'Naruto' fans should dig in for long haul


POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2009

A reader recently e-mailed me asking for my thoughts on how long I thought the current 500-ton gorilla in the anime room, “;Naruto,”; could remain on the air in Japan.

“;I can't handle a series more than a couple years,”; the reader wrote. “;Like for 'Naruto,' I may go nuts if I don't see the end, but two more years ...”;

As I told him—and now share with you, the “;Cel Shaded”; reader—the end probably won't come for at least a few more years.

“;Naruto”; is by far the current generation's version of the “;Dragon Ball”; franchise—namely, as long as Masashi Kishimoto keeps drawing the manga and the Japanese TV networks feel like the show is pulling in decent ratings, it'll keep going. If the anime studio was willing to add in dozens of filler episodes of admittedly dubious quality to allow the manga's story to catch up, you KNOW there's a long-term investment involved there.

To put it into perspective, there was some form of “;Dragon Ball”; on Japanese TV from February 1986 through November 1997. The last 64 episodes of that 11-year run were “;Dragon Ball GT,”; an anime that wasn't based on anything in Akira Toriyama's original manga, yet aired to tap into the audience that had formed around that franchise who wanted more.

Total volumes of “;Dragon Ball”; and “;Dragon Ball Z”; manga: 42.

By contrast, “;Naruto”; has been on Japanese TV in some form since October 2002, which means it's been on the air for a little more than six years now. By the time April rolls around, 44 manga volumes will have been translated and released in English.

So if the powers that be want to follow the “;Dragon Ball model”;—and by all accounts they are, judging by the number of video games and outside-established-canon movies released to date—“;Naruto”; will last a long time, perhaps even five years. It just depends on whether the production staff burns out ... and, of course, whether fans keep watching whatever they put out.

If they cut it short, the anime studio would risk putting an ending on it that's differs from Kishimoto's vision for the ending ... and while there might be precedent for that (see “;Inu-yasha”; and the first “;Fullmetal Alchemist”; anime), I just don't see that happening quite yet.


Dogged by an error

While we're on the topic of reader feedback, I'd like to thank the people in the starbulletin.com online forums who pointed out that Ein, the data dog in “;Cowboy Bebop,”; is in fact a Welsh corgi and not a sheltie as I wrote in last week's column. Lesson learned; correction humbly accepted. To atone, I'll read more volumes of the dog-focused manga “;Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs”; to brush up on my dog breeds a bit more.


Bargain hunting

Animania is returning to Suncoast Video stores at Pearlridge and Windward Mall on Saturday, bringing with it discounts and general anime-related fun. Buy one anime-related item—DVDs, wall scrolls, T-shirts, toys—and get a second item at half price. Trivia contests with free giveaways will be held throughout the day, and a cosplay contest will be held at 3 p.m.