The Chunin Exam arc in Naruto followed the typical Shonen tournament arc, but given how fans claim that it was one of the best Naruto arcs, Masashi Kishimoto must have done something right. Although the Chunin Exams were blindsided by Orochimaru and Sunagakure’s invasion, there were already plans for who would be the final winner.

Chunin Exam
Chunin Exam

In a 2014 interview for FujiTV, creator Masashi Kishimoto revealed how he originally planned the story arc. His pick for the tournament championship was rather surprising for the fans. Although the plot deviated, Kishimoto provided insights into his original plans for who would have been the winner and why the author was ultimately pleased with the ending.

Shikamaru Would Have Been The Champion Of Chunin Exams


The Final stage of the Chunin Exams involved one-on-one battles that were closely monitored. Rather than a simple elimination round, the fights were observed with a more nuanced eye. Beating your opponent was not enough to guarantee one’s victory, rather it depended on their judgment during the battle, as well as their ability to adapt to failed strategies, chakra management, and how well they could distract their opponent.

Also Read: Masashi Kishimoto Casually Dropped One of the Greatest Naruto Mysteries about the Strongest Clan of Konoha, Never Answered it

While Naruto revolves around the protagonist, Naruto and his rival, Sasuke, it doesn’t warrant either of them the position of the tournament’s winner. According to Kishimoto, the winner would have a dark horse: Shikamaru Nara. Shikamaru met all the standards of the test with his brain and shadow manipulation technique.

Shikamaru’s Withdrawal From The Match Exemplifies His Intelligence

Shikamaru, Naruto, Sasuke
Shikamaru, Naruto, Sasuke

Shikamaru’s promotion to Chunin belies the kind of qualities the match was supposed to draw from the competitors. Although Kishimoto wanted Shikamaru to be the victor, it would have been hard to make it plausible, since he had to introduce a major villain in the form of Orochimaru during the tournament.

While Shikamaru has an IQ of 200, he would have to win multiple battles against his opponents using his wit, including powerhouses like Gaara. Although not completely impossible, Kishimoto was under time constraints which might have made it difficult for the creator to choreograph so many fights, while coming up with the next story.

Also Read: “It’d be interesting to see that contrast”: Naruto Fans Will Never Forgive Masashi Kishimoto for Teasing a Jiraiya Story That Will Never Happen

Despite pulling away at the last moment, Shikamaru ironically proved his superior intelligence, surprising viewers with his mature assessment. Had he attempted to claim victory against Temari, he would have been vulnerable to a counterattack because of his low chakra reserves. Ending the fight on his own terms, Shikamaru impressed the examination board with his intellect and level-headedness.

Naruto is available to stream on Crunchyroll and Prime Video.

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