He made his professional manga debut with Return in 1981. Three of his series have been adapted into anime: Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl (1986-1993), Master Keaton (1988-1994), and Monster (1994-2001). Arguably his most notable work, 20th Century Boys (2000-2006) , was made into a three-part movie series, which were released in 2008 and 2009. He has received the Shogakukan Manga Award three times, the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize twice, and the Kodansha Manga Award once. As a storyteller, his most distinctive characteristics are his dense, multi-layered, interconnecting narratives, his mastery of suspense, clever homages to classic manga & anime and a frequent use of German characters and settings.
In 2008 the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction Junot Diaz praised Monster series and added that "Urasawa is a national treasure in Japan." In December 2009 8th Viz Media released his Monster Box Set 1.
As a hobby Urasawa is also the vocalist and guitarist of a rock band. He released his debut single Tsuki ga Tottemo... in 2008 and his debut album Half Century Man in 2009.
- He made his professional debut in 1983 with Beta!!, a gag one-shot.
- Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl
- Urasawa's first official work and real breakthrough; published from 1986 to 1993 (serialized in Big Comic Spirits, 1987-93), this manga has 29 volumes in total. This judo romance comedy is about a female judo champion who wants to have fun just like other girls, but her strict grandfather wants her to triumph in tournaments. Yawara! won the 35th Shogakukan Manga Award for general manga in 1990.
- Pineapple ARMY
- Published by Shogakukan from 1986 to 1988, this is a side-work produced alongside Yawara!. Pineapple ARMY is composed of 10 volumes in total. The story was written by Kazuya Kudou and the artwork is Urasawa's. The plot is about an ex-military man who trains others to defend themselves on the condition that he never gets involved... but eventually he always does.
- Dancing Policeman
- Published by Shogakukan in 1987. This manga is only one volume.
- Master Keaton
- Just after Pineapple ARMY and while writing Yawara!, Urasawa began one of his most famous works, Master Keaton. Master Keaton was published from 1988 to 1994 (serialized in Big Comic Original, 1988-94), and consists of 18 volumes in total. Hokusei Katsushika worked with Urasawa on it. The story revolves around a boy born to an English woman of noble birth and a Japanese zoologist. After his parents' divorce at the age of 5, Keaton moves to England with his mother. As an adult, he studies archeology at Oxford University, where he meets his future wife with whom he has a daughter (Yuriko). However, they too divorce after five years. Meanwhile, Keaton works as an operative/detective for Lloyd's of London where he is known for his abilities he acquired as a master sergeant in the SAS, as a veteran of the Falklands War, and as one of the members of the Iran Embassy incident. These experiences help him carry out his dangerous work as an insurance investigator. Although he works at Lloyds, his dream is to excavate an ancient civilization in a Danube basin.
- Short story collection published in one volume by Shogakukan in 1988. A fantasy about a middle-aged office worker who trains every day in order to become Japan's first astronaut. This work also includes earlier short stories.
- Just after Yawara!, Urasawa began writing Happy!, which began in 1993 and ended in 1999. Happy! consists of 23 volumes in total. The copy from the back of the first tankōbon reads: "Miyuki Umino was a senior in high-school. Although Miyuki, her two younger brothers and her younger sister were poor, they were happy living together. But, one day all of a sudden her older brother's debt of 250 million yen fell upon them. To pay back the debt Miyuki quit school. What was the incredible choice she took to do this?".
- In 1994, after finishing Master Keaton, Urasawa began writing the manga which would become his most famous work: Monster. He wrote Monster alongside Happy!, with Monster ending in 2001. Monster consists of 18 volumes in total and was serialized in Big Comic (1995-2001). Monster is licensed by Viz Media. The final volume was released in December 2008. Monster won the Shogakukan Manga Award for general manga in 2001.
- Short story collection published in one volume by Shogakukan in 1994. It features four stories about Jigorou, Yawara's grandfather (from Yawara!) during his younger years. It also includes a samurai and a baseball story not related to Yawara!.
- 20th Century Boys (Nijusseiki Shōnen)
- In 1999, after finishing Happy!, Urasawa began the all-popular 20th Century Boys. He wrote 20th Century Boys alongside Monster for two years, Monster ending in 2001. Urasawa has finished the series after 22 volumes. The concluding chapters were released under the title 21st Century Boys. It was licensed by Viz, however, at Urasawa's request, its release was rescheduled until after Monster finished its English serialization due to the change in his art style over time. Publication in the US began in February 2009. 20th Century Boys won Kodansha Manga Award for general manga in 2001, an Excellence Prize at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival, and the Shogakukan Manga Award for general manga in 2003.
- Beginning in late 2003, PLUTO is a more realistic retelling of a famous story by the late Osamu Tezuka. Its story is based on a story arc of the original Astro Boy manga by Tezuka, "Chijō saidai no ROBOTTO" ("The World's Strongest Robot"). Pluto received an Excellence Prize at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival and the 2005 Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize Grand Prize. The series ended in early 2009, at 8 volumes. "PLUTO" has been licensed by Viz, and as of December, the first six volumes have been released.
- Billy Bat
- Thriller manga started in October 2008 that follows Japanese-American comic book artist Kevin Yamagata as he draws the popular detective series "Billy Bat". When he learns he may have unconsciously copied the character from an image he saw while serving in occupied Japan, he returns to Japan to get permission to use Billy Bat from its original creator. Upon arriving there, however, he becomes embroiled in a web of murder, cover-ups, and prophecy that all leads back to Billy Bat.
- Mangari Michi
- Gag manga featuring the two mangakas that appeared in 20th Century Boys. Started in July 2009.
- Début ; Return (1981)
- New Manga Artist Award of Shogakukan in 1982
- 1990 (35th) Shogakukan Manga Award (for Yawara!)
- 1997 (1st) Japan Media Arts Festival, Excellence Prize (for Monster)
- 1999 (3rd) Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, Grand Prize (for Monster)
- 2001 (46th) Shogakukan Manga Award (for Monster)
- 2001 Kodansha Manga Award (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2002 (6th) Japan Media Arts Festival, Excellence Prize (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2004 Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for a Series (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2005 (9th) Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, Grand Prize (for Pluto)
- "Creator." Naoki Urasawa's Monster.
- Pulitzer Winner Diaz Praises Monster Manga in Time Mag (Updated)
- Viz Reveals Artwork and Details of Monster Box Set 1 DVD Release
- Naoki Urasawa Music Web
- "小学館漫画賞: 歴代受賞者" (in Japanese). Shogakukan. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
- Joel Hahn. "Kodansha Manga Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved 2007-08-21.