The next few months are set to be exciting times for any fan of Weekly Shonen Jump. We’ve got four new series debuting in the magazine in that time, which might end up shaping the future of the magazine as it moves into the Reiwa era. Of course, the biggest series of the bunch is none other than Naruto author Masashi Kishimoto’s new series Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru, which he is writing in collaboration with artist Akira Okubo. Ahead of the series’ debut in the magazine on May 13, Masashi Kishimoto sat down for an exclusive interview with Japanese pop culture news outlet Comic Natalie. This new interview saw Masashi Kishimoto chatting of course about his upcoming new series, but also more broadly about his life and career as a mangaka.
Kishimoto’s return to the world of manga five years after the end of Naruto was one that had been in the works for a long time. Towards the end of Naruto, Kishimoto remarked that he was really tired of working on manga and that once he’d finished up on Naruto with the one-shot Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, he felt like he had been “set free.” But it only took two years for him to get the manga itch once more, especially as he began to reflect on Naruto and began to think that he could write a much better story with the lessons he had learned during his long 15 years on that serialization.
The manga bug set off Kishimoto’s search for a new story to write once more, the end result of which was the unique premise for Samurai 8, which mixes together science fiction and samurai elements into one unique story. As for why Kishimoto chose such a combination, he professed that he had wanted to write both a science fiction manga and a samurai manga, but feared that his age would mean that he would only get to do one or the other. But then he had the great idea of simply combining the two into one story and therefore killing two birds with one stone – a rather clever way to go about it if I do say so myself.
Furthermore, the author’s relationship with the magazine of Weekly Shonen Jump itself had a large effect on the premise of Samurai 8. On a personal level, the first story that Kishimoto ever submitted to Jump for consideration was a samurai story, but this was rejected. So for Kishimoto, getting a samurai story finally serialized felt a bit like “getting revenge” for this early rejection. But much more so than that, Kishimoto felt that his position as a successful and famous mangaka would be useful in launching a science fiction story. The author explained that launching a science fiction manga can be tough in Weekly Shonen Jump as lots of things need explanation and exposition, which can lead to boredom from readers and quickly to the unfortunate fate of cancellation. Yet given Kishimoto’s position, he felt like he could command a bit more “patience” from readers and perhaps create something really interesting.
But even with the idea for Samurai 8 fully formed in Kishimoto’s head, he didn’t have enough confidence in himself and his ability to be able to meet his deadlines as a solo artist and author this time around. That’s where his assistant and Samurai 8 artist Akira Okubo came in. Okubo first worked as an assistant under Kishimoto during Naruto’s serialization, and Kishimoto was very impressed with his drawings at the time. He describes them as having a kind of “warmth” that is very distinct from much of the more “bloodthirsty” drawings that dominate the shonen landscape. It was during the Naruto serialization that Kishimoto first proposed that he and Okubo work together on a series, and Okubo accepted. Thus, Okubo became the natural choice for lightening the load on Kishimoto and allowing him to keep up with weekly deadlines once Samurai 8 was fully conceived.
With the production side of things sorted, Kishimoto began to think more closely about the type of story he wanted to tell and how he wanted to tell it. The story being told this time around is, according to Kishimoto, much more structured around the “A part, B part” formula as seen in many western movies and TV shows. The benefit of this formula for Kishimoto as a writer is that he can provide some good old sci-fi/samurai action in the A part, but then focus on themes and ideas in the B part. This is especially important for Kishimoto as he is well aware of the young audience of Weekly Shonen Jump and the influence that Jump works can have on their worldview and upbringing.
Kishimoto cited such works as Spider-Man and Iron Man [sic] as influential in making him adopt this formula, which makes the Naruto author into the second big mangaka to openly state the influence of western comics on their work; the other of course being Kouhei Horikoshi, author of My Hero Academia – a series which Kishimoto has been an enthusiastic ambassador for in the past.
Yet Kishimoto isn’t just content with simply sticking to norms or formulas for Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru. Aside from the unique setting, Kishimoto also describes the series as more of a “road trip” story than anything else – making it entirely different from Naruto, and indeed My Hero Academia, which both enjoy a key central location which the characters return to again and again. This just makes me all the more excited to check out Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru when it launches on May 13.
In the meantime, you can check out a preview of the series via VIZ Media. Are you going to be picking up Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru when it starts? Let us know via social media or our Discord server, available down below.