Thursday, 13 August 2015

Naruto, Volume 1: The Tests of the Ninja by Masashi Kishimoto Review

Naruto’s a teenage orphan with a secret. He’s training to be a ninja in ninja school in a village that used to be menaced by a giant fox with nine tails. But he’s a bit screwy – he doesn’t have parents so he’s a bit wild and acts out quite a bit, though he just knows he’s gonna be the greatest ninja ever. I think he will too because his name is the series title! 

The first volume introduces us to Naruto and his world. He learns how to make doppelgangers of himself; he fights some generically evil dude; and he gets teamed up with Sesuke the class heartthrob, and the girl he fancies, Sakura, who, of course, fancies Sesuke – Naruto’s gross! – as they train under a deceptively skilled ninja teacher. 

Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot I liked about this book. Writer/artist Masashi Kishimoto barrels through the setup too quickly and clumsily so characters come and go without making an impression. Here’s Some Kid – he’s gonna be your nemesis, Naruto! Here’s Some Evil Guy and Some Good Guy – save Good Guy and fight Evil Guy, Naruto! It’s simplistic, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean it should be artless. 

Naruto is trying a bit too hard to be the likeable scamp and appealing hero. So much so that I wanted someone else to be the main character – he’d make a decent supporting character instead. Sakura is an embarrassingly poor female character. She’s a female ninja but because she’s a girl she’s obsessed with love and romance, like eeeeevery girl, riiiiight?! That’s why she’s not a great ninja – because she’s obsessed with the dreamy boooooyyyyyyy LOL!! Ugh. 

The whole doppelganger thing is weird – literally producing copies of yourself doesn’t seem like a ninja skill. Naruto manages to turn himself into an adult naked hot woman and back, then later scores of himself that are physically and mentally real. Is he a ninja or a magician?! How does this ninja magic work anyway!? 

The art is more-or-less generic manga so it’s not especially eye-catching, and it’s a bit rough in places, particularly with the fight scenes. Naruto vs the ninja teacher is a bit jerky with the panel transitions – they’re not as fluid or well-paced as Akira Toriyama’s near-flawless Dragon Ball – and Kishimoto has to go back to certain scenes and explain with diagrams what happened in them, which isn’t great. 

This first volume of Naruto is pretty bland stuff by most manga standards. Obviously the series has done well with dozens of books and a hit TV series but I didn’t see anything special here to make me want to read the rest of the series.

Naruto, Volume 1: The Tests of the Ninja

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