Naruto Volume One is rated “T” for Teen.

Naruto Volume One
Written by: Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 6, 2003

Naruto, the title character of the series, is an orphan who has decided that he will one day become the Hokage (the leader) of the village where he lives. Unfortunately, Naruto isn’t the best of students at the ninja academy, and he’s constantly pulling pranks to force people to pay attention to him.

It turns out that, unknown to Naruto, the Fourth Hokage sealed a fox demon that was attacking the village into Naruto when he was a baby. The Hokage died soon after, but he had hoped that the villagers would view Naruto as a hero. Instead, the adults of the village shunned him, hence why Naruto feels such a need to act outrageously in order to get noticed. The Third Hokage, who took the position back after the death of the Fourth Hokage, decreed that disclosure of Naruto’s secret is strictly forbidden under severe penalty. While Naruto’s peers know nothing of his secret, many have picked up their parents’ animosity toward him and perpetuate it.

During this volume, Naruto is tricked by one of the ninja academy instructors to steal a sacred scroll. He learns a cloning technique from the scroll that becomes Naruto’s signature jutsu during the series. When the traitorous instructor tries to take the scroll from Naruto, he is saved by his teacher, Iruka. Naruto manages to graduate from the ninja academy and is assigned to a three man cell with Sakura (the girl he has a crush on) and Sasuke (a boy who Naruto strongly dislikes because he’s the class heartthrob and Sakura obviously has a crush on him). They are assigned to a new teacher named Kakashi, and the volume ends with them doing a survival test that they need to pass in order to continue to be ninja. If they don’t pass, then they have to return to the academy for more training.

The Naruto manga series shows Naruto as he grows both as a person and as a ninja. From reading the first volume, you don’t realize just how much further the series will go. The only reason I knew when reading this volume was because I had already seen quite a few episodes of the anime series.

When it comes to the art, Kishimoto has an ability to convey his characters’ feelings through their facial expressions. In some respects the character designs feel a little rough, but for me, this may be due to the fact that I have more familiarity with the character designs from the Naruto anime series. Since this is a shonen series, there are some “busy” panels and “sound effects” utilized in the art, but they are not overdone and are used effectively to convey the story.

Naruto isn’t a bad manga series at all, but it can be a little slow to get going. However, if you’re willing to stick it out, you’ll see just how much deeper the series gets over time. While the early volumes of the manga may be suitable for pre-teen readers, the themes in the later volumes are probably better suited to older teens.

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