In the first installment of this book review, I described the way in which I used the book Naruto the Official Character Data Book by Masashi Kishimoto to prepare for my adventure at Anime Boston 2012. In this portion of the review, we’ll see how I did in terms of using the book to learn about the Naruto characters and understand the story.
As I was rushing to finish everything I was juggling at work in order to take Friday and Saturday off for Anime Boston, I asked myself “Why am I doing this?” After all, it’s my daughter and sister who are the big manga and anime fans. I’m just a tagalong. Those thoughts disappeared once I arrived, just like last year. Anime Boston is just plain fun!
A little history about Anime Boston. This year was the Con’s tenth anniversary. It started out as a small event with a few thousand attendees. In 2012, I am told there were 21,500 tickets sold. Anime voice actors from all over the world fly in as do the bands who play the music, vendors and small artists who make anime-inspired art work. There are fascinating conference sessions discussing everything from new episodes of favorite anime to the relationship of the manga and anime storylines to Japan and Japanese culture.
One of the most amazing things about the Con, however, is the costumes. Many people dress up as their favorite characters (with varying degrees of success) or other theme-based things, such as the guy I saw this year dressed as the Japanese snack food “Pocky.” It was among these cosplayers that I intended to test my skills in identifying the characters of Naruto. While it is protocol to ask permission before photographing the cosplayers, just about all of them are thrilled to be snapped with other attendees and the press.
From the moment I arrived, I was on a quest to find Naruto. It didn’t take long. I finally saw the signature orange jumpsuit and the ninja headband of The Village Hidden in the Leaves.
Next, I found Kakashi, who put on a great show for me with his book. After all, one who fights so well can train young ninja while reading a book!
These were the easy ones though. I felt ready for a challenge! I identified this guy by the coat.
It took me a little while to figure out the character though. Finally, I settled on Sasuke, because of the hair.
Thoughout the two and a half days, I ran into many varieties of the Naruto characters. Now from the book I knew that the guys in the swirly orange masks were Tobi and I could spot the Ninja headbands from across the room. Finally though, I had my chance to use the Jutsu Data part of the book. I found my answer on page 216. The balls were for the jutsu of Change in Chakra Form.
I felt I had come a long way in terms of my knowledge of the Naruto world and characters, but I had still never experienced Naruto in its native story form. Clearly, it was time to head up to the Manga Library. Nestled away on the third floor of the Sheraton Boston, the Manga Library was a place for exploring series and catching up on missed issues you couldn’t find elsewhere. The Manga Library was an oasis of calm in the bustle of the Con. It didn’t take long for me to find the right spot on the shelf:
What I hadn’t realized was how many issues there are! No wonder the character list is so long. I settled in to read Naruto Volume One. I was drawn in immediately and wasn’t lost for a minute.
By the time I left Anime Boston 2012, I had two Naruto pins and Naruto Volumes One through Nine among my possessions. Through this adventure, I admit I have become a Naruto fan. Yes, I finally have a series!
I found Naruto the Official Character Data Book to be a very useful tool in learning about the series and helping to make sense out of its worldview. There are a few organizational negatives I mentioned in Part One of this review. These are the order in which the character files are presented and an incomplete dictionary. In the index, I would have also liked to have had some cross referencing of the characters who have two names. This would have helped me when I remembered the second half of the name, but not the first. Nonetheless, I am aware that my perspective as a relative newcomer to manga and anime makes me something of an outsiders in this regard.
I believe that diehard Naruto fans will enjoy digging in this book for obscure facts and rationales for character actions. The “Reader Survey Results” section I am sure will be popular as well. Also, given how long this series is, people who have been following it for some time will likely find that they can get a good quick review of older information that will help put later episodes into context. Maybe that fan will be me a few years from now.