The Untold Truth Of Kurenai Yūhi From Naruto

There's a lot that can be said about the "Naruto" anime, but one thing no one can ever accuse the series of is being light on characters. From the original series to "Naruto: Shippūden" and "Boruto: Naruto Next Generations," we've met hundreds of characters over the years. Sadly, with a cast as grand as "Naruto," not everyone will get the dedicated screen time they deserve. However, that doesn't mean they don't matter to the "Naruto" story. Kurenai Yūhi, the jōnin-leader of Team 8, is a prime example.

Kurenai became the motherly figure that Hinata Hyuga desperately needed in her life. She helped Kakashi Hatake get reassigned to a role that better suited his mental health. She fought against terrifying figures like Itachi Uchiha. And, her relationship with the late Asuma Sarutobi led to the birth of their daughter, Mirai Sarutobi. There's so much more to the character of Kurenai Yūhi than meets the eye. Here's why every "Naruto" fan needs to stop sleeping on this amazing character.

She almost fought against Kurama

The Nine-Tailed Demon Fox's Attack set the stage for the entire "Naruto" franchise. 12 years before the start of the series, Kurama — better known as the Nine-Tails — caused countless deaths and mass destruction at the Village Hidden in the Leaves before being sealed away inside the baby Naruto by Minato Namikaze, the Fourth Hokage. Before the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox's Attack was over, Kurenai Yūhi actually tried to join in on the repelling of the Nine-Tails demon fox.

Kurenai was joined by Kakashi Hatake, Asuma Sarutobi, and Might Guy. However, Kurenai and her friends were forbidden from joining in on the assault against Kurama by their shinobi superiors, including her father, Shinku Yūhi. It wasn't a question of their skills, but rather the older generation wanting to make sure there would still be people around to guide the next generation if they failed to stop Kurama from destroying the Village Hidden in the Leaves.

She was a second mother to Hinata

Hinata Hyuga wouldn't have turned out the way she did if she didn't have the emotional support of Kurenai Yūhi. Neither the anime nor the manga provides much information about Hinata's mother, nor do they mention if she's even dead or alive. However, when it comes to Hiashi Hyūga (Hinata's father), the series actually elaborates on their broken relationship. Even though later episodes would reveal that Hiashi's decision to drop Hinata as the potential successor of the Hyūga clan because of her lack of self-confidence wasn't done out of malice, the move was still heartbreaking for Hinata, fanning the flames of her self-doubt.

This is why Kurenai's support for Hinata was so significant. She was both a teacher and a mother figure to Hinata. Kurenai questioned Hiashi about his estranged relationship with his daughter and even encouraged Hinata's crush on Naruto. A great example of Kurenai's motherly support is when she helped Hinata work up the courage to offer healing ointment to Naruto after his fight against Inuzuka in the Chunin Exams.

Her relationship with Asuma wasn't confirmed until after his death

One of the worst-kept secrets in the "Naruto" series is the relationship between Kurenai Yūhi and Asuma Sarutobi. Throughout "Naruto" and "Naruto: Shippūden," Asuma and Kurenai are often seen being awfully close to one another, so much so that they're teased by their friends. While the history between Asuma and Kurenai hasn't been deeply explored, the anime revealed that they met when they were children studying at the Academy. The two of them even attempted to take down the demonic Nine Tails fox when it attacked the Village Hidden in the Leaves, but were denied by the older shinobi.

Kurenai's relationship with Asuma was never confirmed by either of them when Asuma was alive on the show. However, after Asuma died in Episode 80 of "Naruto: Shippūden," it all came out. Kurenai is later seen pregnant in Episode 153 of the series, making it clear she and Asuma were far more than just friends.

She's extremely skilled in genjutsu

According to the light novel "Konoha Shinden: Steam Ninja Scrolls," Kurenai Yūhi is regarded as a genjutsu prodigy and is considered to be the number one genjutsu user in the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Her skills as a genjutsu user are said to rival that of Itachi Uchiha, according to the second databook. During their fight in Episode 81 of the original "Naruto" series, Itachi offers Kurenai light praise for her genjutsu skills before nearly taking her out.

In the same episode, Kurenai temporarily traps Itachi in one of her genjutsu — the Demonic Illusion: Tree Binding Death. This had Itachi under the illusion that he was being bound up by a tree. Before Kurenai could finish him off, Itachi reversed her genjutsu right back at her. Another nature-themed genjutsu credited to Kurenai is the Flower Petal Escape, a move that dissolves her body into flower petals that consume the enemy's body.

She has a unique nature type called Yin Release

As established in the "Naruto" series, every shinobi's chakra has an affinity towards one of the five basic nature transformations. The five basic nature types are fire, wind, lightning, earth, and water. However, there are two unique nature types that exist outside of the basic five: The Yin Release and the Yang Release. The Yin Release is mental and spiritual energy used to control imagination to create forms out of nothingness. Since the Yin Release is associated with genjutsu, Kurenai Yūhi's nature type is classified as Yin Release.

Kurenai uses the Yin Release to fuel her genjutsu abilities, such as the Demonic Illusion: Tree Binding Death and Genjutsu: Flower Petal Escape. The Nara Clan uses the Yin Release to manipulate their own shadows, as demonstrated by Shikaku and his son, Shikamaru. The Yin Release is usually inherited among the Uchiha Clan, but — outside of Itachi Uchiha — most members of the Uchiha seldom make use of it.

Her red lipstick relates to her name

There's a deeper meaning to Kurenai Yūhi's name than one would guess. The name "Kurenai" translates to "crimson," while her surname, "Yūhi," means "evening sun." Both evoke the imagery of warm reds, sunsets, and the emotional state of love and affection. The latter is quite fitting, considering Kurenai's secret romance with Asuma Sarutobi and her motherly relationship with Hinata Hyuga. However, the word "Kurenai" is also associated with a Japanese natural cosmetic made from a red pigment extracted from benibana (safflower) petals.

This natural make-up is traditionally used in Japan to color the lips red. Kurenai's name not only perfectly captures her nature and personality, but it's also a clever nod to her appearance. Additionally, as the Isehan-Honten Museum of Beni (via Matcha) explains, beni is used ceremonially and is seen as a rite of passage, as red is believed to protect from evil. Kurenai's sharp red lipstick looks great, but it could also be seen as a form of protection against the evil she goes up against as a shinobi.

She helped save Kakashi from depression

Despite all the teasing from Kakashi Hatake about her relationship with Asuma Sarutobi, Kurenai remained good friends with her former classmate. As such, Kurenai was deeply concerned about Kakashi's mental health following the deaths of Rin Nohara and Obito Uchiha. Blaming himself for the loss of his teammates, Kakashi fell into a serious state of depression. Minato Namikaze, the Fourth Hokage and Kakashi's former teacher, tried to help by transferring him to the Anbu (the Special Assassination and Tactical Squad).

While Kakashi excelled as an Anbu agent, his anger and depression only got worse during his service. When Hiruzen Sarutobi came back into power, Kurenai pleaded with the Third Hokage for her friend to be reassigned as a jōnin sensei in the hopes of restoring his kindness. The Third Hokage, believing that those with kind hearts don't belong in the Anbu, agreed and relieved Kakashi of his duties. She ultimately helped rescue her old friend from the depths of depression.

Small details about her appearance you might have missed

It might not seem like it at first glance, but Kurenai Yūhi actually has a unique appearance among the many characters featured in "Naruto." For starters, in her first anime appearance in the Prologue — Land of Waves arc, Kurenai wore a red dress with white sleeves, but every appearance afterwards has her wearing the opposite. Kurenai is also the only one out of the four principal sensei (the others being Kakashi Hatake, Asuma Sarutobi, and Might Guy) who doesn't wear a flak jacket. There are only two times where she has worn one — in a flashback scene with Hiashi Hyūga and in a scene with her and Asuma.

Now, what's really juicy is that in later episodes of Part II of the "Naruto" manga, Kurenai can be seen wearing a ring on her left ring finger. It was never stated what kind of ring she was wearing, but the fact that she's wearing it on her left hand could be interpreted as a marriage or engagement ring given to her by Asuma before his death. Most importantly, Kurenai is seen wearing the ring when her pregnancy is first revealed.

Masashi Kishimoto always wanted to give her a girl

Despite losing the love of her life in Asuma Sarutobi, Kurenai Yūhi was able to raise their child as a single mother. Her daughter, Mirai Sarutobi, gets her time to shine in "Boruto: Naruto Next Generations." Before the reveal of Kurenai's baby, Masashi Kishimoto — the creator of the "Naruto" series — actually talked about wanting to make her and Asuma's child a girl in a Q&A session held at Tokyo's Jump Fest '09. Given that "wants" doesn't always equal "guarantees," it's actually cool that Kishimoto followed through with the idea of Kurenai giving birth to a daughter.

As fans of "Boruto: Naruto Next Generations" can vouch for, Mirai is the embodiment of Asuma and Kurenai. She strongly resembles her mother, but she uses the chakra blades of her father. Much like her father, Mirai can take her missions too seriously, but she learns to lighten up and have fun by the end. And, unlike her mother, Mirai actually does wear her flak jacket.

She has been played by two veteran voice actors

If you asked a longtime "Naruto" fan who Kurenai Yūhi was to them, they would probably answer Rumi Ochiai, the Japanese voice actor known for the likes of "Shaman King" and "Fullmetal Alchemist." The role of Kurenai went to Mary Elizabeth McGlynn when "Naruto" was dubbed into English, a seasoned American voice actor who has worked on countless animated series. Her most famous role is arguably Major Motoko Kusanagi in "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex." Despite being the best-known English voice of Kurenai, McGlynn didn't actually play her from the get-go.

For Episode 3 of "Naruto," Kurenai was voiced by Saffron Henderson, the Canadian voice actor behind characters like Shenhua from "Black Lagoon" and Lucrezia Noin from "Mobile Suit Gundam Wing." There's no official explanation as to why the role of Kurenai went from Henderson to McGlynn, but we assume that the Episode 3 performance was a temporary fill-in until a voice actor more suitable for the character long term was found.