Weekly SHONEN JUMP Alpha recently had a chance to interview legendary mangaka Masashi Kishimoto. Part 1 of the interview revealed how Kishimoto Sensei first got into manga and the recent events in his personal life that impacted Naruto. In Part 2 of our exclusive interview, Kishimoto Sensei shares his thoughts on the current story arc in Naruto and his take on digital manga.
MASASHI KISHIMOTO Interview Part 2
Q: Currently, there is a major war brewing in Naruto with a multitude of characters from the past and present. How do you feel about war? And what are the challenges of depicting such an epic event in manga?
Masashi Kishimoto: There are a lot characters who are involved in the current war in the world of Naruto. I want to pay a lot of attention to every character while drawing them, but I have to omit some points. So it is difficult to make a judgment on what to omit and what to show.
Also, war is a difficult theme to write about. I grew up in Okayama, which is right next to Hiroshima. My grandparents went through the terror of war, and I know from their stories that the war was built up on people’s grudges.
But you can’t just look at the current state and criticize it as being simply wrong, because every little thing in our history causes the build-up towards war, and when it reaches its limit, it breaks out. So even in the manga, it wouldn’t be believable unless I carefully elaborate on the war’s background.
As my grandfather taught me, I believe that “war is never the right answer,” but I also understand that there will always be war. I feel lucky that I grew up in a generation that didn’t experience war. However, there are certain things that only my generation can tell in a story, and I can tell it from my own perspective. Even though it’s fiction, I want to make people feel like that there is still hope.
Q: Who are your current favorite characters?
MK: My current favorites are Choji and Killer Bee.
Q: Then we have to ask about one of our favorite characters, Killer Bee. How did this character come about?
MK: My former editor really loves pro wrestling, and he wanted a character like a pro wrestler. All of Killer Bee’s moves are related to pro wrestling, even though he’s a ninja. He sucks at rapping, but he does it anyway. I wanted to make him into an interesting character as well as one of the most powerful ninja in the world of Naruto. I have a difficult time writing Killer Bee’s lines because he always rhymes. But that’s the persona that I gave his character. Even if it’s difficult, I will always challenge myself to make him a rich character.
Q: What is your feeling towards Sasuke now that he has gone through drastic change throughout the series?
MK: Sasuke is always in the corner of my mind. Naruto and Sasuke progress as a pair. So when I write about Naruto, I always have to think about Sasuke. They are on opposite sides of the spectrum, like yin and yang.
Q: The Akatsuki are one of the most colorful and intriguing set of villains of any manga. Why did you create the Akatsuki? Do you have a favorite?
MK: Itachi, Sasuke’s brother, is my favorite. The Akatsuki is an anti-hero group who are pitted against the main characters in Naruto. But I didn’t want to make them just villains, because I thought there should be different reasons as to why they became outlaws against society. I wanted to explore their backgrounds just as much as I would for the heroes.
Q: Who is your favorite undead ninja to bring back to life as one of Kabuto’s army?
MK: The people who were brought back by Kabuto’s Edotensei Reanimation jutsu are like zombies, but with their consciousness and memories intact from when they were alive. It allows the characters from the past to talk to the characters in the present. It’s a fantasy element of the series.
While creating a story about war, I started thinking to myself that there must be a reason why war occurs, and I wanted the characters from the past to talk about it themselves.
Out of Kabuto’s army, Deidara is my favorite character. Honestly, I think Edotensei Reanimation could make him the deadliest character because he can come back to life after he uses his special power to explode himself. I really like Deidara as a character.
Q: When people read your manga, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
MK: In real life, it’s hard for people to understand each other because of things like differences in culture or upbringing. As you grow up, you start to see that sometimes things in life don’t go right. But I created Naruto to tell the younger generation that although there’s hardship in life, you can get along. Other than that, I would rather let the audience themselves find out what they can get from Naruto.
Q: Digital manga, like Weekly SHONEN JUMP Alpha, is starting to take off in America. What are your thoughts on digital manga?
MK: I think it’s alright. But I don’t really understand it yet. There’s a lot of people using tablet devices now, which means it makes it more convenient to access and download the content you like. In the U.S., the system of buying and selling manga is fairly different from Japan. Sometimes it’s hard for a bookstore to hold all the physical books on the shelves. So if digital makes manga more easily available, I think it’s a good thing.
Q: Last but not least, what do you want to say to the fans of Naruto in the U.S.?
MK: Naruto is getting close to the climax of the series, and it’s going to get really heated from now on, so keep following Naruto until the end. That would make me really happy.
MASASHI KISHIMOTO Interview Part 1
MASASHI KISHIMOTO Creator Sketch Video
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Interview by Misaki C. Kido (@Onnabancho_J)