1. How is the work illustrated? Be specific: would you characterize it as sketchy, realistic, cartoony, artistic, ornate, spare, expressionistic, tight, loose, etc.? What is the overall feel of the artwork, and what kind of tone does it create for the reader? Do you feel it is the uniquely suited to the story being told?
I think that Naruto offers some amazing illustrations. Some may say it is cartoony; however, in my opinion, it is very ornate and realistic. Masashi Kishimoto puts so much detail into the background and the characters themselves that it seems like I am standing within the story itself. For example, the very first frame of the entire story shows the Village Hidden in the Leaves. This is where Naruto lives. Kishimoto shows a town full of buildings with trees all around and even a mountain range in the background. The buildings are detailed to each plank of wood that structures them. We can see power lines going to and from each building along with drainage pipes on the sides of them. The mountain range had faces of the old village leaders carved into them almost looking identical to our Mount Rushmore. Each face is detailed and had graffiti on it where Naruto has painted in one of his pranks. There is even a stairway climbing up to the top of the range where some other buildings are. Everything is in black and white. There is not coloring in the art.
The characters are also drawn very well. Lord Hokage, the village leader, has very finely drawn wrinkles all over his face showing his age. Iruka, Naruto’s main teacher, has a fine scar drawn over his nose along with several other features. Each character is given a specific set of features. The face expressions look like those that a real person would make. They are not overdone. The clothes that each character wears are very detailed. The vests of some of the shinobi have buttons drawn along with several pockets all over them for their ninja tools. There is a clear distinction in each character’s clothes that show who they are. It almost looks real.
I think the overall tone of the artwork is a mixture of light and dark. There are times that the art seems light-hearted and cheery. However, there are other times when Kishimoto uses a lot of dark shading to show when someone I dying or something scary is happening. Also, he uses the darkness to show when something sad is occurring like when Naruto feels the hate from the rest of the village. He darkens everything around Naruto to show his depression and his loneliness. Most of the scenes, however, are usually done in light shades. This story has a lot of comedy, especially toward the beginning of the story. The tone needs to seem cheery in a way for these scenes or it would be contradicting. Overall, I think Kishimoto does a great job in setting his tone for the story and making the artwork fit the overall story. I don’t think it could have been done any other way.
2. Why was this story written as a graphic novel? What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film? What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t? Again, be as specific as possible.
I think this story was written as a graphic novel to give us the entire story of Naruto. Kishimoto could not give his readers the full experience if he had translated the story into a regular novel, short story, or film. If he had translated this story into a novel or short story we would miss some hidden information. A graphic novel has more than words. It offers pictures. In Naruto, we would not be able to guess that Mizuke was necessarily lying to Naruto to get an important scroll just from words. We needed the pictures to see that there were evil intentions behind him helping Naruto. Also, we would not grasp the fights that take place in the story. There is a lot of action in Naruto. We could only imagine what a fight is like when it is written, but to see if right in front of us gives us the whole picture. Naruto is an amazing story that needs both its pictures and its words combined to make it whole.
If this story were translated into a movie it would lose a lot as well. First, this story offers a very amazing story and has some realistic images; however, I feel like it would not be taken seriously if it was a film. People would just think it was a childish show and would overlook the meaning of the story: fighting your demons, striving to be the best you can be, and protecting those important to you. We all face similar feats in our lives. We have the struggle of morality, confidence, and maintaining our relationships. People see the movie as trivial and miss its important messages. Also, the story could not be fully grasped in a movie. There are a lot of times when the characters are thinking to themselves in the story. They flashback or they are thinking about something in the present. Inner thoughts cannot be applied easily to a movie and if they were if would seem cheesy at times and would not be realistic to the viewers. Again, they would see it as trivial and miss the story. A lot of times there are several thoughts occurring at the same time in Naruto. A movie could not grasp all of them. Lastly, Naruto is a very long story. Every detail is important in the story. By translating it to film, it would be condensed into something totally different for time purposes. We would get only a glimpse of the story and not its entirety. This story has been translated into a cartoon format which is regarded as childish by people whom don’t understand.
3. Who narrates the story? How do they do this? Traditionally, narration is told from either a third-person or first-person perspective; how does a graphic novel challenge this approach? Consider how the form of comics ‘tells’ a story and allows us to see multiple points of view within a single narrative frame.
There is not really a narrator in Naruto. There is an unknown person that says something in the very beginning of some chapters and the end of some chapters. It is almost like someone teaching a history lesson or reading the story to people. This only happens a few times. Other than that there is no narrating taking place. We can see the story move through the dialogue of the characters and the scene changes. There really is no need for a narrator in this story because the characters speak for themselves. Several of the characters have flashbacks that last for maybe a page or two. They are not really narrating, but just thinking back. This just adds some information to the story so we can see why the characters are acting the way they are. We can see multiple points-of-view through the use of conversation bubbles. Unlike the graphic novels we have discussed in class, there are not any big distinctions between conversation bubbles in Naruto. The only thing that expresses who is talking is the little arrow on the bottom of the bubble that points in the direction of the character speaking. It can seem hard at times, but Kishimoto does a good job of keeping no more than 2 or 3 characters in a frame at a time. He does this not just to make it easier but to put focus on what the one character is saying in a frame. The story moves along through dialogue, which I found very interesting.
4. Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame, or a series of frames, that you feel is particularly significant. Why is this sequence so important? Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both? Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large.
There are several scenes in the first volume of Naruto that I find significant; however, there were two that hit me the most. The first occurs on page 21. Naruto has just failed a test that would make him a full-fledge shinobi or ninja. He is sitting on a swing watching the rest of the children celebrating with their parents. Two woman look at him in disgust while he sits there depressed. This scene is very sad and important to the story because 1) Naruto is considered a plague to the rest of the village and 2) Naruto does not have any parents to support him. Naruto is pushed away because the demon within him wreaked havoc on the village when he was born. His parents died during this event. The demon was placed inside of him to save the people. Now the adults of the village take out their hatred on him and shield their children from him. Naruto has no friends and just wants to be accepted by others. He looks at these kids and wishes that he could have passed his test, he could be accepted by them, and he could have parents to support him. It really breaks the readers’ hearts to see this character have to suffer for something he does not understand. The whole point of the story of Naruto is his drive to be accepted by everyone in the village so this really fits with the story.
The second scene occurs on page 38 and part of page 40. Mizuke, one of Naruto’s teachers, tries to kill Naruto by throwing a giant ninja weapon at him. Iruka, Naruto’s main teacher, jumps in front of it and gets stab in the back. What makes this so significant is that Iruka’s parents were killed by the demon fox living within Naruto. He has been among those that have acknowledged Naruto as a nuisance. He finally realizes how much Naruto has suffered and that it is not his fault. He becomes the first person to really care about Naruto. Naruto can’t believe that his teacher would be willing to sacrifice himself for him. Then, Iruka apologizes to Naruto for being so hard on him. This causes a deep impact in Naruto. He becomes confident and strives even more to be accepted by others. Without Iruka, Naruto might have never gained the confidence to become a great shinobi. Again, this scene really fits the story because someone finally acknowledges Naruto for his qualities not the demon living within him.
I admire both scenes for their art and words. Kishimoto wanted his readers to see both the very great drawings as well as the things being said. In the first scene, Kishimoto draws Naruto under a tree on a swing. This art is so emotional because Kishimoto places Naruto on the swing with the entire background colored black. He also shades parts or Naruto to show the leaves above him. It really expresses how depressed Naruto is and how hard he is taking the situation. The words are impacting because he is hearing these women talk about him as well as hearing children celebrating with their families. He is all alone with no one to tell him “good try” or anything.
On the second scene, I love the first frame. It takes up half of page 38. It shows Iruka laying over Naruto with the weapon in his back and blood splattered everywhere. It is very detailed and really expressed the moment that of Iruka’s sacrifice. Then, on page 40, Kishimoto draws a close up of Iruka. We can see the weapon in his back and a Kunai knife in his stomach. He has blood dripping from the knife and his lips. Then, we see tears coming from his eyes. The picture is so detailed it feels like I am really looking up at Iruka. Then, he says, “I know that, Naruto. I was so hard on you, yelling, scolding… it must have hurt… Forgive me. If I’d been a better teacher… a better self… maybe neither of us would have come to this.” This moment is very powerful because it is when someone finally acknowledges Naruto and cares for him. Iruka got rid of his hate for the boy by taking the blade.