I just wanted to go through and explain not just what happens in the manga but my interpretation of it, not because I think my understanding is .. like better or something, it's not. It's just I have my own way of looking at it. It's as much a justification of why I spent so much time reading it as anything else.
Anyway, there will be more than one part because I am currently not in a good place to write for long periods of time.
For me, it was the first time I had ever witnessed a lead character who was kind of an idiot. I actually got into Naruto when downloading stuff on Kazaa and I thought I would just check it out as I had heard it was cool and I had always loved anime ever since I saw my first one. I managed to download the full unedited subbed cut of Naruto vs Sasuke on that lake with the other Hokage statues.
I watched it at least once a day, then once a week, for ages, then I watched the whole of bleach up to the arrival of the Arrancar in a week. Anyway, that was current then.
So when I went back and watched more of the earlier stuff (I followed the story on from the fight with Sasuke, first off, and obviously was instantly completely lost by the filler) I was actually kind of surprised he was such a douche. I don't know now, now that I have more literary experience, how Kishi managed to pull off a hero who is both a complete loner with no friends, a danger to everyone and the nicest guy in the world. But somehow he does it.
I think the reason it works so well, is nothing to do with Sasuke or Sakura, I think in reality it's character like Lee, Neji, Kakashi and Kato who really make it work. It's actually a lot to follow but because the lead is so down to earth you feel like you can't help but relate somehow.
So for the unitiated, Naruto is the son of one of the greatest ninja of all time, Minato, he marries a lady who is well versed in sealing spells. Jutsu. They (through something we learn about much later) are forced to seal this huge demon inside of him lest it rampage throughout the world and kill everyone. Basically. This leads to their son being a very easy target for jokes and fun making, not so much bullying, as he's pretty tough. As you can imagine.
The beginning of the story see's him learning what it means to be a shinobi, a ninja, what the world of Shinobi is like and who his peers are.
The only real reason you notice his incompetence is because he is paired with the coldest most ruthless, emo kid, that the world has ever seen. Who constantly puts him down and makes him look like a failure, consequently, obviously, Naruto is driven forward by this and thus the key dynamic for the whole Comic is born. Sakura is soon left in the dust waiting to heal up whoever loses, ironically enough. Establishing our other mechanic, romance.
Next time I'll get into the organisation and history of the Shinobi and how the world came to centre around Konoha. I'll give you a one word hint; economy.
Take it easy and don't be too harsh on me, I know this isn't exactly a normal review xD hence why its on my blog and stuff.