Naruto is a series in which trauma and tragedies in childhood create villains, punks, and menaces to society.
Throughout the series, the tragedy continues to pile up, from war orphans to massacre survivors to harshly treated clansmen. This article will attempt to convey just 10 Naruto characters with the most tragic of backstories.
Note: This list will contain spoilers for Naruto and bonus mentions for Boruto. This is just the author's opinion, warning of descriptions of violence and child ab*se.
10 Naruto characters with tragic childhoods
The titular character has many reasons why he's on this list. His parents gave their lives so he could live but sealed Kurama inside him, which ostracized him from the Leaf Village. In addition, his lack of talent when it came to Ninjutsu made him an outcast amongst the villagers.
This led Naruto into a very lonely life, only comforted by Iruka and slightly by the Third Hokage. His trauma wouldn't lead to him destroying things, but rather acting out to get any kind of attention or acceptance. Whilst he matured in Naruto Shippuden, he still wanted that acceptance from the village.
Though he finally did gain acceptance and became Hokage, his traumatic past left scars that were still on his mind as of Boruto.
Gaara's story was similar to Naruto, except without any real love in his life. His siblings weren't allowed much contact, his mother died during childbirth, and his father tried to have him killed multiple times while his uncle did the same despite appearing to love him. It didn't help that Shukaku constantly left Gaara sleep-deprived.
Gaara's traumatic past manifested in violent, sadistic rages that tore apart anyone or anything that looked at him funny. As far as Gaara knew, he only needed to love himself and only himself, everything else was in his way. Thankfully, Naruto was able to sympathize and ultimately get him started on a better path.
Gaara continues to walk that path as Kazekage.
3) Sasuke Uchiha
The Uchiha Clan was home to Sasuke before the massacre. His early years were pleasant enough, though he always felt he was in Itachi's shadow. This changed when the latter was accused of killing Shisui, as his father paid more attention to him while his mother always tried her best to help Sasuke.
When the massacre occurred, Sasuke found himself alone with only hateful thoughts of revenge coursing through his mind. It poisoned his outlook on life, as he neglected friendships and disregarded teamwork and romance. Sasuke would commit many crimes thanks to these events.
Sasuke was only helped out of the darkness after a final epic clash with Naruto.
Another tragic story of the loss of friendship and family, Nagato was a war orphan of the Hidden Rain Village during the Second Great Ninja War. His parents were slain in front of him and he slew their killers in turn, before wandering in search of food and shelter. He was thankfully found by two fellow orphans, Yahiko and Konan, and the three banded together to survive.
Their situation began to improve after being found and cared for well over three years by the Legendary Sannin Jiraiya. They had food, shelter, survival skills and ninjutsu for defense.
The trio even formed the original Akatsuki, with Yahiko at the head, determined to build a peaceful world. That plan was stopped via a fatal ambush by the treacherous leader of the Hidden Rain, Hanzō.
This ambush killed Yahiko and turned Nagato murderous. The latter adopted the moniker Pain, used Yahiko's body as his messenger, and formed the Six Paths of Pain before accepting Obito Uchiha's help to begin his plans of conquest. Nagato would cut a swath through the ninja world as the Akatsuki leader before finally being stopped by Naruto.
5) Kakashi Hatake
Kakashi didn't have the best childhood, as his father committed suicide after being ostracized for failing to finish a mission. Due to this trauma, Kakashi dived heavily into following the rules. The rules were absolute, even when his teammates and mentor said otherwise.
Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of the tragedy. Kakashi would have to abandon Obito, see Rin die in front of him, join Root and work for Danzo Shimura for a while. Thankfully, he reformed himself and was able to leave Root by rescuing the future Captain Yamato.
Kakashi's cycle of grieving never truly stopped until he became a teacher, while the Third Hokage helped him out of that darkness.
6) Obito Uchiha
Much like Naruto, Obito grew up without any support save for his grandmother. Though his childhood wasn't exactly the most tragic, it would begin to fall during his time with Team Minato.
Obito and Kakashi clashed on how to be an effective team many times, and their rivalry would only end when the former was nearly crushed to death by a boulder.
Sadly, the tragedy didn't end there. Even after the rescue and rehabilitation via Madara Uchiha, Obito steadfastly refused to join or believe in the former's cruel world thesis. That changed when he witnessed Rin's death supposedly at Kakashi's hands and slaughtered the Hidden Mist ninja that were after them.
His fall to darkness began there, and wouldn't end until the climax of the Fourth Great Ninja War.
Kimimaro is akin to Sasuke, being the last survivor of the Kaguya clan. Because of his unique kekkei genkai of controlling his bones and manifesting them, he was locked in a cage and only brought out to fight and use as a weapon.
The Kaguya clan would later be slaughtered during an assault on the Hidden Mist village, and Kimimaro would be adopted by Orochimaru.
Orochimaru was no better, though Kimimaro did feel he had a purpose instead of being a weapon. His new goal was to eventually become Orochimaru's host, though that was foiled by a terminal disease that ravaged his body. Kimimaro continued to serve, though he was on a medical tube most of the time afterward.
Despite performing several more acts in Orochimaru's service, Kimimaro eventually succumbed to the illness.
One of Naruto's first serious opponents, Haku grew up in the Land of Water, where Kekkei Genkai was blamed for starting wars. Haku was scolded by his mother for performing Ice Release.
His father, on the other hand, decided to kill his mother for having the same ability and then eradicate Haku. Haku ended up killing his father and fled, living as an orphan on the streets before being found by Zabuza Momochi.
Kids and people being used as weapons seems to be a running theme in this series, because that's what Haku was to Zabuza. A perfect weapon with hardly any emotions to be used at his leisure. Despite all this, Haku still loved Zabuza and had some humanity in him as he never liked the killing.
Haku sacrificed himself for Zabuza twice, and the latter only recognized him after that.
9) Itachi Uchiha
Speaking of kids being used as weapons, spies and double agents, Itachi Uchiha being caught in a catch-22 at a young age definitely counts. At the age of four, he witnessed violence from the Third Great Ninja war that traumatized him severely. At six, he became the top post-war graduate in the Ninja Academy, and it all started going downhill from there.
At eight, he witnessed Team 2 teammate Tenma Izumo get cut down. This awoke Itachi's Sharingan. After a series of events involving Danzo Shimura's schemes, the Uchiha clan calling for blood, and Shisui getting one of his eyes stolen by Danzo, Itachi made the decision to slaughter the Uchiha Clan, seeing no other way to stop the coup and avert the massive loss of life.
Contrary to Sasuke's visions of his brother, Itachi carried that guilt and shame with him for the rest of his life.
10) Hinata and Neji Hyuga
Ever wondered why Hinata was a wallflower or why Neji was so elitist during the first part of Naruto? Well, look no further than their upbringing in the horrendously strict Hyuga clan. The Hyuga clan is not exempt from using people as tools or weapons.
In Hinata's case, she was raised under a brutal training regime to become the heiress of the clan. Unfortunately, due to her struggles, timid personality, and reluctance to harm her younger sister Hanabi, she was cast out and given over to Kurenai Yūhi. Thanks to Naruto helping her and never giving up, Hinata trained herself to get stronger.
As for Neji? Hinata was very nearly kidnapped during a supposed "peace treaty" signing between the Hidden Cloud and Hidden Leaf. Neji's father Hizashi sacrificed himself after Hinata's father Hiashi killed the would-be kidnapper, to ensure that Hidden Cloud would get a body in exchange for their ninja and to deny them the Byakugan.
Neji was far too young to understand this and resented Hinata for years until Naruto defeated him at the Chunin Exams and opened his eyes.
The running theme of kids being used as weapons doesn't stop in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. Sumire Kakei was groomed by her father following Root's dissolution and ostracization after the Fourth Ninja War in Naruto Shippuden.
Her mother died of the sheer stress and grief brought upon her while her father used her as a tool of revenge using a yokai named Nue. Were it not for Naruto's son Boruto getting through to her, Sumire would've destroyed the Hidden Leaf Village.
Kawaki, the now adopted son of Naruto in Boruto, is another sad tale. After being raised by a physically abusive father and nearly snatched by a wicked man pretending to be a goldfish seller, Kawaki was "rescued" by Jigen.
In actuality, he was to be used as a host for Isshiki Ōtsutsuki's mad schemes and power plays. Thanks to good people, including Naruto, Boruto, and even one of Kara's inner souls named Amado, Kawaki escaped and dedicated his life to helping Naruto no matter what.