So, to end off my week of reviewing thicker-than-usual books, here’s a manga volume that covers the first three volumes of a long-running and very popular series, namely Naruto.
So, once upon a time, I would leave certain TV channels on while I played on my computer on nights when I stayed in…which was most nights.
I’m live a rather sad life, it seems.
Anyway, one of those was Cartoon Network, and Saturday nights would mean I’d hear Naruto in anime form playing in the background, and me being a stickler for, like, real history would wonder why the characters wanted to be ninjas since they were generally just sneaky assassins and not the great heroes stories like Natuto make them out to be. Plus, the character of Naruto was mostly a loud and obnoxious kid prone to screaming all the dang time. Point is, I didn’t much care for it but had nothing better to play in the background as far as I was concerned.
At any rate, Naruto is super-popular in both manga and anime form, so I figured I’d give it a shot. And…I’m a bit glad I did. Sure, Naruto is still a somewhat obnoxious kid prone to shouting, but I could put whatever voice I wanted into his mouth, and the story actually mostly worked.
Naruto is a kid in a ninja training school. He’s been an orphan his whole life, and nobody actually likes him. Why? Well, just around the time he was born, a nine-tailed fox spirit was laying waste to his village when the Hokage, the top ninja guy, went out and managed to just barely defeat the thing while trapping it inside baby Naruto. The understanding was no one was supposed to blame the baby, but adults who remembered still blamed the boy and then kids his own age took a page from what the grown-ups were doing, and as a result, Naruto’s original motivation to become the next Hokage was he really wanted people to respect him.
That’s a bit better than a lot of these other quest-type manga series I read where a character wants to do one thing, but his or her reasons for doing so are usually less, shall we say, pure. Sometimes they look to be doing it just for fun.
And, as it turns out, Naruto’s reasoning actually seems to change and get more complex as it goes. Despite being something of a loud-mouthed prankster, he also works very hard and actually seems to want to help people. Over the course of these first 27 or so chapters, he honestly shows a good deal of growth and development. He’s not the only one. He’s put on a team with a teacher, the laconic Kakashi, but his two classmates and teammates gradually become better as the book goes along. Sasuke was top of their graduating class, but he’s focused on a mission and has no time for others. He’s basically the opposite of Naruto. The lone female member Sakura seems initially to be a rather superficial young woman with a thing for Sasuke while hating Naruto (and yes, Naruto has a thing for her and Sasuke hates her). By the time this book ends, the foursome will have gone on a mission to protect a bridge-builder in a far off village where Naruto will push himself beyond any point he’s ever gone to before, Sasuke will act to protect Naruto, and Sakura will actually stop to help Naruto learn some new skills, all of which pleases Kakashi.
So, lots of made-up ninja magic, fast action, and kids becoming better people through martial arts. I ended up liking this quite a bit. 9 out of 10 ninja centerfolds combined with the doppelganger spell.