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Out Of Every Death In Naruto, This One Stands Above The Rest

Currently clocking in at over 900 episodes, the "Naruto" franchise has given fans story moments encompassing the highest highs and the lowest lows. Though it started out as a children's anime about becoming a powerful ninja, the war-riddled world of "Naruto" frequently endures wanton death and destruction, and no small amount of tragedy. This is evidenced by the number of major characters the show has seen come and go over its lifespan. You couldn't count the number of dead characters on one, two, or even ten hands.

Some of the series' standout examples include the death of Hiruzen Sarutobi, the Third Hokage who sacrificed his life in defense of the village, or Neiji Hyuga, the once cocky prodigy who died protecting the cousin he had resented for much of his childhood. However, fans commonly find that there is one major character death that tugs heartstrings a little harder than others. Out of every death in "Naruto," the death of Jiraiya stands above the rest.

How is Jiraiya's death the saddest?

While plenty of people in the fanbase find other deaths more tragic, it's hard to deny that Jiraiya's certainly had the widest effect. He was one of the most powerful figures in the series, and his combat expertise (mixed with his laughable, pervy antics) made him a fan favorite character. If a fan doesn't consider Jiraiya's death the saddest in the series, chances are it's still pretty high on the list.

For instance, on Ranker's list of "Saddest Naruto Deaths," Jiraya's demise takes the cake by far. Over 6,000 fans voted in his favor, placing him at the very top of the list. Only Minato Namikaze's death comes close, but still lags behind by over 1,000 votes. A separate Ranker article lists the moment where Iruka cheers Naruto up following Jiraiya's death as the second most "emotionally devastating" moment in the entire series.

This sentiment carries over into Reddit, where a fan poll regarding the saddest Naruto deaths ranks Jiariya's death as the winner by over 150 votes. For reference, only 396 people participated in the poll. 235 of them voted in favor of Jiraiya over other tragic characters such as Minato, Neiji, and Asuma. 

"No character is as developed as Jiraiya (even though Asuma hit me hard)," wrote u/veranecessara. "So Jiraiya's death was completely heart wrenching as was everything leading up to it (foreshadowing it with Tsunade) and everything following it."

How did Jiraiya die and why was it sad?

As the aforementioned Reddit user was quick to point out, Jiraiya's death had quite a lot of development put toward it. Though he dies midway through the "Shippuden" series, Jiraiya has been a major character since the original "Naruto" series. During that time, the Legendary Sannin taught Naruto how to use his trademark rasengan technique and formed a father-son relationship with the young orphan. He also spends the entire two-year timeskip leading into "Shippuden" further training Naruto.

So, when Jiraiya travels to Amegakure in order to track down the leader of Akatsuki, just to die at the hands of Pain, the series suffers a real tangible loss. The main character is filled with grief over the death of his closest companion — the man who trained him for over two long years — and the audience feels that sadness because they are in tune with Naruto as the protagonist.

The fact that Pain was once a former protégé, and that Jiraiya was never able to finish his final book, woo Tsunade, or tell Naruto how close he had been with his father (to the point that "Naruto" is a namesake lifted directly from Jiraiya's first book) only compounds the sadness upon itself. Despite the fact that Jiraiya died one of the most successful and respected ninjas of his time, his death is painted as the tragic end of a man with many regrets.