If you recall back to when I posted that summary of The Last: Naruto the Movie, you saw that it was translated by a person on tumblr named Utapurinsesu. After reading through the summary, I created a tumblr account so I could get in touch with this person and ask him some questions that we all had. Well, we stayed in contact all this time, and we've been talking about a bunch of things. One of the more interesting ones is a almost (he has 10 minutes left to summarize that he will do at another time) complete summary of the interview Kishimoto did with Kobayashi (here is a link to the interview). While I'm sure you read a few bits about this from other sources (this is the same interview that said Neji died to make NaruHina happen, and that Kishimoto originally wanted to have Naruto and Sasuke holding hands instead of losing their arms), Utapurinsesu went into a lot more detail, and revealed some interesting facts. I thought it was pretty cool, so I figured I'll post what he said for you to see. Just so you know, I'm posting exactly what he wrote from our conversations, so if some things don't make sense, ask me for any context. Alright, here's the full summary:
8.18 – 8:43 about Kagebunshin
Ki “Kagebunshin…” Ko “I actually wanted to ask you about that afterwards” Ki “Oh sorry” [laughs] Ko ”But I’ll ask now. We get the impression that you kinda dug your own grave with that one” [drawing Naruto with so many bunshin from the start] Ki “Yeah I think so” Ko “Because you went and did right from chapter 1” Ki “Yeah…” Ko “So you had to balance his power from the start” Ki “That’s right. He [Naruto] quickly got stronger, didn’t he. When he improved, his number of bunshin increased too. I just thought ‘Ive really done it now!’”
Ok, so now from the actual Q&A session, I’ll just summarize what was said because its far too long… Here is the first half and I’ll do the second half another time.
Q1: ”I’ve always wondered where you began to come up with the concept of ‘Naruto’ as a story and thought that that’s what yoou’d write about.”
A: Apparently he started out wanting to write a story about an old guy who owns a ramen shop and a young boy comes by, or something uninteresting like that. Other things also got mixed in with that like a story which was supposed to be really spectacular and it was about straightening up their lives and other emotive plots… He showed that to his publishers but they told him the story is way too far from what they want, and Kobayashi agrees that it doesn’t have any elements befitting a weekly Shounen Jump series. He started to research other shounen series (especially Akira Toriyama, who he was a big fan of). In the end the name ‘Naruto’ came from this failed story attempt, as well as the obvious influences that made it into the actual series. Then he made a story not about ninjas but about youkai (demons), where the main character was a fox who shape-shifted into a human. This story changed again so he made the fox demon into a human and redrew the whole thing, and submitted that version
He wanted to do something different to other artists who had written about ninjas, so made Naruto blond, more like a foreigner than a ninja. He also decided to make ninjas more about ‘helping/ protecting’ rather than ‘dying’ and also less about ‘staying hidden’. After trying this out, he was then asked by kids ‘Is that really a ninja?’ and he thought ‘Uh oh. I’ve gone off on a tangent again!’ But he decided he wanted to stick with it anyway and his publishers also said its fine only being this far off the mark [about what a ninja is].
Q2: “Do you remember how you came about the catchphrase ‘dattebayo’?”
[This answer was kinda hard for me to understand coz the logic in his answer kinda jumps around a bit. This is what I THINK he meant] A: He decided to make a catchphrase that sounded silly that an old person etc would come out with. He also thought something that sounded like a speech impediment would be good, so decided to go with ‘dattebayo’”.
Q3: “Did you have to think hard about [the setting/ creation of] naruto’s classmates?”
A: Kishimoto didn’t actually originally intend for that kind of setting. Originally he intended to focus on various missions that Naruto went on, meeting 4-man cells from other villages. The teachers of the 4-man cell would be Kakashis rival. But after discussing this with his editor, he was told there wouldn’t be time for such a slow-paced development, so he needed to come bring all these characters and villages out at once. You’re going to make a tournament. Kishimoto said he can’t do it and if he did it’d kill him [not literally], but he was told to do it even if it kills him. That is how the Chuunin exams arc came about. That was what he was forced to do. But even now he wish he could do his original idea about focusing on missions.
So he found it really difficult coming up with so many new characters and their designs in one go with no material to go on. So he asked for some designs from his editor to help, who saw a really weird looking keychain (?) and made drawings based on that, and that’s where Gai and Lee’s etc designs came from.
Kobayashi says that listening to what he said earlier about Kakashi’s rival, it sounds like he was originally planning for team Gai to be from another village when introducing them here [since they weren’t introduced with the other rookies/ teachers]. Kishimoto says that was originally the case, but they decided it was better for Kakashi to have a rival from inside the village so they went with this instead and introduced Team Gai as being from Konoha.
Kishimoto also says that the series picked up popularity thanks to the tournament aspect to find out who’d win, and even Kishimoto himself started to enjoy writing this part. But his editorial team told him to introduce a villain called Orochimaru in there that would stop the tournament from being finished instead. Kishimoto was disappointed since he was really getting into it, and had already put out the idea that he wanted Shikamaru to win. But before being told to put in the plot development of the tournament being destroyed, Kishimoto does admit that he was worrying about how to write Shikamaru’s fights for the rest of the tournament and make him the winner, since Shikamaru has an IQ of 200 and he [Kishimoto] doesn’t have a very high one, so he didn’t know how to pull it off.
Q4: “Why did you decide to introduce a strong enemy like Zabuza right at the beginning of the series?”
A: Kishimoto says that he wanted to do this right off the bat to show off Kakashi’s strength as an example of what an experienced ninja can do in the Narutoverse. This would set some cornerstones down in the manga straight away and make it easier for the audience to put things into perspective. Kobayashi points out that there were many things introduced in this arc that played huge roles right until the end of the series (kekkei genkai, sharingan etc), but Kishimoto just said he was ‘bluffing’ with these things in the beginning [nb: in other words he just made them up without any thought on how to use them in the future]. At the time he was just making these things up for the excitement and suspense, but didn’t pick up on what to do with some of these threads long-term until later. Basically he was making it up as he went. Even with Sasuke’s backstory, at the time of the Wave Arc, all that had been thought out was that Sasuke had an elder brother who had done something bad, and that was it. Kishimoto admits the planning was very hazy at this point. However, at the point where Itachi is actually introduced, Kishimoto had decided to secretly make him a good guy, but the reason he did something bad was because of circumstances. Kishimoto also says that although he introduced the Sharingan as being able to copy moves, the premise on what the Sharingan could do changed drastically over the course of the storyline.
Kobayashi comments that the concept of focusing on eyeballs in a Shounen manga is unique, and Kishimoto laughs and agrees. Kishimoto explains that theres a really old story called ‘Take of the Gallant Jiraiya’ that often comes up in Kabuki and the like, where the main character Jiraiya actually has the Sharingan. Kishimoto decided to take the concept of the Sharingan from this story and create the Uchiha clan to give the Sharingan to. And because Kakashi also has a Sharingan despite not being an Uchiha, he wanted this to be a mystery that kept readers interested as to how he got it.
Kobayashi comments that this mystery isn’t explained until Kakashi Gaiden much, much further down the line, but even so, you can see the group picture of Kakashi, Obito, Rin and Minato early on in the series [Kobayashi is showing a page from chapter 16]. Kishimoto says that may be so, but even by chapter 16 he had already decided this storyline, about Obito being an Uchiha, and that Minato was Naruto’s dad (but doesn’t confirm if he’d decided Minato’s name by then). Speaking of Minato, even though his identity was confirmed by this point, to begin with Kishimoto hadn’t thought of creating a fourth Hokage or him being Naruto’s dad. Kishimoto knew that he would have to introduce what had happened to his dad somewhere in the story, but didn’t know how to do it. Before coming up with Minato as the 4th Hokage, Minato’s spot on the Hokage Monument was actually taken by a dog [nb: you read that right, a dog]. He explains that at the time he actually wanted to try out that a ‘ninken’ (ninja dog) like those owned by the Inuzuka had been the Hokage at one point. But his editor told him he was thinking off on a tangent again, so instead of that just make him the main character’s dad instead.
On the popularity of characters - Kobayashi asks if Kishimoto had any idea how popular he thought Kakashi would be, as he became the most popular character, to which Kishimoto replies that he had no idea how he became so popular. Kobayashi says he’s missing the point and they both laugh, and suggests that maybe the reason is because Kakashi is cool.
Kobayashi then says that Jiraiya was also popular, to which Kishimoto agrees. Kobayashi suggests that it’s because he’s always acting pervy and has Icha Icha etc. Kishimoto goes on to say that the characters he actually having the intention to become popular actually flopped. This is the case of Sai, who wasn’t well received at all. Kimimaro was also the same. Kimimaro was actually popular at first, but as soon as he was shown to pull out his spinal cord his popularity disappeared. Kobayashi suggests that maybe it’s because it grossed the fans out, especially female fans.
On Sakura’s popularity & character - Kobayashi then asks about Sakura. Kishimoto says he tried to write her more realistically [than other characters], and tried to show a girl’s ‘real’ self/ feelings [through inner Sakura]. He thought she would appeal to female fans, but was surprised when she actually became hated. Kobayashi asks if there was a lot of Sakura hate, and Kishimoto says there was, and even young girls told him they hate her. Kishimoto said that he continued on regretting Sakura’s character. Kobayashi apologizes for bringing up the painful memories as Kishimoto apologizes for tailing off (lol).
Kobayashi said that his team were discussing in a meeting why Sakura’s family was never written. He says that they eventually appeared in a movie, but not in the manga. Even when all the parents are shown along with their children during the war, and even random relatives are shown, Sakura’s parents aren’t seen. He says that they came across like a civilian family and kind of made Sakura seem on the side-lines. He asks Kishimoto why this is, and Kishimoto replies that, honestly speaking, Sakura was that unpopular that even if he expanded on her… (nb. He tails off in what he’s saying). Kobayashi reiterates Kishimoto’s statement, and Kishimoto tells him that’s right, to which Kobayashi laughs.
Kobayashi asks if it was too late to drop her, and Kishimoto says that he just had to persevere with her, and thought about how to raise her popularity. In the 4th volume, a cover page shows her with Katsuyu, so this was the direction he tried to work in. In later volumes, he tries to draw her more beautifully. On the cover page of Vol 66, he drew Sasuke and Naruto quickly, but with Sakura he took a long time to draw her beautifully and was using source materials as guides. But he says that in the end no one really took notice (it had no effect), and Hinata’s popularity just kept going up on its own.
Kishimoto explains that Hinata, like Sakura, never really did anything but her popularity just kept going up and up, so part way through the story he started to wonder whether he should make her the main heroine instead, or at least gradually write her into the direction of the heroine.
They then go on to talking about Part II/ Shippuden.
On Shippuden’s/ Part II’s plot - Kobayashi starts off asking about whether there was framework put in place for the direction of Shippuden’s story. Kishimoto replies that because Naruto and his group were so weak as genin in the first part, so he wanted to make them stronger in the second part. This is especially because he introduced the Akatsiki, who are all Jonin level, so he had to make the main cast stronger too. He also used the timeskip as a chance to change their clothes, since he didn’t like the swirl on the arm of Naruto’s jacket, and also his thick collar in Part 1 got in the way of his face in action scenes. So he drew a small collar and dropped the swirl. He also added the headband with the long tails at the back so they would stand out and flutter during action scenes.
On Akatsuki - Kobayashi then goes on to say that when the Akatsuki were first introduced [when they were as shadows during their meetings] it was really exciting. Kobayashi says his favorite pair were Hidan and Kakuzu, to which Kishimoto agrees, saying Hidan was his favorite overall. Kobayashi says that they gave off a real sense of danger and malice. He also says that the concept of them both being immortal, albeit for different reasons, was really interesting. Kishimoto said he was worried at first about how he was depicting Hidan, who stabbed himself then said it felt good. Kobayashi says that it’s also the case of the damage he inflicted on Asuma.
On censorship scenes - Kobayashi then brings up the scene where Shikamaru is smoking Asuma’s cigarette, saying that it gave off the feeling of a boy becoming an adult. Kishimoto said he didn’t think they’d be able to show this in the anime. Kobayashi admits he was worried when this first came out. Kishimoto said that he thought he’d be told he can’t show a minor smoking [in the manga], since manga regulations are very strict. He had a meeting with his editor about whether he should change it or not, and in the end his editor told him to not worry about it and just try and go through with it anyway. If the people above wanted to edit it they would. Kobayashi brings up a scene where Hidan’s head is lopped off, and Kishimoto comments that the editing department told him to add black bars at the side for censoring. Kobayashi asks if Hidan is still buried underground, and Kishimoto says he is. Kishimoto wondered whether to put him in the war, but in the end he didn’t want to have even more characters to draw, so he didn’t.
Kobayashi then brings up the scene where Shikamaru is smoking again and he starts crying and flicks the cigarette away, Kobayashi comments that for a shounen series this was an incredibly serious scene. Kobayashi asks if he likes this kind of stuff, and Kishimoto says that surprisingly he does like these kinds of movies etc. He can’t out too much of this kind of thing into a shounen series, but he put in a little bit of something he finds interesting.
Kobayashi then asks about Akatsuki, saying they’re not just a normal organization, and they don’t really know much about each other. (nb: this next line I’m not sure about) Kishimoto says that in real life there are such professional organizations where a group of individuals come together, so he wanted to draw a parallel to that. And he drew Pain to be the leader bringing together these individuals.
On camera & layout techniques in the manga - Kobayashi asks if the scene where Pain first appears looking down on the world was difficult, because the background was very complex. Kishimoto says it was very difficult, and at first he had to carefully pencil everything out. Kishimoto says that he also drew the detailed background in the scene where Naruto is looking down over Konoha when he first comes back. Kishimoto said he had to draw it to make the whole image come together properly. Kobayashi notices a sign in Pain’s scene that reads ‘hankerchief’ and asks about it, and Kishimoto says it’s a homage to [another series called] Bobobo-Bobobobo. Kobayashi comments that it’s amazing considering he only had one week to do this for the deadline. Kishimoto says that image took him 3 days to do.
Kobayashi then brings up about other unique shots, like the shot of Deidara sitting on Gaara’s body (which has a fish-eye lens effect). Kishimoto says he loves that kind of shot and was inspired by the work ‘Akira’. He says he like how it adds depth to the world using that lens method. Kobayashi shows the cover page of chapter 106 commenting that it looks like the kind of shot found in pervy AV [Adult Video= softporn] films. Kishimoto states that he’s never researched that kind of thing.
Kobayashi then shows the scene where Naruto punches Haku, which is showing the same punch but at three different angle. Kishimoto comments that this is a technique often used in films known as ‘double action’. He says that in Jackie Chan’s movies for example, it is used to emphasis the strength of the punch. Kishimoto says he wanted to use that effect in his manga. Kobayashi says he has a question about why the faces aren’t shown when Naruto hits someone, and if that was intentional. Kishimoto replies that it is cooler that way, because rather than the focus being on the face, the focus of attention is on the body’s [recoil] and it’s more expressive that way. He says that in important scenes he plans it so to not draw they’re faces.
Kobayashi then asks about another layout technique he uses, where in Naruto/ Sasuke fights the Naruto and Sasuke panels are connected on the left and right page, and the development of action progresses from the top of the page to the bottom. Kishimoto says that this is a manga technique that he thought to use that is easy to follow, as both are connected it doesn’t matter where you are looking you can easily follow what both sides are doing at the same time. He says that he designed it to be quick and simple to skim over and not to emphasis looking at the details, since you’re reading both pages at the same time.
Kobayashi shows an example of a complicated double-page layout. Kishomoto says that the panels are messed up and random to express the confusion of the fight, and the reader also doesn’t know where to look. Also, because it makes you look around the page quickly, it adds a sense of speed to the battle as well. Kobayashi understands that this was a deliberate technique, because at the time he wondered if it was OK for Kishimoto to have submitted this for publication.
On the War arc Moving on, Kobayashi comments that the war arc must have been very difficult. Kishimoto says it was, and that in the Pain fight, Pain comments about Naruto not having experienced war. This part set the story towards the war arc, so Naruto could come up with his final answer after having experienced war for himself. Kishimoto explains that this conversation in the Pain arc meant that he couldn’t back down from steering the story towards a war arc. Kobayashi says that everyone popped up during the war arc, and Kishimoto said that he wanted to use that as a way to wrap things up from the entire series so far.
He says he did an unimportant old man fight between Mifune and Hanzo, which was unusual for a shounen manga. He said he was told off [by his editor?] and told to drop the old man fight already. Kobayashi says that actually, that fight was his [Kobayashi’s show’s] directors favorite fight. Kishimoto thanks him. Kobyashi shows one part of that fight scene and comments how they are thinking back in the past as they are fighting. Kishimoto said he originally wanted to do a seppuku (ritual suicide) scene, but then he started to think it’d be a bit harsh to do that considering he’s an old man, so he started to go off the idea. Kobayashi asks about Mifune’s popularity with a shounen audience and Kishimoto replies that he wasn’t popular one bit. Kobayashi laughs and says that he thinks Mifune is cool, and that it’s interesting that samurai have developed to be on par with ninjas in a ninja world. Kishimoto says that if they didn’t develop, then… Kobayashi comments that they wouldn’t be samurai if they didn’t persist, and Kishimoto agrees. Kobayashi says that it’s a cool scene, but asks how it went down with a shounen audience. Kishimoto says that the opinion was ‘will this old man fight finish soon? The main characters not even in it’.
Kobayashi says he likes the war arc, and that he liked the 2nd Mizukage, who tells everyone his own weaknesses. Kishimoto says that even though he’s an old man as well, he was actually fairly popular. Kishimoto said he thought it’d be interesting to have that character actually give away how to defeat himself and to demend it be done quickly. Kobayashi asks whether doing the Edo Tensei was difficult, and Kishimoto says yes. He says that from the Pain arc onwards, Naruto just defeats the enemy without intent to kill and settles things verbally. Doing it this way is more shounen-like so he felt he had to go down this direction. But he felt this kind of killed the mood, so from there he introduced the zetsu clones (and Edo Tensei) to have someone to beat. Kobayashi asks about the characters that didn’t come back as Edo Tensei, like Jiraiya, Konan and Hidan. Kishimoto said he didn’t want Jiraiya to come back, because he couldn’t possibly write it in a good way. Jiraiya’s death was a big part of Naruto’s development and brought him closer to understanding Sasuke’s feelings, so bringing Jiraiya back would undo that. The Edo Tensei was mostly a way to draw Madara out into the story.
They go on to talk about Madara’s appearance, and that it’s the real him rather than just the Rinne Tensei. Kishimoto says it kind of ended up complicated about reviving him with Rinne Tensei or with Edo Tensei and the difference between the two.
On Sakura’s Love Letter scene - Kobayashi laughingly brings up the unusual scene where Sakura gets a love letter [during the war]. Kishimoto explains that the reason for that was to give the anime team a lead for a [filler] story, because if they just kept doing the war arc at the pace they were going at then they would catch up with the manga. Kobayashi says this ‘Love letter incident’ is an unbelievable occurrence, and Kishimoto admits that he didn’t know what to write, he just had to put something. Kobayashi finds this hilarious and asks ‘so your answer was a love letter, then?’
On Neji’s death - Kobayashi comments that there were many casualties during the war, but he was surprised about Neji, and asks Kishimoto why he was chosen. Kishimoto explains that because he decided to make Hinata into the lead heroine a while back, he used Neji’s death as a way to bring her and Naruto together. He goes on to explain that although there is the scene where she stands up to Pain, he wanted to create an opening for Naruto to consciously realize that she is by his side and thank her for that, so he used Neji’s death to do this. Kishimoto says that in this way Neji sort of took on the role of cupid for the two of them. He then explains that it was at this time when Kishimoto came up with the name of ‘Bolt’ for their son, which has a similar meaning to ‘Neji’ (screw), as a homage to the late uncle who brought his parents together. Kishimoto says that ‘if’ there is a manga about Bolt (nb: it wasn’t confirmed by this point), he wants to include scenes focusing on Neji. Kobayashi asks if it’s ok to mention something like this [project], and Kishimoto says that this is only hypothetical.
On the final battle between Naruto & Sasuke - Kobayashi says the war arc was great, and then goes on to asking about the final battle between Naruto and Sasuke. Kishimoto said that because Sasuke was introduced as a rival character in the beginning, he also wanted the manga to end with Sasuke and Naruto fighting as rivals. Kobayashi comments that this conclusive battle has been a long time coming, and that it has been a long time since Sasuke first left the village. Kishimoto agrees and says that after writing his leaving arc, he was a bit frustrated because he didn’t know what to do with him anymore. But he said he could also understand Sasuke’s actions after leaving the village in some ways, and Kobayashi agrees. Kishimoto said he wanted the audience to understand Sasuke’s point of view, and wrote the story so he could push this idea. Kishimoto also explains that there were times when his editor told him he hasn’t properly captured Sasuke’s facial expression to show his character, and sometimes had to redraw him many times. He said that both he and Sakura were always a pain to draw. Kakashi was also difficult to draw facial expressions for since his face is covered. Kobayashi comments that designing these characters this way is Kishimoto’s form of self-hatred, and they laugh.
About the final battle, Kishimoto says he didn’t want them to use ninjutsu. He said he wanted it to end in a boys’ fist fight, despite it not being in the usual spirit of Jump (and they bothered him about it). He then goes on to talk about when they both lose their arms (which is their dominant arm), relates back to a flashback in the beginning of the manga where they cross each other’s fingers, but now they can’t do that. So he used the Madara and Hashirama statues, who represented Indra and Asura, to hold hands instead, with Naruto and Sasuke on top. Kishimoto said he’s always wanted to draw this scene, even since Part I.
On ending the manga - Kobayashi flicks through that chapter and comments that one of the daimyo looks like himself. Also in another panel there is a picture of one of Kishimoto’s cats in the background. Kobayashi then asks about the Jolly Roger mark on the Hokage Monument in chapter 700. Kishimoto says that it is a tribute to his fellow-managaka, Eiichiro Oda, who wrote One Piece. In the back of the Jump volume, there are some messages from his fellow managakas, and Oda’s says that they are rivals. Kishimoto says he feels the same way. He also says he was surprised, because he never heard they’d do that [publishing messages from all the authors to him], and it’s the first time something like that has been done. Kobayashi says that it’s a sign that he is a great mangaka who has created an amazing piece of work, and Kishimoto thanks him.