The Naruto franchise isn't afraid to kill off major characters, even if they're fan favorites. For example, Neji Hyuga was introduced as a prodigy and was the most talented Hyuga of his generation. Despite making few contributions to plot development, he was well-liked by many fans. The Fourth Great Shinobi War was fierce, with thousands of Shinobi from all the Great Nations sacrificing themselves to fight a common foe.
Neji was one of those Shinobi, and his death was certainly devastating, despite the fact that he was not a major character in the series. Furthermore, the plot appeared redundant, and fans questioned whether his death was even necessary. Looking back at the deaths of characters like Jiraya, Itachi, Minato, Hiruzen, and others, it is clear that every single death in Naruto had a significant role to play. Although Neji's death may appear unnecessary at first glance, creator Masashi Kishimoto explains why it was necessary.
Why Was Neji's Death Significant to the Naruto Franchise?
According to Kishimoto, Neji's death was necessary to bring Naruto and Hinata closer. Before his death, Naruto and Hinata's relationship was only hinted at but never specifically defined. Neji died while trying to protect both of them. At that moment, Hinata was ready to take an attack on Naruto's behalf when Neji intervened and saved them. Naruto then realized he had gone back on his promise to not let any more of his friends die.
Furthermore, Neji's final words made Naruto realize how much he meant to Hinata, to the point where she was willing to give her life for him. Naruto was on the verge of breaking, but Hinata intervened just in time. They held hands and were united in their determination to fight the long battle ahead of them. As a result, Neji's death serves as a catalyst, providing Naruto and Hinata with the final push they needed to declare their relationship. The scene was heartbreaking and meaningful all at the same time.
The Meaning of Neji Hyuga's Long-Awaited Liberation
Neji's death in Naruto signified his freedom from his lifelong servitude to the Hyuga clan. He had always hated the curse mark that eternally bound him to the clan's main house, portraying his destiny to live his life as its shield. Neji died protecting Hinata, a member of the main household, which depicts him fulfilling his destiny. However, there's even more meaning to his death.
Neji protected Hinata, even at the risk of his life, out of his own free will, rather than out of obligation. In some ways, his death mirrored that of his father, who had also given his life for the sake of others. The seal was undone as Neji took his final breath, and the caged bird flew away. This selfless act allowed him to shape his own destiny, free of interference from the clan's main house. Neji was even able to contradict the seal's main purpose in some ways.