NarutoThe Tests of the Ninja: In another world, ninja are the ultimate power – and in the village of Konohagakure live the stealthiest ninja in the world. But twelve years ago Konohagakure was attacked by a fearsome threat – a nine-tailed fox demon which claimed the life of the Hokage, the village champion. Today, peace has returned, and a troublemaking orphan named Uzumaki Naruto is struggling to graduate from the Ninja Academy. His goal: to become the next Hokage. But unknown to Naruto and his classmates, within him is a terrifying force…

I seriously doubt there is anyone who knows anything about anime that hasn’t heard of Naruto. Naruto has proved just as (and probably more so) invasive in western countries as Dragonball Z was a couple of years ago. Author/Artist Masashi Kishimoto unleashes this maelstrom upon us way back in 1999 – and it hasn’t looked back since!

Naruto volume 1 introduces us to all the primary characters in the Naruto universe. We’re introduced to the young and plucky, arrogant, untalented, boastful (but with a heart of gold) Naruto who serves as the protagnistic for the series, Sakura who serves as Naruto’s one-sided love interest and the boy ninja genius Sasuke (Sakura’s one-side love interest and Naruto’s chief rival – even if he doesn’t come close in matching up to him!). We learn of the tragedy of Naruto, particularly in reference to the secret of the Nine-tailed Fox, something that no one dares inform Naruto of and then the volume changes pace and we get to chuckle at Naruto’s various antics at the academy (where his is forever failing everything), a couple of romantic high jinks and then finally the forming of the very mismatched training team of Sasuke, Naruto and Sakura, under top ninja Hatake Kakashi.

The story is pretty solid for an opener and introduces all the characters in an extremely fast-paced, comedic writing and is a thoroughly enjoyable starting point for everyone who wants to get in on the global Naruto phenomenon.

Masashi Kishimoto manages to balance physical humour and dramatic elements brilliantly, meaning we get a book that will hold your attention and keep you laughing throughout the story. And because he is the artist on the title as well, we get everything presented to us exactly as he the writer intended, meaning timing, panel layout and composition all meld together seamlessly.

In terms of the book’s artwork, Kishimoto simply does not disappoint in giving us the goods. His characters are extremely detailed and yet at the same time can be presented in just as simple a form for all the usage of deformed art to impact the humour upon us. Instantly likeable characters combined with detailed and well proportioned backgrounds provide us with a thoroughly easy to follow and appreciate work of art – truly Kishimoto is one of the great mangaka of our time.

Naruto is an extremely pleasing book to look at and read, and you’ll find yourself instantly hooked the minute you pick this book up. Read, enjoy – and then go out and buy the rest of the series (which you’ll need to have deep pockets for – this is one series than looks like it may never end!).

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