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The Villains In Naruto Won More Times Than You Might Remember

In any work of fiction, a hero is only as fascinating as the villain. That fact is especially true in the Shonen genre of anime, which often presents a brave protagonist defying the odds and becoming powerful enough to defeat a villain we usually can't wait to see crushed. "Naruto" is a series brimming with vibrant and captivating ninjas who fight for the side of good. Still, on the darker end of things, the series isn't short of displaying some genuinely evil people we'd hope to never meet in real life. These villains give the series a sense of thrilling danger and suspense whenever they get to engage and defeat Naruto and his comrades.

By the time "Naruto" ends, the war is stopped. Sasuke is back with Konoha and his friends. And Naruto achieves that dream of becoming Hokage. Good ultimately triumphs over evil. It's a fundamental rule in the Shonen playbook, along with the one about the main character having a popular rival. But each victory for all the good shinobi was completely hard-earned. "Naruto" had many fantastic battles, but not all of them meant our heroes went home with their heads up high. Keep in mind that the villains in "Naruto" won more times than most viewers might think.

Orochimaru got away with a lot

The first part of the "Naruto" series quickly established some significant threats, whether it was Zabuza on the bridge or the sociopathic era of Gaara during the "Chunin Exam Arc." However, there was no greater evil in "Naruto" at this point than Orochimaru. He is the series' first major antagonist and arguably manages to get away with so much in so little time. He gives the series one of its earliest tragic deaths by killing the Third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi, in the episode "Beyond the Limit of Darkness and Light"(via Crunchyroll). What makes the win particularly hard to swallow is that if he'd had more strength, Sarutobi could have sealed away Orochimaru's soul and stopped him altogether. Instead, Orochimaru leaves a hole in the heart of Konoha and later snags another worthy victory with one of the village's own.

Orochimaru is able to get Sasuke to follow him, and it all begins with Episode 30 of the series when he leaves Sasuke with the curse mark. The mark grants its user more power at the cost of their mind. And Orochimaru's entire aim was to use it to possess Sasuke's body. However, the move sets up several unforeseen wins for the villain. Notably, it plays into Sasuke's quest for more power at any cost, which causes him to abandon his friends and village. The young Uchiha continues his dark path well into "Shippuden," even managing to become a wanted criminal. Orochimaru couldn't have foreseen Sasuke's path, but he certainly wasn't complaining as it pitted him against former friends and teachers.

The Akatsuki dominated Shippuden

"Shippuden" increases the scope of "Naruto" in many ways, its villains included. But in terms of talking about pure dominance, nobody comes close to the Akatsuki. The villainous group was like the '90s Chicago Bulls with their tongues out dunking their way over the corpses and broken dreams of Konoha's finest. For starters, the group nearly kills Gaara in the series' first major arc. And just when we think that all heroes are immune to death when Gaara is resurrected, they provide colossal shock and heartbreak in the episode "Last Words," where Kakuzu & Hidan kill Azuma. Sure, it later leads to one of the most remarkable revenge paybacks in anime history when Shikamaru coldly buries the immortal Hidan. But Azuma's death establishes just how horrific the Akatsuki are and that no one is safe.

Pain arguably becomes Akatsuki's MVP by surpassing the atrocities committed by some of his cohorts. Not only does Pain do the unthinkable by killing Jiraya, but during the "Pain Assault Arc," he destroys Konoha, almost kills Kakashi and Hinata, and even gives Naruto's patented "Talk-No-Jutsu" its biggest challenge. Yet as valuable to the win count as Pain is, Akatsuki's coup de grâce occurs when the Fourth Shinobi World War breaks out. Obito and Kabuto are essentially to thank for causing one of the worst conflicts that the world of "Naruto" has ever seen (via Narutopedia). It even results in another devastating loss for Konoha, as the series kills off Neji. If there was any chance of a completely happy ending to "Naruto," the Akatsuki shut that down.