Mar 24, 2008
Naruto: Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood by Masatoshi Kusakabe. Original Concept by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Tomo Kimura and Janet Gilbert. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump Fiction imprint. Price: $9.99
12 years ago a nine-tailed fox demon attacked the Hidden Leaf Village, and many of its ninja were killed in the battle. Unable to outright defeat the monster, the Fourth Hokage instead sealed the demon within the navel of a newborn infant named Naruto. The entire village was sworn to secrecy about the matter. But how could the adults react with anything but hatred to the growing Naruto, who held within him the beast that had taken the lives of so many of their loved ones? Even though the adults kept the secret, their kids quickly picked up on their attitude towards Naruto and started a whole new cycle of hate. Helped along and mentored by Iruka, one of the few adult ninja who treats him with any respect, Naruto vows to become the next Hokage. He sees it as the only course that will make the Village acknowledge him. But first, he has to become a ninja, and he's having a hell of a time just mastering the most basic of skills.
Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood is basically a fiction adaptation of the first 4 volumes of the Naruto manga which starts with Naruto's woeful performance at the ninja exams, learning that he has the nine-tailed fox demon within him, the formation of Cell 7 with Kakashi, Sakura, and Sasuke, and their first serious mission, that of escorting the bridge builder Tazuna back to the Land of Waves. A mission that will bring them into a no holds barred confrontation with the deadly ninja Zabuza and his protege, Haku.
First off, I would have to say doing fiction adaptations of manga must be a pretty easy job. Why? Because there is nothing new added to the manga, at least with this novel. Most of the pages are taken up with dialogue and what little description is used is very dry and dull. In fact, the feeling I got from reading this book was of moderately polished fan fiction. In fact, I have read BETTER fan fiction than this novel. Kusakabe sticks so religiously to the original manga that there is no room to add any depth or further insight into the characters. The language is so basic and written so simply that this would probably make a good textbook for a Beginning Japanese course. In fact, I could have produced a more entertaining text just reading the Naruto manga in English and turning it into a novel rather than translating directly from Japanese. The book is needless except for the most rabid fan of the franchise. I didn't see the point of it and I am a mildly rabid fan. If you have watched the anime as well, it makes the reading of this book even doubly useless. If Kusakabe had been given a little more freedom, perhaps the novel would have been better.
My Grade: C