Naruto is undoubtedly one of the best manga and anime franchises ever. It told the story of Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke under the tutelage of Kakashi in the village of Konoha in a world where several ninja villages were either allies or at war with each other. We saw politics tie into humor to quickly paint a story that resonated for fans who wanted to find their place in a world torn apart by war and terrorism. It ran deep as writer Masashi Kishimoto turned child warriors into full-fledged ninjas or shinobi (especially in the Shippuden era).
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Kishimoto smartly mapped out the motivation and drive of so many characters as death started touching home more and more, leading to the Great Ninja War against the goddess Kaguya. Amid all of this, Naruto and Sasuke's rivalry and brotherhood as orphans took centerstage. Both harnessed powers within that made them the strongest shinobi alive, and most importantly, they were the chosen ones who were burdened with the responsibility of saving the world. That said, while fans can admit Kishimoto handled character development well, there are a few times he botched the issue. CBR looks at 15 of the very worst!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the Naruto series!
Sakura was one of Naruto's closest allies and in fact, she was the first girl he ever fell in love with. However, as Naruto and Sasuke developed their powers and rivalry, she managed to remain relatively underwhelming. She wasn't a powerhouse, and in all fairness, Naruto and Sasuke's lineage had a lot to do with their abilities. Despite that, Sakura was very annoying and tagged along on missions, fawning over Sasuke or playing the damsel in distress.
Kishimoto didn't write his female characters well and Sakura bore the brunt of this. Later on, she would level up thanks to Tsunade (one of the legendary Sannin ninjas) who was the new village leader a.k.a. the Hokage. But in big fights such as the ones against the traitorous Obito and Kaguya, Sakura proved to be dead weight. Even her abilities to manipulate the shinobis' chakra and heal them didn't make her appealing.
Kaguya's backstory showed that she was mother of all shinobi. She was an alien that landed on Earth and then helped spread the philosophy of chakra via her sons, Hagoromo and Hamura. She was known as "The Rabbit Goddess" but quickly turned against mankind for their ways. Her sons thought they eliminated her but she returned only for Naruto and Sasuke to stop her once more.
What makes her character so terrible is how badly she was depicted as a vengeful god. She didn't listen to her sons early on and then Kishimoto made quite a stretch by having her return through Black Zetsu (a creature that embodied her will). Zetsu would manipulate ninja wars via Obito and his master Madara for centuries, which made her schemes so far-fetched. Kishimoto made her one of the most forced and unnecessary villains in the entire mythos.
13 KILLER B
Killer B was a revered ninja from Kumogakure (the Lightning Village) who endured a tough upbringing just like Naruto. He had a Tailed Beast (Gyuki) embedded in him similar to Naruto's one, Kurama. However, B was a rapper as well and he injected humor when it was absolutely not needed. He went from annoying to cringeworthy, especially during the Great Ninja War, where you couldn't take him seriously at all.
We understand that he had to be differentiated from his leader, the Raikage known as A, but Kishimoto took him to the point where he was unbearable. Even Gyuki couldn't stand him at times. When he and Naruto got together, the silliness went into overdrive. Anime is meant to be aloof at times but this was overdoing it. B should have been more assertive and warrior-like, as seen with Darui, who succeeded A as the current Raikage.
Sai was a pretty cool character at first, introduced as a spy into Konoha to monitor the young shinobi. The teenager was sent in by Danzo, a skilled veteran ninja who wanted to become Hokage and lead Konoha into war against the other villages. However, Sai quickly flipped sides and turned on Danzo, but we're yet to see what triggered the change.
Sure, later on he grew inspired by Naruto but prior to this, he was creepy and never really seemed like someone who was infiltrating. He didn't fit in and also, he didn't even seem to have a connection with Danzo which made Sai feel like a throwaway character Kishimoto quickly had to wrap and align with a side. His powers of making his sketches come to life were badass but other than that, Sai was one of Naruto's flattest notes.
Rin was another terribly disappointing character with so much potential that wasn't maximized. What made things so frustrating was how she was used as a crutch and killed off to turn Obito Uchiha into a villain. Obito, Rin and Kakashi were mentored by Naruto's father, Minato, but they lost Obito in battle. He returned only to see Rin impale herself on Kakashi's lightning blade, which sent Obito on a murderous rampage for decades.
She was the girl he loved but she was another Sakura -- a peripheral character who didn't do much. This was the one time Kishimoto made her a true warrior but sadly, it was a ruse where she was implanted with the Three Tails to be sent back to Konoha as a ticking time bomb. There was no substance to her and making her a weapon who killed herself was distasteful.
10 THE THIRD HOKAGE
Hiruzen Sarutobi was the Third Hokage and under his watch, a lot of bad things happened to Konoha. He wasn't very effective because he couldn't sense Danzo's uprising and was very reactive when the Uchiha Clan plotted to wipe out everyone else. He kept them as outsiders which played a role in how much Sasuke hated the village after his clan was terminated. What sucked even more was how he mishandled Naruto's upbringing, knowing he housed the Nine Tails.
Hiruzen was a pacifist but he should have been so much more aggressive. It trailed right back to him being the mentor to the Sannin: Jiraiya, Tsunade and Orochimaru. He spotted signs of evil in the latter and when the time came to act, he hesitated. As a result, a lot of lives would be lost later on -- which is the case with most situations Hiruzen tends to.
When Sasuke turned into a villain, he began training with the Akatsuki to go back home and raze Konoha. He eventually left and formed his own unit, Taka, which Karin was part of. However, she was nothing more than a fangirl who lusted after him. There was no substance or depth to her and Kishimoto painted her as an objectifying crazy lady, which sucked because she belonged to the esteemed Uzumaki bloodline that ran in Naruto's mother.
Karin was used to lash out at her teammates when they called her out for being a fangirl and later on, Kishimoto used her in a crazy paternity arc where Sasuke's daughter, Sarada, didn't know if Karin or Sakura was her mother. Sasuke even left Karin for dead in the past, which made it disgusting how she accepted the emotional abuse, insults and trauma he constantly inflicted.
Kabuto leaves such a bad taste because of how hard Kishimoto tried to force him down fans' throats as a genius mastermind. He had no real skill in the field (apart from a couple lucky skirmishes) but shaping him as a mad scientist was ludicrous. Kishimoto also had him working with Orochimaru, then branching off on his own, then turning from a human into a snake-like creature, compounding that he had no clue what the essence of this villain was.
He was so inconsistent, switching obsessions from Naruto to Sasuke, on a whim. The sad thing is that he led to so much bloodshed when he brought Madara back to life ahead of Obito's schedule, which turned out to be a major play in the Great Ninja War. Inadvertently, he went from being a lackey to a major despot. Still, he felt so mundane and wasn't intimidating at all.
Konan was a member of the Akatsuki being manipulated by Obito and Madara over the years. She went from wanting to save the world with her comrades, Nagato and Yahiko, to a terrorist that wasn't thinking for herself. This young trio was mentored by another Sannin, Jiraiya, but when Yahiko died, the remaining two turned evil and formed the Akatsuki to unwittingly carry out Kaguya's vengeance.
When they invaded Konoha, Naruto stopped them and convinced Nagato (who also belonged to his mother's bloodline) to stop his ways. Konan stood by, paid close attention and when Nagato died, she went on a redemptive route against Obito. Kishimoto never ever gave her proper motivation, apart from listening to what men said to do. It was further condescending to see Obito kill her and discard her like garbage. She was a woman of principle and this only came out in her dying moments.
Shisui Uchiha is one of Kishimoto's most overrated characters. In the franchise, many consider him as right up there with Itachi (Sasuke's legendary brother), but their brotherhood, while respected, is so flawed. Shisui discovered the Uchiha's coup and was then attacked by Danzo. He fled and offered advice (including the power of his eye) to Itachi before committing suicide. How stupid was that though? Why not team up with Itachi to make things right instead of burdening him?
Shisui was a coward, not because he killed himself, but because he left the dishonor of the Uchiha on the shoulders of Itachi and Sasuke. He flopped against Danzo as well, and his actions left more pressure on Hiruzen, who entrusted Shisui with helping him restore order to Konoha. Hiruzen was willing to broker peace but Shisui's suicide left him an option short and gave Itachi too much to do.
Tsunade took over as Hokage after Hiruzen died when Orochimaru launched a terrorist attack. She was the Fifth Hokage (as Minato was the Fourth) but we never saw what really qualified her to assume the position. Jiraiya was a skilled warrior, as was Kakashi, and with almost all other contenders we understood why they would be considered. Tsunade, though, didn't fit the bill.
All we know is that she endured a tragic past and that she was the granddaughter of Hashirama (the godlike shinobi who founded Konoha), but at no point did she ever show the chops to lead a village. In fact, she was rude, a gambling addict and her incompetence showed when she sent Jiraiya on a mission that cost him his life. She was never able to cope with Konoha's enemies, including the invading Akatsuki. When Naruto chastised her poor leadership, he echoed all our sentiments.
Kakashi is one of the franchise's most beloved ninjas but when you look at how fractured Naruto and Sasuke got, and the damage they caused, he has a lot to account for. He was charged with training them and he didn't help mend their rivalry, which led to a hateful Sasuke. Jiraiya eventually took Naruto under his wing but all Kakashi did with Sasuke was further isolate him from Konoha.
Sasuke was just as brooding as Kakashi was as a kid, as both endured messed up childhoods filled with bloodshed, so why wasn't Kakashi able to get through to him? If you look at how Kakashi treated Obito in training and then how uncertain he was as the Sixth Hokage when danger came to Konoha, you can't help but feel he was overrated. He was highly skilled but the cool factor shouldn't be an excuse. On further reflection, Kakashi sucked.
Orochimaru is a terrible character that also felt like wasted potential. He was another villain that Kishimoto lost pace with quickly, going from scary terrorist ninja to a mad geneticist to someone who took on so many forms that you didn't know what he or she was about. Orochimaru, a Konoha traitor, was also really creepy in how he stalked young ninjas, and it's even more crazy how suddenly he went from being with the Akatsuki to wanting Sasuke's body to experiment with.
Worst of all, he felt out of place when Madara and Obito started the Great Ninja War. After all that hype, Orochimaru just turned out to be someone Kishimoto offered redemption without any reason. The writer flipped him as a hero randomly and stepped on everything we thought the despot was meant to be.
2 THE SAGE OF THE SIX PATHS
Hagoromo, a.k.a. The Sage of the Six Paths, really refined what it meant to be a shinobi and spread the philosophy across the world. However, his two sons, Ashura and Indra, saw their descendants, the Senjus and the Uchihas respectively, engage in a blood feud for life. Their souls would be passed down, first to Hashirama and Madara, then to Naruto and Sasuke, but the Sage never really left protective measures in case his teachings got out of hand.
He was the keeper of all the Tailed Beasts and carelessly let them run wild to become corrupted and weaponized. Not to mention, he randomly showed up to power up Sasuke and Naruto to fight his mother, Kaguya. He then left when Sasuke turned on Naruto, and basically said, it's up to fate. Hagoromo was a careless parent and proved to be nothing more than a deus ex machina in the end.
Now don't get us wrong, we know Sasuke is a major player in the Naruto series. He's basically the reincarnation of Indra, as Naruto is to Ashura, but the way he was written really felt soulless. From being a spoiled brat to wanting to kill his friends to test himself... it was just a disastrous portrayal. He constantly tried to kill people from Konoha yet Naruto kept having faith in him, even when he joined the Akatsuki.
What made things worse was that after he and Naruto defeated the likes of Madara and Kaguya, Sasuke tried to kill Naruto yet again just to be the most powerful person alive. He even enslaved the Tailed Beasts after they helped the duo. Kishimoto simply kept using Sasuke for shock value instead of making him relatable like he did with Naruto. It was all style and no substance.
Let us know in the comments which were the worst characters in Naruto for you!