Naruto: All Great Ninja Wars, explained
One of the main themes of Naruto is war, as it features countless battles and skirmishes fought across the Land of Fire and neighboring nations. However, nothing compares to the Great Ninja Wars that were fought both before and during the series.
These four wars brought absolute devastation and misery to every nation in the Naruto series that participated in them. They also fueled the anger of many powerful villains shown during the anime. The impact of the wars developed and normalized various combat techniques that became staples in the future.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for both Naruto and Naruto Shippuden.
Naruto's Four Great Ninja Wars are gruesome and legendary
The First Great Ninja War
The First Great Ninja War took place not long after the Hidden Leaf Village was established. It was also the first major conflict to engulf every member of the Five Great Shinobi Nations, with the Land of Fire being in the middle of it.
The war began as a result of competition for resources amongst the hidden villages in each country. Resources were frequently stolen from one nation and brought back to another in hopes of strengthening their villages.
This war resulted in the death of the Second Hokage, Tobirama Senju, and led to Hiruzen Sarutobi's promotion to Third Hokage. Due to the immense damage each village sustained during the war, a peace treaty was signed by each of the Five Nations, effectively ending the war and ushering in a new era of shinobi combat.
The Second Great Ninja War
The Second Great Ninja War gave birth to legendary shinobi like Hanzo the Salamander, Jiraiya, Tsunade, Orochimaru, and Sakumo Hatake.
Although not much is known about all those who participated in the war, it is known that Konogakure and several other powerful villages engaged with each other in combat. It was also the war that left Amegakure, the Village Hidden in the Rain, in complete shambles, prompting Nagato's fury later in the series.
The war began as a result of villages weakened in the First Great Ninja War trying to regain both military and economic power. The quick rise for many of these nations resulted in villages challenging one another in small skirmishes, which quickly led to an all-out war.
The Third Great Ninja War
The Third Great Ninja War established Konoha's culture of producing skilled, ruthless shinobi at an incredibly young age. The war began as a result of the authority of the Five Great Shinobi Nations beginning to diminish over time. Smaller nations unaffiliated with the Five Great Shinobi Nations began launching small-scale invasions and skirmishes with various villages within each nation.
The Third Great Ninja War also gave rise to the fastest shinobi alive, Minato Namikaze, also known as the Yellow Flash or the Leaf. He led a three-man team consisting of Kakashi Hatake, Rin Nohara, and Obito Uchiha. During the war, Rin let her heart be pierced by Kakashi's Chidori to prevent herself from becoming the Three-Tails Jinchuriki. This event spurred Obito's outrage, fueling him for the rest of the series.
The deadly war came to an end when Minato single-handedly stopped an Iwagakure invasion of 1,000 shinobi. This forced the Tsuchikage at the time to sign a peace treaty with Konoha, making the Village Hidden in the Leaves the number one village once again. This also solidified Hiruzen's choice of Minato becoming the Fourth Hokage.
The Fourth Great Ninja War
The Fourth Great Ninja War is the first Great Ninja War that showcased the Five Great Shinobi Nations working together to take down a common enemy, Madara Uchiha. It was also the shortest of the Great Ninja Wars, lasting only two days long.
The war first focused on defeating Obito and Madara as they had plans of destroying the entire shinobi world. This focus then shifted to Kaguya Otsutsuki as she was revived by Black Zetsu in an attempt to regain her lost chakra by placing almost everyone under the Infinite Tsukuyomi's spell. Although the original Team Seven consisting of Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi were the highlights of the war, other shinobi played a huge role as well.
Might Guy successfully brought Ten-Tails Jinchuriki Madara to his knees by opening all Eight Gates and utilizing Night Guy. In a near-death state, Madara declared Might Guy to be the strongest Taijutsu specialist he has ever fought.
The war also saw the first four Hokages being revived through Orochimaru's reanimation Jutsu. This allowed for powerful Kage-level summoning techniques to be used against the Ten-Tails, greatly reducing the damage caused by the beast.
The war also led to what is one of the saddest moments in the series, Neji Hyuga's death. He died fulfilling his destiny while also achieving the freedom he hoped for his entire life.