You're the perfect mix of salty and logical and I need help writing about a Naruto fail close to your heart. How do you think a situation would go with someone directly confronting Hiruzen about smol Naruto's living situation? I'd like to have a character reach over and throttle him, but that's probably not the right way to deal with a military dictator. Would he fail to see the problem, or play the bigger picture card?
There’s a plot hole here that I think is basically impossible to reconcile and which is caused by Kishimoto’s poor planning.
Basically, from a meta story perspective, Naruto needs to be in the dark about his origins. So the story tries its “everyone in the village is forbidden to talk about Naruto actually having the Nine Tailed Fox sealed within him and also him being the Fourth’s son, and also we’re going to give Naruto his mother’s surname” The reason being “to protect Naruto from enemies of the village/his father.”
Okay so far as it goes. Yes, it’s impossible in reality to expect an entire city to be able to keep that kind of a secret, especially in a world where we’re shown that the villages actively spy on each other, but I might be willing to suspend disbelief for that.
The problem is that Kishimoto then decided to make Naruto’s mother the previous jinchuuriki and to make her clan, the Uzumaki, such a powerful and famous clan that the swirl symbol everywhere in Konoha was in their honour. This immediately makes the entire thing absurd and goes beyond “willingly suspend your disbelief” level for me, personally. In what possible universe could giving Naruto the surname Uzumaki hide him from enemies? In the universe Kishimoto gave him that surname–a universe where the surname Uzumaki didn’t mean anything much.
So you’ll need to be careful writing any scene touching on this issue because the second you draw the reader’s attention to it, everyone realizes how absurd the situation is and the stated reasoning behind Naruto’s growing up in ignorance falls to shreds. An idiot wouldn’t come up with that kind of plan, and Hiruzen is supposed to be this extremely smart guy? It just doesn’t work as anything except “the writer fucked up and decided he wanted the Uzumaki to be awesome more than he wanted continuity”.
Sooooo let’s agree to retcon “we kept your heritage a secret to hide you from enemies!!!!” Because that’s bullshit. Cool. Now what?
A more plausible reason for the facts we want to keep for meta reasons–Naruto doesn’t know who he is, what’s inside him, and why–is that Naruto’s background is being specifically held back from Naruto and the other children because the adults don’t know how a small child will handle that kind of information. It’s being kept from Naruto because he might freak out (in a really BIG way), and it’s being kept from his peers because kids might blurt that kind of thing out.
Under this scenario, Naruto’s surname is changed in case Naruto would draw the connection to the surname of the Fourth (whose face looks a lot like Naruto).
I know fandom likes to write “people were constantly beating Naruto up” type scenarios for Naruto’s childhood, and then lately SP has been coming out with the opposite, in those weird filler episodes where Naruto was buddies with everyone (fuck outta here with that shite), but what I see in the manga, and what honestly makes a lot of sense, is not that he was persecuted, just that he was shunned, that businesses locked their doors when they saw him coming and mothers pulled their kids off the playground and ran home.
Why do I say it makes a lot of sense? Well, when Kishimoto wrote the Chuunin Exams and everything with Gaara he hadn’t actually come up with the jinchuuriki concept yet, but we’ll pretend we’re dealing with a reality in which “jinchuuriki” is a known concept. At the same time as Naruto is alive, there is a jinchuuriki of his age in an allied village who keeps killing people. All the sordid details of his infancy and early childhood probably wouldn’t have filtered to the outside world, but “baby tailed beast holder keeps killing adult ninjas” absolutely would have.
In such a world, would you want to go near your village’s Sealed Evil in a Baby? We might like to think we would, and while somebody should have (more on that in a minute), the fear is pretty rational here, and especially not wanting your kid to play with this kid. But you’re forbidden from telling your kid why. So you just gotta say “don’t play with that kid because He’s Bad.”
Now, further thought on Naruto’s living situation. It’s pretty obviously the norm in Naruto society for orphans to live alone. Not only Naruto, but Iruka, Kakashi, and Sasuke are all shown as living alone while academy aged. So in one sense, Hiruzen isn’t giving Naruto any kind of especially cruel treatment here; it’s just that it’s a cruel society generally. But it’s consistent with “society that has child soldiers,” so I’d say this is decent worldbuilding, really.
Therefore it would be difficult to believably get someone entrenched in this society to call this out, you’d have to really work at it. Kakashi, who lived it, isn’t appalled by Naruto living alone; he’s appalled by Naruto not doing his chores. Iruka, who also lived it, doesn’t quite come to the point of fully realizing that this is wrong, but he does empathize with Naruto and acknowledge the pain of the living situation, even if he isn’t to the point of saying that Naruto shouldn’t be in that living situation.
Okay, so where could someone within this society believably call Hiruzen out and actually have the hit connect? I think it’s going to be two points:
1. Minato and Kushina specifically asked Hiruzen to care for Naruto. Hiruzen may think his “kindly hair ruffle when I see him around” etc act is enough to fulfill this promise, but I think he could be nailed on this point.
2. Hypocrisy of Konohamaru’s treatment vs. the other orphans. Ohhhhh boy is this one ripe for exploitation and if I was going to have a character call Hiruzen out, this is the bell I would ring. Why doesn’t Naruto have a private tutor? I’m gonna repeat that again and bold it, Why doesn’t Naruto have a private tutor? He’s a jinchuuriki, who are supposed to become weapons for their village–why aren’t they training their own weapon?!
Okay, I hope that helps, and please send me a link to your writing when you post it! :D