Kakashi’s Story is one in a series of light novels to continue the Naruto franchise after the original manga’s finale, featuring the ongoing adventures of its characters. As such, fans will find plenty of enjoyable continuity, while anyone unfamiliar with the series will hear a whooshing noise as multiple cameos, references, locations, and magical ninja techniques go right over their heads.
After a brief prologue with Naruto, Kakashi is the point-of-view character on a mission to protect an experimental airship taken over by terrorists. Although the scenario is straightforward enough as a script, the terrorists’ motives involve plot points from the ending of the manga and continuity abounds, along with encouraging messages about disability. Several characters bear the wounds of the manga’s finale: franchise star Naruto lost his right arm, but he’s getting the hang of a prosthetic replacement. Kakashi has lost his sharingan powers, causing him to doubt his qualifications as the village’s new leader, until he sees Guy Lee fighting the good fight despite an injured leg. Guy may be confined to a wheelchair, but his sheer confidence and effort allow him to steal several action scenes. “Even if my leg is broken, my spirit is not,” he declares. Lady Tsunade, the current village leader, coordinates several other characters’ actions from her office, bringing a team together to avert tragedy. Anyone who insults or deceives her receives the blunt end of a fist, another gag converted from manga norms.
In the meat of the story, Kakashi infiltrates the airship, hearing out the sibling masterminds behind the attack, and brings the airship down without any loss of life. There’s some light philosophical dueling and melodrama, as when Kakashi refutes the siblings’ revenge narrative: “This grief of yours isn’t going to disappear even if you do destroy the world.” In the prologue, a similar sentiment is expressed between Naruto and the antagonists, one of collateral damage and the necessary acceptance of greater goods littered with human casualties. In this case, the manga’s final battle produced unwitting victims, though it prevented a megalomaniacal ninja from casting a spell that would have erased the entire planet’s autonomy as a sort of social equalizer.
Manga artist Masashi Kishimoto would normally bring the series’ humor and action to fluid life with his illustrations, but writer Akira Higashiyama and translator Jocelyne Allen’s descriptions have to make do, complete with sound effects, shouted special attacks, and similes. For instance, “Tsunade was giving orders and taking action like there were eight of her” evokes an image of Tsunade zipping across a panel between eight illustrations of herself. Ultimately, this book fits the model of a “light novel” well: it is a quick read of 186 pages with plenty of visual language, character moments, and callbacks for fans of the series. Chapter breaks are spaced out every twelve pages or so, each chapter is given a full title page, and a character page in the front includes two illustrations of Kakashi, plus one each of Naruto and Guy.
Shelve this where your library’s Naruto fans will find it, whether that’s next to the manga itself or face-out to display its illustrated cover.
Naruto: Kakashi’s Story
by Masashi Kishimoto, Akira Kishimoto