For many fans of Japanese animation and narrative art forms, the words anime and Naruto are virtually interchangeable as its influence has been felt all around the world. With a manga series starting in 1999 and a television show starting in 2002, Naruto boasts two different comic lines, three different shows, and ten movies. And that's not counting the spin-off manga and show based on the hugely popular series. Over the course of 18 years, Naruto has followed the growth of Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja from the Village Hidden in the Leaves who starts as a mischievous pariah and develops into the village hero and leader.
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His never-give-up attitude and dedication to his ninja way has helped him overcome any obstacle and endeared him to readers and viewers. Overall, Naruto seems like the traditional anime hero and Naruto is such a classic manga that it's practically become generic. However, even such an iconic anime is capable of shocking and surprising its audience with well-placed twists. And in this bar-setting series, rife with story progression and character development, the most shocking moments are also the most memorable and important. With that in mind, here are the top 15 most shocking moments Naruto gave its viewers.
Warning: Spoilers for Nautro ahead
15 ITACHI'S MANGEKYO SHARINGAN
For years, Itachi Uchiha was considered one of the most evil and powerful shinobi in Naruto's world. A member of the mysterious Akatsuki organization, Itachi first appeared in chapter #139 and episode #80 as he invaded the Hidden Leaf with his partner. Together, they beat down several prominent high-ranking ninja as they searched for Naruto. Along the way, Itachi ran into his little brother and only surviving family, Sasuke.
Sasuke hoped to fulfill his vow of vengeance against his genocidal sibling, but was stopped when Itachi revealed his greatest power: a high-level version of their clan's kekkei genkai called the Mangekyo Sharingan. Itachi used his power to temporarily cripple Sasuke and challenged him to attain his own Mangekyo. The Sharingan was already a powerful macguffin, so to see it leveled up was shocking development. Also, the instantly classic design of the Mangekyo inspired enough fan art to fill a museum.
14 NARUTO'S NINE-TAIL CLOAK
The series began with the reveal that Naruto was actually the vessel for the demonic Nine-Tailed Fox, later named Kurama. Viewers had seen Naruto harness the Nine-Tails's power and even met the spirit in Naruto's mind, but it was made clear that Naruto could actually unleash the giant fox if he ever lost control.
In this moment during his epic fight with Sasuke in the Valley of the End, Naruto comes so close to losing his friend that he dug deep and gave over to the demon inside him. His body changed, giving him sharp nails and pronounced canines. Most notable was the thick layer of red chakra that surrounded him and took on the outline of the fox. It gave him incredible powers never before seen by the audience and made the battle all the more memorable.
13 THE THIRD HOKAGE SUMMONS THE REAPER
In the first part of the Naruto series, the elderly Third Hokage was a lovable grandfather figure who kept the peace in the village and provided wisdom for all who would listen. When the village was attacked by his former student and central antagonist Orochimaru, Lord Hokage showed that he was far more than a frail old man. He put on an absolute barnstormer of a fight with Orochimaru that involved him going hand-to-hand with his predecessors, summoning the mythical Monkey King to his aid, and ending the battle with the ultimate forbidden technique.
A weary Third Hokage uses the Reaper Death Seal to summon the Shinigami, the literal spirit of death, to eat the souls of himself and his enemy. Though he was unsuccessful in ending Orochimaru, the reveal of this incredibly powerful jutsu was completely out of the blue and made the fight all the more amazing.
12 GAARA BECOMES KAZEKAGE
With his gravely monotone and tragic backstory, Gaara is one of the most beloved characters in Naruto. In the first series, it is shown that he shares Naruto's fate as an outsider in his village, but Naruto who was able to make friends who supported him. Gaara was cursed to walk alone and in despair. After losing to Naruto, Gaara begins to turn over a new leaf, discovering the benefits of friends and family. He is next seen assisting in the mission to retrieve Sasuke, a kinder, gentler soul.
He vanishes for a time until Naruto returns from a three-year training journey at the start of the second series, Shippuden, when Naruto learns that his old enemy turned friend has become Kazekage, the leader of the Village Hidden in the Sand. The sudden reveal that a sullen child had transformed into a noble warrior was pleasingly shocking for the audience.
11 MIGHT GUY'S FULL POWER
Might Guy and Rock Lee were always surprisingly powerful despite their roles as comedic characters, but the unveiling of Might Guy's final form in his fight against series antagonist Madara was truly a sight to behold. Both characters, clearly modeled after Bruce Lee, are incapable of using the powerful ninjutsu that gives most of the other characters their strengths and instead relies on a mastery of martial arts, immense physical strength, and the Eight Inner Gates which allow them to increase their power exponentially at the cost of bodily harm.
To fight the god-like Madara, Guy unleashes the power of all eight gates and becomes a raging beast who bombards Madara with a flurry of insane attacks. To see a man most known for his over-the-top personality make a ninja deity sweat was shocking to say the least.
10 DANZO HAS THE SHARINGAN
Danzo was one of the most despicable characters in Naruto. A political warmonger, he used his wiles and power to develop his own cultist military division, start multiple international conflicts, and essentially bullied his way into becoming Hokage. However, when he was attacked on the way to a military summit, it was revealed that part of Danzo's persuasive powers was due to the Sharingan eye he had stolen. Later when he was accosted by Sasuke, he was forced to use more Sharingans that he'd implanted into his right arm.
These gave him access to numerous powerful techniques, including the mind control power Kotoamatsukami and the realty-warping Izanagi. Given the importance and rarity of the occular jutsu, to see one man harness the power of a half-dozen of them was a complete surprise. Fortunately, Sasuke managed to end Danzo before he could continue to abuse his stolen powers.
9 OROCHIMARU RESURRECTS THE HOKAGES
The central antagonist of the first series, Orochimaru was the grinning, slimy, snake sage who's unnatural power made him virtually immortal. A key demonstration of his prowess came in his fight with the Third Hokage when he first showed audiences the Reanimation technique which allowed him to summon and control dead souls. In this instance, he resurrected the souls of the previous Hokages, legendary heroes in their own right, to battle their successor.
It was shocking and amazing to see Orochimaru use necromancy, but it was even more surprising when he did it again in the second series. This time, he used a ritual to force the Shinigami to carve open its own stomach, freeing the souls sealed within by the Third Hokage. Both times were impressive and shocking displays of just why Orochimaru was terrifying.
8 NARUTO'S PARENTS
A large part of Naruto's personality was born of his childhood being lonely without his parents. Though many were able to guess that Naruto's father was the legendary Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikazi, just based on their physical resemblance, nobody could have predicted that the two would meet in Naruto's mind. Minato had prudently left his chakra in the seal keeping the Nine-Tails contained in Naruto. When Naruto attempted to break the seal, he was able to meet his father.
Later when he attempted to control the Nine-Tails's power, he was able to meet his mother, Kushina, who had also been Kurama's vessel. Both times, viewers were happily surprised to meet Naruto's family and see just what he'd inherited from them, namely an immense chakra reserve, his determined personality, and a few unique verbal tics.
7 OROCHIMARU TURNS FACE
It seemed impossible for a disgusting character like Orochimaru to be considered a good guy, but Naruto found a way. After his arrogance, greed, and hubris led to his death at the hands of Sasuke, Orochimaru was reborn from one of his corrupting Curse Mark Seals. In his new body and consciousness, Orochimaru was more curious than ambitious and even aided Sasuke in finding clarity of purpose.
He even followed Sasuke and his team into battle against Obito, saving the lives of the fallen Kages along the way. After the war, he became a legitimate scientist and leader of the Village Hidden in the Sound, solidifying his good alignment. To long-time fans who knew Orochimaru best as a scheming villain, it was incredibly shocking to watch his transformation into a hero.
6 KABUTO IS A TRAITOR
Naruto and his team first met Kabuto in the Chunin Exams when the older shinobi helped Naruto complete the second test. He seemed like a straightforward Leaf ninja, a healer and strategist who could serve as a mentor to the still naive Naruto. Unfortunately, it was revealed during Orochimaru's attack on the Hidden Leaf that Kabuto was not only a spy, but the snake sage's right hand man. The sudden change of loyalty from one who seemed so kind and gentle was only accentuated over the years as more and more of his backstory was revealed.
Turns out his services had openly jumped back and forth between numerous parties over the course of his life, each one just as unexpected and jarring as the last. It makes sense that such an experienced double agent would be able to fool Naruto and the audience, but it doesn't make it any less shocking.
5 TOBI IS OBITO
Tobi was one of the enigmatic characters in Naruto from his initial appearances in chapter #239 and episode #32 of Shippuden. As a masked wisecracker, he seemed drastically out of place in the dark Akatsuki, but his ability to walk through objects made him useful. However, it was slowly revealed that not only was Tobi a legitimate threat to his enemies, but he was actually the mastermind behind the Akatsuki, and a co-architect of the war that the entire series culminates in.
Tobi didn't make his identity any less ambiguous when he claimed to be Madara Uchiha, a legendary rogue shinobi. He even had a Sharingan eye to sell the deception. Finally, he was unmasked and revealed to be Obito, Kakashi's former teammate who'd long been assumed dead. A very subtle build-up and few hints as to Tobi's true identity made this moment a complete shock for the audience.
4 NARUTO AND SASUKE MEET THE SAGE OF THE SIX PATHS
Throughout the series, characters would occasionally name-drop the Sage of the Six Paths, the long-dead progenitor of all ninja and the chakra that gives them their powers. He's used as a basis for the most powerful characters, with the major threats Madara, Pain, and Obito all laying claim to a portion of his strength. During the ultimate battle of the Fourth Great Ninja War, The Sage meets with Naruto and Sasuke inside their own minds in their moment of need.
The sudden appearance of the mythic figure would have been shocking enough, but he reveals that Naruto and Sasuke are the karmic reincarnations of his sons, doomed to fight forever. When both of them assure him they will find a way to make peace, he grants them a portion of his power, making them a match for the demigod Madara. None of this was expected and completely blew fans' minds.
3 PAIN DESTROYS THE HIDDEN LEAF
The aptly-named Pain was one of the most serious threats in Naruto. As the apparent leader of the Akatsuki, he was actually a disabled ninja who could remote-control six different bodies, each with immense powers granted by the Rinnegan, the ultimate doujutsu. In an attempt to draw Naruto out of hiding, Pain openly attacked his home, the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Up against an entire army of enemy ninja, each of Pain's bodies proved to be more than a match, killing dozens of prominent characters and heroes.
As if that weren't shocking enough, Pain decides that if he can't find Naruto, he'll simply destroy everything he loves. Using a technique called 'Almighty Push,' Pain hits the village with enough force to completely wipe it off the map. To see one of the landmark geographical locations be demolished was not only shocking, it was heartbreaking.
The reveal of Kaguya literally came out of nowhere. In a single moment, specifically chapter #679 and Shippuden episode #458, everything Naruto had been building too was reversed. His ultimate opponent was no longer a series of vengeful and ambitious ninjas of increasing strength and devotion, it was now a dimension-hopping alien rabbit demon goddess and the incorporeal manifestation of her dark will. Yes, really.
Though she had been mentioned before by the Sage of the Six Paths, nobody suspected that she not only would make an appearance but would be true antagonist of the entire series. There was no build-up, no clues or hints, she just appeared suddenly when Madara grew too powerful for his own good. This moment still has fans scratching their heads in surprise.
1 THE UCHIHA CONSPIRACY
One of the core parts of Naruto was the Uchiha genocide, an event where Itachi Uchiha murdered his entire clan and family, sparing only his younger brother. This gives Sasuke his drive as an avenger to become stronger at all costs. However, when he finally gets his vengeance and kills Itachi, Obito reveals that everything both he and the audience has been told was a lie.
Turns out the Uchiha were planning a violent coup against the Hidden Leaf and Itachi chose to eliminate them to prevent a civil war. Learning that his brother was made a pariah and that he was murdered under false pretenses, Sasuke turns his anger against the Leaf and vows to destroy it. But the abrupt affirmation that Itachi had been a hero all along was the most delightful and welcome surprise Naruto fans received in the entire series.
Did we forget any other shocking Naruto moments? Let us know in the comments!