Masashi Kishimoto Sensei is the creator of the international bestselling manga series Naruto. Even though he’s quite busy creating masterpieces each week for Weekly SHONEN JUMP, he’s still a movie fanatic and a devoted father. When creating original work, artists and their creations usually have an interesting relationship, and in Kishimoto’s case, this especially holds true. (Read on to find out what we mean!) In our exclusive sit-down interview with this legendary manga creator, SJ Alpha finds out the inner workings behind his thought process and how he creates a story that captivates audiences from all over the world.
MASASHI KISHIMOTO Interview Part 1
Q: When was the first time that you thought of becoming a mangaka, and why?
Masashi Kishimoto: At some point between second and fourth grade I got into Akira Toriyama Sensei’s Dr. Slump anime and Dragon Ball manga. I loved his characters. I was especially attached to Dr. Slump’s Arale and Dragon Ball’s Goku. Also, his art really appealed to me. There was something about his cartoony drawing style that felt right, more so than realistic drawings. I thought to myself, I want to become like Toriyama Sensei.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration? Do you listen to music or watch movies when you are working?
MK: I do have a DVD player with a little screen on my desk, and sometimes I watch movies or listen to music. I used to do that more often when working, but not so much these days. After drawing manga for 12 years, I’ve learned that it affects my art. For example, if I was listening to a song with sad lyrics, my manga would start to reflect the sadness. And then when I would look back at the drawings, something about it felt off from what I intended. So I decided to shut off anything that could affect my drawing.
But I do love movies and do get a lot of inspiration from them. In my free time, I go to movie theaters to try and catch every blockbuster film. I also look for DVDs of hard-to-find movies in stores. I like watching big trilogies like Star Wars, horror movies like SAW, romance movies like 500 Days of Summer, and classics like The Sting.
My all-time favorite movie is Akira, but I love Hollywood movies in general. My recent favorite was How to Train Your Dragon, because the scriptwriting was so fantastic. As a fan of the original comics, I liked Tin Tin. I thought the movie was true to the comic, and CG animation made it seem more real than if it was live-action.
Q: A mangaka’s schedule is incredibly grueling. What is the secret to enduring it for so many years while maintaining such an incredibly high level of quality in your work?
MK: The only reason why I can continue drawing manga for so long is because—I love drawing manga. I really feel like this job is a good match for me, and it has really worked out. If you weren’t born with a love of drawing, it would be impossible to draw manga. You would want to run away or have an allergic reaction or something. When I was a baby, I drew on the wall with my poop even before I was able to hold a pen. [laughs] So as long as I can remember, I always loved drawing.
Q: You’ve been drawing and writing Naruto for over ten years. Compared to when you first started, how do you think you’ve grown and changed both as an artist and person?
MK: During my career as a mangaka, I got married, had kids and became a father. This directly influenced the story in Naruto. Through these experiences, I realized the things that are important in this world. Being a parent gave me a different perspective, which I didn’t have when I was single.
The character Naruto represents a little bit of myself and a little bit of my child. It was after my children were born that I wanted to write about Naruto’s parents. The way Naruto’s parents feel about him is very close to how I feel towards my kids.
But I don’t want to get too preachy because manga must always be entertaining. It has to be told from the kid’s point of view. Even if I died someday, I want to leave a work in the world that would let my kids understand what I always wanted to tell them.
Q: Naruto’s history is no longer a secret and he knows his parents loved him. How will that continue to change Naruto’s outlook on the world and his relationship with the Nine-Tailed Fox?
MK: At the beginning of the series, Naruto didn’t have parents, and all he had was the Nine-Tailed Fox inside him. He was treated like a troublemaker or loser. He had a lot of hate and anger towards the world because he didn’t have an identity. I was initially going to make the flashback about Naruto’s parents very short. But learning about his parents became crucial so that Naruto could become aware of his identity. Though his parents were no longer in this world, they were able to use their chakra to tell Naruto how they felt about him. His parents sealed the Nine-Tailed Fox inside of him to bring peace to the world. They believed in him so strongly that they thought he would be able to handle the responsibility.
When Naruto found out about this truth, he became more aware of his life’s purpose. He realized who he truly needs to become and what he needs to do to fulfill his dream along with his parents’ hope.
Love is a great thing. Since I became a parent, I truly believe (although there might be a few exceptions) that parents all over the world always love their kids. When children can truly understand the love from their parents, it greatly helps them find themselves. So I really wanted to give Naruto that experience.
Interview by Misaki C. Kido (@Onnabancho_J)