To commemorate the opening of the Naruto Exhibition in Japan, manga giants Masashi Kishimoto and Eiichiro Oda sat down for an extensive conversation about their works and careers. Enjoy this excerpt as they talk about how they first met each other...
When did the two of you first meet?
Kishimoto: When was it...? I think it was a Jump New Year’s party when I was still a rookie.
Oda: Was it?
Kishimoto: Probably. [laughs] Even at that time, my impression of you was that you were a grand master.
Oda: What the heck are you talking about?! [sarcastic laugh]
Kishimoto: Well, you had started your serialization two years earlier, and I felt that you were amazing. At first I called you “Oda Sensei,” but you told me not to call you that.
Oda: Of course! We’re the same age—why should you call me sensei?!
Kishimoto: We’re not actors, but I thought there’s that tradition where whoever enters the industry first is the superior. [laughs]
Oda: I also paid attention to you ever since you were a rookie. Your art was amazing, and I felt like we shared a similar style.
Kishimoto: What style? [laughs]
Oda: Like we both studied turtle style under Kame Sen’nin. [laughs] That’s why I did all that fight posturing when we first met...
Kishimoto: You wanted to fight? [laughs]
Oda: Well, we were always competing with our manga. But when I first met you, you were such a nice, good person. Winning or losing didn’t matter anymore. I couldn’t fight against you.
Kishimoto: Plus we each knew how hard the other one was working.
Oda: That’s what made me so happy. When you’re struggling, you need some words of encouragement. With you being in the same position, I believed it when you said you understood what I was going through.
Kishimoto: I really did. [laughs] But I think I had it pretty easy. You were always at the top, so the pressure must have been off the charts. I think I’d get an ulcer from all that stress.
Oda: I’m really grateful I got to compete against Naruto. I’m most grateful that you never let me completely win. I’d often lose in the weekly rankings, and in terms of global reach, it’s all about Naruto. I’m really grateful that you made me feel jealous. You’re the only one who could do that.
Kishimoto: One Piece was my goal—I always strove to beat it. It’s definitely something that I focused on.
The full interview can be seen in Michi, the official guidebook for Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto Exhibition.
The Naruto Exhibition will run from 4/25–6/28 in Tokyo at the Mori Arts Center Gallery in the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower 52nd Floor and from 7/18–9/27 in Osaka at the Osaka Culturarium at Tenpozan.
This interview excerpt was published in the 04-27-2015 issue of Weekly Shonen Jump. Sign up today to read more of these great features!
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