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.
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 death 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.
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.
Shikamaru Processes Asuma's Death With His Dad
Ninjas are soldiers, which means they often come face to face with death far sooner than civilians do. When Asuma Sarutobi is killed by a member of the Akatsuki, his students have to grapple with the death 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.
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 death 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 death, 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.