Loyal fans of the long-running classic manga and anime franchise Naruto were understandably nervous when a live-action U.S.-produced adaptation was announced by Lionsgate — especially given the track record of previous attempts at such translation like Dragonball: Evolution and the forgotten HBO-produced Fist of The North Star movie. Perhaps, then, those fans will be made less nervous by the recent announcement that Naruto’s creator will join the production.
Few details have yet been made available about the planned adaptation, which is being directed by visual effects specialist turned filmmaker Michael Gracey. Gracey’s official boarding of the project (which was announced by Lionsgate in July of 2015) was made public at Japan’s “Jump Festa” event over the weekend, where it was also made clear that the producers were working with Naruto’s original creator Masashi Kishimoto — though in what capacity is not yet definitively known.
Launched as popular manga series in 1999 by Kishimoto, Naruto has been one of Japan’s most popular entertainment brands for over 17 years and one of the most successful manga-based properties ever created. The series went on to garner a similarly massive worldwide fanbase thanks largely to the popularity of the anime TV series version, which runs in the U.S. as part of Cartoon Network’s Toonami lineup (having previously aired in regular afternoon rotations during its original run).
The series, which has been compared to Harry Potter, X-Men and other popular properties centering on the character drama between teenage heroes-in-training, follows teen ninja-clan member Naruto Uzumaki in his quest to become The Hokage — the legendary chosen protector of his embattled ninja village. The series’ mythos is loosely grounded in the history of rural martial-arts practitioners in feudal Japan whose exploits inspired later legends of Ninja fighting skills.
Naruto is one of several projects in varying stages of production for Gracey, who is also helming the P.T. Barnum biopic The Greatest Showman On Earth and Rocketman with Tom Hardy as rock musician Elton John. He has also been tapped to helm the second live-action adaptation of Roald Dahl’s dark fantasy novel The Witches. It is unknown which period of the appreciably vast Naruto storyline the film plans to follow. The original manga series officially concluded in 2014, but has continued into new stories featuring the title character’s son Boruto.
No release date has yet been set for Naruto. Check back with Screen Rant for more details on this project as they emerge.