by Amy McNulty,

Naruto: Kakashi's Story


Naruto: Kakashi's Story Novel
One year after the Fourth Shinobi World War, “Copy Ninja” Hatake Kakashi is hesitant to step into the role of Konoha's Sixth Hokage. After losing his Sharingan eye and the techniques he'd honed along with it, he feels powerless. He's also unsure he can handle the huge change in his laidback routine becoming Konoha's leader would entail. Tasked with ensuring that the inaugural flight of the Land of the Waves' secret airship goes off without a hitch, Kakashi becomes an unwitting passenger when he notices his longtime friend and rival, Might Guy, has snuck along for the ride. Unfortunately, the sightseeing tour has barely begun before a group of hijackers take over the ship and demand the release of their leader from Hozuki Prison in exchange for the passengers' lives. Kakashi fights to protect as many passengers as he can, even if it means offering up his own life in exchange for the hostages. By standing by his belief that it's important to understand where your opponents are coming from, he eventually learns about the societal problems that drove the hijackers to take such drastic actions, resulting in his leadership skills being put to the ultimate test.

When it comes to Naruto characters who warrant further exploration, Hatake Kakashi is at the top of the list. Team 7's cool and collected (but oftentimes aloof and nonsensical) leader is one of the franchise's most popular characters. The hidden lower-half of his face was the subject of rampant speculation from both characters and fans throughout the series' run. The manga's epilogue reveals that Naruto (of course) went on to become the Hidden Leaf's Seventh Hokage. Learning that Kakashi was the Sixth Hokage before him opens up a wealth of potential stories for during the years of his leadership.

With Tsunade itching to retire, and Naruto still immature, Kakashi seems like a perfect fit for the job. He's been a naturally-gifted shinobi since he was a child, but his Sasuke-like snobbery wore off as he grew older and gained more real-world experience. Unlike the similarly-gifted Sasuke, the personal tragedies Kakashi experienced during his formative years humbled him and made him more sympathetic to other people's weaknesses. His life-long rivalry with Might Guy and his obsession with Jiraiya's Make-Out Paradise books added some levity to Kakashi, making him one of the series' most consistent sources of comic relief in addition to one its strongest warriors.

Unfortunately, only a hint of what makes Naruto's sleepy-eyed sensei so intriguing is properly conveyed within the pages of Kakashi's Story. There's a brief nod to his affinity for Make-Out Paradise at the beginning of the book. There's a sequence in which he and Guy—determined to stay active even after incurring a disability in his brawl with Madara—work together and trade a few barbs. There's his regret over losing the Sharingan, the last remaining piece of his connection to Obito. It's almost as if the author was working with a laundry list of the character's familiar traits and once every item was checked off, he felt no need to tell us anything new about Kakashi or take him in an intriguing direction.

The general premise is so clichéd and predictable that the book could have been headlined by any character struggling to accept his role as a leader without anything seeming out of place. The beautiful woman he bumps into is perceptibly hiding something. Kakashi inadvertently becomes a passenger on the airship through a series of “humorous” coincidences. One of the villains has a change of heart after spending time with the hero. It would have been nice if the central conflict were more personal—if this book actually told Kakashi's Story instead of giving us “Die Hard meets Under Siege meets Speed.”

Tired story elements aside, the plot suffers because of the novel medium's lack of visual representation. With its abundant action and visual gags, Naruto is perfectly suited to visual mediums like anime and manga. Some of the techniques shinobi use in this world are confusing enough without having to read detailed descriptions of them. Gags like Tsunade clonking Naruto on the head and producing a cartoonishly large bump go over better when the audience can actually see them. While never off-putting, the prose is often simple and, at times, almost lackluster. It makes for a fast read, but not a memorable one.

While a handful of typos made it into the final product, it's the incorrect information that's most distracting. The Infinite Tsukuyomi, the forbidden technique that put the entire world in a perpetual dream state and was such an integral part of the end of the series, is called the Infinite “Tsukiyomi” on more than one occasion. Tenten, who only appears briefly toward the end of the novel, is referred to with a male pronoun on the one occasion that calls for it. In fairness, these are probably errors in translation, and the book's translator may not be familiar with the parent series. Still, these seem like easy enough issues for a Naruto-savvy copyeditor to catch.

While not an error per se, I wish there was more consistency between the various Naruto translations. For example, both the manga and this book refer to Naruto's village as “Konoha,” whereas the anime translates it literally as “Hidden Leaf.” The book and manga also refer to what the anime translation calls the “Fourth Shinobi World War” as the “Fourth Great Ninja War.” Additionally, each of the translations uses different names for various techniques and locations. Such a high degree of inconsistency is liable to confuse the casual fan. (Then again, the casual fan isn't exactly this book's target audience.)

As a “light” novel, Kakashi's Story lives up to its name. It's a fast read, both because it's short and because the story doesn't require any heady analysis. Die-hard Naruto fans who want more details about the time period the epilogue leaps over will want to check it out. The story's basic outline—how Kakashi came to accept the loss of his Sharingan and embrace his role as the Sixth Hokage—had enormous potential. Unfortunately, lackluster execution and an endless barrage of tired tropes hindered the proceedings at every turn.

Production Info:
Overall : C

+ A compulsively fast read, a little more development into Kakashi's character, and some humorous moments.
Some clichéd story elements, bland descriptions, and a handful of jarring errors.

Story: Akira Higashiyama
Original creator: Masashi Kishimoto

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Naruto: Kakashi's Story (novel)

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