|Get it? Because there are seven swordsmen?|
The short answer is yes. Of course, there are flaws in Naruto. I am not one of those guys who is unable to see the flaws in his favorite manga.
The long answer is... well, let's get to it, starting with #1!
That was a mistake.
Let me explain what I mean.
According to an interview with Kishimoto, he didn't really want to keep on creating new characters for every new arc so his editor suggested just having one big tournament arc with characters from other villages. Kishimoto went with the idea... and ended up having to draw a bunch of new characters at once.
Look up the interview online if you can. It's pretty fun.
Now, in theory, this was not a bad idea. The Chunin Exam is a great arc. It develops the world, introduces a wide variety of characters, and gives us Orochimaru, our first real Big Bad.
Yeah, the Chunin Exam Arc is not a problem.
The problem is what happens next.
After the Chunin Exam comes the Search for Tsunade and after that comes the Valley of the End. Then we jump straight into the Time Skip and the fight against the Akatsuki.
Which means the Zabuza Arc is the only "real" mission Team 7 takes as a team.
Allow me to explain.
After Team 7 is formed, we are made to understand the missions they are taking are boring D-Ranks.
The C-Rank mission is the first time they actually go into the outside world to face real danger. Then it turns into an A-Rank and they face real danger.
It forces them to grow, to adapt, to change even. Naruto overcomes his initial fear and starts changing his bravado for courage. Sakura realizes there is a difference between memorizing the rules and actually understanding them, and Sasuke is faced with the fact that he cares enough about others to risk his life for them.
It is a very important experience in their lives and the beginning of a very strong bond.
Sadly, that's where it stops.
Sadly, that's where it stops.
Don't get me wrong. There are some nice Team 7 moments during the Chunin Exam, but that stops at the end of the Forest of Death. They have some scenes together after that, but their interaction is pretty much minimal.
By the next arc, Itachi leaves Sasuke in a coma, Naruto leaves Konoha to search for Tsunade, and Sakura is left behind.
They will not interact with each other again until the fated fight on the hospital roof.
Because the relationship between Sasuke and Naruto is the cornerstone of the manga.
Naruto goes through a lot of crap to save Sasuke from himself. Thus, it is of supreme importance people buy into this friendship. We must believe it is that important.
This is already pretty hard considering they are both lonely, socially awkward orphans.
We need to see them bonding. We need to see them fighting side-by-side, overcoming a bunch of odds together before slowly drifting apart. We need to believe that when these two are in the zone, they can be the bro-est bros who ever bro-ed.
That's kind of it.
Now, let's be fair. The Chunin Exams open up possibilities for Naruto and Sasuke, but then everything goes to hell so we don't get to see more of the duo.
Team 7 is this huge presence in the manga, but it ultimately has a big weakness. We never really see Team 7 be born.
It is somehow a big deal despite never having been a deal in the first place.
By the end of the manga, Kishimoto is pushing the Team Seven angle pretty hard, going as far as to include Sakura in the battle against Kaguya.
However, for many readers, that fell flat, and I can't really blame them.
For all its flaws, one thing I will say about the Anime Filler is that it at least tried to use the 'Naruto goes on a mission and adventures happen' structure provided by the manga. In fact, it used it way more than the manga ever did.
In the anime, Naruto had the opportunity to go on missions with every single member of the Rookie 9+Team Gai. He got to bond with them far more than he ever did in the manga.
It is a big shame, the manga didn't take advantage of its own structure to give us more Team 7 missions and bonding. In fact, the Zabuza Arc is the only ninja mission (in the sense that it is not a D-Rank) in the entire manga.
Every other mission we see after in the manga is paid by the Leaf Village. There are no more third-party missions after that which is a huge missed opportunity.
Now, don't get me wrong. I get why things worked out the way they worked out.
Shounen serialization is never a sure thing. Sometimes, you cannot afford to slow down and just walk through the world you have created*, because if you do, you can lose your place in the weekly rankings.
So yeah, I get why the manga did things the way it did.
Nevertheless, it's still one of Naruto's seven sins.**
*One manga that greatly succeeded in the set-up state is Bleach. The first 40 or so chapters are just human world stuff but they are great. It is what makes it so painful when the human characters are discarded in favor of the Shinigami.
**There may not actually seven sins, but seven is such a cool number I can't help but use it.