Masashi Kishimoto Interviews

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In early 2006, Shonen Jump (USA) conducted an interview with creator of the Naruto series, Masashi Kishimoto. This interview was then divided into two parts and released in the 2006 May and June issues of Shonen Jump.

The Hokage Speaks

The blindfold didn’t hurt much, and though the car windows were dark, we felt more safe than scared. The ninja bodyguards were quite friendly, really. They kept us sated with ramen and green tea as we made our way toward the secret location where we were scheduled to interview secluded ninja storyteller Masashi Kishimoto, creator of Naruto. Kishimoto-sensei was polite and soft spoken. He told us about his childhood, the word of Naruto and how he already knows the way the manga will end – not that he gave anything away. And then, in a cloud of smoke, he disappeared…

SHONEN JUMP: Let’s get right to the most pressing and important question, something our readers often ask, and we’d like to know, too: What is this thing? >>>>>> It’s rumored that it’s lipstick Naruto uses when he does the Ninja Centerfold Jutsu.

MASASHI KISHIMOTO: [laughs] Many Japanese fans ask the same question. What is it? I just drew it in as a spur of the moment thing, and it doesn’t have much meaning. I’m hoping I can expand more on it later and integrate it into the story.

SJ: Are any of the characters we’ve met based on people you know or experiences you’ve had?

MK: I did base some of the characters on my friends in college, with some embellishment. But really, I’ve been creating original characters mostly.

SJ: Sakura and Rock Lee don’t appear to have any of the special powers that ninja like Naruto, Sasuke and Gaara have – do you think those two characters are popular because they provide a kind of reader’s-eye view of the story as it unfolds?

MK: Is Sakura popular in the U.S.? Well, Lee only has taijutsu. And as a girl, Sakura is [physically] weaker than the others. So I can see why it’s easy to empathize with them. They represent human weaknesses.

SJ: We want to know more about the rest of the Naruto world – what are the normal people like, what are the governments like, is this the whole world?

MK: The world outside of the ninja is pretty normal. People make their living by running businesses, et cetera. Konohagakure, the Village Hidden in the Leaves, is the military part of the country. Hinokuni, or the Land of Fire, provides Konohagakure a place to live, and in return, the resident ninja protect the country as a whole, similar to a military force.

As for the government, the daimyo, or warlords, govern the lands and run the political system and the bureaucracy.

Each country has warlords at the top, and its military has its leaders. In America, you have a president at the top, but you also have the military general at the top of the military. The states have more power than the ninja, but since the daimyo don’t cooperate with each other, I guess coup d’états happen rather frequently. The world is not yet solid [laughs], but what you see in the story is not everything in the world of Naruto.

SJ: Has it been tough to maintain the rigorous production needs of the manga, now that you have a family? Do you ever get used to the intense schedule?

MK: It’s been six years since I started Naruto, but I’ve never gotten used to the schedule of weekly installments. The lifestyle is not for any normal human. When I was just a reader of manga, I always thought, “Why can’t the artists draw more?” Now that I’ve finally become a manga-ka, I’m like, “You’re asking for something impossible!” [laughs]

SJ: Have any of your assistant artists gone on to do their own manga yet?

MK: Yes, one of them has: Osamu Kajisa (also spelled as "Osamu Kazisa"). His work, Tattoo Hearts, has been published.

SJ: It sounds like you had a pretty happy childhood – what motivated you to write a story about an outsider?

MK: My childhood wasn’t all that happy. It may have sounded like it was all good in my journal entries in the manga volumes, but that was in order to make it interesting for the readers. Like any person, I’ve had hardships in my life. I was not the center of anyone’s attention in school, rather sitting on the outskirts. I didn’t do well in everything. I didn’t excel in studies nor sports. So I can understand Naruto’s feelings of being an underdog. I don’t really like people who are too perfect. [laughs]

SJ: Oda-sensei says he knows how One Piece will end – do you know how Naruto will end?

MK: Yes, I have the last episode clearly drawn in my mind. I’ve already decided on the layout, text and scenes. Not just the story ideas, but the visual ideas are solid.

All I have to do is just head toward the ending I have, but there are still so many things that need to be resolved before reaching that point. Maybe I have thrown in too many ideas, so I need to wrap them up neatly.

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