The original series of Naruto depicted 12-year-old Naruto Uzumaki on his quest to become a great ninja worthy of respect, and Naruto had enough grits, guts and ninjutsu alike to face fearsome foes such as Zabuza Momochi and other rogues. Then a true challenge came: the Chunin Exams, where Team 7 would need their combined combat techniques, book smarts and more to pass with flying colors.
This story arc came soon after the Land of Waves arc, which led directly into the battle for Konoha story arc when the villainous Orochimaru launched his war on the Leaf Village with his combined Sound ninjas and Hidden Sand allies. During the Chunin Exams, all kinds of twists and turns defined this story and set future arcs in motion.
When Orochimaru Disguised Himself & Entered The Exams
Orochimaru was on a quest to find the most talented ninjas in the exams, but he couldn't afford to give himself away. For now, he needed stealth -- like a proper ninja -- capturing and killing a Grass Village ninja to assume their identity and appearance. Now Orochimaru could go anywhere in the exams without giving himself away, and he had no trouble chasing after Team 7 and confronting them as a seemingly ordinary ninja. Orochimaru's silent stalking and assessing of Chunin candidates set a frightening tone as he continued to lurk.
And, while Transformation Jutsu is common in Naruto, the way Orochimaru's assumed appearances peeled away like a snake's skin made it all the more unsettling.
When Orochimaru Inflicted The Curse Mark On Sasuke
Orochimaru's stealthy plan quickly pays off after deeming most of the Chunin candidates unacceptable. While Naruto and Gaara of the Sand were rare jinchuriki, Orochimaru had his eyes set on a prize he'd failed to claim in the past -- an Uchiha. He was unsuccessful in claiming Itachi Uchiha's body, but now the younger brother was ripe for the taking: Sasuke Uchiha.
Orochimaru took on Team 7 all by himself, and once Naruto was out of the way, Orochimaru tested Sasuke's skills in battle to confirm that this boy had serious potential. Eventually, Orochimaru extended his snake-like neck and bit Sasuke vampire-style, leaving a curse mark. Sasuke now had dark and terrifying power, and it wouldn't take him long to start testing it in battle -- including a fierce duel with the Sound ninja Zaku. Ultimately, the curse mark would lead Sasuke to seek out Orochimaru, abandoning the Leaf Village.
When Jiraiya Began Training Naruto & Unsealed The Fox's Chakra
Many shonen heroes undergo a few bonus training sessions to hone their existing powers or learn a new technique. After some brief training with Ebisu -- Konohamaru's teacher -- Naruto met Jiraiya, the Toad Sage. During their encounter, Orochimaru had placed a seal on Naruto's chakra, which disrupted the flow, including that of the Nine-Tailed Fox. Jiraiya identified and undid the seal in a single strike, allowing Naruto's chakra to flow freely as he worked to control it more efficiently.
Now capable of combining his chakra with the Fox's, Naruto was able to summon the mighty Gamabunta, which signaled a big step forward in his advancement, just in time for the Chunin Exam's final tournament.
When Naruto Spoke To & Defeated Neji Hyuga
Naruto's famous "Talk no Jutsu" has become something of a meme by now, but in the story itself, his heartfelt appeals to his enemies have changed the course of history. In the Chunin Exams' final tournament, Naruto went up against Neji Hyuga, a bitter determinist who scorned Naruto's dream of becoming Hokage. What is more, Neji's powerful Byakugan and gentle fist fighting style posed a severe threat to the plucky Naruto, who seemed doomed.
Still, Naruto turned the tables with some surprising battlefield ingenuity and rock-solid ideals planted firmly in his mind, and Neji admitted defeat. As a bonus, the crowd was astonished, and they heaped praise upon Naruto for his underdog victory. This was proof of Naruto's true potential, and this little "Talk no Jutsu" session changed Neji's entire outlook on life. He would soon become a loyal friend and ally to Naruto and Hinata Hyuga -- Neji's cousin, who he'd previously resented.
When Orochimaru Launched His Attack On Konoha
Orochimaru's strike against the Hidden Leaf Village served as the gateway between the Chunin Exam arc and the great battle for the fate of Konoha. By this point, Orochimaru had disguised himself as the Kazekage, and he was right there in the audience as the tournament progressed. He could easily see Naruto and Sasuke in action, and once he'd seen enough, he gave the signal. The Sand ninjas, including the trio of Gaara, Kankuro and Temari, all got into position. They took the Leaf Village defenders by surprise, totally upending the Chunin Exams along the way and taking out the Third Hokage.
This time, the fight was for real, and there were no exam proctors to intervene and no rules of sportsmanship to keep everyone in check. The exams were over, and Naruto and his allies had to prove why they were worthy of being promoted to the Chunin rank or die trying.