Even those passingly familiar with Naruto know how emotionally intense it gets. Fans, meanwhile, are keenly aware of the show’s emotional depth. The series is often very dark, even though the key images associated with it are bright and cheerful. After all, the protagonist runs around in an orange jumpsuit with a sunny smile on his face.
Naruto, however, takes on a noticeably different tone when things get serious. And the saddest Naruto moments include devastating backstories, brutal character deaths, breathtaking cruelty, and miserable life circumstances.
The Death Of Minato And Kushina
Though they die before the series begins, Naruto’s parents, Minato and Kushina, are key figures in the narrative and the protagonist’s development. When their passing is shown via a flashback, it’s hard not to tear up.
The Kyuubi, which was originally sealed into Kushina’s body, escaped while she was giving birth to Naruto thanks to a mysterious masked man who wanted to use the Kyuubi for his own purposes, which included destroying Konoha.
To prevent the beast from wreaking havoc across the city, they attempt to reseal the Kyuubi. However, when they’re both impaled by its claw, they know they’re going to die, and have no choice but to seal the beast inside their newborn son.
As they perform the seal and prepare for the end, the new parents tearfully tell Naruto all the things they wanted to teach him, ranging from not getting upset if he isn’t good at things to avoiding alcohol until he’s an adult.
They love their new baby, and they’re crushed to be leaving him so soon. The scene is all the more painful when you realize it takes years for anyone else to show Naruto some semblance of love.
Iruka Comforts Naruto After Jiraiya’s Death
Jiraiya’s death – and everything surrounding it – is one of the saddest things that’s happened, not just in Naruto, but in any anime. It’s hard to say which moment related to his passing is the most painful, but Naruto’s reaction is at the top of the list.
Naruto is utterly devastated to learn his mentor died. Drained of his usual vigor, he walks outside to buy a twin popsicle (as they symbolize his bond with Jiraiya). He sits on a bench staring at the popsicle and crying silently.
Iruka, his former teacher and the first adult who ever showed Naruto kindness, walks up and tries to comfort the young ninja by telling him to continue living in a way that would make Jiraiya proud.
The words are nice, but the part that makes hearts crack in half comes when Iruka takes the popsicle out of Naruto’s hands and splits it, symbolizing his intention to be there for Naruto even if Jiraiya can’t be.
Shikamaru Processes Asuma’s Passing With His Dad
Ninjas are soldiers, which means they often come face to face with losing a loved one far sooner than civilians do. When Asuma Sarutobi’s life is ended by a member of the Akatsuki, his students have to grapple with the loss of a loved one for the first time in their lives. Viewers don’t get insight into everyone’s mourning process, but there’s a particularly melancholic scene involving Shikamaru Nara’s reaction.
At first, Shikamaru refuses to acknowledge his grief, choosing instead to pretend he’s fine. His father Shikaku knows stifling ones emotions can be toxic, so he prods his son about his feelings until Shikamaru cries.
This might seem cruel, but it’s clear Shikaku’s coming from a place of deep love. As he leaves to give his son the privacy he needs to mourn with dignity, he says, “Let it all out… I’ll pick up the pieces.”
While the scene is crushingly painful, a small glimmer of light comes from the fact that Shikaku puts in the work required to raise his son properly. Of course, if you know what happens to Shikaku later in the series, that light turns into additional darkness.
Neji Dies Protecting Hinata
Out of all the deaths in Naruto, Neji’s is one of the most unexpected, and therefore the most devastating. For a while, it feels like the kids viewers see grow from 12-year-old students to full-fledged ninja would be protected from the horrors of war. Then Neji dies protecting Hinata and Naruto, and all that goes out the window.
Neji’s father also died to protect his family after they treated him like he was inferior for his entire life. Even so, he said dying for their sake felt like freedom. As Neji dies, he talks about understanding how his father felt, and thanks Naruto for helping him let go of his resentment for his family.
This discussion recalls the fact that Neji has only recently begun to start living for himself instead of out of hatred toward the people who mistreated his father. He dies without ever getting to truly experience life.
Zabuza Dies Before He Can Tell Haku How Much He Cares
Momochi Zabuza is the first villain to make an appearance in Naruto, and his death is one of the most tragic. For most of his life, Zabuza refused to pursue a genuine emotional connection with anyone, including Haku, an orphan he’d cared for. Though Haku showed him limitless devotion, Zabuza claimed to think of him as a tool.
When Haku dies attempting to protect Zabuza from Team 7, Zabuza pretends to be unfazed, but after Gato (a corrupt businessman whom Zabuza has been working for) shows up and attempts to debase Haku’s lifeless body, Zabuza kills him.
While he does get to defend Haku’s honor posthumously, he never actually got to tell the orphan how much he truly valued him.
Sasuke Learns The Truth Behind His Family’s Massacre
After Sasuke finally achieves vengeance against Itachi for massacring their family, he learns his brother’s reason. Danzō forced Itachi into it by giving him two choices: either Itachi takes out the family himself, saving his and Sasuke’s life, or Danzō sends Root after them and kills everyone.
If Itachi warned the Uchiha clan ahead of time, a civil war may have erupted – something a 13-year-old boy deeply scarred by a life of constant warfare could never accept. With no good choices available, Itachi eliminated the entire clan and his parents and told Sasuke it was his fault so he wouldn’t grow up hating Konoha.
Upon learning the truth, Sasuke – and the audience – is overcome with rage and despair. It’s even more painful because Sasuke just killed Itachi, and will never get a chance to reconcile with his equally victimized brother.
Shikamaru And Ino React To Their Fathers’ Deaths
When their base is attacked during the Fourth Shinobi War, Shikaku Nara and Inoichi Yamanaka are killed. As Inoichi transmits Shikaku’s final strategy to the soldiers on the field, they let everyone know they’re about to die. Shikamaru and Ino hear the news of their fathers’ impending doom, along with final, personal messages from them.
They tear up a little bit, but they can’t take the time to properly mourn, as they’re in the middle of an active war zone. Watching two 16-year-olds remain stoic in the face of one of the most horrific tragedies they’ve ever endured, mere months after the loss of their teacher Asuma, is gut-wrenching.
Yashamaru Tells Gaara He Hates Him
Having a powerful demon sealed into your body is hard, but it’s even worse when you can’t fully control its powers. All Gaara wants is to connect with other people, but because his village is terrified of his abilities, he’s left isolated. His maternal uncle Yashamaru is one of the few people who loves and supports him, but in one devastating scene, he retracts his love by revealing he’s secretly prepared to kill Gaara.
At first, Gaara can accept this betrayal on the grounds that Yashamaru was ordered to kill him by Gaara’s father, the Kazekage. He already believes his father doesn’t love him, so it doesn’t hurt quite as much if it’s his fault. Unfortunately, Yashamaru tells Gaara he’s acting on his own volition and that he hates Gaara for causing his mother’s passing.
Karura (Yashamaru’s sister) passed away giving birth to Gaara. What’s more, Yashamaru claims Karura never loved Gaara either. and that she wanted him to be a curse against the village that made her bear a child with a demon sealed inside its body.
Unable to live with his feelings, Yashamaru commits suicide in front of the young boy’s eyes. After that moment, Gaara does become a blight on the city, cruelly slaughtering anyone who happens to displease him.
Obito Watches Kakashi Kill Rin
After having half his body crushed by a boulder, Obito Uchiha’s ancestor Madara rescues him and nurses him back to health. As Obito recovers from his injuries, Madara tries convincing him the world is a terrible place that must be reset – and that Obito should join his quest to make it happen. But Obito doesn’t believe him until Madara engineers one of the most terrible scenes in Naruto history.
Madara kidnaps Obito’s first crush, Rin Nohara, and seals the Three-Tails inside her body, programming it to destroy Konoha as soon as Rin returns to the village. To prevent this catastrophe, Rin commits suicide by jumping in front of an attack from Kakashi.
Obito witnesses all of this from afar. And, after apparently watching one of his best friends murdering the other, Obito is fully prepared to believe Madara’s villainous ideology.
The Third Hokage Drops Off Naruto’s Living Expenses
This moment is subtle, but it’s one of the bleakest scenes in the series.
Naruto grows up an orphan who’s shunned by his entire village. Nobody adopts him after his parents die, and he’s kept alive by members of ANBU, the Konoha secret service, until he’s old enough to put food in his own mouth.
When Naruto is five or six years old, the third Hokage shows up with his “living expenses.” He tells the tiny child not to spend it all at once, and then leaves him alone in a dark, empty apartment. The scene highlights how deeply lonely Naruto is, and how abnormal and isolated his early years were.
Sakumo Hatake Commits Suicide
Despite the horrific trauma the majority of the cast endures, Naruto rarely addresses depression and suicide. However, Sakumo Hatake’s story – which viewers see when his son Kakashi is briefly reunited with his father after death – actually delves into this serious issue.
After Sakumo chooses to fail a mission and save a comrade’s life, the city of Konoha rejects him completely. The stress of losing the respect and esteem he once enjoyed causes his performance to suffer, and his reputation to further degrade. Eventually, he becomes so miserable that he takes his own life, leaving his young son Kakashi to fend for himself.
The story is painful, but it’s arguably worse to watch Kakashi confront the first horrible thing that ever happened to him as his father’s spirit begs for forgiveness.
Naruto & Sasuke’s Final Fight
The final showdown between Naruto and Sasuke may be epic, but behind all the amazing choreography is some real sadness. Naruto never wanted to be locked in an all or nothing battle with Sasuke. He views him as a close friend and can relate to his loneliness and isolation.
Naruto cares more about Sasuke than almost anyone else in the world and has repeatedly risked his life to protect him from danger. He never wanted to hurt Sasuke, but he has no choice, as his friend is hellbent on destroying Konoha.
Sasuke Doesn’t Recognize His Own Daughter
Sarada Uchiha has only seen her father Sasuke a handful of times during her short childhood. She desperately wants him to be present in her life, so when she gets the opportunity to see him in person, she jumps at the chance.
However, Sasuke is unfamiliar with his daughter and distracted by the specifics of his mission, so he assumes she’s the enemy and points a katana in her face. Sarada’s expression when she realizes her father doesn’t recognize her is pure heartbreak.
Yamato Survives Human Experimentation
Yamato is a member of Team 7 in its later iterations, and he’s best known for making terrifying faces at anyone who displeases him. He’s less renowned for his harrowing backstory, which viewers learn during a flashback.
Yamato was one of the many victims of Orochimaru’s child experimentation. As a young boy, he was kidnapped and had the genetic material of Hashirama Senjuu implanted into his body, along with 60 other children. Every single child besides Yamato didn’t survive, so Orochimaru abandoned him in a half-dead state, assuming he’d soon pass away.
He didn’t, and instead, he ended up learning how to use Wood Release, the technique Orochimaru tried to bestow upon him. While this is an incredible ability, it came at the price of witnessing the passing of 60 other children and nearly dying himself.
Tsunade And Jiraiya Try To Make Sense Of Orochimaru
Orochimaru is one of the most unforgivably awful villains in all of Naruto. While the majority have some tragic backstory that explains their nefarious deeds, Orochimaru has little justification for his willingness to brainwash and slaughter children en masse.
In one scene, his former teammates and childhood friends Jiraiya and Tsunade discuss his descent into evil over drinks and struggle to find a reason that fits. His parents passed, but so did nearly everyone else’s, so that couldn’t be all there is to it. Could they have stopped him? Where did they all go wrong?
They’ll never have a good answer to those questions, but they’ll always feel a combination of deep loss and guilt regarding their former comrade.