Daniella Klayman ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
This coming November, Masashi Kishimoto’s manga, Naruto, will be coming to an end in Japan. The manga currently spans 70 volumes, including 679 chapters published in collected volumes, as well as many other side-chapters, video games, spin-offs, and a 220 episode-long anime adaption with a 385 episode-long adaptation called Shippuden, modeling after the manga (Naruto Wikia). Naruto is considered one of the “big three” or one of three ongoing titles in the Weekly Shonen Jump publication. Perhaps the most well-known of these three—the others being One Piece and Bleach—it is also the first one of them to have an end in sight.
Naruto tells the story of title-character Naruto, a boy infused with the spirit of a fox who dreams of being the best ninja in his village. He and his friends travel the world leading to famously drawn-out battles and lessons about life.
However, the impact of Naruto is not the content, much of which (especially where the anime is concerned) is filler and can be skipped, but rather the impact that Naruto itself has had. The manga is considered a “gateway” to the medium, and many people just starting out in manga will generally read it first. Currently, the fandom is almost entirely people new to the genre, people who have grown out of it but like it for the nostalgia, or people who have stuck with it for so long that they continue to read it because they’ve already come so far. While the character Naruto has only aged five years in the series’ seventeen-year run, fans have grown up with Naruto, devoutly following his weekly adventures. So what does the ending mean for the fans? Pain, mostly. If they’ve been following the manga since it was first published as a one-shot in Shueisha in 1997 and began serialization in 1999, there will probably be a gaping hole the week where the new chapter of Naruto used to be published. It also means that the nerds (said with much affection) in your middle-school anime club (the front-line of the fan-base) will have to move on to a new gateway, most likely the new smash-hit Attack on Titan.
Of course, even when a series ends, the fandom never truly dies. I’m sure that we’ll continue to see Naruto cosplay at anime conventions way into the future. Though, as Naruto has continued, some fans have noticed that there has been markedly less Naruto cosplay than in previous years.
In 1997, Weekly Shonen Jump was one of the only easily accessible manga publications in the United States. Anyone in the United States who wanted to read manga really had very little choice based on what was available, which meant that Naruto was thrust into the spotlight. With the popularity of Naruto growing, manga and anime began to make their way into the more mainstream. Other companies began to take notice of the United States’ want for more. This wasn’t all due to Naruto of course, the others in the “big three,” as well as other popular titles like Pokemon and Sailor Moon, also heavily contributed. Now, with manga easily available at any bookstore or online websites like Crunchyroll.com, fans of the medium have hundreds of options to chose from.
Despite this, Naruto continued to be Viz Media’s best- selling series (USA today). Why then did the company decide to end it? To put it simply, because it’s time. The series is exhausted. The “go to place, find bad guy, hear his life story, long drawn out fight, learn the moral of the story” pattern that Naruto often follows is outdated. There are new, some dare say better manga out there to read and it seems like other’s are realizing this as well.
Naruto is too important to the history of manga, especially manga in the United States, and too famous to not be remembered. Naruto may not be continuing in print, but it will live on forever in the hearts of its devoted fans, and we look forward to seeing what comes next.
This article has been updated to address the following: Bleach was improperly referred to as Inuyasha; clarification on when Naruto was published, with its one-shot in 1997 and began serialization in 1999; and clarified that the 70 volumes and 679 chapters refers to what has been published in collected volumes.