In the world of Naruto , Mentor figures play an incredibly important role in the titular character’s life, as he never had parents of his own to guide him. Kakashi, the leader of his team, is a somewhat stern mentor to Naruto as he knows how cruel the world can be and wants to make sure his students are properly prepared for the dangers they will face. Although at first Jiraiya seems uninterested in taking on this role, he ends up being a crucial figure in Naruto’s life as well, giving some of the best advice in the entire series.
The first Naruto mentor figure who deserves more credit – and certainly screen time – than he’s given is Iruka Umino. He is the first adult to pay attention to Naruto realizing how tragic his past and situation are, taking him out for ramen, scolding him when necessary, and even willing to almost give his own life just to protect him.
10 He never reaches the Jonin level, but is still a Chunin
Given that Iruka takes on a guiding role similar to that of Kakashi, Jiraiya, and Yamato in Naruto’s life, it makes sense to assume that he has to be a jonin. After all, he is an instructor for the up-and-coming genin at the Academy and later assumes the role of director.
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However, Iruka remains a chunin, and is never shown to progress beyond this throughout the story. One possible explanation is that jonin are often sent on more dangerous and higher-ranking missions, and Iruka needs to stay at the Academy with the next generation of shinobi.
9 he is not resentful of Naruto, despite having lost both of his parents to the nine-tailed fox attack as a child
Iruka is the first character shown in the series who is not afraid of Naruto and does not treat him as a monster because of his status as a jinchuriki. This becomes incredibly shocking once Iruka’s past is revealed.
Both of Iruka’s parents perished during the initial fight against the Nine Tails. Despite this, Iruka does not once blame Naruto or show any hint of hatred towards him, showing how kind and forgiving his heart is.
8 Consider Mizuki a close friend before her betrayal
The first real test of danger Naruto experiences is against Mizuki, who attempts to kill him when he refuses to hand over the scroll that Mizuki had him steal. Iruka takes a near fatal blow from Mizuki, all while his former friend rants about how all the positive attention he gave Iruka was a lie.
In reality, Mizuki had always been jealous of Iruka and how the Third Hokage seemed to favor him the most. His words and actions deeply hurt Iruka; Before this, he believed that he and Mizuki were good friends who took care of each other.
7 He’s the main reason Naruto doesn’t turn out like Gaara
When Gaara is first introduced to fans, he is the furthest from sanity of all the characters featured in the series thus far. He is not even capable of caring for his siblings, the ones who should be closer to him.
Naruto points out that it could easily have ended the same way, if it weren’t for the love and support of those around him. And even in Naruto’s flashback, it is recognized that the first person to support him, the one who initially made sure that Naruto did not succumb to this very fate, was none other than Iruka.
6 Iruka understands Naruto’s habit of acting like a child because he did the same
Naruto has a habit of roaming the village making all kinds of destructive and childish pranks to get attention. No one seems to understand the deep root of this problem except Iruka.
This is because when Iruka lost his parents and was orphaned, he did the exact same thing. Making jokes is not disrespectful, but a lonely cry for someone to notice him, something Iruka can personally identify with and understand.
5 Iruka and Naruto have the same favorite food
One day, after Iruka supervises Naruto cleaning up one of his vandalism pranks, he offers to take his student out for ramen, much to Naruto’s delight. It’s well known that ramen is Naruto’s favorite food, but it’s actually Iruka’s favorite too. You may both love it so much because it is the main way they have to bond and spend time together, especially after Naruto graduates from the Academy.
4 The Third Hokage is the reason he values the new generation more than anything
Iruka’s main motivation for becoming a teacher is that he wants to pass on the Will of Fire to the next generation. He has immeasurable hope for the future of the village and the children who will become the next generation of shinobi.
The main reason he feels this way is because of the Third Hokage, who becomes a pseudo-mentor and father figure to Iruka after the death of his parents. He teaches Iruka that the Will of Fire burns strongly within all of the shinobi in Konoha, and that it can be a source of comfort and strength in difficult times.
3 His official statistics classify him as a well-endowed Shinobi with great intelligence
Thanks to the official data books that exist for the series, it is known exactly how each shinobi’s stats stack up on a scale of one to five. And Iruka’s stats are nothing to write home about: his intelligence ranks quite high, at four and a half.
For the rest, he is quite complete, since his genjutsu, his strength and his speed are two and a half. His stamina is a three, while his ninjutsu and taijutsu are a three and a half. Lastly, his skill with hand stamps is also above average, with a respectable four.
2 You are willing to risk your life to protect the next generation
Iruka risks his life to protect Naruto after being moved by how similar the two are. However, this is not something unique to Naruto, as it is revealed that Iruka would gladly lay down his life without a second thought to protect any shinobi-in-training.
During Orochimaru’s invasion of Konoha, it is Iruka who is tasked with leading the children out of sight where they will be safe. When the children realize something is wrong and are understandably scared, Iruka assures them that he will protect them, even at the cost of his own life.
1 He’s consistently in the top ten in popularity polls despite not having much screen time
Although he doesn’t make as many appearances as Naruto’s other mentors, Iruka’s impact on fans is quite profound. It is still in the top ten in most popularity polls.
In each poll, Iruka ranks fourth, third twice, fifth, fourth again, fifth again, and fourth once more, respectively. Only in the latest popularity poll it drops slightly to eleventh, but it’s still impressive considering how underused the character is compared to most.