Masashi Kishimoto is a Japanese manga artist, best known for creating the popular manga series ‘Naruto.’ ‘Naruto’ has gone down in history as one of the most-loved manga in the world. Masashi was born in Okayama, Japan, and was a huge fan of anime and manga since his elementary school days. He was a massive fan of the ‘Dragon Ball’ manga and the series. Its creator, Akira Toriyama, became one of his main inspirations to become a manga artist. Masashi was also inspired by the artistic brilliance of the animated film ‘Akira’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell.’ He decided to study arts in university. While in college, he started submitting his works to various magazines, and his first successful manga, the pilot for ‘Karakuri,’ was submitted to ‘Shueisha’ in 1995. He earned several honors for his work. However, this was followed by a vastly unsuccessful phase. In 1997, his one-shot version of ‘Naruto’ was published. The serialized version of ‘Naruto’ premiered in 1999. It ended in 2014 after being in circulation for 15 years. Having sold millions of copies in Japan and other countries, it became one of the most successful manga of all time. Several other versions of ‘Naruto’ were written in the following years, making Masashi one of the most celebrated manga artists of all time.
Childhood & Early Life
Masashi Kishimoto was born on November 8, 1974, in Okayama, Japan. As a child, Masashi had three addictions: baseball, basketball, and ‘Dragon Ball.’ He and his twin brother would often spend hours in front of the TV, watching endless reruns of ‘Dragon Ball,’ which is arguably the most successful and popular Japanese anime of all time. While in elementary school, he developed a fascination for the art of manga.
He started drawing his favorite characters from the manga he read and the anime he watched. Soon, he was addicted to manga and started neglecting his studies. He started faring poorly in school. As he approached his teenage years, he began idolizing Akira Toriyama, the creator and designer of his favourite ‘Dragon Ball’ characters.
While in high school, he started drifting away from manga and spent a lot of time playing baseball and basketball. Everything changed when he saw the poster for the animated film ‘Akira.’ He became highly impressed with the poster design and decided to become a manga creator.
During his first year at the ‘Kyushu Sangyo University,’ Masashi tried to draw Chanbara manga, which was a less-explored genre. The genre revolved around sword fighting set in a historical period. However, he lost his confidence when he came across ‘Blade of the Immortal,’ a widely celebrated Chanbara manga. He thought he was not good enough to create anything as good as that.
In his second year of college, Masashi thought his work was more suitable for adult readers, and he started submitting his ideas to magazines. As he met designer Tetsuya Nishio, he realized that his designs were instead perfect for shōnen manga, which was primarily meant for teenage boys.
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Masashi Kishimoto started his career in the mid-90s, when he submitted the pilot of his manga ‘Karakuri’ to ‘Shueisha,’ a publishing company. As a result of its success, Masashi was honored by the company with a mention in their monthly ‘Hop Step Award,’ in 1996. For the next couple of years, Masashi worked on several unsuccessful projects, such as ‘Asian Punk’ and ‘Michikusa.’ In 1997, a one-shot version of his creation ‘Naruto’ was published in ‘Akamaru Jump Summer.’
Tired of repeated failures, he saw one last hope when he was hired to perform some changes on ‘Karakuri’ for ‘Weekly Shōnen Jump.’ The reader surveys rejected it. This made Masashi more careful about the quality of his art. ‘Yakyūō’ and ‘Mario’ were two more unsuccessful projects that he worked on, before he decided to give another shot to the shōnen genre, with ‘Magic Mushroom.’ In the middle of the project, he was asked to stop and develop a serialized version of ‘Naruto’ instead.
In September 1999, the serialized version of ‘Naruto’ was published and became an instant hit. The series followed the life of an orphan boy named ‘Naruto’ and his adventures through a ninja training school. He befriends ‘Sasuke,’ a child with a dark past, and the story follows through their years together in the school. The series hit the right notes with the readers and became hugely successful.
Before it ended in November 2014, the manga series had become a trendsetter. It sold more than 113 million copies in Japan and more than 95 million copies in the US. The manga’s success in the US was rather uplifting for Masashi, who stated that the fact that Americans could relate to the ninja world, a world totally unknown to them, showed they had good taste.
The creator of ‘One Piece,’ Eiichiro Oda, widely known as one of the most creative and popular manga artists of the contemporary era, read ‘Naruto’ and accepted Masashi as a rival. Masashi was a big fan of Oda and said that it was a huge honor for him to be acknowledged by him as his rival.
Later, the manga was transformed into two anime series, ‘Naruto’ and ‘Naruto Shippuden.’ These too became hugely popular in both Japan and America.
Apart from ‘Naruto,’ Masashi also experimented with other successful ventures. He designed a character for the globally famous combat game ‘Tekken 6.’ His design for the character named ‘Lars Alexandersson’ was positively received. The character later made a crossover appearance in the video game ‘Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2.’
Even after the original ‘Naruto’ manga reached its conclusion, Masashi’s association with it continued. It was later announced that in 2015, Masashi would release a mini spin-off series named ‘Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring.’ Masashi was also deeply involved in the production of two films, ‘The Last: Naruto the Movie’ and ‘Boruto: Naruto the Movie.’ Once the movies were released, he was asked to continue with his ‘Naruto’ legacy, to which he responded by saying that he had had enough of ‘Naruto’ and that he was too physically exhausted to continue with it.
In August 2015, he announced that he was working on a new manga, which would include science-fiction elements. Some of his main inspirations during his younger days had been the science-fiction manga ‘Akira’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell.’ Masashi stated that he planned to go beyond ‘Naruto’ in terms of quality and that he would release it digitally. In late 2017, it was announced that he would launch his new series in 2018.
Masashi Kishimoto has a twin brother, Seishi Kishimoto. Both the brothers grew up together watching anime and reading manga. Seishi too went on to become a successful manga artist and is known best as the creator of ‘O-Parts Hunter’ and ‘Sukedachi 09.’
In the manga ‘Naruto,’ the lead character, ‘Naruto Uzumaki,’ is shown to be addicted to ramen, a Japanese dish. Masashi drew inspiration to shape this character from his own life, as he himself loves ramen. ‘Naruto’s favorite ramen shop is modeled on Masashi’s favorite ramen shop that actually exists at the ‘Kyushu Sankyo University,’ where he studied arts.
Masashi is married since 2003, but he has never been able to spend enough time with his wife due to his busy work schedule. The couple has a son.