Neji Hyūga was a central supporting character in the original ‘Naruto’ anime/manga and its sequel, ‘Naruto: Shippūden’.
He lived in Konohagakure, and was a member of the Hyūga clan.
In episode 364 of ‘Naruto: Shippūden’, titled “The Ties That Bind”, Neji was tragically killed while shielding Naruto and Hinata from an attack from the Ten-Tailed Beast.
Who Was Neji?
Neji was a shinobi (a jōnin-level one at that!) of the Hyūga clan of Konohagakure.
He was born on July 3, and his father was Hizashi Hyūga. Both father and son were members of a branch house of the Hyūga clan – a branch house being a section of the clan who protects the main house (or family).
When Hinata – Neji’s cousin and the main house heiress – turned three years old, Neji was branded on his forehead with a seal, signifying that as a member of the branch house, he was to protect Hinata always. Hizashi hated that Neji was branded with this seal, as he felt his son was capable of bigger things.
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When Neji was still a young boy, Hiasha (Hinata’s father, Neji’s uncle) killed a man who had attempted to kidnap Hinata. In retaliation, the intruder’s country demanded the head of his killer. Hizashi died in his place due to having to protect Hiashi as a member of the branch house, but also to fight back against his fate of servitude.
Neji hated the Hyūga clan and fate itself for his father’s death, believing everything to be predetermined and pointless to fight against.
It would be years before he learned the full truth of his father’s passing.
What Happened To Neji After His Father’s Death?
After his father’s death, Neji joined the Academy, and was amongst the top students in his class.
He graduated and succeeded highly in the Chūnin Exams (totally decimating his cousin in the process!). After being matched against Naruto in the finals of the Exams, Neji was exposed to a new way of thinking. Naruto won the battle, and taught Neji that fate could be fought against – that it didn’t have to be set in stone. This was a huge revelation for Neji, and was a big positive turn for him.
After the Academy, Neji joined Team Guy (led by Might Guy, a jōnin of Konohagakure), alongside teammates Rock Lee and Tenten.
What Did Neji Look Like?
Neji had pale skin and long dark hair. When his Byakugan was inactive, his eyes were white, depicted with a lavender hue in the anime.
Neji wore a beige shirt with a blue shirt beneath in Part I, along with dark shorts, blue sandals, and bandages on his right arm, leg and chest.
His hair was usually tied back in a ponytail, and a forehead protector hid the Hyūga branding (or “juinjutsu”) on his forehead.
Later on, in Part II, Neji wore a white shirt, white pants, an apron at his waist and black sandals.
When the Fourth Shinobi World War took place, he wore the standard flak jacket and uniform of Konohagakure.
What Was Neji’s Personality Like?
Neji was a kind and gentle child, but this was lost when his father was killed. He became cold and calculating, with a nihilistic view that his fate was inescapable.
He resented the Hyūga clan, and lived with the terrifying knowledge that he could be killed by the main house at any moment (as part of his servitude).
After encountering Naruto, Neji’s ideology developed into a more positive one – that one can make the most of their own destiny. This was a crucial character moment for Neji, and he felt in debt to Naruto for teaching him this new way of thinking.
This new ideology brightened Neji’s character, and improved his relationship with the Hyūga clan and his cousin Hinata. He began to embrace his duty of keeping Hinata safe, and this ultimately led to Neji sacrificing his life for hers.
What Were Neji’s Abilities?
Neji was exceptionally bright, and was considered to be a natural genius – even rivaling Sasuke for top of his class in the Academy!
Neji used the Byakugan, which is a Hyūga-specific ninja ability. It enables the user to have a field of vision up to 360º, except for a single blind spot at the back of their back. The user can also see through objects, and has telescopic sight.
To compensate for his Byakugan’s blind spot, Neji emitted chakra around the blind spot’s area, enabling him to sense any attacks from that direction.
As is customary with Hyūga clan members, Neji was also proficient in taijutsu (or combat skill). He could take down opponents using exact strikes to various areas of the body, alongside using his exceptional reflexes and coordination to avoid and dodge attacks.
How Did Neji Die?
Neji died in episode 364 of ‘Naruto: Shippūden’, “The Ties That Bind”.
The Ten-Tailed Beast sent an attack of wooden spikes towards Naruto, and Hinata jumped in front of him to protect him. Seeing this, Neji leaped in front of Naruto and his cousin, using himself as a human shield for the others. The wooden spikes fatally impaled him, and he died soon after, in Naruto’s arms.
His death was a shock to fans and characters alike, but did also help Neji to finally truly understand why his father died to protect Hiashi.
What Is Neji’s Legacy?
Throughout the series, we often see birds being utilized as a metaphor for Neji’s personal and emotional development. A key example of this is the Allied Shinobi Forces forming a bird formation in memoriam of Neji.
After the war was over, Neji’s body was returned to Konohagakure and he was buried.
When Naruto and Hinata were wed, they included a picture of Neji in the ceremony.
After this, Hinata visited his grave regularly with Himawari Uzumaki, her daughter.