Neji Hyuga is one of the main supporting characters of the anime series Naruto and Naruto Shippuden. He is a shinobi of Konohagakure’s Hyuga clan, a prestigious family of dojutsu users who possess the Byakugan, a powerful eye technique that grants them near 360-degree vision and the ability to see chakra pathways. Neji is a prodigy of the clan, mastering many of its secret techniques and developing his own variations. He is also a member of Team Guy, along with Rock Lee, Tenten, and their leader Might Guy.
In this article, we will explore Neji’s character development, abilities, relationships, and role in the story of Naruto Shippuden. We will also discuss his tragic death and legacy in the sequel series Boruto: Naruto Next Generations.
All about Neji Hyuga
- Birthdate: July 3
- Sex: Male
- Age: Part I: 13–14/Part II: 17–18
- Status: Deceased
- Height: Part I: 159.2 cm–160.1 cm/Part II: 172.1 cm
- Weight: Part I: 45.8 kg–46.8 kg/Part II: 54.2 kg
- Blood type: O
- Kekkei Genkai: Byakugan
- Affiliation: Konohagakure/Allied Shinobi Forces
- Team: Team Guy/Sasuke Recovery Team
Neji Hyuga’s Background
Neji was born the son of Hizashi Hyuga, placing him in one of the Hyūga clan’s branch houses. When the heiress of the main house, Hinata, turned three years old, Neji’s forehead was branded with the customary cursed seal by his uncle, Hiashi.
Despite how young he was at the time, Neji’s natural talent with the Hyuga’s trademark techniques were apparent to his father. For this reason, Hizashi resented that Neji was marked with a cursed seal, as he felt it bound him to a life of service to the main house when he should be destined for greater things.
His anger would often manifest subconsciously, prompting Hiashi to activate Hizashi’s cursed seal and punish him with pain, an act that traumatised Neji.
Shortly after Neji received his cursed seal, a Kumogakure Head Ninja visiting Konoha took advantage of a peace treaty and attempted to kidnap Hinata in order to gain the secrets of the Byakugan. Hiashi stopped and killed the Head Ninja.
In what became known as the Hyuga Affair, Kumo denied the allegations made against its Head Ninja and insisted Hiashi’s actions were a declaration of war by Konoha the only way to avoid hostilities between the two villages would be if Hiashi’s body were turned over to Kumo as compensation.
Hiashi was willing to do so if it meant protecting Konoha, but that in turn would give Kumo the Byakugan. Hizashi, Hiashi’s twin brother, volunteered to be his body double since his cursed seal would destroy his Byakugan at the time of his death, a fate he insisted upon over Hiashi’s protests.
Neji was too young to understand what was happening at the time, and over the years came to believe his father had been forced to die for the main house.
Neji became spiteful towards the members of the main house for what he believed they’d done to his father; in the anime, he missed no opportunity to try and harm Hinata.
He also came to believe that the course of a person’s life was determined from the moment of their birth and could be altered under no circumstances.
When he graduated from the Academy at the top of his class he was added to Team Guy, where his philosophy placed him at odds with one of his teammates, Rock Lee: Lee wanted to become a great ninja despite his limitations, which Neji believed was impossible.
Tenten was easily wowed by Neji, but Lee became determined to defeat Neji in a fight to prove him wrong. Their instructor, Might Guy, encouraged this, believing competition and the drive to succeed would push them to new heights.
Neji’s Character Development
Neji’s character undergoes a significant change throughout the series, from a cold and arrogant genius who believes in fate to a warm and humble hero who values freedom and friendship.
Neji in Part I
In Part I of the series, Neji is introduced as a bitter and cynical young ninja who despises the main branch of his clan for oppressing the branch family. He believes that one’s destiny is predetermined by their bloodline and talent, and that no amount of effort can change it.
He also looks down on those who he considers weak or inferior, such as his cousin Hinata Hyuga, whom he resents for being the heiress of the clan despite her timid personality.
Neji’s worldview is challenged by Naruto Uzumaki, a fellow genin who is determined to prove himself despite being an orphan and a jinchuriki (a human host of a tailed beast). Naruto and Neji face each other in the final round of the Chunin Exams, a tournament that tests the skills and potential of young ninjas.
Neji initially dominates the fight with his superior Byakugan and Gentle Fist skills, but Naruto refuses to give up and manages to land a decisive blow on Neji with his signature Shadow Clone Technique.
Naruto then reveals to Neji that he is not a genius or a prodigy, but rather someone who worked hard to overcome his weaknesses and hardships. He also tells Neji that he can change his fate if he chooses to, and that he should not let his clan’s curse seal control him.
Neji is shocked and humbled by Naruto’s words and actions, and begins to question his own beliefs. He also learns from Hiashi Hyuga, the leader of the main branch and Hinata’s father, that his own father Hizashi Hyuga willingly sacrificed himself to protect the clan from an enemy attack, contrary to what Neji believed.
Hizashi also left a letter for Neji, telling him that he loved him and that he hoped he would grow up to be a strong and free ninja. Neji then apologizes to Hinata for his harsh treatment of her, and vows to change himself for the better.
Neji in Part II
In Part II of the series, also known as Naruto Shippuden, Neji has grown into a more mature and compassionate person. He has become a jonin (an elite ninja) and a respected member of his clan. He has also developed a close friendship with Naruto and his other teammates, supporting them in their missions and battles. He still retains his calm and analytical personality, but he is also more open-minded and optimistic.
Neji plays an important role in several arcs of Naruto Shippuden, such as:
The Kazekage Rescue Arc: Neji joins Team Kakashi (Naruto, Sakura Haruno, and Kakashi Hatake) in their mission to rescue Gaara, the Fifth Kazekage and Naruto’s friend, who has been kidnapped by the Akatsuki (a rogue ninja organization that seeks to capture all the tailed beasts).
Along the way, they encounter Deidara (an Akatsuki member who uses explosive clay) and Sasori (an Akatsuki member who uses puppetry). Neji uses his Byakugan to locate Gaara’s location and to detect Sasori’s traps. He also helps Sakura defeat Sasori by destroying his puppet body with his Gentle Fist.
The Tenchi Bridge Reconnaissance Mission Arc: Neji joins Team Yamato (Naruto, Sakura, Sai, and Yamato) in their mission to meet with Sasori’s spy in Orochimaru’s hideout. The spy turns out to be Kabuto Yakushi (Orochimaru’s right-hand man), who betrays them and reveals Orochimaru’s presence.
Orochimaru then summons Sasuke Uchiha (Naruto’s former teammate who defected to join him) to confront them. Neji tries to stop Sasuke from escaping with Orochimaru by using his Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms, but Sasuke blocks it with his Chidori. Neji then witnesses Naruto’s transformation into his four-tailed form, and is shocked by the extent of his power and pain.
The Akatsuki Suppression Mission Arc: Neji joins Team Asuma (Shikamaru Nara, Ino Yamanaka, Choji Akimichi, and Asuma Sarutobi) in their mission to track down and eliminate two Akatsuki members: Hidan (an immortal who worships a death god) and Kakuzu (a bounty hunter who can use multiple hearts and elemental attacks).
Neji uses his Byakugan to scout the enemy’s movements and to find their weak points. He also helps Shikamaru defeat Hidan by cutting off his head with his Gentle Fist. He then attends Asuma’s funeral, who was killed by Hidan during the battle.
The Itachi Pursuit Mission Arc: Neji joins Team Kurenai (Hinata, Kiba Inuzuka, Akamaru, and Shino Aburame) in their mission to assist Team Kakashi in their pursuit of Itachi Uchiha (Sasuke’s brother and an Akatsuki member who massacred his clan).
Along the way, they encounter Tobi (an Akatsuki member who acts as a comic relief) and Zetsu (an Akatsuki member who can split into two halves and merge with the ground).
Neji uses his Byakugan to see through Tobi’s intangibility and to detect Zetsu’s presence. He also helps Hinata overcome her fear of facing Pain (the leader of the Akatsuki who possesses six bodies with different abilities).
The Pain’s Assault Arc: Neji joins the rest of Konoha’s shinobi in defending the village from Pain’s invasion. He fights against one of Pain’s bodies, the Animal Path, who can summon various creatures.
He manages to destroy some of the summons with his Gentle Fist, but is overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. He is then saved by Naruto, who has returned from his training with the toads and has mastered Sage Mode (a state that enhances one’s physical and mental abilities). Neji is amazed by Naruto’s growth and cheers for him as he confronts Pain.
The Five Kage Summit Arc: Neji joins Team Samui (Samui, Karui, and Omoi) from Kumogakure (the Hidden Cloud Village) in their mission to deliver a letter from the Fourth Raikage to the Hokage regarding Sasuke’s actions.
Along the way, they encounter Naruto and Sakura, who try to stop them from harming Sasuke. Neji tries to reason with them, explaining that Sasuke has become a criminal who has attacked the Cloud’s jinchuriki (Killer B) and has joined forces with Akatsuki.
He also tells them that the Five Kage (the leaders of the five great ninja villages) are holding a summit to discuss how to deal with Sasuke and Akatsuki. He then leaves with Team Samui after delivering the letter.
The Fourth Shinobi World War Arc: Neji joins the Allied Shinobi Forces (a coalition of all the ninja villages) in their war against Akatsuki, who have revived all the previous jinchuriki and tailed beasts under their control.
He is assigned to the Second Division, led by Kitsuchi from Iwagakure (the Hidden Stone Village). He fights against various reincarnated shinobi, such as Ginkaku and Kinkaku (two brothers who possess some of the Nine-Tails’ chakra), Toroi (a magnet user from Kumogakure), and Haku (a former ally of Zabuza Momochi). He uses his Byakugan to locate their chakra sources and to coordinate with his allies.
Neji Hyuga’s Personality
As a child, Neji was kind and prone to smiling; on Hinata’s third birthday, he confided to his father that he thought she was cute. He lost these qualities after his father’s death, growing serious and cold, more mature than most his age.
For years he was driven by a fatalistic belief that his and everyone else’s fates were determined from birth and were inescapable. He perceived his own destiny as being that of a rare talent, causing him to arrogantly place himself above those he believes are “weaker” than himself.
He also perceived that his talents would always be handicapped by mandatory servitude to the Hyūga’s main house, which he resented and it fuelled his animosity towards the main house and its members.
Neji shared his philosophy about fate with those he met, gladly telling them when they are straying from the paths that have been set out for them by, for example, trying to exceed their natural limitations or trying to defeat him in combat when they lack any obvious ability to do so.
When he shared his philosophy with Hinata, she concluded that his insistence upon destiny was actually a sore spot for him that caused him inner suffering: he so badly wanted to prove himself to the main house yet feels incapable of doing so.
Neji attempted to kill her in anger for her words. Naruto Uzumaki also disagreed with Neji, claiming that Neji was not realising his destiny because he was in fact holding himself back. Neji initially scoffed at Naruto’s suggestion, but he was forced to reevaluate when Naruto, a “failure”, defeats him, a “genius”, in a fight.
From his experience with Naruto, Neji felt that fate is not inescapable but that, rather, one’s destiny is what one makes of it he felt indebted to Naruto for releasing him from his prior “darkness”.
The destiny Neji ended up selecting for himself was to become strong enough to never lose again, although his inevitable destiny would soon come to hold true.
In pursuit of this goal he trained with his teammates, whose own dreams he became supportive of, and later with members of the main house, whom he gradually started mending relations with.
Over time his desire to get stronger became as much a motivation to never lose as it is to protect his friends and family. In particular, he embraced his responsibility as a member of a branch house to keep Hinata safe, showing greater concern for her than anyone else in combat situations and, ultimately, giving his life to save hers.
Birds were often used to characterise Neji’s philosophy and growth: while he felt bound by destiny and the cursed seal on his forehead, he described his personal experiences as being like a caged bird after being defeated by Naruto, he observed to his father’s memory how many birds there were freely flying in the world when trying to overcome the limitations of his Byakugan, he observed birds at a distance but could never spot the one at his blind-spot after his death, the Allied Shinobi Forces took on a bird formation in his memory.
Neji Hyuga’s Appearance
Neji had fair skin and long black hair, which the anime usually depicted as dark brown. When his Byakugan was not active he has featureless white eyes the anime gave them a slight lavender tint.
In Part I, Neji wore a beige-coloured shirt, a dull blue shirt beneath that, and mesh armour beneath that. He wore dark brown shorts, blue shinobi sandals, and wrapped bandages around his right arm, chest, and right leg.
He tied his hair back in a loose ponytail tied a few inches above the end. He wore a black forehead protector, under which was a smaller headband with two straps that frame the sides of his face, both of which hide his Hyūga main family’s juinjutsu.
In Part II, Neji changed the clothing and bandages of his former wardrobe for a white kimono-shirt with long, loose sleeves, matching pants, a navy-grey apron tied around his waist, and black shinobi sandals.
He stopped wearing the straps that framed his face, instead allowing his now longer hair to do that instead. When on missions, he usually carried a tan and black drawstring bag over his shoulder.
During the Fourth Shinobi World War, he swapped much of his wardrobe for the standard Konohagakure flak jacket and other attire. At the war’s start, he kept his hair tied in a ponytail, but as the war progresses, he allowed it to hang loose.
Neji Hyuga’s Abilities
From a very young age, Neji’s aptitude as a natural genius was evident, even by the Hyūga clan’s high standards. As a member of the branch house, Neji was technically forbidden to learn any of the clan’s advanced techniques.
However, even without formal instruction, he learned how to perform many of these techniques from observation alone. Hiashi, so deeply impressed by Neji’s raw talent and rapid growth despite being self-taught, came to believe that Neji should have been the successor of the Main Branch and would eventually surpass all other Hyuga to ever exist, the latter of which he succeeded in by Part II despite his still young age.
Besides his advance clan traits, Neji graduated from the Academy at the top of his class, which in turn convinced Rock Lee that Neji was the top competitor during his first Chunin Exams.
Although he was not promoted during those exams, he was the only Konoha 11 member to become a jonin during the timeskip. By the end of Part I, Hiashi started training Neji in all of the Hyuga’s secret techniques. He could also use Fire, Water, and Earth Release.
As a Hyuga, Neji possessed the Byakugan. While a common dojutsu in his clan, Neji’s was noted to be especially powerful. With these eyes, he had a near-360° penetrative field of vision. A small blind-spot exists behind his third upper-thoracic vertebrae – a weakness he was well aware of and trained extensively to overcome, to no avail.
Instead, he took extra precautions to compensate for it by emitting chakra around the area, giving him a way to sense any approaching attacks and slowing them enough to give him time to respond.
It allowed him to see chakra pathway systems and the 361 tenketsu that run along it. He was able to increase his Byakugan’s range over time: whereas he could only see things 50 metres away in Part I, by Part II he could see things from at least 800 metres.
As with most members of the Hyūga clan, Neji specialised in taijutsu. He excelled at systematically taking down his opponents with precise strikes to key points in the body.
Even more, he demonstrated blazing speed and combined with superb reflexes, coordination, and agility, he could seamlessly dodge nearly any attack while simultaneously able to counterattack his opponent.
These traits made him especially formidable at close range, forcing enemies to keep their distance, where Neji’s skill made him difficult to hit.
Neji was trained from an early age in his clan’s secret signature Gentle Fist fighting style, which takes advantage of the Byakugan’s piercing vision to strike at the opponent’s chakra system directly, constricting or cutting off their chakra flow from only minimal contact.
Because the chakra pathway system is closely intertwined with many of the body’s major organs, debilitating and even fatal damage can be done just as easily. While Gentle Fist strikes are by default difficult to defend against, Neji’s ingenuity and methods made his usage of the style especially effective.
Implementing several of the style’s most powerful techniques, Neji was very versatile in battle. With the Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms, he could attack multiple targets at once, either several opponents’ tenketsu to restrain them at once or deflect incoming volley of projectiles; in the anime, he improved the technique to double the number of strikes.
Defensively, he could use Eight Trigrams Palms Revolving Heaven to expel chakra from his body and deflect all incoming attacks from all directions at once. If restrained and thus unable to use Revolving Heaven, he could instead release chakra from his tenketsu to free himself.
In Part II, Neji began using the Eight Trigrams Vacuum Palm to attack targets outside his physical range or push away incoming attacks; when performed in combination with others, its strength is accordingly increased.