroll and creates about 1,000 other Narutos. Iruka watched everything as Naruto takes Mizuki down. Iruka tells Naruto to close his eyes. When Naruto opens his eyes, he sees his Sensei smiling at him and on Naruto’s forehead, Iruka placed his own Konoha headband, which is a sign of a ninja graduate. Iruka tells Naruto congratulations and that he passed graduation.
I have read through the series two times now, once when it was still coming out and now currently. I’m currently reading book number 70 of the 72-part series (as of writing this blog) and reading it is so entertaining and fast. I personally can read through one manga (depending on the length) in about a half an hour to an hour. So, even though it sounds like a daunting task reading 72 books, it’s really not going to take that long. The story is well written and there’s a lot of action in the art of the books that it really goes quickly.
The story of Naruto is so good. I wouldn’t recommend something unless I loved it. The progressions of all the characters are amazing. Some characters change in ways that actually make you hate them for a bit, but eventually they have redemption and make you like them once again. I’m thinking of one character in particular, but if I name them and you read the series then I can’t name who, as it’s a major spoiler. What I love about Kishimoto is he really gives each character you meet a story that is really meaningful and interesting to read. He really took his time and thought out each character’s story. Even the villains have amazing back stories that it makes it hard to truly ever hate them. Except Madara Uchiha, there’s no liking him, but he does have a great back story as well.
The characters are for sure the reason why I think Naruto became as popular as it did because you see such growth and strength in all of them and for Naruto himself going from this snot nosed pre-teen to a full-blown ninja by the end. The way he matures emotionally and in strength is such a crazy ride to go through.
If you are truly looking to get into Manga/Graphic Novels, this is the series that I would recommend to most people. We carry the entire series in our network so if you’re interested then we can get them for you. The entire network also has the sequel series as well, which currently has 13 books as of this blog. We have most of the sequel series here in the Kellogg Library.