Readers of Weekly Shonen Jump, Viz Media’s digital version of the Japanese anthology series, will find a real treat with the May 13 release – a one-shot story from Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto. The story, Mario, was an attempt by Kishimoto to create a tale aimed at older audiences, and was begun before he’d even started work on Naruto.
“There was a period of time when I started to think that I wasn’t cut out for shonen manga,” Kishimoto states in an interview preceding the complete story. “So Mario was a draft of a manga aimed at an older seinen crowd.”
The 49-page insert is a pared down version of Kishimoto’s original 160-page draft, but the story still manages to weave a complex tale of a mafia hitman caught in a double-, perhaps even triple-cross. It’s a violent, bloody tale with a lot of adult themes weaving through it. The artwork is a bit rougher than what audiences have seen in the pages of Naruto, but most of that edginess comes from Kishimoto going over work he’d done some fifteen years previously. Fans will look for hints of their favorite ninja in there, and may find it if they look hard enough, but the rawness of the story, in terms of both art and pacing, will definitely show them a different side of one of manga’s best creators.
“Most readers know me from Naruto, but Mario is targeted at a slightly older audience,” Kishimoto warns, “so it’ll be something different.”