The first volume of the Naruto 3-in-1 releases combines the first three volumes of the Naruto manga into one edition.

Naruto Omnibus Volume One
Written by: Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: May 3, 2011

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.

In the first 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.

In the second volume, Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke finish their final test and become junior ninja. However, all they’re being given are “D” level missions, such as babysitting, yard work, and running errands to neighboring villages. With the rank they are at, these are basically the only missions they get to build up experience until they make it up to the next ninja level. Naruto, being the knuckleheaded ninja that he is, starts to throw a fuss about the missions his team has to do, and tries to insist on doing missions that are higher ranked. Kakashi and Naruto’s teammates chide Naruto for his behavior, but the Hokage decides to permit the team an opportunity to take on a “C” level mission. Naruto and his team are assigned to serve as bodyguards to protect a bridge builder named Tazuna from bandits and thieves. But, as they start on their way, Naruto and his team quickly learn that Tazuna had omitted some very important details about his situation, and that the mission is really a higher ranked mission than the Hokage had realized. Because of this, Naruto and his team find themselves face to face with some of the most lethal Mist Ninjas.

In the third volume, Kakashi has Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura do some training while he recuperates from their battle in the second volume. Naruto also has disagreements with Inari, Tazuna’s grandson, and the group learns why Inari has the attitude that he has. While Naruto is training, he has an encounter with a mysterious young man. The volume ends with another confrontation between Naruto and his teammates and the lethal Mist Ninjas.

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 in the first volume. However, 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. In the second volume, it feels like Kishimoto was starting to get his groove on a little more when it came to drawing the characters. The look of the characters is more refined in comparison with the first volume, and they’re starting to look much closer to their anime counterparts. There’s definitely more “busy” panels in this volume due to the battles near the end of the volume, but Kishimoto knows how to use the “busy” look effectively to portray the fights. Even in non-fighting scenes, Kishimoto has a good feel for effectively utilizing “sound effects” in his drawings to help convey characters’ reactions. The art style between Volumes Two and Three is much more consistent than it was between Volumes One and Two.

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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