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Shikaku Nara Details Even Naruto Fans Weren't Aware Of

"Naruto" is about perseverance, about finding inner strength, about working with your demons, and about how best to establish peace in a turbulent world. It's also about family, though that might seem ironic when the two main characters are orphans. However, most of the young shinobi at the center of "Naruto" have living parents, and most of them are pretty savage. Arguably none are more badass than Shikamaru's dad Shikaku, the only person we've met in Konoha who might actually be smarter than Shikamaru.

The irony about Shikaku's eventual legend status is that he doesn't really start off like that. But, as time goes on, we realize where the unmatched Shikamaru came from. One of the most brilliant things that the sequel series "Naruto: Shippuden" does is show that greatness comes from community. The most powerful shinobi are shaped by their sensei, by their colleagues, and by their parents. Naruto has some striking similarities to his parents despite never having met them. Shikaku directly influences his son Shikamaru, shaping him into the shinobi who will advise the coolest Hokage of all time. His son is a fantastic character, but Shikaku is a real ninja rockstar in his own right.

To see that, you're going to have to dig deep into the "Naruto" series and pay attention: His screen-time is sparse compared to most of the other Konoha leaders, though he's no less impactful. Here are some Shikaku Nara details even big "Naruto" fans might not be aware of.

Shikaku first appeared as a henpecked husband

The difference between the Shikaku we see at the beginning and the one we eventually see by the end of "Naruto: Shippuden" is quite shocking. Just before Shikamaru is about to fight in the arena for the Chunin exam finals, he finds his dad in drunken revelry at a bar. Shikaku asks his son why he's not celebrating and is surprised to find out that his son is in fact about to fight in the big event.

Shikaku then gets harassed by his wife Yoshino. We see how Shikamaru lacks respect for his father because he sees his dad as a bedraggled husband whose wife is constantly bossing him around. This also influences Shikamaru's perception that women are "a drag," as he's fond of saying. This vision of Shikaku as a hen-pecked husband so uninvolved in his son's life that he doesn't even know the boy is competing in the very match he's celebrating is a pretty rotten one.

The supportive father, fierce warrior, and brilliant strategist he eventually reveals himself to be is par for the course when it comes to "Naruto," in which you can never write a character off. It also helps explain why Shikamaru is such a unique and important young shinobi.

He encouraged his child to befriend Naruto the outcast

The 4th Hokage, Minato, trapped the Nine-Tails inside his son Naruto and hoped it would ingratiate the boy with the whole village as its savior. Unfortunately, it did the opposite; orphaned and holding inside of him a demon that killed countless villagers and threatened to destroy the village itself, Naruto grew up as an outcast. Most of the parents didn't want their children to play with him, leaving the boy who would one day become the village's savior lonely and friendless. Most of the parents, that is, but not Shikaku.

In a flashback, we see Shikamaru playing with Naruto and he asks his dad why a lot of the other kids aren't allowed to play with him. Shikaku asks his son how he feels about the boy and Shikamaru explains, "It's not like we're gonna be buddies but I wouldn't avoid him either." Shikaku merely smiles and tells his son, "You should do what you want to do." Not only is this a tacit endorsement of a friendship that most parents were dead against, but it also encourages Shikamaru to open his heart and mind to the boy. Obviously, that friendship takes them both a long way.

Shikaku was a literal boss

When we first see Shikaku, it wouldn't be out of line to think that he's a lazy drunk. Even though shortly afterward we see his battlefield prowess and the first depiction of an Ino-Shika-Cho trio, his value to the village isn't fully seen until it's explained that he's the Jonin Commander. The Jonin Commander is basically the head of all the Jonin, or at least their top-ranking representative. This is why he attends meetings with the council, which includes village elders, the Hokage, and the Daimyo of the Land of Fire (Konoha is the ninja village for the nation of Fire).

His skills as a leader and a tactician reach beyond his own village. During the Fourth Shinobi War, Shikaku is named the Chief Battle Strategist of the allied shinobi forces. That is, he is called upon not just to come up with a plan to lead the Jonin of Konoha, but to essentially lead every hidden village shinobi. His strategies earn praise from the Raikage, and when all the Kage leave for the battlefield, he's left in charge back at base. He helps devise the sealing strategy, as well as a strategy for using Naruto's unique abilities to counter the threat from White Zetsu posing as allied shinobi. When it comes to soldiers, arguably none ever become more powerful without being an actual Kage than Shikaku Nara.

He could beat Shikamaru at shogi

For those who don't know, shogi is Japanese chess, a variation on the storied game of battlefield strategy. The first time we see it in "Naruto," Shikamaru is playing his sensei Asuma. In a flashback, Shikamaru is first taught the game by Asuma and, after flipping through a strategy book, Shikamaru beats Asuma in his first game. It's a recurring theme that Asuma could never beat Shikamaru, but we eventually see that Shikamaru isn't completely invincible on the board: Shikaku beats him.

Shikaku seems to be the only person Shikamaru can't own at shogi. Even though Asuma is shown learning from his teacher, and in turn constantly defeats him soundly, it does feel like Shikamaru and Shikaku have a real connection over shogi. The shogi game between Shikaku and Shikamaru following Asuma's death has earned praise from countless sources for being a real work of art. When you have the two most brilliant tacticians in a village of brilliant ninjas going head to head in Japanese chess, it's not going to disappoint, and it only makes sense that the elder is the only real opponent his own flesh and blood can't dominate at the game.

His lessons had a big impact on his son

As a parent to an extremely intelligent but unabashedly lazy child, Shikaku had his work cut out for him from the start. To motivate and guide the moody Shikamaru is a task that would take some true wit and wisdom. Yet, Shikaku accomplishes it with aplomb, dropping some of the boy's best lessons along the way. As already mentioned, one of those is the fact that he let Shikamaru play with the young shinobi Naruto who would eventually change their village.

Another time Shikaku gives some brilliant advice is when Shikamaru wants to quit after leading the failed Sasuke rescue mission. Shikaku calmly explains that his shinobi friends will continue to go on these missions whether Shikamaru leads them or not, so the only way to try and avoid future deaths is just to become stronger and a better leader himself. Later on, during the shogi game after Asuma's death, he encourages Shikamaru to let out his emotions.

As far as skills go, Shikaku obviously taught Shikamaru all of his complex shadow jutsu. Shikaku is even shown telling Shikamaru about how he's going to teach him the deadly Shadow Strangle Jutsu. The Shadow Jutsu techniques are ones that are immensely powerful for an intelligent, conservative fighter, and fit perfectly into the Ino-Shika-Cho formation. Plus, he brought Shikamaru with him to a few council meetings (even though they were admittedly too high-level for the young shinobi) as a way to introduce him to his eventual role.

Shikaku is the only Black Spider Lily user

When we first see the Nara clan's Shadow Possession Jutsu, it's a powerful but limited technique. Shikamaru uses it to stop his opponent before resigning the battle. Shortly after, in the Konoha Crush, we see the real potential of the Shadow Jutsu: Shikaku uses Shadow Strangle Jutsu. For all his mental prowess and analytics, Shikaku is also a brilliant and fierce warrior and never is this more obvious than in his use of the Black Spider Lily technique.

We've seen Shikamaru use an advanced technique that leads to the Black Spider Lily — the Shadow Sewing Technique — to subdue and control his opponent with shadows like stitches. Shikaku takes it to the next level with this beautiful and complex bit of ninjutsu that can tie up a ton of opponents and basically manipulate them, pulling them into his colleagues' attacks. It's a formidable technique that requires a ton of control and skill. Probably for that reason, Shikaku is the only shinobi we see using it, and he does so to devastating effect.

He proudly rocks the Sarutobi Ino-Shika-Cho earrings

There's a scene in which Asuma gives a special set of earrings to the newest incarnation of the Ino-Shika-Cho formation: Ino, Shikamaru, and Choji. The earrings, as explained, are part of a long tradition of a Sarutobi giving a sort of blessing. Of course, the first time we see the Ino-Shika-Cho formation, it's being performed by their fathers, Choza Akimichi, Inoichi Yamanaka, and Shikaku Nara. Once you learn about this tradition, you start looking for jewelry among the previous generation, and if you look hard enough, you'll spot some.

Shikaku has his own Sarutobi earrings. It's a flashback that would be fun to see: Younger versions of Choza/Inoichi/Shikaku receiving their own earrings from a senior Sarutobi in a special ceremony celebrating their promotion to full shinobi. It doesn't take much deduction to work out that they were likely gifted by Hiruzen Sarutobi, more formally known as the Third Hokage. Hiruzen is one of the most powerful shinobi in the series, also called the Professor because he knows so many jutsu. It's no wonder Shikaku is so confident in his knowledge and abilities.

Shikaku won praise from many Kage

As previously mentioned, Shikaku was promoted to commander of the Allied Shinobi Forces during the Fourth Shinobi War, a true honor given the fact that it meant several Kage — all with strong egos and village pride — agreed that this single shinobi from Konoha could act essentially as general to all of their soldiers. What really gives Shikaku a vote of confidence is the reaction to his plan for thwarting Kabuto's reanimating of former Kage. Shikaku unveils a brilliant bit of battlefield alignment and organization to Tsunade, A, and Onoki. The Raikage's response: "No wonder the Hidden Leaf has been so difficult to defeat."

All the Kage immediately agree with his plan and head off to battle, leaving Shikaku alone to run the command center. Bringing together all the hidden villages into one army was an astounding feat. However, to get the rival Kage to not only agree to a plan from a Hidden Leaf shinobi but to actually praise it is a feat probably unprecedented in the world of "Naruto." Shikaku's complex tactics also allow the Allied Shinobi Forces to turn the tides in what should be an unwinnable war against a considerably more powerful army.

Shikaku understood and trusted Naruto

From the get-go, Shikaku was happy to see his son befriend Naruto, and it was maybe in part because of the potential strength he saw dormant in the wayward boy. When Naruto returns to Konoha after Pain has flattened the village, Shikamaru tries to fight through his broken leg to aid his friend. Shikamaru is worried that the hasty, goofy boy shinobi he'd long known was again overestimating himself. Shikaku, though, calls him off. Recognizing Naruto's new sage powers, he explains that Naruto is now so powerful their best move is to just stay out of the young Uzumaki's way.

When Naruto is going to have a discussion with Pain, he runs into Inoichi and Shikaku. Inoichi wants to come and help subdue Pain, but Shikaku bows to Naruto's request. By allowing Naruto to talk to Pain, Shikaku makes what eventually happens possible: Naruto changes Pain's mind and Pain uses the last of his strength to revive the fallen Leaf shinobi. Later, during the great war, Naruto returns to the battlefield against the will of the Kage. Shikaku analyzes their current risks and realizes that Naruto's new abilities are essential to defeating the White Zetsu impersonators. He gives a vote against the prevailing "wisdom" that ultimately turns the tide for the good guys.

Shikaku's first priority was his duty

At the beginning of "Naruto," Shikaku is a bit of a slacker. His rise from being the guy at the bar during the Chunin Exams to the chief tactician for every hidden village is fueled by one thing: Deep within him, there is a ceaseless sense of duty. He helps Shikamaru in answering Asuma's question about who would be the real-world king if life were a game of shogi. The question is meant to make him think about who is the entity that we all rally around to protect. The answer is not one single person, but a place and its inhabitants — the village and its people.

As he rises to leadership positions, Shikaku gives calculated advice dedicated to the improvement of the people as a whole, never looking to his own interests. This is made most clear during his death. As he and Inoichi conduct battle tactics from the command center, it's revealed that a beast ball is heading their way. Shikaku realizes this is probably the end of him. Instead of trying to escape or freaking out, he calmly and clearly delivers a plan to the forces that he hopes will help them defeat Madara and the Ten-Tails. Then, he tells his son he will live on within him and voices one last bit of confidence in his abilities before meeting his doom. You can't help but get a little choked up at this point.

He nominated Kakashi for Hokage

Shikaku, ever the shrewd shinobi, understood all the characteristics that make a good shinobi. When in a council meeting to decide the new Hokage, he is undaunted by the crowd of lords, elders, and legendary shinobi gathered before him. Shikaku makes a compelling argument for Kakashi as new Lord Hokage, and his vote almost ends up getting the title. Of course, Danzo — ever obsessed with his power grab and more interested in his own advancement than in what would be best for Konoha — manages to convince the Daimyo otherwise.

It should be noted, though, that Shikaku saw and likely had already seen for a while that Kakashi was the one member of the Hidden Leaf with everything it would take to be a great leader. Given that the only team Kakashi ever taught would eventually save the world, and that Kakashi would in turn be named Hokage himself, you can only conclude that in this vote — as in most things Shikaku did in his lifetime — the brilliant shinobi was right.

The Deer Clan

When Shikamaru finally subdues Hidan, he explains that he's lured the religious Akatsuki member into the Nara clan's woods, where they have a special relationship with the deer. He explains they've long raised the deer to be guardians. While this may seem a little out of the left field, it wouldn't to a Japanese speaker. The word "shika" means "deer" in Japanese. So the use of "Shika" at the beginning of the names of the heirs to the leader of the clan would have to represent that.

Furthermore, the last name "Nara" also has meaning. Nara is the name of a city in Japan known especially for its deer. According to Nara Sightseeing, they live there "due to a deep connection to Kasuga-taisha Shrine." That shrine is supposed to honor a thunder deity who rode a white deer to the location, and so the deer are imbued with respect on a spiritual level. Deer are considered to be sacred messengers in Japan and are associated with thunder, swords, and sumo wrestling. The latter explains the connection between the Shika and the sumo-esque Cho. "Naruto" creator Masashi Kishimoto really loves tying his characters to traditions from Shintoism, from the Uchiha Clan's abilities to the Nara Clan being brilliant deer herders.