In 1997, Masashi Kishimoto created the first published incarnation of the Naruto series. Debuting in Akamaru Jump, the Naruto one-shot would be Kishimoto's first incarnation of the Naruto universe. Though the plot of the one-shot bears little resemblance to the later shōnen manga, many of the same character and ninja themes would be displayed for the first time.
Naruto is a young demon fox that goes about life in the form of a young boy. Because his father attacked the ninja village and caused a lot of death and destruction, the villagers are distrusting of him. To that end he grew very resentful of their angry looks. The village chief was the sole survivor of nine powerful shinobi who were gathered to fight the elder fox. The chief took pity on Naruto and allowed him to be raised in the village. While he was growing up, Naruto would learn several of the ninja techniques including the Transformation Technique. Because Naruto constantly was having problems finding any friends, the village chief sent him into the city to try and make one. The chief fears Naruto will become like his father so he hopes a friendship will put him on a good path.
After travelling to the city, Naruto stops at a ramen stand to get a bite to eat. While there a drunken patron enters the stand. He is Kuroda, a washed up artist whose has been repairing a valuable painting named Symbol. After he nearly passes out, another man enters the stand. This is Sergeant Matsushima, who is in charge of protecting the painting once Kuroda finishes his repairs. After Matsushima leaves, the owner of the stand gives Naruto a free bowl of ramen in exchange for Naruto taking the artist home. Naruto manages to bring the passed out artist to his studio.
At the studio Naruto meets Kuroda's assistant Takano Takashi. Takashi shows Naruto Symbol, and tells him it was painted by nationally known artist Saburo. Naruto notes the painting smells bad and Takashi tells him it was made with a special paint. As Naruto gets near the painting a uniformed police officer enters and tells Naruto to back away and be careful. He is in charge of helping protect the expensive painting. He then excuses himself stating he needs to use the restroom.
Soon Kuroda awakes and he asks Naruto to join him in a drink, though Naruto states he is not old enough to drink, he caves in shortly and begins to drink with the artist. While inebriated Naruto decides to show the men his transformation technique, a variation of what we now know as the Oiroke no Jutsu, Naruto changes into an attractive young woman who only wears a bathing suit. Naruto is not skilled enough though so one of his tails sticks out from his tailbone. As the two artists freak out at the strange occurrence before them, we see a man in the outside shadows begin to put a silencer on a gun.
Kuroda asks Naruto what he is doing in the city and Naruto tells him he was sent to find a friend. Kuroda says that is foolish and that you can only trust yourself. Then he rose to head to bed. Takashi then tells Naruto of the sad events of Kuroda's past. His best-friend Saburo stabbed Kuroda after Kuroda took over his job as the chairman of the cultural advancement committee. Saddened by his actions, Saburo returned to his apartment and painted Symbol before taking his own life.
Takashi then states the painting depicts two tree limbs reaching out to intertwine, symbolically representing two hands shaking forming a new trust. In the intertwined branches is a birds nest showing the good that came from their meeting. Takashi asks Naruto if he wants to be his friend, this embarrasses Naruto as he had never shaken someone's hand before. Happily Naruto agrees and he appears to have made his first real friend. Takashi tells Naruto he can sleep in his bedroom as he watches over the painting.
While Naruto sleeps a mysterious man enters the apartment and shoots Takashi in the head. The man then places the murder weapon into Naruto's bag. When Naruto wakes the next morning, Sergeant Matsushima is there with Kuroda. Matsushima accuses Naruto of murdering Takashi. Kuroda himself angrily yells at Naruto, asking if he murdered Takashi and stole the painting. Naruto denies this and Kuroda remembers when Naruto told him that no one ever trusts him. Feeling pity for the young boy, Kuroda tells Matsushima to take him in his place, allowing Naruto to find the real killer.
Naruto is released so he begins to travel around the city asking people about the painting. After having no luck for week, Naruto stops in a park to ponder his luck, thinking maybe it would be better to just run away. He then overhears some young men describing one of their group named Hiroshi who is absent. They call him an outsider who only hangs around with them to look cool. Naruto then thinks back to how he is similar. One of the young men denies this though, saying Hiroshi has always been a good friend who helps them out. He then tells the group to stop talking about him in that fashion or he won't forgive them. Hiroshi then arrives and brings his friends some cool drinks. After seeing the compassion displayed for their friend Naruto cries thinking of his own life. Naruto then runs up to Hiroshi and yells he is jealous of him and then runs off, leaving Hiroshi very confused.
Seeing that Kuroda believed in him, Naruto's faith is renewed so he begins to search again. He travels to the apartment of the officer who was on duty at the time the murder happened. Naruto enters the apartment and asks the man if he saw anyone suspicious that night. Naruto then says maybe the officer himself took the painting, he tells Naruto this is foolish but then Naruto asks why he smells so strongly of the painting. Naruto states he has a keen sense of smell and he noticed its foul odour when he first saw the painting. We see the officer reach for a knife and then cut to Matsushima's apartment.
The officer is there, telling the sergeant he murdered Naruto when he came asking questions. As Matsushima turns, the reader sees Symbol in the background hanging on his wall. He says that is perfect, the public will then think Naruto took the painting and went into hiding. We then see tails whip out from behind the officer, it is Naruto in disguise. After ending the illusion, a panicked Matsushima attempts to shoot Naruto with his gun but Naruto states he will get revenge for the murder. Naruto uses his demon fox technique to return to his natural nine-tails form. Using his tails he captures Matsushima and the police arrive to arrest him. Matsushima denies he is guilty but the police tell him to give it up, the other officer admitted to the crime.
Kuroda then approaches Naruto and thanks him for helping him. He tells Naruto he helped him gain the ability to believe in people again. Naruto himself also thanks the artist for believing in him. Naruto then asks Kuroda to shake his hand, but the artist thinks it is creepy. He caves anyway and the two men become friends. He tells Naruto he would travel to the village with him but he is busy. Naruto says that is okay, he will try making more friends in the city. Kuroda then tells Naruto he will buy him a round of drinks for the road, Naruto says if he is buying he would rather have ramen instead. Naruto then thinks that maybe the chief was right; friends aren't so bad after all.