Naruto is one of the world’s most powerful manga stories and its anime adaptation stands out for how faithful and dynamic it’s been since airing in 2002. Masashi Kishimoto’s work then transitioned into Naruto: Shippuden in 2007 before ending in 2017; kickstarting the tale of Boruto, Naruto’s son. The original story revolved around Naruto, a mischievous young shinobi (ninja) aspiring to be the Hokage (leader) of his village in a world torn by politics and war. Rival villages collide while Konoha (their village) trained their younglings such as Naruto and his rival, Sasuke, a descendant of the violent Uchiha clan.
Naruto dealt with the power of the Nine Tails beast stored inside him, while Sasuke searched for revenge due to the extinction of his clan. Both were linked soul-wise though, and their paths kept crossing as the terrorist group, Akatsuki, waged war on all shinobi. It turned out to be a ruse perpetuated by Kaguya, an alien entity, who was using the Uchihas (Madara and Obito), over the years to enslave mankind. Everyone’s paths ended up colliding, a lot of personal battles were fought and several lives were lost. As a result, CBR decided to dig into 16 of the most epic deaths over the course of the anime.
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden anime series
Itachi was a prodigy who grew up loving Konoha immensely. Even when his feared Uchiha clan decided to revolt against the other villagers, Itachi made a tough choice and wiped them out, including his parents, as he was always about the greater good. Sasuke, whom he left alive, would hate him for this and seek to kill him.
Itachi secretly went undercover inside the Akatsuki, hoping that Sasuke’s hatred and rivalry with Naruto would empower him so that he could end up doing what Itachi could never do: protect the village and redeem the Uchiha name. The brothers eventually fought in an emotional battle and Itachi, who was stricken with a terminal illness, died after beating his brother. He passed on several secrets and powers to Sasuke, who realized Itachi was a heroic dark knight after all. Itachi would briefly be reanimated to life to help his brother later on.
Obito aimed to be a hero, training with Kakashi and Rin under Naruto’s father, Minato. Obito had to learn to channel his headstrong ambition as he wanted to become the Hokage, which would see him act out rashly in the field. This led to an ambush where a huge rock fell on him in a cave, leaving everyone presuming him dead.
However, Obito got a second chance at life as his clansman, an aging Madara, revived and groomed him to start another massive ninja war against all the villages. Obito masqueraded as Madara as he grew older while battling Kakashi’s forces, this time disguised as the secret Akatsuki mastermind, Tobi. He would eventually break free of this manipulation and help Kakashi and Naruto battle the likes of Madara and Kaguya, only to end up dying as another redeemed hero — free to join Rin, whom he loved dearly, in the afterlife.
14. HAKU & ZABUZA
This duo gave Naruto and Sasuke their first taste of high-stakes battle as shinobi in training. Haku was young, like them, and an accomplice to Zabuza, a mercenary, who came into Kakashi’s crosshairs. While the adults fought, Haku (who was masked) would use ice powers to subdue Sasuke, but it enraged Naruto who now channeled the Nine Tails’ power and started cutting loose. Naruto eventually triumphed, sparing Haku though as he recognized that he actually befriended the young fighter earlier on.
However, there’d be no happy ending as Haku ended up taking a killing blow from Kakashi, which was meant for Zabuza. The latter was then attacked by his contractors, killing them in a fight which also left him mortally wounded. Zabuza then heart-achingly asked to be buried near Haku so that they could enter the afterlife together, as he was the one who saved Haku from the typical life of being an orphan.
Rin was a true sweetheart, which is why Obito loved her. After he was stitched up by Madara, he wanted to return to his teammates and so he did. However, before passing out, he encountered Kakashi using his Chidori lightning-cutter to impale her. Obito grew enraged and slaughtered everyone around before returning to Madara, ready to embrace the ideology of the world being nothing but a living hell.
What made Rin’s death so sad was that Madara actually orchestrated all this, as he had the Hidden Mist village kidnap her and implant the Three Tails beast, Isobu, into her which was to be released upon her rescue in order to kill everyone back in Konoha. What Obito saw was Rin throwing her body into Kakashi’s blow, which was meant for her kidnappers. She sacrificed herself for Konoha, but that didn’t stop her from trying to guide Obito back into the light from the afterlife.
12. HIRUZEN: THE THIRD HOKAGE
Hiruzen belonged to the Sarutobi clan and mentored Jiraiya, Orochimaru and Tsunade into becoming the legendary Konoha ninjas called the Sannin. He eventually passed the mantle of Hokage to Minato, but the latter’s death as the Fourth Hokage would see Hiruzen return for a second stint, as he wanted to keep a special eye on Naruto and the Nine Tails inside him. As Naruto, Sasuke and the new generation blossomed, they went into the ninja trials to graduate, only for Orochimaru, who was now evil, to return and attack Konoha.
It claimed several citizens and, as Hiruzen engaged the villain, things got old-school as Orochimaru, who was also a mad geneticist, revived the first two Hokages, Hashirama and Tobirama, who were said to be two of the best ninjas ever. Hiruzen defeated them and then toppled Orichimaru, but he had been fatally stabbed. He died smiling though, teaching his former student one last lesson.
Asuma was Hiruzen’s son and he too mentored youngsters (Shikamaru, Ino and Choji) alongside Kakashi and the older generation. After his father’s death, he groomed his charges to be much more cautious and he took a team, including Shikamaru, to scout the rising Akatsuki threat. They would then encounter Kakuzu and the immortal known as Hidan in a grueling fight.
Hidan’s used his abilities to tie his health to Asuma’s and in a tricky battle, he stabbed himself in the heart. This left Asuma dying and, as the Akatsuki members retreated, Asuma perished smoking his signature cigarette. This death would shape Shikamaru’s character, as he wised up and learned how to kill Hidan later on. Shikamaru also became mentor to Asuma’s baby back home and then turned into Naruto’s adviser when he became Hokage, molding himself in a gentle, kind fashion just like his former sensei.
10. THE UCHIHA CLAN
The Uchihas were always bloodthirsty, which led to Madara driving them into several battles against Hashirama and his Senju clan. Both descended from Kaguya’s son, Hagoromo, and would forever go to war. However, a treaty was reached and the union of both clans resulted in Konoha. That said, while Hashirama was made Hokage, Madara still knew his people would never be trusted and left once more, as a solo enemy.
Even after both stalwarts died, Konoha would remain uneasy as the Uchiha were kept on the outskirts of the village and seen only as a military force. This led to their secret uprising to kill everyone else and make the village theirs. Itachi decided not to follow their path and instead he killed them all, partnering with Obito who pretended to be Madara. Man, woman and child fell, barring Sasuke, in this gut-wrenching genocide which swiftly ended a potential civil war.
Shisui Uchiha was Itachi’s idol and the man who shaped him as a hero. He was also the first to warn the Third Hokage of the Uchiha’s planned coup and for this, his clansmen, led by Danzo, turned on him, trying to steal his eye to increase their power. Shisui fought back, losing just one eye before coming to Itachi. In Itachi’s presence, he committed suicide and gave his other eye to Itachi for emergency’s use, and in doing so, he awakened the Mangekyo Sharingan in Itachi.
This was an ocular power making Itachi even more powerful and also acted as the passing of the baton of justice. Shisui’s death was very heartbreaking as he showed impeccable loyalty to Konoha and begged Itachi to lead the Uchihas back into the light. Sadly, it never happened, but Itachi tried to live his life by honoring his fallen comrade.
Neji’s death was another one that hit home hard as he was the first of Naruto’s generation to die. He grew from being Naruto’s rival to a close friend and, when Obito used all the tailed beasts to conjure the behemoth destroyer, the Ten Tails, wooden arrows began to shoot out which started killing everyone around. Naruto was placed in danger, and Hinata (his future wife and Neji’s cousin) shielded him. Neji, in turn, moved to shield both Hinata and Naruto, which saw him fatally impaled.
With his last breath, he urged Naruto to be careful as he was the only hope of saving everyone. Naruto was broken, as he always respected Neji as a man of genius and honor. Ironically, as Neji passed, he felt a kinship with his deceased father, who was offered as a blood sacrifice to another rival clan in the past, done to avoid a major family war.
7. SHIKAKU & INOICHI
Legacy is a big part of this anime and a lot of stories revolve around relationships with parents. When the Ten Tails began decimating the heroes in the field, even Naruto struggled to cope. While this was happening, Shikaku (Shikamaru’s father) and Inoichi (Ino’s father) were at a base with a contingent of shinobi who dealt with strategy and telepathy to relay tactical info to the battlefield.
However, the Ten Tails began launching destructive spheres and one of them was targeting this specific base. Realizing there was nothing they could do, the older heads sent a final military strategy to Naruto’s army, and then consigned themselves to death. However, the parents had to say goodbye telepathically to their kids, which was a crushing moment that watered our eyes. It showed in the midst of war, love does indeed prevail. Choji’s father was the lone survivor from this Konoha trio.
Sakumo was another legendary ninja and was idolized by his son. When his teammates’ lives were endangered on a crucial mission though, he abandoned it in order to save them. This was frowned upon and drew the ire of Konoha. Sakumo was vilified for his actions later on, even by those he saved. Seen as dishonorable, he grew depressed, which caused his abilities to suffer. Eventually, he committed suicide.
This death was never shown on-screen, but the picture of him moving off into the darkness was clear. Suicide was a touchy issue for shinobi and it caused Kakashi to live his life strictly by the rules. However, just before Nagato resurrected him, Kakashi and his father met in the afterlife and he forgave Sakumo, telling him he was always proud as a son. This allowed his dad to finally move on from limbo to meet Kakashi’s mother in the afterlife.
When the Akatsuki attacked Konoha in full force, the village was very much exposed. Itachi and Sasuke were off battling each other while Naruto was away training to master the powerful art of sage mode. Pain, who was marshaling the Akatsuki, then launched the group’s full-blown assault on Naruto’s homeland to send a message that they were ready to end all shinobi.
Everyone tried to defend the village — from Hiruzen’s grandson, Konohamaru, to Kakashi to Tsunade, who was the new Hokage — but the Akatsuki was simply too powerful and relentless. They crushed most of the village, caring not for man, woman or child, and the chaos was very much apparent as all that was left was smoke, ash and rubble. It was one of the show’s biggest decimation scenes, which ended on the iconic image of a dead Kakashi looking to the heavens.
Naruto returned to Konoha just in time to save it from full destruction from Pain and the Akatsuki, using his sage mode. He was then drawn to the source of the Akatsuki’s power and it turned out to be Nagato, who descended from Naruto’s bloodline. Naruto fought him with words, though, trying to redeem him after Nagato spoke of how heroic he was, just like Naruto.
That was until war killed his friend, Yahiko, and left him and his other friend, Konan, alone in a cruel world. Madara and Obito would manipulate them to form the Akatsuki, powering up Nagato with the Rinnegan eyes. Naruto ended up convincing him to make amends and Nagato then used the Rinnegan to bring all of Konoha back to life, but in the process he died. This inspired not just Naruto, but Konan as well, as she saw that hope still existed.
In resurrecting Konoha, Nagato atoned for his sins. Seeing this, Konan abandoned the Akatsuki as she now wanted to follow this same path of light that Naruto had reignited. However, she was soon confronted by Tobi a.k.a. Obito, who wanted Nagato’s body so he could extract the Rinnegan for himself and for Madara’s enslavement of mankind in a dream-world. They fought as Konan warned him that she was returning to the life that she, Nagato and their dead friend, Yahiko, wanted as kids — one away from war.
However, Tobi knew her inside out and countered every move before grabbing her by the throat, putting her under a genjutsu (a dream spell) and ending her life. He had the location of Nagato by then and left, not caring what happened after to the Akatsuki. It was a riveting death as it indicated Naruto’s inspirational movement could easily be shut down.
2. MINATO & KUSHINA
The death of Naruto’s parents was one of the show’s most emotional and vulnerable chapters. When Kushina entered labor, Obito hypnotized and unleashed the Nine Tails on Konoha. He ended up fighting Minato, his former master, who sought to protect the village and his family with his life. The other shinobi tried hard to stop the rampaging beast while Minato battled Obito, who was masquerading as Madara because everyone thought Obito was dead.
The Uchiha’s plan was foiled though because Kushina joined Minato in the battlefield. They inevitably defeated him, but in the process, both endured a ritual that would cost them their very lives. In order to stop the Nine Tails, they had to implant it into their newborn baby, thus creating Naruto’s destiny. Sarutobi would now return as Hokage and oversee Naruto’s growth.
Jiraiya’s death was a major turning point in Naruto’s life as it converted the teen into a full-blown warrior and Konoha’s greatest protector. Jiraiya, who mentored Minato and crafted him as a Hokage, returned to Konoha to do the same for Minato’s son. He traveled a lot, but with Tsunade replacing Sarutobi as Hokage, Orochimaru on the loose and the Akatsuki plotting, he came to mentor Naruto while Kakashi nurtured Sasuke.
When Naruto went off to learn his sage powers, Jiraiya ended up fighting Pain while investigating the Akatsuki. In a gut-wrenching affair, fans discovered that Nagato, Konan and Yahiko were former students of Jiraiya, who then turned evil due to the everlasting wars around them. The legendary ninja ended up being impaled and died at the bottom of the ocean, but before dying, he still sent hints back to Konoha as to how to beat the Akatsuki.
Thoughts on our picks? Let us know in the comments which deaths in Naruto impacted you the most!