This pilot gave me a whole new appreciation for Naruto. Why? Because, I still dislike it, but it could have been so much worse. I thought Naruto had too much immature comedy, but in this pilot there are two instances of scatological humor within the first two pages.The art is just awful and the character designs are absolutely butchered. Naruto is not only annoying, as he was in the eventual main series, but he is also a complete dickbag. The "power of friendship" is promoted from one of the main themes to being the entire freakin point. All of the characters are idiots. They're also one-dimensional, but I guess that goes without saying. Anyway, the Hokage (NINJA MASTER BELIEVE IT) spares a clear homicidal threat, police officers assume that a murderer would take a nap at a crime scene, they let criminals switch-out who's going to jail, and some dude trusts a weird fox-boy's sense of smell enough to try to kill him. To make matters worse, the redeeming world-building in Naruto is absent here and Ninja shit is clumsily mixed with a more modern setting. Needless to say, it was not enjoyable for me, and it would be even less enjoyable or productive for actual fans of the series.
Do you want to see Naruto chase art thieves and pee on people instead of have a crush on his creepy emo friend? Then this one-shot is for you, I guess. Weirdo... It was horrible, though, to the extent where even Naruto fanboys hate it and I, the biggest hater ever, was forced to raise my score of Naruto by two points. read more
Naruto's prototype is very barren but still quite enjoyable. It's a stand-alone work with no credence to the actual narrative of Naruto but it's a fun way to see what could have been. What if Naruto was more modern? What if not everyone was a ninja? What if demons and humans lived together? There's definitely some tropes here that could have gone into detail that aren't primarily used in Naruto's standard narrative, and that's okay. This work is it's own body, and it's actually pretty decent.
The pacing of each page and the paneling of everything is pretty solid, but the narrative itself is just a simple mystery story that doesn't get into very much detail. There isn't anything big about the end 'surprise,' and the characters themselves are just enough to help do the job needed. 'Sufficient' is a great word to describe how this prototype functions. It did its job in giving the mangaka somewhere to start, and I'd argue that this is a really great start.
I'm a sucker for hand-drawn work, and as a one-shot prototype, this looks pretty great. I was impressed by some of the landscape panels and disappointed when the manga become mostly indoors. I understand it takes a lot of time to draw out certain aspects of a world and setting, but it doesn't mean it can't be done. Some panels don't even have backgrounds, reserving themselves to cross-hatched shading. There are a lot of manga that forsake backgrounds to certain panels but when things are indoors, I don't see why a simple table and chair in the background couldn't have been implemented.
The characters look pretty good and their expressions look believable. There isn't any uncanny valley junk going on, but you can tell there wasn't much done when it came to editing. Some lines looked a little off here and there and it made some scenes look bulbous for a few characters, to say the least.
I think I mentioned this briefly in the story section but I'll say it again: The characters are the bare minimum. They do their job, and I felt they did it well. I was connected in so far as I needed to be to get the point across, and I think that made things pretty fun. It's very short so that in itself meant it had to do just enough to make it worth your time, and I feel it did just that.
Actually, really quite enjoyable. I didn't realize I was at the end when I got to the last page. Not out of surprise, but because time went by so fast. I was pretty focused on the story as it were, and that made things go by very swiftly. I also find it super fun to see where a mangaka was when things first started out. I'm a huge fan of the cutting-room floor, and seeing what gets in and gets out when a work is complete is very exciting to me. It's like opening a time-capsule for a story except this capsule is from an alternate, unfinished dimension. Pretty neat.
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