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Why Naruto's Chunin Exams Were More Important Than You Remember

Naruto is a cultural behemoth that currently shows no signs of slowing down. Its long and complex storyline ultimately concluded after 720 anime episodes based on 700 chapters of its comic book source material. That conclusion wasn't the end of the franchise, however. It simply marked the transition into Boruto, in which Naruto's son is the main character.

Boruto not only remains an active series but continues to develop the central cast of characters first introduced in the early days of Naruto. The relationship between Naruto and the Nine-Tailed Fox that lives inside him, for example, is still being explored as a source for new power-ups in the Naruto sequel series.

With so much fictional history underlying each new development as the franchise continues in Boruto, it can be easy to forget some of the formative moments of the series' early days. The Chunin Exams mark one such event in Naruto history.

As the exam period was Naruto's second major story arc, present-day Naruto fans could be forgiven for forgetting the precise details of it. That said, the humble Chunin Exams story arc is more important than current fans of the series likely remember.

The Chunin Exams gave every member of Naruto's central cast a chance to shine

Characters like Gaara and Rock Lee now function as cornerstones of the Naruto franchise. They've remained members of the supporting cast for the majority of the series' existence, developing from young ninja into mature adults over the course of their respective storylines. Gaara, Rock Lee, and virtually every other then-young character who has grown up alongside Naruto and friends were given a chance to show off their powers for the very first time in the Chunin Exams arc.

With regards to the overarching Naruto story, the Chunin Exams were a necessary step for Naruto to attain a new Shinobi Rank. The arc also introduced series mainstay Orochimaru into the fold. Functionally, however, the Chunin Exams presented the first opportunity for Naruto's extensive cast of ninjas to fight alongside one another.

Its format, in which all entrants were tasked with proving that their abilities were worthy of promotion to the next ninja rank, necessitated competition between characters that otherwise might be friendly with each other. In its final round, for example, Naruto battled the animal-lover Kiba, alongside whom he'd continue to fight as the series progressed.

Whether in fights between future friends or clashes between protagonists and villains working for Orochimaru, the Chunin Exams offered the very first showcase for the members of the cast who would go on to define Naruto into its future.