WHAT'S COOL IN JAPAN
Naruto, an anime (animation) series about the exploits of young ninja, is hugely popular with Japanese kids. More and more children are dreaming about what it would be like to be a ninja, and soon kids in other countries will get to see the series when it is broadcast in the United States and Europe.
Naruto (site is Japanese only) first appeared in 1999 as a serial manga (cartoon) in the comic magazine Shonen Jump. It quickly became a smash hit, and over 50 million copies of a book collecting together the comic strips have been printed. The animated version of the comic series has been a fixture on Japanese TV since 2002. And the second full-length Naruto movie is scheduled to hit the theaters in August 2005.
Naruto takes place in a make-believe world comprised of five countries with such names as the Fire Country and the Wind Country. Each country has a "hidden village," where ninja live and protect the country. (Ninja were specially trained spies who operated during the samurai age.) The landscapes of this world resemble ancient Japan and China, but the Naruto world also contains modern elements like potato chips, ramen noodles, and pachinko, as well giant snakes and frogs.
The main character, Uzumaki Naruto, is a dropout from the village of Konoha. He's careless and always finishes bottom of the class, but because a nine-tailed demon fox has been sealed inside his body, he displays awesome power when danger arises. The secret of the series' popularity is that it contains not only ninja arts and fast-paced action scenes but also a rich array of characters. Naruto's peers, teachers, and enemies all possess their own special powers and ninja skills. The backgrounds and families of the ninja are also portrayed in vivid detail, so that Naruto can also be appreciated as the tale of young ninja coming of age.
The Naruto manga serial also appears in the US version of Shonen Jump. It has become so popular that US fans of the comic cannot wait to see the anime series when it comes out. According to TV Tokyo, which airs the anime series in Japan, Naruto is scheduled to hit American TV screens in September 2005 on the Cartoon Network, a cable channel dedicated to animated programs.
In Asia, the anime is already being shown in eight countries and regions, including Taiwan and Hong Kong. And in Europe, while no date has been set, Naruto will be broadcast in Britain and Italy, and there are plans to air it throughout Europe.
Anime such as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh are broadcast in over 60 countries around the world. Judging from the level of interest in Naruto, TV Tokyo expects the series to enjoy similar worldwide success. Video games and toys featuring Naruto characters will also be sold worldwide, and the series could spark a worldwide ninja boom.