Tropes A to K (Berserk Button, Big Brother Instinct, Bowdlerise, Broken Aesop, Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, Early Installment Weirdness, Famous Last Words, Hypocrite, Jerkass, Jerkass Has a Point) | Tropes L to Z (Nice Guy, Ship Tease, Shout-Out, Took a Level in Kindness, Wham Episode, Wham Line) | Anime and Others
Being a Long Runner, it's inevitable that, looking back, elements from the series' beginning feel weird in retrospect.
Plot and Worldbuilding Weirdness
- It's mentioned early on that Naruto failed the Graduation Exam more than once. This doesn't match up with what is known about the Ninja Academy later on. Naruto is the same age as his graduating class and is actually a few months younger than the others, and he doesn't recognize Lee, Neji, or Tenten despite the fact that they were in the class immediately preceding the one of the main cast. This is especially noticeable when Boruto introduces another boy, Iwabe, who has been Held Back in School but is noticeably older than his class. Naruto failing the exam is an important part of his characterization, so it couldn't be retconned away.
- When he's first introduced, Kakashi's tragic backstory involves the death of his father, who committed suicide after being derided by the village for prioritizing his friends over completing a mission, and Kakashi's own belief in the importance of carrying for your teammates is set up as a unique viewpoint among Konoha Ninja. Very quickly this is shown to not be the case, as comradery and love for your friends is revealed to be one of the distinct virtues of Konoha as a whole (outside of Danzo's faction). The idea that any ninja would be so ostracized by the village for protecting his friends that he would kill himself quickly starts to seem out of place entirely in their world.
- During the Land of Waves Arc, Sasuke didn't seem to even know who had killed his clan, momentarily thinking that Kakashi was a possible culprit because he had the Sharingan. It was quickly changed to be he knew who did only a few chapters later.
- The whole Land of Waves Arc itself. The atmosphere is quite grittier than the rest of the manga, the main villain is a Non-Action Big Bad and the main physical threat is just a mercenary doing his job, and neither villain has any connections to Akatsuki, not to mention that this is the first and only time (not counting Filler) in which Naruto (or any Konoha ninja for that matter) is seen doing missions for money (if one doesn't count the various basic missions within the village like catching lost animals), since after the Chunin Exams, Naruto and co. spend the rest of the manga fighting against villains who are a threat to either the village, the country or the world at large, basically making them superheroes in all but name. Course it's mentioned repeatedly that missions for money are still happening as they are major source of income for the village, but they don't get much of any focus. The arc also has a much more cynical view of the Ninja world as a whole, with a lot more emphasis on the idea that "ninjas are tools", who must kill their emotions and carry out their missions regardless of their personal or moral objections, and how Naruto personally wants to change this. As soon as the very next arc we see that this viewpoint does NOT actually apply to Konoha at all (except for Danzo and his supporters), especially once they introduce the idea of "the will of fire" and further develop the third Hokage as leader.
- The Hyuga Clan being an important high house is mentioned sometime during the Chunin Exams, with the implication that there are other high houses in the village, something confirmed in the fanbook, and it factors into why the jonin anticipate the Neji vs Hinata fight much more than Naruto's or Sasuke's fights. This is rarely of any importance later (though the Hyuga do own a large residence and there are some scattered comments about them being rich, implying their highborn status) and the Hyuga more or less act like other clans in the village.
- In fact, the Hyuga being important at all. Kakashi comments during the Neji vs Hinata fight, upon seeing the two activate their Byakugan, that there is a rumor the Sharingan was evolved from the Byakugan (this does turn out to be true). While Neji and Hinata continue to serve as recurring characters in the series, the clan's importance is much reduced after the Invasion of Konoha arc, with the focus being put in place more and more into the Uchiha and their Sharingan, the Rinnegan, the Senju and their Wood Release, and the Uzumaki. The Hyuga weren't even part of the group of clans who founded Konohagakure, as shown in Hashirama's flashbacks. They did join the village not long after, and are one of the most ancient shinobi clans on Earth (being the descendants of the Sage of Six Paths fraternal twin brother who stayed on Earth instead of the moon), hence their reputation as a "noble clan", but their importance in Konoha itself is still downplayed.
- At the start of the Chunin Exam arc, there are bunch of intimidating adult-looking ninja taking the exam. This fits the early idea that being a genin was just a type of ninja. Later on, however, being a genin is treated as being a "beginner" ninja. It's highly embarrassing to be a genin as an adult.
- The rank of Chunin was initially presented as an advanced rank for ninja that not many would achieve, especially in the Chunin Exam arc. Characters would often refer to "Chunin squad leaders" and the tests in the exam emphasized leadership and big picture strategic thinking. The exam had 153 candidates and 21 of them reaching the final round to even have a chance at becoming Chunin was considered an abnormally large pool that needed to be narrowed down. It was to the point Shikamaru was the lone Genin selected as Chunin just because of his strategic prowess and ability to sense danger. Later in the series, while still being acknowledged as the rank that enables someone to be a squad leader, Chunin is treated as a standard rank for adult ninja (while Jonin proceeds to get portrayed more like Chunin was early on), to the point that one middle-aged man was mocked as a disgrace for still being a Genin, and everyone (except Naruto and Sasuke) became Chunin with Neji getting a double promotion to Jonin during the three year time skip.
- Since the Chunin exams occur twice a year, having only 20 new Chunin a year at most spread over 6 villages would mean a relatively small population of Chunin and Jonin, especially with ninjas dying or being injured all the time (though it is at least implied that during war the standards for ninja ranks get looser). Each village might have 40-50 upper level ninja at most. The fact that the series kept throwing advanced ninja at the heroes meant that this small population of Chunin just wasn't possible if the exams were really as selective as initially presented.
- The concept of Tailed Beasts was introduced during the Kazekage Rescue Arc. In part I, there was no implication that the Shukaku was related in any way to the Nine-Tailed Fox other than both being legendary creatures, and accordingly, Gaara's powers and relationship barely resembles Naruto's. Furthermore, there was no indication that ninja villages used to control Tailed Beasts as weapons of war, much less that there are nine of them. Afterwards, even treatment of hosts is seen to vary widely between the nations that have them as well. Shukaku is explained as not being recognized as a Tailed Beast because a previous host of his got so confused with him that people thought he was the host's angry spirit, which is the reason as for why Shukaku was for the longest time the only Tailed Beast known by name. The Eight Tails burned through hosts fairly quickly until Killer B, who was eventually seen as a hero by his village through his actions, just like Naruto eventually would.
- Technology in the early series was actually quite versatile, varying from televisions, security cameras and portable radios, to power lines all across Konoha distinctly, creating something of a fantasy setting with modern urban elements. Naruto even has a working modern fridge in his apartment, something that crops up repeatedly as a background element in filler with the numerous retreads and Clip Show bits of the early series. By Shippuden, the vast majority of this technology was completely excised from the series, with notable exceptions like Orochimaru keeping some tech around, and even that was toned down. The series would become more focused on what jutsu can do with more mystical styles and theming, most non-filler tech would become more jutsu-related, like a highly elaborate telepathic setup during the Fourth Shinobi World War arc, and the technological angle would only be picked up again in Boruto — albeit with far more modern leaps than the turn of the millennium style the early series had thanks to the era of peace causing an exaggeratedly-accelerated industrial revolution.
- The Hidden Sound Village was introduced as a recently formed shinobi settlement that nobody knew much about. Orochimaru revealed not long after that he founded it and up to the Invasion of the Leaf arc, it was heavily implied to be a legitimate village with all the troops fighting alongside the Sand ninja and Team Dosu being able to participate in the Chunin exams. After the previously mentioned invasion failed, what we see of the Sound is just an underground base that houses prisoners for Orochimaru's experiments (and he has more facilities in other nations that function as extensions of the "village")note with Kabuto later shown to be his only consistent subordinate throughout his tenure. All other affiliates, including his personal bodyguards, are treated as expendable. Aside from Kidōmaru of the Sound Ninja Four, Sound headbands just stop showing up on characters affiliated with the "village" entirely with even Kabuto ditching his after the Search for Tsunade story.note Orochimaru wore a headband too before ditching it alongside his disguises. Boruto would later state that Orochimaru, after some Character Development, reestablished the Sound Village as a legitimate shinobi settlement.
- The original plan of Akatsuki appeared to be world domination through the creation and subsequent monopoly of a war economy. Like something out of Metal Gear Solid, the Akatsuki would use the Tailed Beasts to cause wars and then take contracts to supply mercenaries to ninja villages and other settlements to fight in these wars. Interestingly this was only slightly reworked into the Akatsuki doing mercenary work to finance their true goal of world peace through the "Eye of the Moon" plan. Downplayed in that most of the Akatsuki (including Pain himself), had no idea this was the real plan.
- The strength of the Hokage is vastly different by the end compared to the start of the series. Simply put: The Fourth Hokage was heavily implied and borderline stated to be have been the strongest Hokage. The First and Second were shown to be strong, but when brought back to life by Orochimaru's use of Edo Tensei, were unable to defeat the Third, who despite being weaker than in his prime, still managed to fight and win against them. The manga even makes a point of the Third being glad the Fourth wasn't also revived, suggesting that the Hokage were gradually getting stronger as time went on. Later arcs pretty definitively say that the First is the strongest of all of them by contrast, and the Third is framed as the weakest of the first four due to his advanced age (his strength in his prime is more debatable). By the time the four were reanimated by Edo Tensei again, Tobimaru the Second Hokage commented that they were now resurrected with almost their full strength this time, meaning that the first time Tobirama and Hashirama were reanimated, the two weren't at their full power.
- Early in the series, Naruto was also a minor case of Eyes Always Shut to play into his fox-like appearance. This trait gets dropped over time. The exact same happens with Kankuro, who keeps his eyes closed in most of his early appearances before dropping the trait completely.
- Early in the Mist Village arc, Sasuke called Naruto a scaredy-cat for freezing up in fear and getting poisoned with a smug grin on his face. Apart from Naruto using his insult as an Ironic Echo during the Forest Of Death, we never see Sasuke antagonize Naruto unprovoked like that again, and especially not with the taunting smile he showed there. Whenever Sasuke normally insults Naruto, it would be because he did something stupid, and he usually did it with his usual stoic expression.
- When they were first introduced, Choji had the urge to eat Akamaru upon meeting him, implying that he was unfamiliar with the Inuzuka Clan's battle tactics. This is rather strange since later chapters established that the Inuzuka Clan is famous in Konoha for fighting with intelligent dogs, so Choji should have known that dogs like Akamaru are more than just pets. Of course, this might be explained by Choji not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even then it sounds a bit excessive.
- Might Guy summons Ningame, a ninja turtle, in his first appearance. This is odd because Guy would pretty quickly establish he fights purely with taijutsu, and nothing else outside the databooks would indicate he was even capable of either ninjutsu or genjutsu. Ningame does get summoned once again years later in a rather funny scene that lampshades the whole bit. It's implied Guy specializes in taijutsu, but is capable of at least ninjutsu as well (though he is not good at it), and the reason we rarely see him do otherwise is likely because he continues to only use taijutsu to inspire Lee, who is quite literally incapable of performing the other types.
- Temari and Tenten both expressed attraction towards Sasuke in their first appearances, but neither has been referenced since. Temari becomes firmly cemented as Shikamaru's Love Interest and eventual wife, and Tenten is later even implied to have had a crush on Neji.
- When Zabuza first appears getting chewed out by Gatō, there are three other mist shinobi who knelt beside him implied to be his fellow rogue ninja. These faceless rogues never appear again with Haku later being presented as Zabuza's sole consistent subordinate. It might have been acknowledged towards the end of the Waves arc when Kakashi states that Zabuza had some men flee from the Mist Village alongside him (among them the Demon Brothers), but we're still never shown what became of those earlier-seen ninjas.
- Orochimaru wore a ninja vest with a sound headband upon revealing himself and while disguised as Team Dosu's sensei, but ditched it from his climactic battle with Hiruzen onward, favoring instead his now iconic outfit with the purple rope belt. This is strange, as said outfit was originally implied to be the uniform of Team Shiore, a Grass genin team whose members all wear it and whose leader Orochimaru killed and impersonated to gain access to the chunin exams and Sasuke - yet for some reason, he continues to wear it long after ditching that guise, to the point that you'd never know that it wasn't his in the first place (aside from the leggings that inexplicably change into bandages after The Reveal). Even weirder is that the Sound Four and Tayuya's ogres all wear similar attires with the same belt, now downright implying this is in fact some kinf of uniform of the Hidden Sound Village.
- Itachi Uchiha's proto design from "The Forest of Death" arc is vastly different from what we're accustomed to. While we only see a silhouette, Itachi apparently wore a trenchcoat, with his headband on sideways. In addition, he had a very short haircut, a raspy voice, and darker skin. The headband being sideways would later be explained in a flashback.
- After beating Tenten, Temari is attacked by an enraged Rock Lee, but she blocks his attack easily with her closed fan and looks perfectly confident about fighting him at close quarters, and at the beginning of her match with Shikamaru she tries taking him out with a close-range physical attack, planning on trying it again near the conclusion. It's later established that Temari is a long-range specialist, who fights mostly with her wind jutsu and her summon beast Kamatari, and rarely uses any physical strikes or parries.
- Hidan had a few discrepancies before his formal debut, plus a little into his introduction. During Gaara's sealing ritual, he notably had bangs (supported by his concept art in a guidebook) and was somewhat apologetic about not finding his assigned jinchuuriki (Yugito) to the point he voluntarily wanted to stall Team Guy from finding an Akatsuki hideout. His proper appearance has his hair slicked back and later he expresses no idea, let alone caring, about the organization's larger goal to the point he threatens Pain's life for a perceived insult to the Jashin Religion. He was also depicted as more level-headed and slightly laid-back during the fight with Yugito in comparison to the petulant Ax-Crazy, psychopathic manchild most would know him as afterward. Itís noticeable in his gesticulations from when Zetsu arrives to collect Yugito after the fight that Hidan begins acting like how most tend to remember him.
- Deidara was considerably more restrained and strategic during the Rescue the Kazekage arc than his future appearances, to the point that he was able to infiltrate the Sand Village and successfully capture Gaara after a relatively quick bout. Upon getting partnered with Tobi, he became more petulant and hot-headed to the point that Sasuke was able to evade/cancel out most of his attacks and eventually, after much acrobatics, outlast him. An early omake (it's canonicity in question to begin with) which shows him talking with Kisame about Itachi's jutsu has him praising the Uchiha for his dojutsu prowess and talks as though heís never met his cohort face-to-face. His flashback during the showdown with Sasuke shows that he grew to intensely hate Itachi, and by extension, all the Uchiha stand for, which includes the Sharingan, for forcibly recruiting him into the Akatsuki and "disrespecting" his art.
- During the Akatsuki meeting in chapter 238, there were three unrecognizable silhouettes. Only Itachi, Kisame, Zetsu (whom have already been introduced outside of the meeting), Deidara, Sasori (who were going to be introduced soon in the Kazekage Rescue arc), and Pain can be identified right off the bat. The remaining three can be assumed to be early designs for Hidan, Kakuzu, and Konan. The silhouette presumed to be Konan was the same height as Kisame, and the one presumed to be Kakuzu towers over the rest of the Akatsuki. The meeting was also held in a cave with the holograms placed in random locations, rather than the fingers of a statue.
- The third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi, is written in a drastically different way early on compared to later in the series. In part one, he's treated as the Old Master for the village, and acts as something of a parental figure for Naruto at times, having enough faith in him that he continually supports him. When he dies, the entire village is shown to be devastated by his loss, framing him as basically being a universally beloved figure by the village. As the series goes on, Hiruzen is written more and more as a distant and flawed leader, whose actions brought a lot of issues to the village, was pretty blind to his friend Danzo's actions, and seemingly didn't do much to support Naruto as he grew up.
- In Chapter/Episode 3, Naruto manages to tie up Sasuke, and the latter escapes with the "Escape Jutsu," which is implied to be a common level Jutsu everyone (but Naruto) knows how to do. The Escape Jutsu never, ever made another appearance in the franchise again, with ninja being bound and gagged rendered completely helpless most of the time.
- Sasuke's use of the Fireball Jutsu being "beyond any Genin" because it takes too much chakra... and then comes the Chunin Exams arc, where all the Genin characters use much stronger jutsu with much higher chakra costs. The story does at least imply that this is supposed to mean average Genin, which Sasuke is definitely not, and the other characters are all noted to be above average, but it still fits here considering the basic Clone Jutsu is considered good enough to be a passing grade in the Academy.
- The initial explanation of the Sharingan being that it's entirely a trick that allows for genjutsu hypnosis and that you're not actually copying techniques so much as tricking your opponent into tipping what jutsu they're going to use and then using it first. It's never brought up, or even used as a limit for the Sharingan's abilities again, and we later see Sasuke and Kakashi copy moves they haven't seen before, with the Genjutsu applications being changed later into being just strong illusions that aren't the same thing as tricking the enemy into using the same Jutsu as you.
- The Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet has 44 hand seals, which is way higher than any other ninjutsu requires in the series. Other ninjutsus only require a single-digit number of hand seals. The aforementioned Fireball Jutsu also has a rather high number of hand seals of 8, whereas many more powerful jutsus need even less hand seals by comparison. In fact, the hand seals were early on such an important part of the story that one of the reasons Naruto wanted to learn the Rasengan was because it didn't need any. By the timeskip, some characters might be able to use things like the Fireball Jutsu without hand seals (it could also be the artist simply skips showing the hand seals, as no one says the character uses the jutsu without hand seals).
- It's actually mentioned that Tobirama is so skilled at Ninjutsu that he only needs one hand seal to use the Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet instead of the normal 44 and that all ninja are capable of reducing and even completely removing the use of hand seals altogether as Sasuke does with his Fire Jutsu and Chidori. In short the more skilled you are at being a Ninja the less hand signs you need.
- The Byakugan "in terms of insight, surpasses even the Sharingan". While this technically remained true (to this day the Byakugan can see further, with more detail and in more directions than the Sharingan), the implication that the Byakugan would be comparable with the Sharingan in overall power did not. Within the next arc the Byakugan mostly became a background ability that usually got used as a support skill rather than a battle skill and never got anywhere near the attention or additional powers the Sharingan got. It did prove to be part of the ninja world's origins as part of Kaguya's power set and her clan's abilities in general, but even then her other abilities were much more important. It did get a powered up form (Tenseigan) in the canon movie The Last, but said form ended up not lasting and the basic Byakugan's powers still remained the same.
- Naruto's Multi Shadow Clone Jutsu was used in the first chapter to defeat Mizuki, and then vanished for a long time (in the sense of summoning hundreds of clones at the same time), only appearing in specific situations where he had extra Chakra reserves to do so. This is mostly due to Kishimoto, who commented that he made a mistake giving Naruto such a powerful ability early on, and thus had him only use it when he had moments that fit story wise like his fight with Gaara.
- Kabuto makes his first appearance using ninja info cards with codified information about several contestants, which he shows to Naruto and company. This system, apparently immensely useful for both the viewer and the characters, is never used in the entire series aside from Tsunade in the filler.
- The scene where Orochimaru harasses Anko while using his tongue to give her kunai back, all while disguised as Shiore, is strange in hindsight. Anko, Orochimaru's own apprentice and user of his own techniques, isn't a bit curious about his creepy tongue jutsu and doesn't remotely suspect he might be related to Orochimaru, and it's only when tipped about the stolen faces that she realizes her former mentor is in the house. According to this, the long tongue technique is commonplace enough in the ninja world not to be especially associated with Orochimaru in any way, even though as the series advances, he remains virtually the only shinobi in the world to use it and regardless, it's still odd this didn't at least have Orochimaru pop into Anko's mind given the profound impact he had on her.
- During the Chuunin exam, Kankuro's puppet Karasu seems to be treated as if it was a sentient being or an intelligent automaton, despite ninja puppets are later established to be entirely inanimate tools. In the manga, Karasu's exact method to get the answers of the exam is not shown, and when Kankuro and it reunite in the bathroom, the human just seems to ask the puppet verbally to tell him the information. The anime fixes it a bit by showing an eye scope in Karasu's masked face, implying the puppet was equipped with some kind of camera or secondary jutsu for the user to collect visual information through it, but again, the human mutters he "trusts" Karasu, and the scene cuts to the puppet writing on its examinator clipboard seemingly by its own will.
- The written exam itself is a large oddity. Back then, it was implied that specialized spying techniques were something all competent shinobi had to master, and accordingly, every major Genin team in the room has usually at least two members with such skills (with the exception of Teams 7 and 10, which have only one each and it's pretty much explained by most of their members being profiled as underdogs). Even if the whole exam turns out to be meaningless because it's possible to pass with an unrelated bonus question, the implication was still standing, as Ibiki is shocked to find out that Naruto left a blank paper and passed solely thanks to the aforementioned bonus. However, the series would later introduce many high-level ninja, both friends and foes, who for what we can see of their set of skills (and occasionally excluding jutsu that cannot be imagined for them to have mastered at Genin level) would have likely never managed to do well in this field either.
- The Invasion of the Leaf arc at the end of the Chunin Exams gives us our first ever look at both the Edo Tensei/Reanimation Jutsu and the First and Second Hokages. Things are a bit different from later iterations, such as the reanimated Kage, not having black irises or cracks all over their bodies. Hashirama's Wood Style techniques are referred too as "Secret Earth Style" and treated as more of an ace in the hole than his standard method of attack.
- When first introduced, the Rasengan had drill-like properties that spun the enemy around and pierced the skin. The only reason Kabuto managed to survive Naruto's first Rasengan was because he used his exceptional medical ninjutsu just in the nick of time. After that, the Rasengan loses its drill properties completely and is treated as a battering object like it was a physical ball. Similarly, the Rasen Shuriken was noted to destroy chakra links between the target's cells via its piercing chakra needles, acting almost like a poison, and could even harm the user if used as a melee weapon (to the point there was a risk of them becoming unable to use chakra in the damaged part of their body). Naruto soon learns to throw the Rasen Shuriken and the whole chakra network destruction thing never figures into any battle ever again.
- In a case of dub specific Early Installment Weirdness, the English dub originally used an Alternative Foreign Theme Song instead of the first Japanese theme "ROCKS". Starting with "Haruka Kanata" they began using the Japanese themes. Even that though involved some Early Installment Weirdness as, even though it used the Japanese song, the actual intro animation was a combination of anime scenes and scenes from the Japanese intro and third intro mixed together, and played during the episodes when the third opening would have been shown.
- In the dub, Zetsu's white side and black side had two separate voice actors (Brian Beacock and Peter Lurie respectively), presumably to make it easier to tell which side was speaking. Come Shippuden, Zetsu has only one voice actor (Travis Willingham) using two distinct tones like in Japanese.
- The Distant Finale, chapter 700, has a lot of this compared to Boruto. Boruto and the rest of his classmates look younger, which implies that the Ninja Academy took in students at 6-8 like in Naruto, not 10-13 like in Boruto. Almost all of the outfits are also different than in the Boruto anime and Hinata has long hair. Sarada's chapter 700 outfit was reused in the Boruto anime for her younger design in flashbacks. More subtly, chapter 700 implies that Sasuke is around in Sarada's life, while Naruto Gaiden specifies that he's been absent for several years due to a mission.