NARUTO conquers American fans
If your kids have their noses buried in books or their eyes glued to Cartoon Network's Toonami, chances are they've been reading or watching the ninja-themed hit NARUTO. The manga phenomenon garnered attention here after its success overseas, and now this internationally popular Japanese graphic novel series is about to become even more accessible.
VIZ Media, the San Francisco-based manga and licensing company that distributes NARUTO in the U.S., has announced the NARUTONATION campaign, which will increase the publication frequency of the series, so that eager American fans can catch up with their Japanese counterparts. Three new volumes will be released each month this fall, from September through December, bringing American readers volumes 16-27 in record time. When volume 28 is released next March, it will hit bookstore shelves in America at the same time it's released in Japan.
Also coming out this fall as part of NARUTONATION are new editions of NARUTO Anime Profiles and the NARUTO Collector magazine, along with The Art of NARUTO: Uzumaki, an art book for collectors. The first NARUTO movieNinja Clash in the Land of Snowaired on June 6 in more than 160 U.S. theaters for one night only and will be available on DVD in September.
If your child is an established NARUTO fan, he probably knows all about the manga series, the cartoons, the DVDs, the collector's items and the graphic novels. If NARUTO hasn't yet caught on with your family, you might be wondering whether it's an appropriate choice for youngsters. First, a little background for the clueless: Manga is the Japanese word for printed comics, and anime is the animated version of the comics (although the terms are occasionallyand inaccuratelyused as synonyms in the U.S.). Since boys tend to be more visual than girls at a young age, manga is generally considered an excellent choice for inducing a reluctant male reader to pick up a book.
NARUTO, which is rated "T" for Teen, follows the antics and escapades of Uzumaki NARUTO and his fellow ninjas-in-training, Sasuke and Sakura. VIZ has preserved the Japanese manga style by printing the books in their original format, reading from left to right. Like The Karate Kid of a previous generation, NARUTO is an underdog, learning to better himself in an honorable way. The stories feature themes such as friendship, teamwork, loyalty, hard work and ingenuity.
NARUTO shows followers how to calm their minds and control their passions through patience. Being boisterous and acting rashly take NARUTO further from his ultimate goal of becoming a Hokage, or greatest of ninjas. His self-assuredness and audacity can sometimes work against him, and his quest for acknowledgment from others often gets him into trouble.
Masashi Kishimoto, the mastermind behind the NARUTO series, cites the manga Dragon Ball and Akira as his own inspiration for wanting to become a mangaka, or comic artist. "Creating manga isn't just about drawing well, but writing a good story. Keep the art and story real, and you can't lose," Kishimoto says.
Kishimoto's training began in art college, where he "trained in plaster mediums and the drawing of the human body to increase my skills as a design artist." He won the Hop Step Award for new manga artists with his manga Karakuri ("Mechanism") before launching the NARUTO series in Japan's most popular manga magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump.
NARUTO has sold more than 72 million copies in Japan since its debut in 1999 and is raking in accolades in the U.S. as well: On top of selling more than 2 million copies nationwide, the manga series received the most nominations in the inaugural American Anime Awards; was awarded the genre's first ever Quill Award in 2006 for Best Graphic Novel; and has appeared frequently on the USA Today Top 150 bestseller list. The televised "NARUTO" is the most popular show on Cartoon Network for boys ages 9 to 14. "The boundless success of NARUTO is due largely to the depth and great volume of the stories that have made the brand a success as a manga, DVD, broadcast series and feature film," says Liza Coppola, VIZ senior vice president for marketing. And with the launch of NARUTO NATION, that popularity is expected to grow.