Masashi Kishimoto was born in the rural Okayama Prefecture on November 8, 1974. He is the writer and artist of the third best-selling manga in the world, Naruto. Starting as a “one-shot” (a single issue) in Akamaru Jump (Weekly Shōnen Jump‘s seasonal publication), Naruto was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump in 1999 and successfully ran through 2014. It totaled seven-hundred chapters. In 2015, Kishimoto to continue the series with the spin-off, Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring.

Kishimoto’s love of manga and anime began in his first few years of life. As a small child, he became enamored with  Fujiko F. Fujio’s Doraemon, drawing the feline robot exclusively (Fujie 141). In an interview with Weekly Shōnen Jump, Kishimoto also discussed the influence of Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball on his style: “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” (“Interview: Masashi Kishimoto”). The same rich color palette seen these iconic works can be noted in Kishimoto’s manga covers and anime. In reference to Naruto, Kishimoto explains the highly unusually choice of dressing his young ninjas in large pops of color: “I wanted to create a ninja world with a twist, something fresh … There’s no way a ninja who stands out that much would really exist. (Laughs)” (“Interview with Shōnen Jump“). Kishimoto’s art is also known for its “strong clean lines and massed areas of black [that] give the many action sequences a visual punch” (Solomon). And, though Kishimoto attended art school, he actually studied “plaster mediums and drawing the human body.” He stated, “manga is still an art form you pick up by yourself — that’s the current reality of the Japanese manga industry” (“Interview with Shōnen Jump“).

Kishimoto’s art frequently draws from Japanese folklore and culture. From the nine-tailed fox imprisoned within Kishimoto’s titular protagonist Naruto to his employment of the snake/snail/frog trio (collectively known as “Sansukumi”), the foundation of Kishimoto’s work both reflects and celebrates the country in which he was raised (“Interview with Shonen Jump“).

Unlike many manga artists whose success seems confined to their home country, Masashi Kishimoto has experienced international acclaim with Naruto. However, the artist/writer is the first to admit that he is not a pioneer: “All the people I was influenced by have been very successful in other countries, which may be why it was easier for my work to be accepted there. Naruto owes a lot to those artists who won acceptance and popularity overseas” (Solomon). As exemplified here, Kishimoto’s humble nature is yet another reason why he is admired by his fans. This same humility can be found in Kishimoto’s relationship with his biggest competitor: One Piece creator, Eiichiro Oda. Not only are the two close friends, but each acknowledges the other in their work. In fact, a “Straw Hat” symbol graces Naruto’s carved hokage visage in Naruto’s final chapter and a “secret” message honoring Kishimoto’s conclusion to Naruto appeared in chapter 766 of One Piece. In a round table discussion, Oda (whose manga is the all-time best-seller) stated, “Of all the weekly comics, and all the comics in the world, the one that made me work the hardest was Naruto, hands down” (“Masashi Kishimoto & Eiichiro Oda” 53).The camaraderie between these two premiere manga artists is one fans find fascinating.

Kishimoto’s Naruto is not only a seven-hundred chapter manga and current spin-off, but an unstoppable force. It has been made into a long-running anime (2007-present), eleven films, a series of novels, a cavalcade of videogames, a trading card game, and a mass of various merchandise. This renders Masashi Kishimoto one of the most prolific manga artists of his time.

— Erica Joan Dymond

Further Reading

  • Fujie, Kazuhisa, and Matthew Lane. The Naruto Saga: The Unofficial Guide. Marina Del Rey:     DH, 2007. Print.
  • “Interview: Masashi Kishimoto – Feb 13, 2012.” WSJ Blog. 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 28 June 2015.  <http://shonenjump.viz.com/blog/posts/interview-with-masashi-kishimoto-60>.
  • “Interview with Shōnen Jump.” Naruto Fan Wiki. 12 Sept. 2007. Web. 29 June 2015.             <http://narutofan1010.wikifoundry.com/page/Interview+with+Shonen+Jump>.
  • “Masashi Kishimoto & Eiichiro Oda: ‘Two Giants of Manga’ Talk.” Machi. By Masashi Kishimoto. Tokyo: Shueisha, 2015. Print.
  • Solomon, Charles. “Interview: The Man Behind ‘Naruto'” Los Angeles Times 17 Dec. 2008. Web. 29 June 2015.