The Naruto anime shows the ups and downs that come with living in a world of ninja. On one hand, it can be fun to walk on water, control fire, or trick people with doppelgangers. On the other hand, ninja life also can be pretty brutal when it comes to war, grief, and making impossible decisions.
As a result of all the war and conflict that comes with being a ninja, many characters of the series have dealt with tragic backstories that helped define who they were, whether they liked it or not. While some characters were born into unfortunate circumstances, others were forced into tough situations somewhere along the way. That is the unfortunate reality of being a ninja.
When Naruto and Jiraiya first set out to search for Tsunade, she seemed to care more about gambling that becoming the Fifth Hokage of the village she had fled. However, it’s due to incidents from the Second Shinobi War that she gained a more pessimistic view regarding the ninja world.
In the Second Shinobi War, Tsunade lost her younger brother Nawaki, and lover, Dan, who both had dreamed of someday becoming Hokage and changing the world for the better. Tsunade felt especially responsible for Dan’s death in her inability to heal his fatal wound, leading to her severe fear of blood.
In the Land of Water, anyone who possessed kekkei genkai were feared and hated. Haku unknowingly revealed his kekkei genkai to his family, which prompted his father to turn on both him and his mother. In the end, Haku was forced to kill his own father, who had already killed his mother.
This left Haku as an orphan on the streets. He was eventually picked up by Zabuza, though he was raised to be a weapon with little emotion. Still, Haku remained loyal to the assassin who embraced his kekkei genkai powers.
The Hyuga Clan has a family tradition in which certain members are born with the duty to protect the main house. Neji and his father were amongst the clan members who were expected to do this, and their foreheads were branded with an awful seal to make it official.
After Neji’s father died to protect Hinata’s father, Neji felt it was unfair to live or die without a choice. Because of this, he held a grudge against Hinata until Naruto convinced him otherwise.
The life of an orphan child is never easy, but Naruto’s childhood came with the added twist of the Nine-Tailed Fox sealed inside of him. Despite his direct involvement in saving Konohagakure from the rampaging fox, Naruto was ironically hated by the entire village for that reason.
For the longest time, the villagers misunderstood Naruto and the Nine-Tails, seeing them both as an evil threat. This was so far from the truth, but Naruto had to suffer the pain of loneliness because no one cared to set the record straight.
When Sai was first introduced as a new member of Team Seven, it was apparent to Naruto and Sakura that he had a difficult time with his social skills and emotions. This was because Sai grew up in the Anbu as a part of Root.
Under Danzo’s guidance and training, Sai learned to have no emotion or personality for the sake of fulfilling assassinations without hesitation. To finish his Root training, he was expected to kill his close friend, who instead died by illness to spare the last bit of Sai’s emotions.
As a jinchuriki, Gaara grew up under similar circumstances to Naruto. He was not an orphan, though his mother died shortly after his birth and his father tried on multiple occasions to kill him.
However, the most tragic part of Gaara’s backstory involves his uncle, Yashamaru. After his mother’s death, Gaara was left under the care of Yashamaru who showed him love and affection when no one else would. Unfortunately, there came a point when even Yashamaru turned on Gaara, leaving him void of any love in his childhood.
Kakashi’s infamous bell exercise might have been passed down from generation to generation, but he modified it to reflect a lesson he learned as a young shinobi.
After seeing his father commit suicide for failing a mission to save his comrades, Kakashi came to be a stickler for the rules. This changed when the deaths of his closest friends, Obito and Rin, reminded him to prioritize the lives of his allies over everything else.
As Pain, Nagato was one of the most destructive enemies that Naruto encountered throughout the series. While he sought peace with the formation of the Akatsuki, his intentions and beliefs were founded upon his experience as an orphan.
During the Second Shinobi War, Nagato’s parents were killed in front of his eyes by enemy ninjas. Shortly after, he met fellow orphans, Konan and Yahiko, who helped him form the Akatsuki. Nagato didn’t reach his lowest point until Yahiko’s life was taken in the next Shinobi War.
Initially, Sasuke knew what it was like to have a caring family and always looked up to his brother, Itachi. At the same time, he was unaware of the dark side of his own clan.
When Itachi murdered the rest of the Uchiha Clan, Sasuke was understandably hit with shock, grief, and anger. It was that very event that caused Sasuke to pursue the dark path of revenge.
Perhaps the only person who had it worse than Sasuke was his older brother, Itachi. Itachi was initially painted as a villain to the village and murderer of his own clan, but as it would turn out, he didn’t really have any other option.
Torn between his beloved village and family, Itachi secretly assisted the village in eliminating his own clan who had been plotting a coup. Given the severity of the situation, this was the only way he believed he could at least spare the life of his little brother.
Naruto had its fair share of tearjerkers in the series! Here's a look at this popular anime's most tragic backstories in the show, ranked.