Naruto is one of the most popular shonen anime of all time due to a loving protagonist, twisted and complicated villains, and heart-racing battles. Naruto distinguished itself by humanizing its characters, allowing viewers to establish long-lasting emotional bonds.
Many of the ninja characters that viewers identified with were so well-written that they felt like genuine individuals. And, like actual people, some of these characters were killed in battle, often by self-sacrifice. Fans were deeply moved by the deaths of these ninjas, which were both heroic and heartbreaking.
Updated on May 9th, 2023: Naruto is still one of the most popular shonen anime series in history. With the hit series now available on streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchroll, fans old and new are consuming as much as they can. Even though most fans know what's coming, the deaths of major characters are nevertheless devastating.
14 Shikaku Nara & Inoichi Yamanaka
Shikamaru Nara and Ino Yamanaka's fathers, Shikaku and Inoichi, played a significant role in the Fourth Great Ninja War. Shikaku was a brilliant tactician trusted to lead the Allied Shinobi Forces. As the Yamanaka clan's head, Inoichi's telepathic techniques were a great asset to mass communication.
Shikaku and Inoichi combined their abilities, posing such a threat that Madara changed his tactics. He was forced to act quickly, believing their loss would hugely affect the ninja forces. Aware that their defeat was moments away, Shikaku and Inoichi delivered touching messages to their children, advising them on how to live fully and reminding them of how loved they are.
13 Rin Nohara
Seeing Rin Nohara die by Kakashi's hand triggers Obito's descent into despair. Despite her limited screentime, she's revealed to have more of an impact on both her teammates than it seemed. Rin was a cheerful, level-headed medical ninja that Obito had feelings for.
She vows to watch over Obito until he grows stronger, but he "dies" before she can fulfill her promise. His reunion with Rin is unpleasant and devastating, as he's forced to watch Kakashi kill her for what seems to be no reason. He realizes much later that Rin was forced to become the Three-Tails Jinchuriki. Rather than be used as a tool to harm her village, Rin bravely steps in front of Kakashi's Chidori forcing him to kill her.
A Sand Village elder, Chiyo was understandably reluctant to help Team 7 upon their arrival. Chiyo had a complicated history with the Hidden Leaf Village as Kakashi's father, the White Fang, killed her son. However, when the Akatsuki kidnaps Gaara, the current Kazekage, Chiyo joins Team 7. Chiyo had a personal stake in this battle – her grandson Sasori joined the Akatsuki, and she wanted to end the suffering he caused.
Teaming up with Sakura, Chiyo was forced to end Sasori's life after coming face to face with what she helped create. To atone for that mistake, she volunteered to sacrifice her life to save Gaara. Collaborating with Naruto and his teammates opened her eyes to change, and she now believed she could pass her legacy on to the next generation.
Gaara's character evolves significantly, from a savage killer to an honorable and capable Kazekage. Fans were horrified by Gaara's capture, Tailed Beast extraction, and death at the hands of the Akatsuki.
The Kazekage died protecting the Sand Village from the terrorist bomber, Deidara. Seeing this was especially emotional since Gaara had just turned over a new leaf. After meeting and fighting with Naruto, he became a more caring individual who could trust others. To see him die so early on had a profound impact on many Naruto fans.
10 Hiruzen Sarutobi
The third Hokage and the Leaf Village's leader, Hiruzen Sarutobi was a wise and caring elder with legendary power. Hiruzen's role was complex, and he often had to make tough decisions to put the village's needs before anything else. When Orochimaru launched his attack on the Leaf Village, Hiruzen confronted the legendary Sannin.
He hesitated to fight his former student but did what he could to ensure Konha's safety. Using the Reaper Death Seal to seal Orochimaru's arms, Hiruzen sacrificed his life to atone for letting Orochimaru go years prior. Unfortunately, the sealing was undone later in the series, but it was enough to drive Orochimaru away for a time.
9 Asuma Sarutobi
Asuma Sarutobi was a brilliant shinobi who suffered from a terrible cigarette addiction. Throughout the anime, he is seen encouraging and advising his students, Shikamaru Nara, Choji Akimichi, and Ino Yamanaka. Despite the difficulties of his position, Asuma is able to bring out the best in his students. He also assists Naruto in understanding his wind change and is quick to aid people without hesitation.
Despite his amazing Jonin skills, Asuma is brutally slain by Akatsuki member Hidan, who enjoys immortality. He dies in Shikamaru's arms after leaving an encrypted message about safeguarding the "king." Shikamaru pauses to consider his words before carrying out his vengeance. He realizes what Asuma represents and continues his legacy as his daughter's tutor.
8 Kakashi Hatake
Many admirers were moved to tears by the death of Kakashi Hatake. Despite being outnumbered, the Jonin prodigy fought heroically against Pain to protect the hamlet. Kakashi was keen to share what he had discovered regarding Pain's talent. He sacrificed his life for this purpose, instructing Choji to convey the knowledge to Tsunade with his dying breath.
Through this tragedy, fans were fortunate to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event. Kakashi was reunited with his father in the afterlife and obtained much-needed closure. When Naruto arrived, he discovered he couldn't sense Kakashi's chakra and asked Tsunade if he was on a mission. Her silence snuffed out his last hope and verified Kakashi's death. Fortunately, Kakashi was reborn after Naruto's battle with Pain, thanks to Nagato's Rinnegan Rebirth jutsu.
7 Pa Toad
Fukasaku, commonly known as Pa Toad, become fond of Naruto very quickly. Naruto reminded Pa Toad of Jiraiya. After Jiraiya's death, Pa Toad asserted that he believed Naruto was the only one capable of avenging him and soon invited him to train on Mount Myoboku. Though Naruto's training was accelerated, Naruto and Pa Toad bonded. Naruto became acquainted with The Two Great Sage Toads after meeting Pa's wife Shima, or Ma Toad – he spent his downtime in their home.
Once Naruto mastered Sage Mode and entered the battlefield during Pain's Assault, Pa provided Naruto with support and backup. As a result, Pain labeled Pa Toad a "noisy frog" and murdered him. Fans were heartbroken as they watched Ma Toad call out to her husband and saw Naruto desperately try to save him. Luckily, Pa is also resuscitated when Pain has a change of heart.
6 Neji Hyuga
After meeting and battling Naruto, Neji Hyuga also went through impressive character growth. Like Gaara, he started off as an unlikeable minor antagonist. Arrogant but tactful, Neji resented being a member of the Hyuga clan's sacrificial branch family, leading to his bitter feelings towards his younger cousin, Hinata. During the Chunin Exams he learned from Naruto that he could change his destiny.
Thanks to this revelation, Neji promised to self-reflect, heal from his trauma, and work hard to become stronger and protect his loved ones. Neji became the strongest member of the Hyuga Clan on his own merits and died protecting Hinata and Naruto, the two people who taught him so much.
5 Itachi Uchiha
Itachi Uchiha has arguably the saddest storyline in Naruto. Itachi was initially depicted as a cold, heartless, and powerful warrior who massacred his entire clan simply because he could. He then left his baby brother alive and made him relive their clan's deaths via genjutsu. Fans anxiously awaited Sasuke's inevitable battle against his brother for years, and they were excited to see Sasuke take his revenge.
Their battle didn't disappoint. After an epic battle that showcased some of the Uchiha Clan's strongest abilities, Itachi died. However, Sasuke soon learned he didn't know his brother at all. In one of the biggest plot twists of the series, Sasuke discovered that Itachi killed his clan to protect Konoha from the coup they were planning. He was following the Hokage's orders and only agreed on one condition, that he let his little brother live. This brilliant revelation shocked fans and made what was intially a satisfying death, a tragedy.
4 Obito Uchiha
Whether he's a twisted villain or a manipulated antihero, Naruto fans still struggle to characterize Obito Uchiha. He starts off as an ambitious knucklehead who allows his pain to mold him into a murderous monster. However, by the end of the Fourth Great Ninja War, Obito wins viewers over with a final act of self-sacrifice.
As Madara's pawn, the former Leaf Village ninja commits numerous crimes, killing without hesitation. Naruto's diplomacy inspires him to seek redemption, and he eventually surrenders to the Allied Shinobi Forces after saving Kakashi's life. Obito is reunited with Rin after an emotional parting with Kakashi, and finds calm for the first time in a long time. Obitio's first "death" was heartbreaking on its own, and his second had supporters in tears yet again.
3 Kushina Uzumaki And Minato Namikaze's
Kushina Uzumaki and Minato Namikaze would've been the best parents had they survived the Nine Tails' attack. They were powerful, well-loved ninjas when they were alive, passing their extraordinary abilities to their son. The two met in the Ninja Academy — Kushina, a new student from another village, and Minato, a Leaf Village native. Kushina hailed from the famed Uzumaki clan but was teased for her temper and bright, red hair.
Minato was the only person who treated her kindly, which made them fall in love. Unfortunately, Naruto never met his parents, as they sacrificed themselves to protect him. But they made sure to leave some sweet parting words before their deaths. They even sealed parts of their consciousness into Naruto's mind if the Nine Tails' transformation progressed too far, which allowed Naruto to meet his parents later on.
2 Zabuza And Haku
Zabuza Momochi and Haku were the first antagonists to appear in Naruto, and they certainly set the standard for future villains. The ninja pair was talented but ruthless and possessed a level of complexity that made them compelling to watch.
Raised by the Hidden Mist Village's murderous battle practices, Zabuza and Haku rarely explored the trauma-laced bond they built. Instead, they worked tirelessly to eliminate any enemy in their path, only seeing the other as a tool for survival. However, after meeting Team 7, they realized there was more to life than spilling blood. Zabuza learned to appreciate the one closest to him in his final moments.
Jiraiya was a world-renowned novelist, Legendary Sannin, and Toad Sage who was adored throughout the ninja world. Naruto's most influential mentor was the Sannin. He acted as a father figure to Naruto, guiding him through his difficult existence and making him stronger. Jiraiya has a selfless side, raising three orphans, keeping Konoha safe from the shadows, and training Naruto. After Minato revealed that Naruto was named after one of the characters in his novel, he affectionately referred to himself as Naruto's godfather.
Jiraya died battling Pain but successfully acquired the information he needed for his eventual defeat. In his dying moments, Jiraiya reflected on his life, believing he contributed little to the world before putting his faith in Naruto, "the chosen one." The ninja world wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Jiraiya the Gallant's sacrifice.
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