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The Untold Truth Of Neji Hyūga From Naruto

Neji Hyuga is one of the many genius ninja of the "Naruto" universe. He makes his first appearance during the Chunin Exams, where he nearly kills his cousin, Hinata, and has an unforgettable showdown against Naruto. Initially, he's very confident in his combat capabilities, yet also pessimistic about his fate and place in the world. In a way, he's the opposite of Naruto, who has always been optimistic, despite his reputation as a failure. It's for this reason that they can't see eye to eye until Naruto beats some sense into Neji during the Chunin Exams finals.

From that day forward, Neji mellows out. He smooths things over with Hinata and the rest of his clan, who he once held a grudge against. He makes frequent appearances throughout the anime, helping Naruto out with rescuing Sasuke, fighting the Akatsuki, and winning the Fourth Great Ninja War. By the time he meets his end, he's cemented himself as one of Naruto's closest and most reliable allies. It's fair to say he won't be forgotten by "Naruto" fans — but even the most diehard devotees might not know everything about this fascinating fighter. To honor Naruto's fallen friend, we're taking a look at the untold truth of Neji Hyuga.

Neji doesn't need to be held back

When Naruto's team enters the Chunin Exams, they aren't the only genin looking to be promoted. They're joined by Konoha's Team Asuma, Team Kurenai, and Team Guy, as well as teams from other ninja villages. While Team Asuma and Team Kurenai are from the same graduating class as Naruto, Team Guy is actually a year older than him. This is because Might Guy made the decision to hold back Rock Lee, Tenten, and Neji, out of fears that they weren't ready the year prior.

Given the fact that Neji has always been considered an out-and-out genius, it's extremely odd that he of all people would be held back a year. In fact, he practically breezes right through the Chunin Exams all the way to the finals, while most of the other participants struggle, fail, or die trying. It's hard to truly believe Guy didn't have faith in them to pass sooner. More likely than not, Neji would have been more prepared last year than many of the participants he actually struggles alongside. However, an extra year of training definitely gives Neji and his team a major advantage. This was likely only ever a ploy to give Team Guy an edge.

Might Guy is the best teacher for him

At first glance, Might Guy appears to have way more in common with Rock Lee than he does with Neji. Guy and Lee are both very dramatic and passionate about fiery youth, and they share the exact same outfit, haircut, and eyebrows. Neji, on the other hand, tends to be calm and cool at all times, favors light clothing, and wears his hair long. But believe it or not, despite their oppositional personalities, Guy and Neji suit each other perfectly as teacher and student.

It all comes down to ninja combat. Neji primarily fights using the Gentle Fist technique, the Hyuga clan's unique style of taijutsu. Since he relies so heavily on taijutsu, it makes sense that he flouishes as Guy's student: Guy is one of the greatest taijutsu specialists in the ninja world. With Guy as his teacher, Neji receives the best possible training to further his specific skills. Rock Lee is an added bonus: He's basically a younger version of Guy Neji can train with as a teammate. Neji and Guy are a great example of the fact that skills in "Naruto" transcend superficial divisions of personality and style.

Why Hinata calls him brother

We first learn about the Hyuga clan, one of the most powerful ninja clans in "Naruto," in Episode 46, when Neji and Hinata face off against each other in the preliminary matches of the Chunin Exams. As they greet one another right before the match, Hinata refers to Neji as her brother. This catches Naruto and Sakura off guard, but Kakashi and Lee are quick to clarify that the two Hyugas aren't actually siblings. Rather, Neji and Hinata are cousins, since their fathers are twin brothers.

It's not unheard of to refer to a close friend or family member as "sister" or "brother," so we might initially assume that Neji and Hinata have a close sibling-like relationship. However, that definitely isn't the case during the Chunin Exams, where Neji spends a good amount of time belittling Hinata's capabilities as a ninja before almost killing her. So why would Hinata think of Neji like a brother?

Flashbacks in Episode 61 reveal the truth. Neji was placed under the care of Hinata's father, and they were raised like siblings. Back then, he had a much more positive attitude toward Hinata. This only changed after Neji came to grasp the special treatment she and her father received, which stood in contrast to the consequences he and his father had to suffer. Since she continues to call him "brother," it seems likely that Hinata never stops thinking fondly of Neji, despite the rift created by their clan's circumstances.

Neji has the only full fight in the Chunin Exams finals

Neji's battle against Naruto is hands-down one of the most thrilling in the series. The details of the fight itself are common knowledge among fans, but it might not occur to many people that it's the only match in the Chunin Exams finals to play out in full. That's right: Every other match in the finals is either interrupted or canceled altogether. A lot of this has to do with Orochimaru's plans to attack Konoha and assassinate the Third Hokage.

Sasuke and Gaara's fight gets postponed, because the former is nowhere to be found. Kankuro forfeits his match against Shino to avoid revealing his secret techniques, which he might need later during the attack on Konoha. Dosu gets himself killed by Gaara prior to his match against Shikamaru, so Shikamaru automatically advances to fight Temari. Their match is the closest we get to a full battle, but Shikamaru ends up surrendering, his chakra too low to continue. When Sasuke finally decides to show up, his battle is interrupted by Gaara's beast transformation, which initiates Orochimaru's attack on the village. But, since Neji's fight with Naruto is first, they're able to battle it out freely without any interruptions — a fact fans are devoutly thankful for.

Neji's grudge is intensified by a misunderstanding

The members of the Hyuga clan are divided into two houses: the main house and the branch house. While the main house holds a high position of power, the branch house is branded with a cursed seal and is expected to protect the main house at all costs. Naturally, branch house members like Neji and his father Hizashi feel this system is unfair. Compounding this is the fact that Hizashi gave his life to protect his twin brother Hiashi from the main house. Neji has held a bitter grudge against his clan ever since this tragic event.

From Neji's perspective, his role in the branch house is something he has no control over. Just as his father died for Hinata's father, Neji could be forced to die for Hinata. No one can really blame Neji for seeing this as his inevitable fate. However, following Neji's loss to Naruto, Hiashi hands Neji a letter that reveals the truth about Hizashi's death. In reality, Hizashi made it clear that it was his own choice to sacrifice himself for his twin, as opposed to letting his position in the branch house decide his fate. This new knowledge allows Neji to find closure regarding his father's death, while leaving him more optimistic about his clan and future.

His rivalry with Lee is similar to Kakashi and Guy's

With everyone constantly striving to be stronger, rivalries are very common in the "Naruto" universe. Among the most prominent are the ones between Naruto and Sasuke, Kakashi and Guy, and Neji and Lee. As members of Team Guy, Neji and Lee often test their strength against each other, as seen in Episode 49's flashbacks. Neji easily wins the fight, but Lee promises his hard work will one day defeat Neji's natural talent. In fact, this theme of natural talent versus hard work is what defines their rivalry.

Interestingly enough, the rivalry between Kakashi and Guy is also based on the division between talent and hard work. While Kakashi has always been an exceptional ninja, Guy has had to put in a whole lot of extra time and effort to become the taijutsu specialist he is today. Like Kakashi, Neji initially writes his rival off as some kind of failure. And, like Guy, Lee's perseverance eventually earns his rival's respect. The similarities between these two rivalries are hardly a coincidence, though, since Guy is someone Lee has idolized and copied on more than one occasion.

How Neji becomes a jonin before his peers

Prior to the timeskip that leads into "Naruto Shippuden," all of Naruto's Konoha peers are still genin (aside from Shikamaru, who becomes a chunin after the exams). When Naruto returns to the village two years later after training with Jiraiya, he's shocked to learn that everyone else got promoted to chunin during his absence. Neji somehow took it a step further and advanced to jonin, the same rank as Kakashi and Guy.

While Neji's jonin rank is acknowledged in the main plot, the story of how he gets there is only shown in filler episodes that arrive towards the end of "Naruto Shippuden." Episodes 394 through 413 see Naruto's peers get another chance at the Chunin Exams, though they are once again interrupted by villains. This time, two shinobi from the Sand Village, Fugi and Hoichi, attempt to extract the Tailed Beasts, aka jinchuriki, from Gaara and Fu. Luckily, Neji is able to suppress their chakra points to stop the extractions and save the two jinchuriki. This impresses both Tsunade and Gaara, to the point that Neji is allowed to skip the chunin rank and go straight to jonin in Episode 413.

When White Zetsu snatches a sample of his chakra

During the Fourth Great Ninja War, it's hard for any of our heroes to know who to trust. Any enemy ninja can use transformation jutsu to pose as an ally and infiltrate their camps. To be safe, the Allied Shinobi Forces use sensory-type ninja, who can verify that a person is who they say they are based on their chakra. What they don't account for, however, is White Zetsu's unique ability to absorb his target's chakra and use it to create a convincing impostor.

When a White Zetsu clone poses as Neji in Episode 278, he makes it past the sensory-type ninja and visits Sakura at the Medical Unit camp. Based on their conversation about Tonton the pig, Sakura realizes that the person she's talking to isn't the real Neji. She smashes the impostor into the ground and forces the White Zetsu clone to reveal himself. 

How did this clone pull this off? As it turns out, Neji had his chakra absorbed by White Zetsu back in Episode 266. This is how the clone is able to disguise himself well enough to fool the sensory-type ninja.

His death marks a turning point in the war

The Fourth Great Ninja War takes the lives of many ninja, including Shikaku Nara, Inoichi Yamanaka, and Neji from the Allied Shinobi Forces. These three deaths all take place in Episode 364 of "Naruto Shippuden" and serve as a painful reminder to Naruto of the brutal realities of war. 

Following the deaths of Shikaku and Inoichi, Neji gives Naruto a pep talk urging him to keep pushing forward. He also promises to protect him against the Ten Tails. When the Ten Tails finally catches Naruto off guard, Hinata steps in — but it's Neji who blocks the fatal attack to protect both his cousin and his friend. This gets Naruto all shaken up, but Hinata is able to give him the encouragement he needs to come back stronger than ever. 

To strengthen the Allied Shinobi Forces as a whole, Naruto lends the Nine Tails' chakra to everyone in Episode 365. The Nine Tails himself even acknowledges that Naruto's display of power at this moment exceeds the capabilities of the Fourth Hokage and Kushina, two very well-respected shinobi. This boost in power and morale ultimately gives the Allied Shinobi Forces more of a fighting chance to defeat the Ten Tails and win the war. None of this would be possible if Neji hadn't stepped in to defend Naruto and Hinata. His end is tragic, but incredibly important.

His spirit lives on in Lee's dreams

It's no secret that Neji's death is one of the saddest moments in all of "Naruto." Moreover, it marks a major low point for Naruto himself. But after everyone has had time to heal and mourn the losses of the war and the series nears its conclusion, fans are treated to a wealth of lighthearted scenes. For example, Episode 495 dispenses no end of goofy moments as it follows Naruto's closest friends and allies as they search for the best possible wedding gifts for him and Hinata. Impressively enough, even though this takes place after Neji's death, the fallen ninja is still able to make an appearance.

As someone who puts 110% into everything he does, Lee is all fired up to find the perfect wedding gift. This doesn't mean that the task is easy for him, though. After a day of finding nothing, Lee tosses and turns in bed, until he's scared to death by Neji's spirit. This spectral Neji initially appears to be his usual serious self, ready to give advice to his friend — but he breaks character a few seconds later. In a passionate voice, Neji tells Lee while slapping his muscle, "Physical strength over endurance!" By the end of the episode, Lee takes Neji's "advice" and decides to give the happy couple some dumbbells. To top it all off, Lee, Guy, and a shirtless ghost Neji pose together while lifting said dumbbells.

Neji could have played a huge role in Boruto

Perhaps the saddest thing about Neji's wartime death is the fact that he misses out on the opportunity to be a major character in the "Naruto" sequel, "Boruto." While we get to see his peers grow up and start their own families, Neji is left behind in the original series. It's impossible not to wonder what might have been — especially what he could have done as an uncle figure to the titular protagonist.

Seeing how many of Neji's peers have children in the sequel, it's possible that Neji would have started a family of his own. His children would have likely been around Boruto's age, which definitely could have made for some interesting and lively Hyuga family gatherings. He could have also served as a perfect mentor figure for Boruto, since they share the same Hyuga blood. It also would have been nice to see how Neji aged and matured as a character. We see Naruto transcend his troublemaking past, while Hinata's shyness blossoms into confidence. But we'll never know how Neji might have changed if he had survived the war.

That being said, his character does make an appearance in "Boruto" when Boruto and Sasuke travel back in time. It's great to see Neji again, but seeing him in the past just isn't the same as seeing him in the current "Boruto" timeline.

Boruto is named after Neji

In the "Naruto" universe, characters are commonly named after something or someone significant. Naruto is named after the hero of Jiraiya's novel, Sasuke is named after the Third Hokage's father, and Konohamaru is named after the village. And, although it might not sound like it, Boruto is actually named after Neji.

In Japanese, "Neji" means "screw," while "Boruto" means "bolt." As a screw and a bolt, they're two of a kind. This is no coincidence on Naruto or Hinata's end, considering how much love and respect they still have for Neji. Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of "Naruto," confirmed the name's meaning when work on "Boruto: Naruto the Movie" began.

As a nod to this, Neji regrets not asking for Boruto's name after they part ways in the past in Episode 132 of "Boruto." But of course, it's good Neji doesn't manage to ask this key question, as that small bit of information could shift the course of history. Though he'll never know it, Neji's name lives on throughout the sequel series in the form of Boruto.