Naruto’s Beginning Is Better And Worse Than You Remember


  • Naruto’s beginning defies expectations and ninja stereotypes with his brilliant character introduction.
  • The Shadow Clone technique became one of Naruto’s iconic skills, masking his loneliness and showcasing the power of teamwork.
  • Despite minor flaws, Naruto’s story starts by setting the stage for emotional depth and epic action.

Naruto is an emotional and epic ninja-filled tale about a once annoying blonde orphan who inspired the world through empathy. While the beginning of the story helped launch a franchise beloved by millions, it wasn’t without a few road bumps and missed opportunities. Author Masashi Kishimoto had several manga ideas rejected before Naruto became a hit, and even some of the series’ earliest ideas failed to leave a big enough impact to stay around.

Shonen Jump began publishing the Naruto manga in 1999. Like other popular series, Dragon Ball and One Piece, Naruto released one new chapter weekly in the Japanese magazine. Within the story’s first chapter, Kishimoto effectively introduced the sprawling ninja world and the Village Hidden in the Leaves. However, the general public’s expectations of what a ninja should be are quickly dashed with the masterful introduction to the titular Naruto.

Naruto’s introduction in the manga goes against almost every preconceived notion someone would expect from a ninja. Honorable, stealthy, and subtle describe many cast members from the series, but its main character quickly establishes himself as someone who goes against the grain and stands out for all the wrong reasons. Enter Uzumaki Naruto, the class clown whose determination can melt almost any heart once you get to know him.

Iruka Taught Naruto Empathy, An Ability Mightier Than Shadow Clones

Naruto manga by Masashi Kishimoto, Anime produced by Studio Pierrot

The beginning of Naruto‘s story paints the picture of a tragic orphan boy acting out to gain any sort of attention. While most people grew up with at least one attention-seeking and immature colleague during school, the truth behind Naruto’s thirst for acknowledgment would go on to fuel the franchise’s story. However, the young boy demonstrated through morally questionable tricks and selfish behavior that he had much growing to do, growing that would require the help of others to reach.

In the first chapter, Naruto learned something better than Shadow Clones: empathy, a skill he used to melt the anger so many of his future foes held.

Help finally reaches the young student through his teacher, Iruka. Although Naruto housed the Nine Tails Fox Spirit that killed his parents, Iruka ultimately saw Naruto for who he was: an innocent and lonely soul hungry for any sort of acknowledgment. From what audiences could tell, Naruto had no guardians and was shunned by all the villagers for no reason that he was aware of. He had no one, and Iruka knew that pain after he lost his parents. The two characters’ bond was an early indication that Naruto‘s character writing was a step above a standard Shōnen action series.

Despite Naruto’s adventures seeing him learn several powerful attacks, Iruka taught Naruto an even more valuable and powerful skill: empathy. Because of the village’s cruel and senseless pact to keep the reason for Naruto’s shunning a secret from him, he’s shown no kindness from others until Iruka. After finally feeling a sense of companionship due to their shared loneliness, Naruto gained the skill of empathy that he used to melt the anger so many of his future foes held. While Naruto‘s story is filled with emotionally heavy subject material, it also hosts epic and intelligently constructed action.

Shadow Clones Are Genius On Many Levels

The Shadow Clone Technique is also known as the Art of the Shadow Doppelgänger in some translations

Dozens of Naruto shadow clones fill the screen

On the surface level, Naruto’s learning of the Shadow Clone Ninjutsu works narratively because it is the primary jutsu he needed to master in order to graduate from his class. However, after being blackmailed by a devious Leaf shinobi named Mizuki, Naruto stole a forbidden ninja scroll and proved his cunning from the start by beating the Third Hokage with a Sexy Transformation Jutsu. The young outcast then gained the ultimate ability to make clones of himself, an effective tool that also masked his own desperate loneliness.

Naruto‘s Shadow Clones ninjutsu became one of the series’ most iconic techniques. It allows him to create physical clones of himself that divide his chakra amongst each one, which disappears after taking damage, depleting that chakra. However, there are several reasons why it works on so many levels. Naruto houses colossal amounts of chakra due to the Nine-Tails spirit inside him and his heritage, which the franchise does not reveal until much later in its run. Because of this, he can use the Shadow Clones to a much higher degree than almost any ninja in the franchise’s history.


Naruto’s Strongest Jutsus Were Secretly Hinted at in the First Chapter

Many forbidden jutsu in Naruto caused catastrophic damage throughout the series, and many of them were almost stolen by Naruto in the first chapter.

Another reason the Shadow Clone jutsu is one of Shonen manga’s best techniques is how well it ties into one of the Naruto series’ main themes—accomplishing great things with the help of others compared to the efforts of a single person, which connects brilliantly with a narrative level with Naruto’s character. Another is how many opportunities its versatility provides the writers to surprise audiences. Not long after learning his iconic technique, Naruto saved his and Iruka’s lives with another brilliant choice that teased the depths of his powers with a particularly satisfying beatdown.

The incredibly effective first chapter of Naruto ends with him spawning countless amounts of Shadow Clones thanks to his tremendous amounts of latent chakra to overcome Mizuki with an overwhelming amount of angry orphan clones. By creating the clones, Naruto effectively passed his school’s final test with flying colors, allowing him to become an entry-level genin ninja. The emotional moment of Iruka giving Naruto the ninja headband he’d toiled over for so long proved Kishimoto was capable of delivering a wide range of emotions in a short time. As remarkable as Naruto‘s introductory chapter was, it was not perfect.

Even Shonen Jump’s Best Series’ Are Not Perfect

Screenshot from Naruto anime episode 1 shows he's failed shadow clone during his class test.

An effective first chapter or episode of a new series has a lot of heavy lifting to do to captivate an audience early. While Naruto‘s beginning does a lot of things right when introducing its characters, setting up its world, and the seeds of its overarching plot, certain aspects were introduced that did not play a massive role in the story in the future. One of those issues was Iruka’s character, who should have played a more prominent role in the series than he did.

Unfortunately, Iruka and Naruto’s bond would take a backseat throughout the rest of the series, which felt like a mistake in the grand scheme of things. Characters introduced later, like Kakashi, Jiraiya, and Sasuke, would go on to push Naruto into several complex relationships and engaging plotlines. However, for being such an essential character in Naruto’s life, Iruka has no bearing on 99% of the story. His inclusion seems more superfluous when the series later reveals that Naruto and Sasuke began to form a bond through their shared loneliness as young kids before chapter #1 took place.

Image shows a young Naruto wearing his ninja headback with iruka while they are eating ramen and smiling with their eyes closed and content.

A common side-effect of releasing a weekly manga series is that aspects of its story and characters change as the story is being written. Several vital details introduced at the beginning of the story worked better than others, and it’s clear which ones failed to stick around. Still, it only took a few more chapters and vital character introductions until Naruto‘s profound themes became more apparent. Naruto‘s introduction did a lot more right narratively than wrong before it found its way onto the right track to become the legendary manga it’s known as today.

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  • Naruto

    Naruto is a franchise spawned from the manga series penned by Masashi Kishimoto that began in 1999. Generating several tv series, games, movies, and more, Naruto follows the exploits of a young outcast ninja harboring the spirit of a demon fox who seeks to become the Hokage, the leader of his ninja village, to break the stigma against him. Upon the conclusion of the initial series, Naruto expanded into Boruto, following many series protagonists’ children and returning faces.