Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto hinges on the central character’s dreams of establishing himself as a formidable ninja by attaining his goal of becoming a Hokage. The revelation of Naruto’s father as the Fourth Hokage was a twist but the title was originally supposed to be held by an unlikely contender.


Within the Konohagakura village, Hokages are considered to be great leaders, holding a range of authority associated with this role. A prestigious title, the Hokage is passed on to Konohagakure’s strongest and most capable shinobi in the series. Throughout the manga series, there have been seven officially recognized Hokages. Among all the Hokages of the Hidden Leaf Village, the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, was considered the strongest.

Naruto‘s Initial Fourth Hokage Was a Ninja Dog

Kakashi Hatake's Ninken
Kakashi Hatake’s Ninken

In an interview translated by user KirinNOTKarin98 and posted on Narutopedia, Masashi Kishimoto revealed that he initially planned to have a ninja dog, or ‘ninken’, as the Fourth Hokage. However, Naruto‘s editor dismissed the idea, suggesting that Kishimoto was “thinking off on a tangent again“.

With the idea of the ninken Hokage shot down, the title of the Fourth Hokage was given to Minato Namikaze, and the rest, as we all know it, is history. It is quite an interesting thought and had the editor considered it, the story would have taken a different direction entirely.

Also Read: Naruto: Masashi Kishimoto Slyly Got Rid of a Ridiculously Overpowered Jutsu Which Almost Everyone Could’ve Used to Avoid Death

While not a consistently common character in Naruto, a ninken undoubtedly steals the spotlight when they make an appearance. Ninkens are devoted companions and demonstrate remarkable battle prowess like their masters. One clan, in particular, stands out for being connected with these canine friends, as exemplified by Kiba Inuzuka and his four-legged partner, Akamaru.

A Callback To Masashi Kishimoto’s Karakuri

Naruto Uzumaki
Naruto Uzumaki

Naruto incorporates various ideas and concepts from Kishimoto’s earlier experimental works. The central figure’s obsession with ramen has its roots in his initial role as a chef’s apprentice. In the pilot chapter, Naruto was originally portrayed as the Nine-tails before being changed into the vessel of the shape-shifting fox.

On a similar note, the ninken could be a nod to one of Kishimoto’s earlier works, Karakuri, a one-shot that follows a specialized security enforcer and his talking surveillance pet, offering a peak at what Naruto could have been. Karakuri has won at least one award, so it wouldn’t be too shocking if Kishimoto is inspired to create an alternate-universe one-shot about the ninken Hokage.

Also Read: “The reader will be lost”: Masashi Kishimoto Made Sure Fans were Hooked on Naruto Right at the Beginning with This Attention to Detail

The editors of Kishimoto have worked very hard behind the scenes to shape Naruto into what it is now. With only a few interviews and easter eggs to remember it, it’s come a long way from its original premise. These improvements might have enhanced the tale, but if Kishimoto had been given the opportunity, fans might have been able to enjoy more details.

You can read Naruto on VIZ Media and watch the anime on Crunchyroll.

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