Masashi Kishimoto (岸本 斉史 Kishimoto Masashi, born November 8, 1974) is a Japanese manga artist, well known for creating the manga series Naruto which was in serialization from 1999 to 2014. As of October 2015, Naruto manga has sold over 220 million copies worldwide. Besides the Naruto manga, Kishimoto also participated in the making of the anime films Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie, The Last: Naruto the Movie, Boruto: Naruto the Movie, and has written several one-shot stories.
A reader of manga ever since a young age, Kishimoto showed a desire to write his own manga, citing authors Akira Toriyama and Katsuhiro Otomo as his main inspirations. As a result, Kishimoto spent several years working to write his own shōnen manga for Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine which he was a fan of.
Masashi Kishimoto was born in the Okayama Prefecture, Japan on November 8, 1974 as the older identical twin of Seishi Kishimoto. During his childhood, Kishimoto showed interest in drawing characters from the anime shows he watched, such as Dr. Slump's Arale and Doraemon's titular protagonist. In elementary school, Kishimoto started watching the Kinnikuman and Dragon Ball anime alongside his brother. During the following years, Kishimoto started idolizing Dragon Ball's author Akira Toriyama, enjoying not only his series Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump, but also Dragon Quest, a role-playing video game for which Toriyama was art designer. While he could not afford to buy Weekly Shōnen Jump where the Dragon Ball manga was published, he followed the series thanks to a friend from school who had subscribed to the magazine. By high school Kishimoto started losing interest in manga as he started playing baseball and basketball, sports he practiced at his school. However, upon seeing a poster for the animated film Akira, Kishimoto became fascinated with the way the illustration was made and wished to imitate the series' creator Katsuhiro Otomo's style. Other series he enjoyed reading are Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, Ninku and Ghost in the Shell.
During his last years of school, Kishimoto spent time drawing manga and went to an art college with hopes that he would become a manga artist. Upon entering college, Kishimoto decided he should try creating a Chanbara manga since Weekly Shōnen Jump had not published a title from that genre. However, during the same years, Kishimoto started reading Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal and Nobuhiro Watsuki's Rurouni Kenshin which used such genre. Kishimoto recalls having never been surprised by manga ever since reading Akira and found that he still was not able to compete against them. In his second year of college, Kishimoto started drawing manga for magazine contests. However, he noted that his works were similar to seinen manga, aimed towards an adult demographic, rather than the shōnen manga read by children and teenagers. Wishing to write a manga for Shōnen Jump that targets a young demographic, Kishimoto found his style unsuitable for the magazine. When watching the anime series Hashire Melos!, Kishimoto was surprised by the character designs employed by the animators and he started researching works from animators. He later met Tetsuya Nishio, designer from the anime adaptation of the manga Ninku who he deemed as a big influence. Now emulating the way of drawing from multiple character designers from anime series, Kishimoto noted that his style started resembling shōnen series.
Kishimoto's first successful manga pilot was Karakuri (カラクリ lit. "Mechanism"), which he submitted to Shueisha in 1995. This earned him an honorable mention in Shueisha's monthly "Hop Step Award" in 1996, granted to promising rookie manga artists. At this point he was assigned an editor, Kosuke Yahagi, and worked on a number of rejected drafts including a slice-of-life manga, Michikusa (道くさ lit. "Wandering Detour"), and an action manga, Asian Punk (アジアンパンク Ajian Panku). In 1997, he wrote a one-shot version of Naruto (NARUTO－ナルト－) which was published in Akamaru Jump Summer.
In December 1997, while redeveloping Karakuri for serialization, Kishimoto was offered a one-shot in Weekly Shōnen Jump. Hampered by the sudden deadline, a reworked Karakuri debuted two weeks later in Weekly Shōnen Jump 1998 No. 4-5, but performed poorly in reader surveys and was immediately cancelled. Following the failure of Karakuri, Kishimoto reduced his output and began moving in a seinen direction with drafts for a baseball manga, Yakyūō (野球王 lit. "Baseball King"), and a mafia manga, Mario (マリオ), hoping to find better luck with a seinen magazine. Yahagi persuaded him to give the shōnen genre one last shot and Kishimoto began working on storyboards for a fantasy one-shot, Magic Mushroom (マジックマッシュルーム Majikku Masshurūmu), but stopped when Yahagi called and asked him to instead develop storyboards for serialization. The two decided to submit a version of Naruto with a reworked story and world and produced storyboards for the first three chapters, winning a spot in the magazine. With a six-month lead time, Kishimoto repeatedly revised and redrew the first several chapters of the series.
In September 1999, the serialized version of Naruto premiered in Weekly Shōnen Jump 1999 No. 43 and quickly became a hit. Naruto ended on November 10, 2014 after more than 15 years of serialization, with a total of 700 chapters collected in 72 volumes. Sales have exceeded 113 million copies in Japan and over 95 million copies in the US, followed by over 93 million copies worldwide (outside Japan and United States) as of volume 36. It was adapted into two successful anime series, Naruto and Naruto Shippuden. The Naruto manga series became one of Viz Media's top properties, accounting for nearly 10% of all manga sales in the US in 2006. The seventh volume of Viz's release became the first manga to ever win a Quill Award when it claimed the award for "Best Graphic Novel" in 2006. Responding to Naruto's success, Kishimoto said in Naruto Collector Winter 2007/2008 that he was "very glad that the American audience has accepted and understood ninja. It shows that the American audience has good taste... because it means they can accept something previously unfamiliar to them." While writing the manga, Kishimoto met Eichiro Oda, author of One Piece who he considered his rival. When Naruto ended, Oda left a message in the series' final volume acknowledging him as a rival. According to Kishimoto "That felt so gratifying." Additionally, before the anime adaptation's premiere of My Hero Academia, he praised Kōhei Horikoshi's work, believing it would be a success overseas.
Two of his former assistants, Osamu Kajisa (Tattoo Hearts) and Yuuichi Itakura (Hand's), have gone on to moderate success following their work on Naruto. In 2009, Kishimoto designed an extra costume for the video game character Lars Alexandersson for Tekken 6; in 2010 this character appeared in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 as part of a special cross-promotion. In 2010, Kishimoto produced a one-shot baseball manga, Bench (ベンチ Benchi), as part of Jump's "Top of the Super Legend" project, a series of six one-shot manga by famed Weekly Shōnen Jump artists.
For the ninth Naruto film, Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie, Kishimoto was responsible for both the story and characters' designs. To promote the film, Kishimoto worked in Motion Comic Naruto a DVD that shows scenes from the manga in 3D that was given to the first 1.5 million people who went to the cinema. Regarding Naruto's publication Kishimoto told Tetsuya Nishio in July 2012 that the series would take over a year and a half to end. However, Kishimoto admitted that it now appears that the manga will continue beyond that timeframe. In April 2012, it was announced that Kishimoto would publish a one-shot version of his long-postponed mafia manga, Mario, in Jump Square, based on the rough, 160-page manuscript he began working on before Naruto became serialized.
Kishimoto was also the winner of "Rookie of the Year" for the series in the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
Following the conclusion of Naruto, Kishimoto became involved in the Start of a New Era Project commemorating the manga's conclusion and 15th anniversary. On the last page of the final chapter, Weekly Shonen Jump announced that a spin-off miniseries, also authored by Kishimoto, would be released in 2015. The series, Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, ran from April to July 2015. Beyond this, Kishimoto also was involved in the same capacity as Road to Ninja with two canonical movies, The Last: Naruto the Movie and Boruto: Naruto the Movie, and illustrated several light novels. When asked by voice actress Yuko Sanpei to continue making Naruto movies, Kishimoto stated that was taking a break and could not physically do so.
In August 2015, Kishimoto announced that he already has finalized what he wants to do for his next manga series. A sci-fi manga, the series will feature a unique protagonist, with Kishimoto having already completed the character designs. Kishimoto also plans for the work to surpass Naruto in quality, and plans to release the series monthly via the digital magazine Shonen Jump Plus due to the taxing effort required for a weekly series. Kishimoto has not yet finalized when he plans to officially announce the series, as he wants to spend time with his family. On December 19, 2015, it was announced that Kishimoto would supervise the monthly Boruto (BORUTO−ボルト−) series beginning in Spring 2016. The new spinoff will be illustrated by Kishimoto's chief assistant on Naruto, Mikio Ikemoto, and written by his writing partner for Boruto: Naruto the Movie, Ukyo Kodachi. It was preceded by a Naruto: The Path Lit by the Full Moon one-shot written and illustrated by Kishimoto.
- Karakuri one-shot (1996; Hop Step Award winner, published in Hop Step Award Selection 18 ('95~'96) (1996), Akamaru Jump Winter (1997), and Naruto: The Official Premium Fanbook (2009))
- Naruto one-shot (1997; published in Akamaru Jump Summer (1997) and Naruto: The Official Fanbook (2002))
- Karakuri (December 21, 1997; debuted and canceled in Weekly Shōnen Jump 1998 No. 4-5)
- Naruto (September 21, 1999 – November 10, 2014; serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump, debuted in Weekly Shōnen Jump 1999 No. 43)
- Bench one-shot (October 11, 2010, published in Weekly Shōnen Jump 2010 No. 45)
- Mario one-shot (May 2, 2013, published in Jump Square 2013 No. 6)
- Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring (April 27, 2015 – July 6, 2015; serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump, debuted in Weekly Shōnen Jump 2015 No. 22-23)
- Naruto: The Path Lit by the Full Moon (April 25, 2016, published in Weekly Shōnen Jump 2016 No. 21-22 and Boruto: Naruto Next Generation Volume 1)
- Boruto: Naruto Next Generation, editorial supervisor (May 9, 2016 – ongoing; serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump, debuted in Weekly Shōnen Jump 2016 No. 23)
- Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie — 2012, scenario writer and character designer
- The Last: Naruto the Movie — 2014, scenario writer and character designer
- Boruto: Naruto the Movie — 2015, executive producer, scenario writer and character designer
- The Art of Naruto: Uzumaki (岸本斉史画集 UZUMAKI Kishimoto Masashi Gashū: Uzumaki, lit. "Masashi Kishimoto Art Collection: Uzumaki") — 2004
- Paint Jump: Art of Naruto (PAINT JUMP Art of NARUTO－ナルト－) — 2008
- Naruto Illustration Book (NARUTO―ナルト―イラスト集 NARUTO Naruto Irasuto-shū: Naruto, lit. "Naruto Illustration Collection: Naruto") — 2010
- Uzumaki Naruto: Illustrations (NARUTO―ナルト―イラスト集 UZUMAKI NARUTO Naruto Irasuto-shū: Uzumaki Naruto, lit. "Naruto Illustration Collection: Naruto Uzumaki") — 2015
- Naruto: Tales of a Gutsy Ninja (NARUTO―ナルト― ド根性忍伝 Naruto: Dokonjō Ninden) — 2010, illustrator
- Naruto: Blood Prison (NARUTO―ナルト― 鬼燈の城（ブラッド・プリズン） Naruto: Buraddo Purizun) — 2011, illustrator
- Naruto Jinraiden: The Day the Wolf Howled (NARUTO－ナルト－ 迅雷伝 狼の哭く日 Naruto Jinraiden: Ōkami no Naku Hi) — 2012, illustrator
- Naruto: Kakashi's Story (NARUTO－ナルト－ カカシ秘伝 氷天の雷 Naruto: Kakashi Hiden — Hyōten no Ikazuchi) — 2015, illustrator
- Naruto: Shikamaru's Story (NARUTO－ナルト－ シカマル秘伝 闇の黙に浮ぶ雲 Naruto: Shikamaru Hiden — Yami no Shijima ni Ukabu Kumo) — 2015, illustrator
- Naruto: Sakura's Story (NARUTO－ナルト－ サクラ秘伝 思恋、春風にのせて Naruto: Sakura Hiden — Shiren, Harukaze ni Nosete) — 2015, illustrator
- Naruto: Konoha's Story (NARUTO－ナルト－ 木ノ葉秘伝 祝言日和 Naruto: Konoha Hiden — Shūgenbiyori) — 2015, illustrator
- Naruto: Gaara's Story (NARUTO－ナルト－ 我愛羅秘伝 砂塵幻想 Naruto: Gaara Hiden — Sajingensō) — 2015, illustrator
- Naruto: The Akatsuki's Story (暁秘伝 咲き乱れる悪の華 Naruto: Akatsuki Hiden — Sakimidareru Aku no Hana) — 2015, illustrator
- Naruto: Tales of a Chaste Ninja (NARUTO―ナルト―ド純情忍伝 Naruto: Dojunjō Ninden) — 2015, illustrator
- Naruto: Itachi's True Story (NARUTO－ナルト－ イタチ真伝 Naruto: Itachi Shinden) — 2015, illustrator
- Naruto: Sasuke's True Story (NARUTO－ナルト－ サスケ真伝 Naruto: Sasuke Shinden) — 2015, illustrator
- Tekken 6 — 2009, guest character designer
- Motion Comic: Naruto — 2012, designer
- Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution — 2014, character designer and editorial supervisor
- Educational Manga: The History of Japan, Volume 1 — 2016, cover artist
Kishimoto is the twin brother of Seishi Kishimoto, the author of 666 Satan and Blazer Drive. In 2003, Kishimoto married, but due to being busy never went on a honeymoon with his wife until 2015. The couple has one son. Kishimoto's father died in early 2014; the 668th chapter of Naruto is dedicated in his memory.
While as a child Kishimoto enjoyed reading manga, he was inspired to write one after seeing a promotional image for the film Akira. This made him analyze the artwork of Akira's original author, Katsuhiro Otomo, as well as Akira Toriyama, another artist he admired. Realizing both had their own style regarding the designs, Kishimoto decided to draw manga while crafting his own images. While attending art school, Kishimoto was also an avid reader of Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal, and extensively studied Samura's page layouts, action sequences, and anatomical techniques. When Kishimoto was originally creating the Naruto series, he looked to other shōnen manga for influences while attempting to make his characters as unique as possible. Kishimoto cites Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball series as one of his influences, noting that Goku, the protagonist, was a key factor when creating Naruto Uzumaki due to his energetic and mischievous personality. When redesigning three characters for the series, Kishimoto cites The Matrix, one of his favorite movies, as an inspiration for their outfits. He has also cited Yoshihiro Togashi as one of his favorite manga authors, while the manga Sasuke by Sanpei Shirato, a series which Kishimoto likes, inspired Kishimoto in the development of the character Sasuke Uchiha. Kishimoto has also cited other influences such as Takeshi Kitano and Quentin Tarantino. He also mentioned Michael Bay's technique "of shooting a scene against the background light" but found it difficult to make.
During the series' publication, Kishimoto got married and had children. The changes to his personal life affected the story as he made the protagonist Naruto Uzumaki meet his parents, something the author wanted the character to feel based on his own experience as a father.
When drawing the characters, Kishimoto consistently follows a five-step process: concept and rough sketch, drafting, inking, shading, and coloring. These steps are followed when he is drawing the manga and making the color illustrations that commonly adorn the cover of tankōbon, the cover of Weekly Shōnen Jump, or other media. The toolkit he uses occasionally changes. For instance, he used an airbrush for one illustration for a Weekly Shōnen Jump cover but decided not to use it for future drawings largely due to the cleanup required.
Masashi and his twin brother Seishi have been drawing manga together since early childhood, thus their styles are similar. As a result, each has frequently been accused of copying the other, not just artwork, but story elements as well. Seishi notes that the similarities are not intentional but are likely because they were influenced by many of the same things. Because of the accusations, the more famous Masashi even asked fans to stop calling Seishi a "copycat."