To be perfectly honest, there were only about two female villains/antagonists in the whole series, Tayuya and Kaguya. There is so much to say about Kaguya, but it’s mostly about things surrounding her.
Anyway, this is about the males and there were quite of bit who were antagonists. The six I list here are pretty much the only ones I think were hurt most story-wise.
From all of the male antagonists, I firmly believe that Nagato received the worst treatment. Even though I personally never liked Nagato, I can recognize that much.
First seen in Jiraiya’s flashbacks, Nagato was a somewhat timid, yet very powerful boy. He mysteriously wielded the Rinnegan, the eyes said to belong only to the Sage of the Six Paths previously.
When we finally saw the adult version of Nagato, he had a stark, gaunt appearance. Yet he had enough chakra to manipulate six corpses and use various forms of ninjutsu in the process of razing Konahagakure. That was the impressive part, but Nagato’s unmasking ultimately led to his downfall.
As more was known about the Ame Ophans (Nagato,Yahiko, and Konan), Madara, and Obito, the weaker Nagato looked. He was already somewhat undercut as a leader when it was revealed that the previously goofy “Tobi” was really pulling the strings behind Pain and Konan. (In the final flashback with the Ame Orphans, we saw how easily Nagato was being swayed by Obito’s words and how out of the loop the kids were.)
The next strike against Nagato was his outlook on the world. Now, I completely understand his anger against the Five Great Villages, but it was clear that he took most if not all of his outlook and speech cues from a younger Yahiko and twisted them, from the references to being a “god” of the world they lived in, to using pain and suffering to effect change.
The third strike against Nagato was how he was easily convinced by Naruto’s speech despite the latter having no real answer to the questions the former posed. It was also in sharp contrast that Nagato and Konan were willing to kill Jiraiya, the sensei who taught them ninjutsu and basically protected them for three years, without a second thought only to turn around and follow a teen they had just met. And the two were willing to kill that teen in order to advance their plans for world peace.
Sadly, it didn’t end there. It was also revealed that Nagato’s eyes weren’t even his. They were somehow given to him by Madara so that Nagato would one day be used by Madara. How that happened and how Nagato was chosen, we may never know.
I would mention Obito violating Nagato’s grave, but Edo Tensei says hello. Speaking of Edo Tensei, that was the final nail in the coffin for Nagato’s character. After having a few quick moments to show off and scare Naruto and Killer Bee, he was embarrass and dispatched with more swiftness by Itachi, who used the Sword of Totsuka to seal Nagato’s soul away.
Hidan & Kakuzu
I’ll be honest here: I never held any sympathy for Hidan’s fate. Not only did he kill Asuma, but he killed in the name of his religion, Jashin, which also made him an immortal. He took a special joy in killing and cursed too much. Still, I don’t like how this character was thrown away and barely developed. For a member of the menacing organization of Akatsuki, he should have lasted a little longer in the story, he should have shown more jutsu, and his backstory should have been alluded to at the very least.
I personally liked Kakuzu’s backstory. It was one of betrayal. Kakuzu was sent by his former village’s leaders to try and assassinate Hashirama. Since not just anyone could have carried out that type of mission — and we now know how powerful Hashirama was — Kakuzu was essentially set up to fail. As a result of that failure, Kakuzu was cast out.
Kakuzu had a personality that was most appropriate for his role. He has killed multiple partners of his and acted on Akatsuki’s treasurer. One of his lines were was among my favorites: “Even hell runs on money.”
Sadly, Hidan and Kakuzu represented a recurring theme in the manga: abandoned plotlines. For starters, Kishimoto meant to develop these characters further, yet they only lasted for one full arc. We didn’t even get their backstories in-manga, but in a Databook. Another problem was how the economic angle of Akatsuki was ultimately abandoned once these two were dead.
I am rather mixed on his development, but in terms of villainy, Oro was ultimately defanged.
First, there was a slow death of Orochimaru’s character precipitated by the loss of his ability to use ninjutsu. During Oro’s fight against his old sensei, Hiruzen, it became clear how much the former valued ninjutsu and knowledge, so the latter delivered the harshest possible blow to his student. In some ways that was worse than death. Following that fight, Orochimaru would pathetically put his life in the hands of his erstwhile teammate, Tsunade.
Second, Orochimaru was essentially a ragdoll for the Uchiha Bros. Shortly after the Chūnin Exam arc, it was revealed that Itachi once cut off one of Orochimaru’s hands. Sure, that hyped Itachi, but in some ways it weakened Orochimaru’s standing as a villain in retrospect. After 2 ½ arcs in Part 2, a weakened Orochimaru would be easily dispatched by Sasuke. That was anticlimactic considering the urgency that once existed to stop Sasuke from going to Orochimaru’s lair [and Sasuke giving up his body to become a vessel for Orochimaru]. After that, Orochimaru would pop up during Sasuke and Itachi’s fight to prematurely proclaim a victory over a tired Sasuke only to be sealed within the Sword of Totsuka by a dying Itachi.
That wasn’t the end of Oro’s character, though. I dare say he was actually treated better from that point forward. The numerous times he was mentioned by Kabuto, Danzo, and Obito made it clear that the snake man was close to answers about the Rikudo Sennin and the Ootsutsuki. Oro was also resurrected and that facilitated some of the best parts of the War Arc. He even helped save the life of Tsunade and various others. Additionally, he was showed in the Naruto Gaiden, still kicking and in a younger body.
I would say that Orochimaru’s overall development was a push, but he was never the same as a villain ever again.
For most of his time in the story, Kabuto’s development was overwhelmingly positive. He was a smart and highly effective ninja who was employed as the first great villain’s right-hand man. He defeated both Tsunade and Shizune and put Naruto’s life at risk with a blow to the latter’s heart. What I was most impressed with was his ability to use genjutsu and offensive medical ninjutsu.
However, Kabuto’s character took a turn for the worse when he absorbed Orochimaru’s remains into his own body. Kabuto’s lack of an identity became a theme and led to his eventual undoing, and it never really went anywhere from an artistic standpoint.
Once impressive, Kabuto’s mass use of Edo Tensei became a joke and it also led to his undoing. One of his summons, Itachi, got Kabuto to end the jutsu, but…another one of the summons, Madara, override it. Kabuto had basically unleashed the biggest threat to the world — other than the juubi, Black Zetsu, and Kaguya — and looked like a noob in the end.
The icing on the cake came when Itachi defeated Kabuto. The former placed the latter in an Izanami loop, so the hits Kabuto got in had a purpose! If that wasn’t enough, but Itachi then placed his hand on Kabuto’s head like the latter was a kid.
That never quite sat right with me. I know it’s not just me and I don’t even like Kabuto.
Despite everything, Kabuto was last seen heading the orphanage where he once lived. That was a merciful fate all things considered, but laughable and disturbing, as well.
Don’t get me wrong: Obito was a highly effective villain. He was the primary or secondary source of the suffering Naruto and Sasuke suffered and his machinations put shinobi like Minato and Itachi in compromising positions. Obito took Madara’s plans and made them his own. He organized Akatsuki to the point where it was able to capture most of the bijuu and his actions lead the Fourth Great Shinobi war. Obito outlasted Konan in an impressive fight and then mocked her and Nagato, thus raising Obito’s specter as a villain.
Tobi was the greatest source of mystery in the manga. While there were plenty of people who always knew that Tobi was Obito and I had once saw that as a possibility, there were plenty more people who didn’t want to believe that. In the meantime, it was pretty exciting to wait to see who this mysterious Tobi was and if he was Obito, what exactly turned him to the dark side.
Then the mask came off. That was when Obito’s character was damaged beyond repair.
What Obito did was unforgivable. He essentially killed his former sensei, Minato, along with Minato’s wife, Kushina. Obito also tried to kill a newborn Naruto. All the operatives and Akatsuki — save Kisame to an extent and Black Zetsu —were used, manipulated, and led to their deaths.
What was once a tragic, unlucky, albeit likable character became an angsty manchild. Obito essentially gave up his world views upon the death of a girl (Rin) who never requited his feelings and in fact had an unrequited crush on their other teammate (Kakashi). What’s worse is that Kakashi killed Rin. It wasn’t on purpose and Obito knew this but still decided that he needed to end the world as he knew it. For a time, “Rin” was every other word Obito uttered and it wore pretty thin.
Obito was also being used himself. He was part of a chain of fools. Madara was his puppet master but Madara was being manipulated by Black Zetsu. In the process, Obito was a tortured character; that actually lent credibility to Madara as a villain, though.
Obito was ultimately given a chance to redeem himself — before his death, of course. On some level, it kinda worked, but it didn’t erase the fact that he was cleaning up some of the mess he made anyway.
Overall, I would also call Obito’s development a push. However, the lack of a more compelling reason for his turn, a lack of context in his flashbacks, a lack of a compelling endgame, and his obsession with Rin worked against him.
Since I did bring up information from the Naruto Gaiden, it would be appropriate to list the other Shin here, but nah…
Next up are the Kage and others.
- Next: On a Few Male Kage & Others
- Previous: About the Males in Naruto’s Generation
- Back to Introduction