One of the perks of being an anime blogger, especially as a librarian, is the opportunity to review new books. Viz Media sent me Naruto: Kakashi’s Story, a novel that takes place after the events of the original manga series. I was surprised to see the novel. I wasn’t aware of Naruto novels. Akira Higashiyama captures the feel and the humor of Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto universe. The story follows Kakashi on a mission to protect the first flight of an airship made by the Land of Waves. Only a year has passed since the Fourth Great Ninja War had ended. The war had allowed the Land of Waves to prosper as a transport hub for supplies, but all wealth comes at a cost. A group of ninja seek to free the lower classes from the debt and work imposed on it by the wealthy. Kakashi and an injured Guy must stop their plan. In the process Kakashi must face himself and his future appointment as the Sixth Hokage.
Higashiyama does an excellent job conveying the feel of Naruto. The novel weaves fights with introspection and observations about society. Kakashi’s Story spends a lot of time in Kakashi’s mind, giving the reader a look at a sometimes enigmatic character. Of course, Naruto and friends also appear. Higashiyama mixes horror with whimsy in a way that balances and keeps the story from slipping too far either direction. The story is spare of description and assumes the reader already knows how everyone looks. For fans, this works well. Although I haven’t see all of the anime series, I had no trouble envisioning the characters. Action sequences are written clearly and convey the fast speed of shinobi conflict.
The novel is the size of a standard manga, which works well for those who like consistency in their library. The pencil cover art is attractive and reminds me of traditional Japanese ink drawings. Jocelyne Allen’s translation lacks most of the awkward phrasing you sometimes see in translations. The phrase “The problem is that” was the only stand out. While grammatically correct, it is awkward. But I am being a little nitpicky here. The prose flows well if you know how to pronounce all the Naruto words like hokage and kunai. I’m not a devoted Naruto fan, but I did notice some of the jutsu were different from the anime. Some fans may find this distracting.
While this isn’t what I normally read, I quite enjoyed spending an afternoon with this book. At 188 pages, it is a fast read. Fans of Naruto should give it a go, especially if you like Kakashi. You can find it at Viz Media’s Naruto Shop and Amazon.