Naruto is one of my favourite manga series of all times. It’s also one of the first manga I’ve ever read. It all started when I was in grade 7 or 8, when Shonen Jump was first published here in Canada. I had a friend who would buy every single issue and because he was a kind and generous person he lent it to me every single time. He would read it first and because he knew I wanted to read it after him, he would hurry up and read it as fast as he could which was a big deal because he read slowly. I love all of the series in the first couple of years of Shonen Jump except for Yu-Gi-Oh!.
When I move out of my home town I kept on reading Naruto because I love nearly everything about it. In the last couple of years Viz has been publishing 3-in-1 omnibus editions of popular manga series that have several dozens of volumes. I’ve been collection One Piece and Naruto. I’ve also been interesting in picking up Full Metal Alchemist as I really liked the first anime but I’ll wait until I’ve finished buying a few other series I’ve got on the go. Before the 3-in-1 publications began appearing in bookstores, I haven’t read Naruto in about three years. It’s been great to be able to revisit the series and fall in love with it all over again.
I haven’t reviewed any of the previous 3-in-1 volumes and but I might at a later date. Right now I just want to talk about the greatness to be found in volumes 16, 17 and 18. I find that long shonen series have a cyclical nature to them. Single issues or chapters build saga or story arcs which make up the huge story of the entire series. The story arcs in Naruto aren’t as clearly defined as they are in other series (Dragon Ball or One Piece are good examples) but it’s still part of the overall structure of the series. Because of the differences in style and narrative technique between comics and manga, I generally consider manga to be a quicker read than comics. The storytelling, the art style and the publication format all seem to indicate that. Contrary to my dislike of excessive decompression in comic book, I do not feel the same way towards manga which regularly uses decompression, particularly shonen manga. I find manga can sometimes be disappointing to read if you’re reading in the monthly format or the collections. The monthly format of Shonen Jump just doesn’t have enough content to truly satisfy and stories can take forever to come to a conclusion. I remember being surprised by the small number of chapters it took to tell the story of Buggy the Clown and the cat pirate captain in One Piece. It felt like they took forever when I first read them in Shonen Jump. Reading shonen manga in volume can also be frustrating when you’re waiting months for the next volume to be published (I’m thinking of you 20th Century Boys) but that doesn’t really matter if you have several volumes and you’re reading them all at the same time but eventually, you will be all caught up.
Reading the stories in the 3-in-1 editions isn’t nearly as frustrating. For one, I’ve already read all of these Naruto stories so I know what’s coming up. It’s also nice because of the amount of story you’re getting in one chunk. The 3-in-1 editions come in at 500 to 600 pages. Depending on the pace of the stories, a single omnibus edition can contain most or all of a story arc. With the sixth omnibus edition, containing volumes 16, 17 and 18, Masashi Kishimoto ends the storyline from the previous volumes, setups the plot for future stories while telling an epilogue and preparing the groundwork for the next story arc. The stories of volume 18 are the first chapters from the next storyline. For a bit of perspective, volume 16 ends the attack on Konoha, has parts of the aftermath, includes Kakashi’s decisions on Naruto and Sasuke’s training and introduces the Akatsuki. Volume 17 is the transition volume. It includes the continuation of Jiraiya’s training with Naruto, the continuing story of Orochimaru and the beginning of the search for Tsunade. The last volume, volume 18, includes the meeting of the Three Legendary Shinobi thus really kicking off the next storyline and it also includes more of Naruto’s training. That’s a lot of story!
I love the Three Legendary Shinobi because it adds so much depth and history to the world of Naruto. I also really love the parallels between the multiple generations of ninjas of Konoha village. Kishimoto does an excellent job of using his flashbacks to add depth to characters and story. The sheer amount of story included in this omnibus is just one of the many reason to love it. The story is supported by great action and the art which has changed a bit since the series began is still very, very good. The amount of detail that goes into the series is great and it’s one of the series strength that the action, characters and backgrounds are clear and easy to read despite the detail and the black and white art. If you’ve been avoiding these omnibus editions, you should really give them a look. The two series I collect have more than convinced me this is the way to read long running shonen series.