Viz Media and Apple's iTunes Store are offering the audio recording of Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto's New York event for free as part of Apple's "Meet the Author" podcast series.

Viz Media and Apple held the event at the Apple Store in New York last week before Kishimoto's appearance at New York Comic Con.

Source: Anime News Network

In addition to this, Anime News Network has kindly provided a summary of the event, which will be broken down in two parts.

Part 1 – ANN's exclusive 1:1 conversation with Masashi Kishimoto and his editor, Jo Otsuki

Part 2 – The "An Evening With Masashi Kishimoto" event at New York Comic-Con on Thursday afternoon, which attracted a standing-room only crowd of over 2000 fans.

Spoiler: Part 1

For manga fans, Masashi Kishimoto and Naruto needs no introduction. It is simply one of the most popular manga series ever created, not just in Japan, but throughout the world.

Masashi Kishimoto first drew Naruto as a one-shot manga in 1997, then it was added as a weekly series to Weekly Shonen Jump in 1999. Kishimoto's story of a plucky young ninja orphan who has the power of a nine-tailed fox god locked in his body and his path from being a brat to a powerful ninja leader. It is an epic tale that spans over 72 volumes and 700 chapters, has been adapted as an anime TV series and movies, video games, and novels, and is one of the best-selling books (not just comics or manga) ever.

For Masashi Kishimoto's first visit to North America, much less New York City for New York Comic-Con, Viz Media arranged several special opportunities for fans to meet and listen to the creator of Naruto speak about his comics, his creations, and his future plans.

On Wednesday night, before the start of New York Comic-Con, Kishimoto was a special guest at the Apple Store in downtown NYC. This was a ticketed, intimate event that less than 100 people were able to attend and see in person. The audio of the event will be available as a podcast from Apple's iTunes Apple Store podcasts page.

The moderator for this event was Christopher Butcher, the Director of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). He was joined on stage by Jo Otsuki, the editor for Naruto from Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, and Mari Morimoto, the translator for this event, and also the translator for Viz Media's English editions of the Naruto manga.

While no photos were allowed for these events, Kishimoto is a slim man who just recently turned 40. He initially seems a bit quiet, but is friendly and easy-going. He cracked a few jokes with fans, and seems to take his great fame and success in stride.

Butcher began by asked Kishimoto whether he was aware of the impact that Naruto has had upon fans worldwide, and his role as an "ambassador of Japan" to North America. Kishimoto laughed, saying that he thought it was kind of amazing that fans in North America were interested in Japanese manga and culture, and that he thought most people would be more familiar with "Naruto" (spiral fishcake) as an ingredient in ramen rather than Naruto the boy ninja.

Kishimoto's humble perspective perhaps comes from his early efforts to create a manga for Jump. He explained that he had tried several times to create a hit manga, exploring everything from sci-fi to action to sports manga. After many misses, Kishimoto said his editor encouraged him to give it one more try. That last try was the one-shot manga that eventually became the weekly series Naruto that we know and love today.

Butcher also marveled at Kishimoto's cinematic style of drawing. Kishimoto explained that his style was influenced by manga masters, including Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) and Hiroaki Samura (Blade of the Immortal). Kishimoto expressed admiration for Star Wars, and American comics movies like Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Batman.

He also talked about his friendly rivalry with Eiichiro Oda, the creator of One Piece.

"One Piece debuted about a year earlier than Naruto did, even though we're the same age. He beat me to it. I was very envious in the beginning and yet, at the same time, I wanted to not only be like him, but I wanted to surpass him. In some ways I feel like the reason Naruto was able to be published and was able to succeed was because of One Piece." He continued, "Perhaps we both kind of supported and bolstered each other over the years and lead to both of our successes because we had that rivalry. When one of us did something, the other one had to out do the other, and that kept both series going."

Kishimoto then described his creative process, and revealed that the entire process, from sketches and rough storyboards to finished artwork is all done by hand, not digital processes.

"I'm actually quite analog. I don't draw manga digital yet at all. We do get these sticker sheets with different tone and shades. It's not just me doing it; my assistants and I will get together and we have fun putting on the tones manually."

But Kishimoto had this bit of advice for up and coming comics creators:

"I don't recommend the manual method anymore. It's quite costly and it's quite a lot of work and takes a lot of time. I definitely recommend, for those of you who are just getting started or are not yet started, to go digital."

However, he also warned of the limits of digital tools for comics creation.

"There's no software out there, no digital technology is going to help you make a better story," he said.

Bakuman., the manga about making manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata was also mentioned in conversation. When asked if Bakuman. was an accurate representation of what it's like to be a Shonen Jump manga creator, Kishimoto replied, 'I definitely had the experience of having an editor yell at me, about deadlines especially. I guess about 99% of it might be true." So what's the 1% that's not true? "I really don't think it's feasible for high school students to really make it professionally and still go to school at the same time! But certainly I had to work even while I was sick."

So what is Kishimoto doing during his well-deserved break from the weekly manga-making grind? For one thing, he's minding his health, by taking up jogging and weight training. He's also been spending time reconnecting with his family. He mentioned that the Boruto movie is inspired in part by his relationship with his sons. Kishimoto confirmed that his next manga project will probably be a sci-fi story, but opted to not share more details because he didn't want anyone else to take his idea and run with it before him.

After a lively Q and A with audience members, the evening came to an end. Kishimoto was whisked away. The following exclusive interview happened the day after the first event at the Apple Store in SoHo, but before his appearance before a packed house of over 2,000 fans at New York Comic-Con.

With the help of translator Mari Morimoto (who also translated the Viz Media edition of Naruto), and Jo Otsuki, Kishimoto's editor from Weekly Shonen Jump, we talked about Kishimoto's reactions to his first encounters with his overseas fans, what does and doesn't exist in Naruto's world, how Boruto was influenced by his relationship with his sons, and he offers a few hints at his next series in the works.

I know this is your first trip to an overseas comics event -- How did it feel to get a taste of your overseas fans' enthusiasm for your work at the Apple Store yesterday, and so far today at New York Comic-Con?

Masashi Kishimoto: It was a very mystical experience, a very interesting experience!

I know you must know that Naruto is very popular all over the world – but as I listened to you talk at the Apple Store last night, I got the sense that this didn't really feel real to you. What do you think now that you've met some of your fans?

Of course, I have been told that it's popular overseas, but it really hasn't felt real to me until now. Even now, it's still hasn't quite hit me yet. I feel like even the people telling me that there's this many people wanting to see me, I feel like it might've been a setup?

(laughs) What do you mean by that?

Kind of like when there's a studio audience when you're filming a sitcom?

You mean like a fake audience?

A planted audience, yes.

Oh my goodness! (laughs) When I told people that I would be doing this interview, I got so many comments like, "I'm so jealous that you get to even be in the same atmosphere as Kishimoto-sensei!"

I really don't feel like it's sunk in yet, even now.

Wow. Well, you'll definitely get a taste of it today at your afternoon event today at NYCC! So I wanted to follow up with some of the things you said about your artistic influences from your chat at the Apple Store last night. You especially mentioned Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama, Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo, and Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura. What do you take from their work? What do you love about their work?

I would say I've probably picked up a little bit from each of them, and perhaps a little bit different thing from each of them. For example, with Dragon Ball, I was reading that when I was in grade school. What Dragon Ball taught me is what was fun about manga, what makes a fun story in manga. In fact, I was reading it as it was coming out in weekly installments in Weekly Shonen Jump, so it really taught me what entertainment is and how to keep an audience captivated—and of course the art influenced me as well.

What did you learn from reading Hiroaki Samura-sensei's work?

I think Samura-sensei really taught me about the craft of manga making, in terms of what's cool. Especially in terms of splash scenes, he really taught me the importance of splash scenes. In his splash page scenes, a lot of times he doesn't focus on the faces of the characters – he usually focuses on their hands. He taught me how one can focus on the hands and how important expressions using just hands can be.

Oh, that's fascinating. This also brings up an interesting question about the world of Naruto -- Blade of the Immortal is a very traditional Japanese samurai story, while your ninja world is very fantastical. How did you come up with that?

So of course, a realistic ninja is someone who wears all black with only the eyes visible, kind of lurks in the shadows, and they are assassins. That's cool in its own way, but it's not necessarily appropriate or really makes up for a shonen manga series. That kind of story, it would be a different genre. So I was thinking about what would be appropriate for not only a shonen manga series, but a Jump shonen manga series. I figured I wanted to take a polar opposite approach, and portray this character who wears orange.

(laughs) Yeah! I was gonna say that Naruto's bright orange outfit isn't very stealthy for a ninja assassin!

It's an orange jumpsuit, and Naruto goes 'Hey, I'm here!' Which is totally opposite of how a ninja should behave! It's a paradox. But I figured, 'Why not make this another type of real ninja?' Of course, I had some hardcore ninja fans who were like, 'Dude, get lost.' (laughs) They were really upset because this is not how ninjas are supposed to be!

Another thing that's interesting about Naruto's world is that there's technology, like ways to view videos, communicate over long distances – it's definitely not something that exists in traditional samurai-era Japan, but it's not a typical 'modern' Japan either. What definitely does NOT exist in Naruto's world?

It would actually take too long to really go nitty-gritty into details, but for example: one of the things I focused on was that anything that's NOT possible to recreate, or to do, using ninjustu, ninja skills, I would not develop for Naruto's world. So no cars. Because they have shuriken, the throwing stars, there's no guns either. So there were certain things I had clearly in my head that I didn't want to have available in their worldview.

Mari Morimoto: So I brought up the fact that in the Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring sequel story, there's that one line when Naruto complains about how Sasuke's so analog, and Shikamaru's says, "Oh, but he goes to areas where you can't charge anything."

I asked Kishimoto-sensei about that and he said, 'Well, you know, I wanted to show that time had passed. So some things may have developed in the intervening time between the last chapter of Naruto and fifteen years later when the Seventh Hokage story happens. Also, there's the fact that the story is set during a time of peace, so there's now more money available, because the funds that were being pushed into the war can now be used for things like developing technology.

So another thing that struck me about your conversation with Chris Butcher last night was when you mentioned that you made several tries to create a hit shonen manga series until you created Naruto. What kept you going during what sounds like a discouraging time in your career?

I don't know if I ever really got THAT discouraged or depressed during that time! (laughs) I always had the thought in the back of my head, 'Eh, so they rejected me this time, I know I'm going to be a mangaka someday. That's all right, I'm just going to move on.' Partly because I thought that was the only thing I had to market myself. Maybe that makes me a little naïve or stupid. (laughs)

I told him, 'That's very Naruto-like attitude!'

(laughs) That's true! So most of the story in Naruto is told from Naruto's point of view, with him as the central character. However, there's a lot of different and interesting characters in Naruto! It made me wonder, would Naruto be a completely different story if it was told from another character's point of view? If you could tell the story from another perspective, ala Rashomon, which character would you choose to tell a different version of the Naruto story from their point of view?

I suppose one possibility would be to write the story from Sasuke's perspective, or even the mentors, the teachers, especially like Jiraiya, because there's a generational difference there too.

How would the story be different if you told it from these characters' point of view?

This actually just came to me but, for example, if I were to draw the story from Jiraiya's viewpoint, from what we've already seen of Jiraya he's very… not so much arrogant, but overconfident, blusterous, and very, very skilled. But there was a time when he was still young, when he didn't really know much and he was kind of dumb too. So it'd be interesting to show that contrast.

Also, Jiraiya grew up in a time when the jutsu that we know now in the current Naruto worldview had not been refined, or even developed in some cases. So I think it would be fun to show that gap. In fact, there's a very famous TV series in Japan called Oshin.

(NOTE: Oshin is a live action historical drama that aired in the early 1980's about an orphan girl who grows up as a servant in the Meiji era, and follows her rags-to-riches life from pre-WWI Japan to the 1980's.)

I'd forgotten this aspect of that show until now, but in the very beginning of Oshin, you see the woman as a very old woman, very rich, and all of a sudden it flashes back to when she was a kid and she was poor and destitute. It kind of triggers this thought in you, 'Oh, how did she get there?' That's the kind of story I think would be fun to draw.

That would be interesting to read! With Naruto, you've created a very rich universe with many characters, and you just did a Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring side story, the Boruto movie, which you wrote the screenplay for, and there's also the Kakashi Hiden side-story novel that Viz Media is also publishing. That's a lot to enjoy, but are these sequel stories the last of your Naruto stories, or do you think there's more stories left to tell? Or after 15 years, are you just DONE with Naruto? (laughs)

There are infinite possibilities right now. If I decide that I want to do more Naruto stories, perhaps I will, perhaps I won't. That said, there is nothing firmly in the works at this time. Just that there is always the possibility…

I see! So I guess Naruto fans can keep their hopes alive to see more someday, maybe. As I mentioned, Naruto has many, many wonderful characters. But were there characters in Naruto that surprised you that were very popular with fans?

Rock Lee.

Ah, right! So did you decide to include Rock Lee in the story more because he became so popular?

Not necessarily. It's just what I heard. It kind of surprised me how popular he was, but it didn't necessarily lead to more plotlines with him in it, or anything like that. That's not to say that I didn't consider writing him in more or creating more stories about him, but the timing was never right, so I never had the opportunity.

Speaking of new characters, I also noticed as the story evolved, there were more multi-cultural characters introduced to the story, like Killer Bee. Can you talk a little bit about why you decided to do that?

When I started expanding on the world, especially through introducing other ninja villages, the very nature of doing that kind of forced me to widen the perspective. I wouldn't say it was necessarily a deliberate decision, but I was definitely conscious of the fact that if I wanted to have my Naruto world reflect actual society more, then it might be easier for fans to accept, to see, other cultures or races as well. So while it wasn't necessarily an outright deliberate decision, I think I was conscious of the fact that I wanted Naruto's world to reflect, at least a little bit, the world at large.

As these characters appeared in Naruto, I noticed that lot of black and Latino cosplayers were very excited to see these characters, to have characters that they could dress up as that they could relate to.

(big smile) That makes me happy to hear that as well!

Did you expect such a divided reaction (in the U.S. at least) when you revealed whom Naruto marries in the future?

I actually didn't realize I caused such controversy.

Really? You had no idea?

So the fans wanted Naruto to get together with Sakura?

Well, there's definitely camps of fans who felt that way, and there were also those that were very happy he ended up with Hinata. But there were quite passionate opinions on both sides!

I almost caused a rift in my own household too, because my wife was very upset also that Naruto didn't get together with Sakura. In fact, she complained quite vehemently to me!

Jo Otsuki:

Quite few of the female staff at Studio Pierrot that produces the anime, apparently were also upset.

Whoah. So how did you handle that, especially with your wife?

I tried to defuse the situation by assuring my wife that SHE was actually the model for Hinata. (laughs)

As you were saying that, I thought, I wonder if your family life was more like Hinata and Naruto's family or Sasuke and Sakura's? (everyone laughs)

Masashi Kishiimoto: Well… it might not actually be like either. My wife is quite strong as well, she's a strong character.

Oh, so kind of like Sakura!

So I think my wife might secretly realize that Hinata wasn't really the model for her… (laughs)

Did you decide this early on, that Hinata and Naruto would get together in the end, or when…?

From the middle, actually.

From the middle of the story? Hm! What sealed this decision for you?

I think what made me realize it was partly because, if you really look back and think about it, Hinata always supported and acknowledged Naruto, even before Master Iruka. She had the ability to see beyond his reputation and see the true person inside. I think I started realizing that they were meant to be.

Aw, that's nice. So you obviously care a lot about these characters and this story. It took up over 15 years of your life! Was it difficult to decide to end Naruto?

It was kind of decided—not necessarily early on, but I knew that it was going to be concluded soon. So it's not like that decision was unexpected. However, it took a while to smooth out the story to let it conclude the way that I want it to.

It was a slightly bumpy road, mainly because I wanted one of the themes of the end to be Naruto forgiving Sasuke. I wanted to make sure the intervening story lead naturally to that in a realistic way to make it plausible. Because if one minute they're fighting and then 'Oh, I forgive you!' would be weird. So definitely there were little bumps on the way to getting there.

Deb Aoki: Can you share an example of a bump that you ran into along the way toward the ending?

It would be the Pain Arc. It was difficult, because it was the very first time Naruto truly forgives his enemy. I didn't want the conclusion of their confrontation to be in battle, but through talking, so to bring that all about was quite difficult.

So now that Naruto has ended, you've hinted in other interviews that you're considering creating a sci-fi series next. You've mentioned that you like Star Wars, but are there other sci-fi series that you like?

It's hard for me to narrow it down to one or two. I actually like quite a bit of sci-fi movies, for example, Elysium and Chappie, two films directed by South African Neill Blomkamp.

Oh, what do you like about these movies?

Just the sense of this director, Blomkamp's cinematic view. I think what I like about it is there's still elements of real society within the movie and it's kind of merged with the fantastic elements -- it's really meshed. It picks up on current issues we're facing and expands further on it.

You definitely deserve some time off after so many years of drawing a weekly manga series, but when can we expect to see your next manga series debut?

Perhaps after my children finally acknowledge what I'm doing and acknowledge me… acknowledge the work I've done!

What? Really? They don't now?

Naruto took up so much of my time that I didn't really get to spend quality time with my kids. It's only recently that they really accepted my presence. So I think I might have to wait until my children give me permission to work on my next series.

Wow. Well, that's very important too, so I totally understand. I know that fans who'll get to see you at your New York appearances are very fortunate to have this chance to be here for your first overseas trip to a comics event. That said, you have so many fans around the world who are hoping to meet you some day, see you visit their cities or countries. Because these fans would have loved to have met you but didn't have a chance to be here this weekend, do you have any messages for them?

First and foremost, I wanted to thank all my fans out there for reading Naruto and for loving Naruto so much. It really is gratifying for me too. But despite how I answered the last one, I wanted to say it might not be so long until my next series to appear as my answer implied! After I spend enough time with my kids, they might be like typical kids and say stuff like, 'Okay Dad, you can go away now.' (laughs) So you might see my next series in the not-too-distant future!

Thank you – and I hope we will see you again soon at another event in the near future!

Source: Anime News Network

Spoiler: Part 2

Masashi Kishimoto's biggest public appearance at New York Comic-Con was his official panel discussion, which was held on Thursday afternoon on the main stage at the Javits Center. The room has a capacity of over 2,000 people, and this ticketed event was quickly filled to capacity.

Kishimoto was introduced to fans by Ken Sasaki, the CEO of Viz Media, the English language publisher of the Naruto manga, novels, and art books, as well as the Naruto anime TV series and movies, including the Boruto movie, which debuted at NYCC.

To put Naruto's incredible worldwide sales in perspective, Sasaki told fans that 220 million copies of Naruto have sold around the world.

"If you put them all on the floor, that would be 210 square miles – it would cover more than 12 Manhattans! If you put them next to each other on a bookshelf – the shelf would need to stretch from New York City to Austin Texas – that's 1700 miles!" he said.

He also spotlighted Naruto Volume 72, the final volume of the main series, and its special exclusive cover for NYCC, with art drawn by Kishimoto just for this event. Sasaki also reminded fans that a special one-shot manga story, Karakuri (which was Kishimoto's debut work) will be on the October 12, 2015 issue of Weekly Shonen Jump.

This event was probably Kishimoto's first taste of the huge crowd of fans who came to see him at NYCC, in addition to the various book signing events at Kinokuniya and Barnes and Noble, plus the Saturday morning premiere of the Boruto movie at the nearby Hammerstein Ballroom. Naturally, when Kishimoto took the stage with moderator Christopher Butcher, editor Jo Otsuki and translator Mari Morimoto, the room exploded in cheers and applause.

Mari Morimoto:

I think he wants to say a brief greeting to the fans.

Christopher Butcher:

Oh that'd be wonderful, please go ahead.

My name is Masashi Kishimoto, I am really, really, really pleased to meet you today!

(audience cheers)

Did you ever imagine that Naruto would go on for as long as it did? 72 volumes, that's an incredible accomplishment.

Actually, I like never imagined it. In fact, I actually thought it might get canned after the tenth week. (laughs) That's actually a regular occurrence at Jump, that if the fan reaction is not very good, episode ten, the end.

Luckily, we all got 72 volumes!

(audience cheers)

72 volumes of Naruto. Did the editors of Shonen Jump want you to keep going? Some of the Shonen Jump series go for a hundred volumes or two hundred volumes. Did the editors want you to keep going on Naruto?

I would be lying if I said there wasn't some pressure from management, the powers that be as they were, but I had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted the story to come to a close, so I had to put my foot down and say, 'No, I'm sorry, this is it.'

In your very first English-language interview in 2006 for Shonen Jump Magazine's US edition, you said you had the ending for Naruto perfectly visualized, the layout, the text, the scenes. That was in 2006. Almost ten years later, were you able to execute the ending exactly like you imagined it would be?

Actually, it really was all in my head. I actually had envisioned that Naruto and Sasuke would make the song of reconciliation in the valley of endings by the statues of First Hokage and Madara. I actually had visualized all that.

Oh, that's so cool that you had that finished at the very beginning and you were able to put it in at the very end too. That's very, very cool. I know you've been working on some of the stuff like The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring (now available in digital format from VIZManga.com) You've been working on a lot of stuff, the Boruto movie, the new manga, the side stories, the novels.

It seems like now you might be winding down a little bit and talking a bit better care of yourself? Is that true, or is your workflow still like it was when you were drawing the chapters for Weekly Shonen Jump?

I would say that life got a little bit easier when I finished drawing the series. On the other hand, it might not be obvious to the fans who don't know the timeline, but as I was drawing the last chapter of Naruto, I was told that I would be working on the screenplay for the new movie, Boruto. It was the first time I actually managed to work on an entire screenplay by myself. But on the other hand, that came right after the series. So it's only very recently that I was truly able to start relaxing just a teeny bit and spending more time with my children.

(audiences awwws, cheers)

It's only after I finished the screenplay and the production on the movie started that I was actually able to take a break.

I actually heard you got married while you were doing Naruto, is that correct?

That's the truth.

I heard you were actually so busy with drawing Naruto you were never actually able to go on honeymoon, is that true?

That is also the truth.

So this is your first trip to America, and this is like a honeymoon with all your fans in America!

(audience cheers)

You know, I have nothing against you guys, but unfortunately there's something called 'school.' My children have to go to school, so therefore my wife had to stay behind in Japan as well. So as much as I love you all, it's not really a honeymoon. That just means I have to come back to America again some day.

Now, in every good shonen story, there's the hero and there's also the rival who pushed the hero to achieve greater heights.

It's very clear that your rival is Oda-sensei, creator of One Piece. Your series started within a few years of each other, you battled to be the most popular manga in Shonen Jump magazine. How does Oda-sensei feel now that his rival has stopped making his rival manga series? Has he said anything to you about it?

Yes, indeed, I would say my rival is One Piece's creator, Eiichiro Oda. Honestly, it's interesting because I was just saying that on my own in the beginning, and then finally in the back of Naruto Volume 72, Oda-sensei acknowledged the fact that he considers me his rival as well. That felt so gratifying.

Of course, both One Piece and Naruto ran together for so long and ran, even in Japan, in Shonen Jump together, that sometimes we'd meet up and be like, "I wonder how long our manga series are going to go on." And then, One Piece kept going and going. So when I finally said, 'Well, actually Naruto's going to be concluding soon," it kind of gave him the awareness, like 'Ohhh, I guess One Piece may conclude sometime in the future too. It gave him awareness of an ending.

Naruto has been an incredible success story in North America, in Japan, and around the world. It's not just been THE best-selling manga, which is has been, it's not just been some of the best-selling comics, it's actually THE best-selling comic series. It's been one of the best-selling BOOKS of all time, outselling every other fiction, non-fiction, everything. Naruto is a genuine phenomenon. How did you feel when you heard first heard this?

I just found that out, about it being a top-selling book, not just a comic or a manga, like just NOW. (laughs) I'm really happy, but I'm still having trouble processing it.

When did you first realize the impact that Naruto is having on fans around the world?

I guess I might've started realizing it when my first editor, Mr. Yahagi. At the Shueisha office in Tokyo, there's a specific department for Shonen Jump. Fan letters would be sent there. He came by and would give me a bundle of fan letters every time he'd see me. I started noticing that there were letters that I couldn't read. I'm Japanese and I only know Japanese, so any other language would look like, well, Greek to me. So that's when I started realizing, 'Wow, there are fans that don't live just in Japan!'

That's pretty cool. Do you ever feel like anything has surprised you about the reactions from international fans of Naruto?

I would say I think I really started to become more aware of it—I don't know about surprised, but it started sinking in more recently. I've been able to look at images or watch videos of cosplayers from all over the world. That made me realize how much passion fans have; not just how much you love Naruto, but how much passion you can express with my work.

There was a time I was really thinking about having to make heads or tails of all the foreign fan letters I'd received. I kind of gave up on that but I wanted to think that they were all positive. Especially seeing all the images of all the cosplayers out there made me truly realize what a global impact the work has had. Actually, that's something that just came to me as I looked out upon all of you.

Cosplay's always been such a big part of the Naruto phenomenon. Everyone's got headbands on today. I love the character designs of Naruto, they're so good. They're always fresh and you keep redesigning the characters as they get older as well.

Did you ever think about the cosplay-ability of the character designs? People love to cosplay Naruto maybe more than any other series! Did you think about that when designing your characters, that people would be wearing the character designs you create?

Masashi Kishimoto: Actually not at all.

In fact, I actually feel like a lot of my characters might not be so easy to cosplay. In fact, to all of you out there who raised your hands saying you had headbands on, I feel really bad, because are you sure you don't have like a rash on your foreheads from wearing these headbands? I'm sorry!

You guys are all right with the headbands?

(audience cheers)

I'd actually like to talk a little bit more about the manga. I know you greatly admire the work of mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of Akira, which is awesome. You also mentioned loving the work of Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, but I wonder if there's any other manga you're fond of? I've heard about maybe Hiroaki Samura-sensei or any mangaka or manga that you really like?

I have to say that I've also over the years enjoyed, and also perhaps influenced by, Osamu Tezuka-sensei's Phoenix, especially the Karma part. Then I would say Takehiko Inoue's Slam Dunk. And finally—there's so many—but if I had to narrow it down the other person I would mention is Naoki Urasawa's Monster as well as 20th Century Boys.

All very good series. One of my favorite parts of the manga is, especially in the early volumes, the notes you would do to the readers, to the readers about your life, about breaking into the manga industry. A lot of readers found them very inspirational, you really worked and tried and finally made it in.

The thing is though: you tried a lot of different manga and a lot of different age groups, things like that, but ultimately I felt that maybe Jump was the most important to you. Was it really important to make a Jump manga, to be a Jump mangaka?

Yeah, I have to say that no matter what projects, what stories, I came up with, in the end, my dream was always to be part of, or succeed, in Shonen Jump. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that when I grew up I was reading Weekly Shonen Jump during its golden age; this includes series like Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, Saint Seiya. I read these in real time, week by week, when I was growing up. I think that's why it was always like this, you know. Sometimes it felt like it was far off, but it was always a goal I wanted to achieve.

That era of Jump that you're talking about is largely considered to be the golden age of Jump. I read an interview between you and Oda-sensei where you both said you were both lucky to have read jump during that time.

But for fans today, especially in North America, that manga wasn't available in English. Shonen Jump started here in North America a little bit less than fifteen years ago. It included Dragon Ball for the first time serialized and Dragon Ball Z. It also included Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach; lots of long-running series that changed the face of comics, of manga, in North America. I think that maybe that era of Jump, YOUR era of Jump, would be considered a new golden age. What do you think?

You saying that resonates very happily with me, it reverberates very happily within me, even though I'm kind of embarrassed about it! I feel ashamed to say this in front of my mentors, the people that I consider the gods that came before me. Then again, they're not here in this room, so maybe I CAN say it. (laughs) Maybe it would be great to call that the golden age here for Jump.

Now as a special treat for everybody, Kishimoto-sensei has agreed to maybe draw for us. All right, so what are you going to draw for us today?

I guess I at least have to start with Naruto!

While Kishimoto-sensei is drawing here, I'm going to put Otsuki-san on the spot, he has to answer some questions. Otsuki-san, what do you think makes a hit manga?

Jo Otsuki:

Certainly an important thing is very appealing and attractive characters. But if we really knew the secrets of making hit manga, you wouldn't need us, I might not have a job! (laughs) It might not necessarily be a bad thing that we don't truly know (what makes a great manga). In fact, if any of you do know this secret, please let us know! (laughs)

This is for both of you: in the last chapter of Naruto, we fast forward to fifteen years later. Naruto's a dad now, he's with his son Boruto. We saw the trailer for the Boruto movie, it's crazy! There's skyscrapers in the world of Naruto now, and computers and stuff like that.

One of the things that I thought about the series is because it ended on such a peaceful note and it ended on "the end of fighting, was that great technological advancement, was perhaps possible because they had peace for so many years. Do you think peace brings about prosperity?

Yes indeed.

Otsuki-san, I'm actually curious because you came in towards the end of Naruto as the editor on the project. Was it intimidating to take over such a beloved series as editor?

At Shonen Jump, at Shueisha, we have a list of what series will be edited by which editors. When I first saw the list of series with my name on it I couldn't believe it. I thought maybe it was a typo or an April Fool's joke. (laughs) And then I looked at it again, that's actually MY name, it's actually on the same line as Naruto! Especially since this was a title that I'd seen and I'd watched and read as a kid too.

(Kishimoto completes the drawing of Naruto)

Actually, other than Naruto, who is your favorite character in the series?

I'm going to go with Jiraiya.

That's a good answer. Me personally, I'm a fan of Rock Lee.

Maybe I should do Rock Lee instead…

The fans will turn on me!

(audience shouts "Jiraiya")

Okay, I haven't drawn Jiraiya for a while, so I just need to get a little reference. (checks his phone)

Another question for Otsuki-san while we're waiting. Naruto is a very, very unique take on shonen manga. In that series, even the worst character, no matter how bad they are, how evil they are, they get redeemed in some way. They're sympathetic, they're understandable. In some genre manga, some characters are just like bad to the bone and then they die, but everyone in Naruto gets redeemed in some way. I'm really curious about where that comes from.

It's kind of weird for me to answer this, it because it all comes from him. I think it's because these characters aren't just influenced by the story or do whatever they do in the story because of the story, but because when each character first appears, or even before that, sensei has very carefully laid out how he wants the character to be, what his personality traits are, what has he done, what is he about to do. He'll complete his personal history and background on each and every character, whether they be good characters or evil characters or villains. So by understanding the character, to make the character, he or she, a complete, well-rounded character, I think that's why they become relatable; because they're not just flat animations on paper.

I think everyone's got their own favorite character in Naruto. There's so many different characters. I feel like it's really easy to find somebody in the story who you really relate to. Otsuki-san, who do you relate to?

I guess Sasuke? And you Chris?

Oh, Rock Lee; he tries so hard. I know the last volume's only been out for a week or two, can I just get a—I was going to say show of hands, but you guys can scream—who HASN'T read the last volume of Naruto? <audience shouts> There are not that many, I'm definitely going to spoil things.

(audience screams)

So Sasuke keeps winning the character polls for most popular character. I always find it fascinating because Sasuke's got this pessimistic worldview. He thinks everything's going to fall apart unless he specifically holds it together.

Meanwhile, Naruto's like 'Nah, it's all good, it's going to be great!' But yet everyone's still like, 'No, Sasuke's got it, Sasuke knows what it's all about.' I'm curious because I think that's a pessimistic worldview. And I think Naruto's worldview is very optimistic. What do you think?

In the end, Naruto defeats Sasuke's worldview and brings Sasuke around. Do you think ultimately that by liking Sasuke you're more of a pessimistic person or more of an optimistic person? Actually I'm going to change it a little bit. I'm going to say: do you think it's easier for everybody to relate to a pessimistic character? How about that?

Some of it might just be even simpler than that, in the fact that Sasuke looks cool and is kind of cooler. You know, even in terms of his abilities. But whether it's Sasuke or Naruto, optimistic or pessimistic, there's everything in-between as well, they're all reflections of some personality that exists in the real world. Fiction is not reality. In reality, there's not always a happy ending, but because this is fiction I guess that's why we end up focusing more, or concentrating, highlighting more the optimistic worldview.

The Jump worldview of "you can do it!" That's a very thoughtful answer, thank you very much. So we've got time for a couple more questions.

(Kishimoto completes his drawing of Jiraiya)

Actually it's the first time in a while that I actually drew Jiraiya or any character from Naruto, so I did have a little bit of nostalgia, but also I have to embarrassingly admit, I don't quite remember how to draw Jiraiya! I tried to look it up but I couldn't connect to the wifi. So in fact I used the Jiraiya cosplayer in the audience as my model. So thank you, Jiraiya cosplayer, you saved me one!

Now as you all know, coming up this Saturday it's the Boruto movie premiere! When the original trailer was released for the Boruto movie, it had the line from you: 'This is the pinnacle of my career,' is the Boruto movie. I would love to hear from you why you think this movie, that we're all going to go see on Saturday, is the absolute pinnacle of your career.

As I briefly mentioned before, this is the first time I had actually been able to work on a screenplay from beginning to end. It's not the first Naruto screenplay I'd done, but certainly the one that I personally wrote the ENTIRE screenplay.

The story is essentially something that I wanted to draw as a manga, but didn't have the opportunity to. So I was really able to make the story and the characters everything what I wanted to see done, and then had the honor to have the anime come to life.

But it's also something that I envisioned as this is the last chapter of Naruto, the last climax scene, and so on.

I think we should watch the trailer for Boruto. Is that cool? All right, there we go.

(trailer plays to huge applause)

I am about to cry tears of joy.

Kishimoto-sensei, is there anything you'd like to say to the audience? One last remark.

I heard that there are many fans that couldn't even make it today. To hear that after seeing how many people are really here! This is just a little title that I started working on so many years ago without ever thinking about any impact that it might have, much less globally. All I can say is: to know how many of you, how many fans love my work and have followed my work, I'm just so grateful, the only thing I can really think of saying is thank you.

Source: Anime News Network

Also check out:

Naruto Discussion
Chapter and Episode Discussion
Boruto: Naruto the Movie
Spinoff Manga Announcement

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