The original Naruto manga continues to be a worldwide mega-hit, selling millions of copies since first serializing in 1999, but where did Naruto‘s mangaka Masashi Kishimoto find inspiration for his tale about a trouble-making ninja with a nine-tailed fox demon sealed inside his body?
While being inspired by films such as The Matrix, and by directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Michael Bay, Kishimoto also found inspiration from the manga he grew up with. While many of the manga that influenced Naruto are quite well-known even to western audiences, some are a bit more obscure but equally as influential to Naruto. Let’s take a look.
10 Not So Famous: Sasuke
Kicking off this list is arguably the most obscure manga on this list. Sasuke was a manga series that ran from 1961 until 1966 by mangaka Sanpei Shirato. Sasuke follows the story of a young ninja of the same name as he and his father struggle against feudal lords.
If it isn’t obvious enough already, Sasuke ended up having quite a major influence on Kishimoto, especially in his creation of a certain edge-lord that shares the same name as the protagonist of this manga. Sasuke is what inspired Kishimoto’s creation of Sasuke’s appearance and development.
9 Famous: Ghost In The Shell
It may come as a surprise considering how different the two manga are, but Ghost in the Shell has ended up being a major influence on Naruto. This cyberpunk manga set in the near future follows a counter-cyberterrorist organization as they investigate a series of crimes involving hacked humans with cyberbrains.
It’s a far cry from what you’d find in the pages of Naruto, but when Kishimoto was still a student, he’d copy the drawings of the groundbreaking series, and he also credited its international success as paving the way for Naruto‘s international popularity.
8 Not So Famous: Fist Of The North Star
While it was popular in the 1980s, during its heyday, Fist of the North Star isn’t all that well known by modern audiences, despite being a major influence on just about every shonen manga that followed it, including Naruto.
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Fist of the North Star follows protagonist Kenshiro as he journeys the wastes to become its savior. Kishimoto has gone on record saying that Fist of the North Star was part of the “golden age” of Shonen Jump that he grew up with.
7 Famous: Akira
The cyberpunk classic Akira still remains a global phenomenon, even decades after release. It’s often hailed as a masterpiece and for good reason. Akira is considered a landmark not only in the cyberpunk genre, but in manga as a whole so it’s no surprise that it had an impact on Naruto‘s creator.
When he was a child, Kishimoto enjoyed reading manga but it was after seeing a promotional image of the film adaptation that made him want to write a manga. Kishimoto even began analyzing the artwork of Akira‘s author, Katsuhiro Otomo.
6 Not So Famous: Kerberos Panzer Cop
It’s not uncommon for artists to emulate and copy the art from other artists to help improve their own skills when they’re just starting out and learning. Such was the case with Kishimoto being influenced by the manga Kerberos Panzer Cop.
While this manga and Naruto are two vastly different stories with equally different art styles, Kerberos Panzer Cop, and its anime movie adaptation Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, helped Kishimoto develop his own style that would lead him to Naruto.
5 Famous: One Piece
Naruto is one of the most successful and popular manga series in the world but so is One Piece. This long-running pirate series from mangaka Eiichiro Oda has influenced Kishimoto’s Naruto series in a more indirect way than other entries on this list but that doesn’t make it any less influential.
One Piece didn’t impact the creation of Naruto, but Kishimoto has stated that he has long thought of Oda as his rival. Saying that he admires Oda, Kishimoto wanted to be like him and to also surpass him, and credits their rivalry and how they would bolster each other as they tried to surpass one another as the reason for Naruto‘s lasting success.
4 Not So Famous: Ninku
Ninku is a little-known gem of a manga published in the early 1990s about an odd-looking boy named Fusuke, a powerful warrior from the Ninku school of martial arts, a mix of ninjutsu and kung fu.
Naruto’s signature move is the Rasengan, a spinning ball of chakra held in the palm of his hand that’s extremely powerful, was directly inspired by Fusuke’s signature move, Kuatsuken, and even looks nearly identical.
3 Famous: Dragon Ball
There’s hardly a manga known today that wasn’t influenced in some way by Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga, and Naruto is no different. Akira Toriyama’s work was a major influence on Kishimoto, and was one of the mangaka directly responsible for inspiring Kishimoto to become a mangaka.
Kishimoto has also cited Goku as his biggest influence when creating Naruto Uzumaki due to his energetic if mischievous personality.
2 Not So Famous: Blade Of The Immortal
Though it’s very popular in Japan, Blade of the Immortal wasn’t all that well known outside Japan (though its recent anime adaptation could change that). Regardless, this manga about an immortal swordsman seeking mortality was a huge influence for Kishimoto.
Kishimoto was even able to interview Blade of the Immortal‘s creator, Hiroaki Samura, where he revealed that his designs for Kakashi and Iruka were directly inspired by two characters from Blade of the Immortal, Magatsu and Manji, respectively.
1 Famous: Hunter X Hunter
There have been times that Naruto has been accused of ripping-off aspects of Yoshihiro Togashi’s long-running Hunter X Hunter manga. For example, the Uchiha’s Sharingan is quite similar to the Kurta Clan’s Scarlet Eyes in HxH, and the Chunin Exams have similar elements as the Hunter Exams.
It’s not that Kishimoto ripped-off Togashi’s work, it’s just that Kishimoto considers Togashi as his favorite mangaka and is heavily influenced by his work. Plus, the two mangaka know each other and will sometime discuss and share ideas.
NEXT: Naruto: 5 Reasons Why It’s The Definitive Ninja Anime (& 5 Better Alternatives)