Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here… I’ve always loved the Naruto universe with its compelling cast and complex ninja world. However the cast is so large that narrowing down a top ten list isn’t easy. I love so many of the characters for an assortment of reasons, so this is my list. It might not be yours. There’s also a caveat that should be kept in mind.
None of the core cast of the rookie nine were included in this list. That would be unfair, because so many of them are beloved fan favorites for myself included. I had to prune this list massively, as I doubt a gigantic list of top 50 or top 70 Naruto characters would go over very well… plus it would be very long to write.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the list.
The resident pervert sage ranks number ten in my list because he’s honestly one of the characters that really sticks out to me. All of the Naruto characters have some sort of fatal flaw, none of them are perfect. That’s the hallmark of good writing. The man is a pervert though, make no mistakes about it. His love for writing erotic books aside, he’s earnest and he’s kind.
Jiraiya is a complex man with simple pleasures in life, and he’s old enough to carry the perspective needed in a good mentor. As a sage, he’s probably not the best example of the discipline or demeanor. However, there’s no question that he is a wonderful mentor and friend to those that need his support.
He ranks number 10 because his death is literally one of the saddest in the series for me. It’s secondary only to Asuma Sarutobi. Quite frankly even after Jiraiya is gone, he plays such a paramount role in Naruto’s development that he just needs a spot on this list.
#9. Iruka Umino
I honestly believe that Iruka is one of the most earnest characters in the entire series. He’s devoted to his village, and to his place in the ninja world in a way few others are. He’s a middling villager in almost every way, and he’s just fine with his lot in life. Given his own sad past and how it reflects Naruto’s own, there’s something to be said for a guy like him.
We can only really appreciate the tragic stories of others by looking back on where they came from. A lot of prominent youths in the series come from broken homes, left as orphans to fend for themselves. Iruka is one such character who grew into a well-adjusted adult.
For all of the characters achieving greatness, showing off insane feats at every turn, it’s nice to see a regular guy. He’s just living out the average ninja lifestyle the best way he can, and really I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that.
#8. Asuma Sarutobi
This guy has a story for the record books. A man does his job valiantly, only to leave behind a woman he loves, and his unborn child. His students surround him in his final moments, rain falling from the sky as he doles out his last words. Asuma has one of the most memorable deaths in the Naruto series…
Here’s the thing, when it comes to the wider universe, this series heavily focuses on legacy and the passing of the torch from one person onto another. Youth grow up, inheriting the responsibilities of their successors. Passing on those lessons becomes intrinsic to the “ninja way”, and there’s just a lot of heart and soul you can’t fit into a few simple paragraphs hoping to do it justice.
There is no greater example of this than Asuma’s bond with Shikamaru. To me, that is the absolute pinnacle of what the core themes of the series attempt to convey. Found family and honor clings heavily upon the young upstarts aging into their positions in the village…
Facing down the difficulties of childish dreams slowly taken away, and replaced by adult ambition. Asuma to me is one of the most tragic characters. Outcomes like his are what lead to so much suffering among the hidden villages. It’s also what breeds the war and continued suffering of countless others.
If Iruka is one of my favorites due to his earnest average-joe lifestyle, then Asuma is one of my favorites because he represents the average casualty among villages and just how deeply it impacts those closest to them. We see on screen exactly what that does to the people he inadvertently leaves behind.
#7. Karui (Later, Karui Akimichi)
This was a difficult choice, because when it comes to Karui and Temari, it’s a toss up of what style of bad-assery you like better. Both of these women refuse to take crap from anyone, and both are self-assured. Ultimately, I settled on Karui because she’s not as charismatic, and she doesn’t even care what we think of her.
Beating Naruto bloody might have been a bridge too far, but that just goes to show how tenacious and ruthless she is. When she feels she has to act, she does. Temari is just a bit softer, and a tiny bit more timid, which is what made her lose the spot in the running.
You have to take Karui as she is. She won’t tolerate anyone doing otherwise. She won’t conform, she doesn’t want to. Her loyalty can’t be bought, and her ability to see the value in others comes from a very personal place. What I absolutely love about her character is that she eventually finds romance with Choji, and the romance is a mature thing from the get-go… neither of them act like profound idiots… beyond that, it gives all the proof we need that Karui has a gentle side.
So many stereotypes flip on their head when Karui is on screen. In a series like Naruto, that can be pretty hard to come by. So many of the core members within the series are taken up by women who can’t seem to figure themselves out… or when they do, it isn’t on firm ground.
Karui knows who she is and what she wants out of her future. She’s also one of the few women who shows romantic interest because it empowers her own personal sense of pride and self-worth. In a series where young, emotionally independent women can be somewhat hard to find, Karui is a breath of fresh air…
But, like I said, Temari isn’t too far removed from that, either. In that way, she’s certainly an honorable mention not soon to be left out or forgotten.
#6. Might Guy and Kakashi Hatake
Call this a cop-out if you want, but in my opinion you just can’t have one without the other on any character list. You also can’t place one of them above the other in my opinion. That diminishes the bond these two share. They’re rivals, but they’re also sincerely good friends. The connection of their male bond is so incredibly important for so many characters in the series. It gives us viewers context for so many key themes in the show.
Male bonds are a driving factor for so many things the young men in the series do. Separating these two is just impossible to me. It would be like having a Naruto anime without Sasuke… you just can’t freakin’ do it… and that’s why these two need to be on the list.
It’s the entire point of the show… the forged bonds that last the test of time. That’s what the series is about. That’s the core ethos.
These two characters showcase this bond when it’s in synergy. There’s a brotherhood here. When both of them are on the same wavelength, the two of them harbor the same sort of profound loyalty and companionship that Naruto has for Sasuke.
I just can’t overlook that, not for anything…
However, that’s why they’re not in the top five, that wouldn’t be fair either. As important to the series as these characters are, and as deeply compelling the friendship they keep is, it’s only fair I place them in the number 6 spot.
#5. Killer Bee
It’s funny to me that when it comes to Naruto’s long list of mentors Killer Bee stands out on top for me, but it’s true. I really do like Jiraiya, but there’s just something so unassuming about Killer Bee. He’s fun to watch, charismatic and goofy at times, but he knows when to get serious too.
Honestly, I love this character because what you see is what you get with this guy. Much like Karui, you’ve got to take him as he is, and if you don’t that’s not his problem… he doesn’t care.
He’s been through the ringer, there’s some real grit and trauma attached to him. He doesn’t let that history get the better of him. As a Jinchūriki, he’s the most emotionally well-rounded when we first see him on screen. He has such a fundamental role in the series, and also the one so easy to overlook. Yeah, it’s true, he’s always spouting off nonsense and driving everyone crazy… still, if he weren’t so well respected, he wouldn’t be where he is when he enters into the show.
Common sense does not always equate to wisdom, but Killer Bee has both. He knows what it takes to earn the respect of those around him, and exactly how to keep it. For a Jinchūriki that’s not an easy road. We’ve seen what happens to Naruto and Gaara when communities turn their back on one.
Killer Bee walked that path too, but he did it with a smile on his face and he continues to do so even when the chips are down. Killer Bee is just an uplifting guy all around.
What isn’t to like about that?
#4. Nagato (Pain)
Once again, we turn to the deeper ties that bind these characters together. Pain’s character accomplishes 2 things. Firstly, he brings the full ramification of the Akatsuki’s story to a boiling point. Secondly he forces viewers to ask themselves deeper questions about the series as a whole. There is, in a way a “circle-of-life” vibe from this true and iconic villain… even if it is the darker, grittier sort.
In a world where war tarnishes what characters love most, and rips innocence away from them, Nagato provides a rather insidious bone to chew. He’s as tragic a character as he is completely dangerous. Seeing his true form, a withered husk of a person really hits home in ways so few of Naruto’s villains do.
He trained under Jiraiya in his younger days, but sadly, that peaceful philosophy became warped and sent askew. Although Jiraiya had spent the time to teach many things, all of those lessons became corrupted entirely by years of atrocities… death, war, emotional hardship and the continued loss of community and innocence.
In a way, you might say this man became Jiraiya’s greatest failing, and in another way turned into what I believe to be Naruto’s greatest foil…
#3. Itachi Uchiha
You know what they say. Assumptions make asses out of people, and it made an ass out of Sasuke. First assumed as a villain, Itachi Uchiha was a guy that completely massacred the Uchiha clan, aside from his younger brother. However, that’s a slanted view… a child’s view of something much larger and far more complicated.
If growing up is part of the core ethos in this series, so is learning to see the truth for yourself. To gain a clearer insight, and forge one’s own opinions based on the facts presented. Sasuke later finds out that his brother is no sick and twisted murderer.
He did kill the rest of the clan, but that was only to protect the Hidden Leaf village, and it was something he did in service to it. Even the Hokage knew what had to be done, and Itachi did exactly that.
What makes these bonds of bloodline and vengeance so entirely heartbreaking is that Itachi had no intention to truly harm his little brother with his actions. Morally bankrupt or not, someone had to do it, and Itachi took up the task… in a way it ruined his spirit and forged him anew in ways he least wished for.
I will never forget Itachi’s last apology as he’s bleeding from the mouth and facing his own death. For countless episodes there are flashbacks, and promises of later. Sadly, later never comes for these two brothers. Instead, it’s only a final apology and a goodbye… a death and loss that holds no comfort or even vindication. All that Sasuke has left is an understanding that he didn’t know a single thing, blinded by his own grief and anger as he was, there was nothing he could have done.
Itachi is without question one of my most favorite characters that as a fan, I never had the chance to understand. Having viewed the entire event through Sasuke’s eyes, I never had the chance to really get to know Itachi until it was too late and he was gone…
The series played this one close to the chest right up until the end, and they did a damn good job of it. Itachi sits at number 3 because there is so much more to this character than I ever gave him credit for. That sticks with me to this day…
As long as i continue to be an anime fan, it probably always will.
#2. Zabuza Momochi and Haku
Yes, we’ve got another two-for-one deal here. Sorry, it just needs to happen, because you just can’t have one without the other. It just cannot work for me. What makes these two so interesting is the bond they have for each other and the true and imminent threat these two pose to the rookie members of Team Seven.
These two characters are the first real time that we’re shown what kind of actual danger these kids are in, and just what happens when adults cannot keep them safe or protected. There’s a cruelty and hardship laced down deep among many of these characters, Zabuza is one of them, Haku is another…
However, for many of us, these were some of the first characters to value their lives not based upon their own self-worth, but rather the worth of another found within them instead… and there was nothing heroic about the way either of these two characters chose to think.
Yet, in his dying breaths, Zabuza makes his way bodily over to Haku and spends his final moments reflecting upon everything that he ever was, and everything he tossed away. For the rookies, it’s their first real taste of this dark and gritty world that they live in. For us viewers, it’s the first time we’ve got to contend with the truth.
This moment did one thing. It promised that we were going to have to swallow down some pretty uncomfortable realities. We had to accept that no, this really wasn’t a kid’s show, and it wasn’t all fun and games.
In these moments nothing could be sanctimonious anymore. We were going to lose characters we enjoyed, and not all of them would be hard and grizzled adults going out in a bad-ass blaze of glory… no, sometimes it would be a death that could have damn-well been prevented, and in all honesty damn-well should have been.
After this battle, there’s a burial. Although it isn’t the hardest hitting one that we run into across this series, it is one of the first that really made us think about what the show was going to send at us next.
Mark my words; if Zabuza and Haku were not so wonderfully written and conceptualized as characters, the early establishment of so many themes would have entirely suffered for it.
This line-up is a start-studed one to be sure, but how do you beat these guys in my book and take the number one spot on this list? Good question…
#1. You Don’t! The Hidden Villages Take the Top Spot!
Hidden villages are their own character within the show, translucent and on the back-burner but no less dynamic. There’s an intuitive understanding among those that live within them, and that understanding forces so much of the good and the bad within this wider ninja world that we fans enjoy.
Hear me out here, the series wouldn’t be so good if we didn’t get to have a taste of the complex and diverse ideology found within these villages. Some of the best and beloved moments come from a cast of characters that come from far away places. Be it the battle Gaara has with Rock Lee during the Chunin Exams early on, or some of the saddest battles in the series later on, we get a taste of it all.
What makes these characters so prolific are the communities and cultures they hail from. These identities can’t only come down to the characters we follow on the screen, but the masses that we don’t see. Naruto and Gaara want to be Kage simply because of their villages and the ambitions they have… to belong among them.
I am always taken aback by the scenes that truly highlight the wider world, the changes it’s made for the better, the faults it still has… the world building in this series is absolutely a master craft in and of itself.
The countless peoples inhabiting this world are what breathes real life into the fights. When villages are on the verge of ruin and war takes so much away, the villages still persist and persevere.
So much about this series comes down to protecting what is valuable, and mourning what is lost. To fight for the things that matter, and to let go of the things that don’t. To love despite pain, and to trust despite war. These themes are only made so incredibly powerful, because we get to experience the realities of a village attacked so brutally.
We are forced to see the cold and hard realities for those that call themselves ninja. Neji says it best, when he says that Hinata is prepared to die for Naruto. That he holds more than his own life in his hands.
This, I believe is true of all ninja to a point. To choose to kill and cultivate more war is the end result. Years of bloodshed continue to harbor old grudges. So much if that could be avoided, and is shown to be mitigated once this new enlightened generation matures to take center stage.
From characters like Nagato and Jiraiya, to those like Neji and Itchai, those who are raised to become a ninja are at the mercy of the world they’re thrown into… and there is really little mercy to be found.
This scene would not be so powerful if it was only Neji that died. Many nameless characters lay dead and each one meant something to someone out there. That is implied, but Naruto knows it to be true. He is horrified to see these things around him, and these atrocities continue to occur in ways he just cannot abide.
The villages, the peoples, and the journeys all of the characters take really rely on where they came from, who impacted them the most. What lessons were passed down during their formative years are the ones that will forge either peace, or more bloodshed.
That is something only the villages do, for better and for worse, and that is why they take the top spot on this list.
From the little ramen shop that Naruto frequents, to the barbecue Choji enjoys, and the shogi matches Shikmaru spent his childhood playing, all of the characters we come to care for learn one thing.
You always protect the “king”, and that metaphor will never die, nor will it ever become weak or overstated.
Then again, this is my list. you may disagree. You’re free to do so. No matter what your opinion might be, the hidden villages, with their diverse cultures and complex mindsets take the number one spot for me.
This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.
With your contributions, you make our efforts possible. Thank you for supporting our content. Patreon supporters receive access into our official Discord server, and a few other perks depending on the tier. If you don’t care for Patreon, and don’t care about perks, you can always support us through PayPal too… links below.
Those who join via Patreon get special perks, such as extra content, quicker updates, and more.
($3) Little Ferrets: None
($5) Demented Minions: Andrew Wheal.
($7) Fandom Ferret: None
($14) True Blue Ferret: Francis Murphy and Bryan BSB.
($25) Premium Ferret: None.
($50) Round Table Ferret/Fluffy Ferret: Josh Sayer