After its debut as a one-shot manga in 1997 which was later picked up by Shueisha Publications in 1999 as a weekly feature in Shonen Jump, Naruto says goodbye to its legion of fans November 10th, 2014. After 71 volumes spanning 17 years, the manga has earned itself mainstream fame as an animated series in Japan and the US, 9 movies, several video games and a multitude of peripheral merchandise including trading cards and plush dolls.
For those unfamiliar with the ninja saga, the manga is based off of an aspiring ninja named Naruto who happens to be infused with the spirit of a nine-tailed fox demon and dreams of becoming the best ninja and the the village Hokage or leader and strongest fighter in the village. The story follows his life and adventures, incorporating life lessons and elaborate drawn out battles.
Though much can be learned from Naruto and his epic journey, the bulk of Naruto’s influence lies in its ability to act as an anime and manga gateway for the uninducted. As leader of “The Big Three” ( the other two being Bleach and One Piece), or the three leading manga titles from Shonen Jump, Naruto has converted many to the world of manga and japanime. Once converted to an animated series, the story became TV Tokyo’s number one earner. In 2013 TV Tokyo Holdings released its financials showing an increase of 700 million yen from the previous fiscal year to a total of 7 billion yen. Profits also increased, from 820 million yen to 1.3 billion yen. Overseas business, though only making up 10% of business was notably profitable and driven mainly by the Naruto franchise. Naruto led in both the sales and gross profit categories.
Naruto made his big screen debut in 2004, starring in Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in The Land of Snow. Masashi Kishimoto, the writer and producer for Naruto, created several more movies including the anticipated Naruto: The Last, opening in Japan this December.
The Naruto franchise has also been profitable for video game makers. Since 2003, when the first Naruto game hit North America in the form of “Naruto: Clash of Ninja”, it has spawned 6 successful series: Naruto: Clash of Ninja, Naruto: Ninja Council, Naruto: Ninja Destiny, Naruto: Path of the Ninja, Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles and the latest Naruto: Ultimate Ninja. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution was released for Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Xbox 360, Sony’s (NYSE: SNE) Playstation 3 and PC in September and has sold 650,000 copies worldwide.
Anime fans around the world will mourn the end of the Naruto manga series, but the series’ influence will undoubtedly live on through cosplaying fans and a plethora of merchandising.