Introducing Naruto would be an affront. Since the early 2000s, the blond ninja has been one of the great shônen from the acclaimed Jump, just like a One Piece. But perhaps Masashi Kishimoto’s work is even more important than that in our lands, since it was the manga carrier of this period, a title that remains acclaimed even today. Naruto finally bowed out in 2014, and totaled 72 volumes. And if the eyes are now turned on the direct continuation of the title, Boruto, the Kana editions do not forget the original work.
Naruto is, what the publisher calls, a French exception. If worldwide One Piece dominates in terms of sales and popularity, it has not always been the case in our country. For a while, French-speaking people were more enthusiastic about the orange ninja, so much so that Naruto is today a pop-culture icon with us. A feat that Shûeisha sought to salute by allowing Kana to concoct a new version to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the manga: The Hokage Edition. This is dedicated to compiling the 72 original opuses on 36 cobblestones in the largest format (double volumes, therefore), including the color material of the pre-publication and other end-of-volume bonuses, all in a beautiful box. This unprecedented deluxe was announced as a great project, which unfortunately experienced its share of dissatisfaction as soon as it was announced: In addition to a frieze made up of the backs of the opuses which were not to everyone’s taste, as well as covers which some regretted lack of originality, the release in bookstores on May 6th was aggravated by the use of a paper which, if it is of quality, prevents a total comfort of reading by its transparency. For the publisher, a real crisis around its flagship title. And if the volumes themselves are of good design, this transparent paper was clearly a damage that could be avoided… and will be in the future. In response, Kana confirmed the use of another paper for the fifth volume, material which will also apply to the first four volumes in their future reprints. The French-speaking rights holder is listening, and we can only welcome their reactions when some of their colleagues are currently content to turn a deaf ear to legitimate criticism.
The chronicle of this volume having been made on a first version of the volume, yours truly was not especially turned upside down by the transparency of the paper. But this criterion of comfort is a matter of tastes and personal affinities, so Kana reacted well by trying to satisfy as many people as possible.
The basics of Naruto, namely the first two games, are therefore told in this first volume of the Hokage version. Naruto is a teenager who lives in the village of Konoha, and who is destined for the profession of ninja. The young boy is however good last of his promotion, since he takes more pleasure in clowning around to impress the gallery than in acquiring the basic notions of a ninja. And for good reason: Orphan and rejected by all adults, he only has a taste for pranks to attract the sympathy of others. Also, when the final exam to become an aspiring ninja takes place, Naruto fails… But by a succession of fortuitous events, Naruto will obtain the Grail: His license and his ninja headband. He will discover with horror at this moment that he has in him the spirit of the nine-tailed fox demon which ravaged Konoha in the past, an explanation for the contempt of others for him. But never mind: Naruto is now a ninja, and he intends to become Hokage, the most powerful of his own in the village, to gain everyone’s recognition.
With this equivalent of the first two volumes, Masashi Kishimoto delivers a true example of the launch of adventure and combat shônen. The basics are clearly established, and this first salvo of 17 chapters clearly familiarizes us with the promising universe of the series. With today’s eye, it is also fun to guess what was intended by the author, and what was not. The starter is therefore effective, and the discovery of the proposed world is truly pleasant. Whether by the launch of the first serious arc or the first chapters of setting up, the mangaka was particularly skilful, at the time, to introduce the first mechanics of his work. Difficult to be lost, while one attaches easily to the first figures presented. Even with the current look, the whole thing hits the mark, with Naruto’s quest promising many possibilities, while the protagonist and figures like Kakashi haven’t aged a bit, despite the archetypes the characters represent as a whole. . Even Sasuke, yet so mocked today, offers some sympathy capital in these first chapters, which will not necessarily be the case later, so it will be pleasant to see how the title has aged on this side.
And if we insist so much on the success that this departure from the series constitutes, it is because we obviously keep in mind the resounding failure of Samurai 8, manga canceled after 5 volumes for lack of success. After a Naruto so well introduced where the story was going slowly to set up its universe, it’s hard to imagine that the same author failed with the ultra laborious and messy start of Samurai 8.
To return to the edition, debate on the quality of the paper apart, it is clear that the book is pleasant to hold in hand. Printing the color pages on non-gloss paper is a plus to give the book a nice look. And despite an obligation to reuse the visuals of the original jackets, Kana managed to create a beautiful model. Note that the translation of Sylvain Chollet, brilliant, is included here, the same for the lettering and the graphic adaptation. The additional work comes from the translation of the bonus chapter, the pilot of the series in its one-shot form, which it was clever to introduce in the first volume. In short, once the paper has been corrected, the Hokage edition of Naruto will constitute a more qualitative version of the manga capable of delighting fans and collectors who are looking for a more prestigious object.