Naruto : Volume 1 - Kage Bunshi... Art of the Doppelganger!

Dec 24, 2003 (Updated Mar 21, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Good Art, Great Story, Cool Characters/Techniques

Cons:Cliches, It's Sometimes Difficult to tell What's Happening During Battle Sequences

The Bottom Line: Naruto : Volume 1 Is a graphic novel. If You See it At Least Give it a look If You're Into Anime

I'm extremely new to the whole manga scene. For those who don't know what manga is, it's Japanese comic books. These books usually lead to the creation of anime television series based upon their stories. In the U.S. manga is referred to as "graphic novels". These novels tend to be much, much deeper than your standard U.S. comic books, and the themes are usually darker and more mature. Personally even as a child I had a difficult time enjoying American comic books, they just weren't for me. I have always preferred reading full novels rather than picture based comic books about super heroes with super powers. Well anyway I was browsing through Borders the other day and I stumble across Naruto: Volume 1 on the shelf. I've watched quite a bit of the anime series for Naruto (although it hasn't been released outside of Japan yet) and I've recently become a big fan of it. So I dusted off my wallet and purchased the graphic novel. After reading this volume I've been hitting myself for waiting so long before checking out manga.

Naruto is a manga/series that was made with guys in mind, with a lot of action and it's just more oriented for males. That's not to say that girls won't enjoy Naruto: Volume 1, because most people despite age and gender can find something to enjoy in it. Even though a lot of shounen anime (anime for boys) revolves mainly around action and intense battles, Naruto takes a different approach than what you'd expect. The world of Naruto does focus quite a bit on action and special moves, but it actually seems to be more like a coming of age series that features a misunderstood character as he tries to make everyone in the village where he lives to acknowledge his presence.

The beginning of the manga begins with a battle. A demon fox with nine tails is attacking a ninja village, and the ninjas are losing the battle. The fighters just have to hold on until the village's 4th Hokage can arrive. Well things get better, as the 4th is able to seal up the demon, but he loses his life in the process. The demon was sealed inside a child, and this child is named Naruto.

Fast Forward 12 Years Later...

Naruto is nothing but a nuissance to the village, as he often causes trouble. His most recent prank involves him applying paint to the Hokage monument. Naruto's teacher at the ninja academy forces him to clean off the paint, and is really the only person who is nice to Naruto. This means a lot to Naruto, because all of his life he has been shunned and ignored, while his only defense to the abuse he endured was to play pranks on the rest of the village. What's worse is that Naruto has failed the graduation exam for the ninja academy twice, but upon failing a third time he inadvertently gives a betrayer of the village a chance to steal a valuable scroll from the present Hokage.

Two of the other main characters who are introduced later on are Sakura and Sasuke who are put on a ninja team with Naruto. Sasuke is the most cliche character you can think of; he's quiet, dark, and gets annoyed really quickly. On top of those traits, he's also a very smart ninja and he's one of the most competent children who attend the ninja academy. Sakura is a little different than Sasuke in that she isn't such a good fighter, but she's extremely bright. A comical love triangle between the three teammates is immediately noticeable, with Naruto who has a crush on Sakura, who has a crush on Sasuke, who thinks that Sakura and Naruto are extremely annoying and he's actually pretty rude to both of them.

It's always heartwarming in this manga whenever Naruto speaks of his aspirations to become the village's Hokage (strongest ninja). This manga has different phases that it goes through. Naruto can go from being dead serious to laugh out loud funny extremely quick, but what's really great about this is how well the manga transitions from each of these moods. What adds to the mood, be it in a humorous or dark fashion are the reactions and expressions to each of the characters as they are portrayed through the drawings.

Overall I didn't notice any real errors with the translation, so that's a definite plus. Everything is easy to read, and very understandable, so much that a child could probably understand pretty much everything in Naruto : Volume 1, as long as they can read. Although I liked the translation overall, there is one thing that slightly bothers me. In the Japanese version of the show and manga Naruto's special move was called Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, which means something close to "shadow replication", I'm not sure because I don't speak or read Japanese. In the U.S. release of the manga, this special move is called "The Art of the Doppelganger", which feels a little strange to read to myself. Like I said, it's nothing major, and someone who hasn't seen Naruto before won't feel weird at all by it.

The different pages of Naruto : Volume 1 are covered with very nice pictures, and in familiar comic book style dialogue is put inside text bubbles. It is very obvious that a lot of care was put into each of the separate drawings, and the art is extremely pleasant to look at. Most of the drawings look extremely close to the real anime series, and so this will definitely please Naruto fans. One aspect I particularly like for this manga are the character designs and facial expressions. Although I haven't read much manga, these are the best I've seen so far. There is a slight problem I have with some of the art though. Sometimes it's a bit difficult to tell what's going on during fight sequences, as pictures aren't exactly the best way to portray action. After looking at the other pictures for the fight it becomes more noticeable of what's happening, so it's not too big of a problem.

Final Recommendation
I don't really know how well a non-anime/manga fan would react to this series in graphic novel form, but it's definitely worth a buy. The price is around $8, but that shouldn't be a big enough price to prevent you from purchasing it. Anime and manga fans should definitely check this one out, even if you aren't a fan of shounen stuff.

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