The Naruto universe is morally straightforward. Its heroes are gallant and protect their nations well, while the villains are typically amoral monsters or embittered by the unfortunate events of their past. This makes it relatively clear who the story expects its audience to root for at any given moment.
However, a handful of characters are not so easy to read. Despite serving Konoha and the other four nations, their pasts and jutsu are so morally questionable that they toe the line between hero and villain. Through identifying these relentless antiheroes, it becomes easier to appreciate their best and most unscrupulous qualities.
10 Itachi's Motives Were Not Understood Until After Death
The Uchiha massacre was one of the most bloody and grisly moments of the entire series. As the man behind the slaughter, Itachi was blamed for butchering his kin even though the context for his motives was not given until later.
In actuality, he prevented an Uchiha coup that would have plunged the entire world into war. Subsequently, Itachi sacrificed his own clan so that many more could live. Sasuke only fully appreciated his brother's actions after they were explained to him by Obito. It made him feel lost, confused, and broken.
9 Shino Messed His Enemies Up Beyond Recognition
Out of the Konoha 11, Shino was easily the black sheep. His chakra eating insects may have been effective, though they were also horrifying against whoever he fought. Almost all of Shino's canon opponents have faced a gnarly defeat.
Zaku's arms exploded since insects prevented his chakra flow and forced it inward, while Kankuro collapsed in the forest as a writhing and screaming mess. Should Shino have had more screen time, he'd better illustrate the terrors that the Aburame clan are capable of.
8 Obito's Redemption Changed Everything
Obito is the definition of an antihero. Despite initially being manipulated into serving Madara, Naruto helped him see the light and join the right side of history. During Team Seven's final clash against Kaguya, Obito was a tremendous asset.
Not only did his Kamui allow them to stay on par with their dimension-hopping opponent, he also gave his life to save Naruto and Sasuke from Kaguya's bone spikes. Obito's selflessness was a fitting act of penance and helped to negate the grave harm that he caused to the shinobi world under his previous masters.
7 Kakashi Did What Was Necessary For The Leaf
As a former member of the Anbu Black Ops, Kakashi is familiar with the darkest aspects of the Leaf Village. Despite the corruption laden within its core, Kakashi vowed that he would do whatever it took to protect his people. For example, he accepted Obito's eye and was partially responsible for killing Rin.
Granted, she was the one who ultimately guided his hand through her chest, though she never would have been able to if Kakashi had not actively channeled his jutsu. Moreover, he has no issues with fighting dirty since he is prone to copy enemy moves.
6 Ibiki Was A Master Of Psychological Warfare
Ibiki was Konoha's resident inquisitor, which already casts a shadow over his reputation. He is so familiar with human psychology that he was even responsible for proctoring the Chunin Exams. His hope was to discourage as many people as possible to weed out unworthy potential shinobi.
What makes Ibiki a particularly fitting antihero is his torture chamber genjutsu. It inflicts excruciating pain against its targets and almost completely eradicates their ability to fight back. It only didn't work against Nagato since his reanimated bodies don't feel anything.
5 Anko Was Orochimaru's Former Student
In many ways, Anko's proclivities reflect those of Naruto villains. She is driven by revenge, uses snakes for weapons, and is cocky in her approach toward adversity. However, her objectives are for a much better reason.
As Orochimaru's former apprentice, she felt betrayed both by his departure from the Leaf as well as what he had personally done to her. Unfortunately, Anko was not able to progress enough to defeat Kabuto since she had limited knowledge of scientific or medical jutsu. It denied what could have been a satisfying vengeance arc.
4 Kankuro Was Gaara's Insidious Enforcer
When first debuting, Kankuro was a bully who intimidated Konohomaru and other members of the Konoha 11. Although he has since been rehabilitated, his methods of combat remain excessively brutal. Kankuro does not hesitate before executing his enemies.
During the battle against Sakon/Ukon, he trapped them in one puppet while using the other to butcher them alive. Blood ebbed through the wedges of his creations, signifying the Sound shinobi's grisly end. Kankuro's unapologetic willingness to kill makes him a superb antihero.
3 Gaara Found Humanity Through Naruto
Like Kankuro, Gaara was once an enemy of the Leaf. During Orochimaru's attack, he unleashed Shukaku on the entire village. Should Naruto not have been able to counter him with Gamabunta, there would have been unprecedented casualties.
Although Gaara has since been rehabilitated, he remains equally merciless toward his enemies. For example, he had no issues with permanently crippling Deidara during the villain's attack on the Sand Village. Additionally, Gaara also still uses the sand coffin and burial techniques, two jutsu that ensure his enemies' final moments are ones of unparalleled horror.
2 Tobirama Wanted To Protect His Village From The Uchiha
Even after Hashirama and Madara made peace, Tobirama did not trust the Uchiha clan. He felt as though they had too much hatred and animosity to honor their union. This was understandable when considering that Madara initially proposed Tobirama's death as reparations for Izuna.
When becoming Hokage, Tobirama made sure that his distrust of the Uchiha was known. Ironically, this made the Uchiha's betrayal a self-fulfilling prophecy since they were already uneasy with their Senju neighbors. Tobirama's controversial leadership remains one of the most hotly contested issues of the entire series.
1 Sasuke Has Many Crimes & Accomplishments
Given his many accomplishments and crimes, Sasuke is the series' most unpredictable character. On one hand, he defeated villains like Danzo and Orochimaru, which bettered the Leaf considerably. On the other, he sought to enslave the entire world at the end of the Forth Shinobi War.
To Sasuke's credit, his motives behind world domination was to guarantee peace between the Five Nations. He hoped that by uniting them in hatred, they would stop quarreling among themselves. Considering that his endgame was selfless, Sasuke can ultimately be considered an antihero rather than a flagrant villain.
NEXT: The 10 Coolest Taijutsu Specialists In Naruto, Ranked