As the seemingly endless saga of ninja manga Naruto finally comes to a close, the Asahi Shimbun has managed to snag an interview with Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto – with one particular highlight being Kishimoto’s realization of just how large his creation has become and its vast success in the west.
Q: What are you feeling now?
Kishimoto: Because I just completed the last episode less than 12 hours ago, I do not have any real feeling (that “Naruto” has ended). I have had to meet a deadline every week for 15 years, so I feel that there’s a deadline for next week. I thought of many things to do after (“Naruto”) ends, but I do not know where to begin. I want to do something other than manga. Don’t worry, I will continue creating manga.
Q: When did you decide how to end “Naruto”?
A: Since the work was first serialized, I have been determined to end the manga series with the battle between protagonist Naruto and Sasuke, who has been his rival since the start of the story. I later decided on the details, little by little, such as whether they would fight each other as friends or enemies, their feelings and dialogues, while I was drawing the series. Around two years ago, I began to feel the story was approaching the finale.
When the series started, the editor responsible for my work told me, “Continue the series for at least five years.” The tough work of continuing to draw “Naruto” for the weekly magazine occasionally made me think that I would like to finish the series. I did not think “Naruto” would last for 15 years.
The story lasted for such a long period because the characters “stuck it out.” When I attempted to quickly offer an answer (to issues raised in the story), the characters did not allow me to do so. If I had made them act as I wished, the reality would have been lost.
Because manga artists are always working inside rooms, it is difficult for us to see firsthand if our works are really popular. It was not until I received many fan letters from overseas that I realized (“Naruto” is) popular outside Japan. Some of those letters are written in languages I do not know, so I understand that my work is read by people in various countries.
One fan mail contained a photograph of a small child dressed as Naruto striking a pose. Such attachments make me happy.
Q: Were you conscious of “One Piece”?
A: It is impossible to be unconscious. (Both “Naruto” and “One Piece”) are serialized in the same magazine, and “One Piece” has always been running ahead of the pack. I have been able to work so hard writing “Naruto” thanks to “One Piece.”
Q: You will turn 40 years old on Nov. 8. How do you feel about that?
A: I remain a child in terms of mentality. Nothing has changed from age 25, when the series started. I just worked at the desk to create high-quality, interesting manga, and 15 years passed before I knew it.
Q: What would you want to tell your old self?
A: I hope to tell my 23- or 24-year-old self, who painted Naruto and other characters on copy paper just as I wanted on the veranda of my family’s home: “Cherish him. You will write a serial manga for 15 years using the character.”
Some illustrations drawn by Kishimoto:
While most Japanese studio’s tend to disregard the existence of fans outside of Japan, perhaps the realization seen by the creator of one of the bigger anime titans will cause said studios to follow suit – The entirety of the interview can be read here.