Within Naruto, our eponymous protagonist made it clear his goal was to become a Hokage, but exactly when did Naruto become one?
Many different characters throughout Naruto had stated their opinion regarding when someone becomes a Hokage. Even Naruto had professed his own definition.
However, a few key stages of Naruto’s development serve as checkmarks for him becoming Hokage material. This is especially so when looking through the lens of Naruto’s own Hokage requirements, which are stated multiple times throughout the series.
When does Naruto become a Hokage? The prodigy’s tumultuous journey explained
The early days
Naruto Part 1 had a lot of development for Naruto, the character and ninja. However, there weren’t many glimpses of Naruto being Hokage material outside of demonstrations of strength and battle potential.
Naruto Part 1 showed our protagonist looking at the Hokage role in the complete opposite way Shippuden Naruto did. He viewed it as a way to be acknowledged, not something one must be acknowledged to obtain. There were still a few Hokage development moments, one as early as the Chunin Exam Arc.
During the 1v1 tournament-style battles that comprise the individual stage of the Chunin Exams, one matchup ended up being Neji Hyuga vs Hinata Hyuga. After a clash of privilege and skill, Neji clearly had a chip on his shoulder in this match.
He brutalized Hinata unnecessarily to the point Naruto addressed Neji after the match.
Naruto climbed down to the arena then wiped Hinata’s blood up in his hand, telling Neji that he would avenge Hinata next round. This was a great starting point for Naruto’s Hokage journey as the first action and storyline that painted him as Hokage material.
By standing up for Hinata and beating Neji, Naruto took that first step towards being acknowledged by everyone in the Hidden Leaf. He showed great moral value, integrity, and the loving care Naruto has for his friends and the Hidden Leaf village in general, all of which were qualities of past Hokage.
The end of the beginning
In the final canonical story arc of Naruto, the Sasuke Retrieval Squad featuring Naruto was formed. They’re then sent out with the goal of bringing Sasuke back to the Hidden Leaf.
This was to avoid his defection to Orochimaru’s side (and eventually, his becoming Orochimaru’s host, as was Orochimaru’s intent).
The eventual loss of Naruto to Sasuke did wonders for his journey to Hokage. Loss was a constant theme worked into the story of the Hokage and Shinobi throughout Naruto as a whole.
What really made this loss important for Naruto’s journey to Hokage was the context of the loss. Throughout the fight, Naruto and Sasuke traded fists and words, discussed their relationship, and called themselves best friends until that point.
While this inspired Naruto to fight for Sasuke and bring him back to the village, the latter viewed him as a way to get stronger. This had always been Sasuke’s goal, and his viewing of Naruto this way was a fantastic foundation for both Sasuke’s characterization and Naruto’s journey to becoming a Hokage.
Losing this fight forced Naruto to experience a truly significant loss and how painful the Shinobi World indeed could be for the first time. Like other Hokage, he now had to live with his failure and train to grow beyond it.
Naruto believed one of his own prerequisites for becoming Hokage had to be saving Sasuke throughout the story. This was cited throughout Shippuden and used by Naruto as fuel for the fire for his dream of becoming Hokage.
Shippuden and the final steps
Being the final act of Naruto’s story, the number one question on viewers’ minds during Shippuden was when does Naruto become a Hokage? Most of his progress took place in Shippuden. Ultimately, three major milestones in Shippuden made Naruto’s dream of being a Hokage a reality.
The first of these three was the completion of the Rasengan and the creation of the Wind Style Rasenshuriken. Naruto’s signature jutsu, the Rasengan, was revealed during the Akatsuki Suppression arc to be incomplete. Lord Fourth was unable to imbue his chakra nature into the jutsu while maintaining chakra rotation.
Kakashi told Naruto completing the Rasengan, as Lord Fourth first envisioned, would make him comparable to Lord Fourth. So far, the Fourth had been hailed as one of, if not the best Hokage the Hidden Leaf has ever had.
Kishimoto forced the audience to accept this major step towards the village acknowledging Naruto.
The next moment came during the Pain’s Assault Arc when Naruto successfully defeated him and indirectly revived the entire Hidden Leaf. Upon being carried back to the village by Kakashi, he was met with roaring applause for his deeds.
Kishimoto was clearly making a point here to say that Naruto now is acknowledged by the village and closer than ever to Hokage. However, is this when Naruto became Hokage?
It still felt as if Naruto needed to go a little further on this journey before being recognized as the Hokage.
The final steps
Enter the Fourth Shinobi World War arc. While there were several moments in this arc that helped Naruto finish out his journey to becoming a Hokage, one moment did well to culminate all these steps.
After Kaguya Otsutsuki appeared, the original Team 7 plus Obito are pulled into a space-time ninjutsu through various worlds. Obito bonded with his former best friend and the Team 7 ninja during this time, before his sacrificial death to save Kakashi.
Naruto unsuccessfully tried healing Obito with Six Path Powers.
Kneeling contently, accepting, and coming to terms with all he’d done, Obito praised Naruto for staying on the path he couldn’t. Going further, Obito commended him for never giving up hope as the pain of the Shinobi world cascaded over him time and time again.
As Obito’s body crumbled by the second, Obito told Naruto to become a Hokage for the both of them and that he knew Naruto would do it. Obito crumbled away into dust, our hero’s hand jutting forward from where Obito’s back was before Naruto promised he’d do it.
All hope seemed lost, and comrades still died around Naruto in an unfamiliar world. There was nothing more the Shinobi world could take away from him or do to him. Yet, he still faced his current challenge with a smile on his face and confidence in his heart.
When did Naruto become a Hokage, you ask? In this very moment, as Obito’s remains swirled around him. Our hero finally graduated from number one unpredictable ninja to the Hidden Leaf’s number one Hokage candidate and finest and brightest hope for the future.
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