When Kishimoto first drew “Naruto” as a one-shot manga in 1997, he painted the protagonist as a rowdy troublemaker uninterested in going to school. However, after the one-shot was translated into a weekly manga series in 1999, Kishimoto added pathos and depth to Naruto’s childhood. While Naruto was still a knuckleheaded brat, he now had the spirit of the Nine-Tailed Fox sealed inside him, which prompted the village to shun him completely. Growing up an orphan, Naruto spent most of his time pulling pranks and destroying village property in an attempt to get the love/attention he desperately craved.
In the Shonen Jump interview (via NarutoHQ) mentioned above, Kishimoto talked about how his childhood “wasn’t all that happy” and how he often felt like an outsider in school, which is reflected in Naruto’s story:
“My childhood wasn’t all that happy…Like any person, I’ve had hardships in my life. I was not the center of anyone’s attention in school, rather sitting on the outskirts. I didn’t do well in everything. I didn’t excel in studies or sports. So I can understand Naruto’s feelings about being an underdog.”
Naruto emerges as the ultimate underdog, which is perhaps one of the reasons why fans of the manga/anime find him so relatable and inspiring. Even after being mocked by his peers and elders, Naruto vows to try harder, managing to graduate from the Academy after three tries. During his missions with mentor Kakashi, he is not as skilled as Sasuke or as quick-witted as Sakura. Nevertheless, Naruto introduces an element of unpredictability during missions, as he never backs down from protecting his team or laying his life on the line.