A reflection on Hyuuga Neji’s character and the philosophy of fatalism
When I first sat down to start writing a Naruto blog post, the first topic that came up was Hyuuga Neji. It’s enough that I’ve gotten the people around me fed up with him and conciously aware of his lack of screen time in the anime AND the manga. And so, I’ve decided to honor him with a post that’s all about him…
(Oh, and just so you know, I don’t claim to be some well known expert or anything… I’m just a fan putting in my two cents on the subject)
Neji is a very interesting character right from the start when he’s first introduced in the series. He comes off as the polar oppisite of Hyuuga Hinata. A girl so sweet , caring, pure, and selfless. Then he enters; cold, selfish, tough, self-centered and tainted with hatred against his own family. He’s famous for his superiority complex, a feeling that he’s like God looking down at the rest as puny insects. But the funny thing is, that fact is, he is but a Branch member of an enslaved section of the Hyuuga family.
Geekish as it sounds, I believe I’ve must of seen those episodes several times over—of the match that Neji and Naruto had during the Chunin exams. It was one of the most thought provoking matches for me, that I’ve seen in the child season of the anime. Of course, there are several others but for now, I’ll just focus on this one.
Neji believe in was is called fatalism “What will be, will be” and “If it’s written there’s no changing it” as well as, “It is destined by fate”. Indeed, Neji strongly stood by that belief with an iron fist—and with good reason. Neji and Hinata’s fathers Hizashi and Hiashi are twins. And to avoid any battle for power, the family elder donned the first born twin, Hisashi, as the ligetamate heir to the clan and part of the head family. Hizashi, born second, was immediately placed in the Branch family.
The head and the branch are comparable to a millionaire and the every street bum. Either one or the other, either black or white. Hot or cold. Such extreams, such drastic differences. And yet they were twins. Brothers who where born minutes apart, thrown to the opposite ends of the family political table. Only based on their birth and nothing else.
The Branch members were sentials; the absolute protectors of the Main family and the secrets of the Byakugan eye techinques. They are bound by a permenate secret jutsu seal curse, that fades only after death. The seal destroys the Byakugan eye after the user dies allowing the eye techinque to be protected. (So if the eye was removed from living Branch member, a ninja can still get away with one as a battle trophy.) But what that’s disturbing, is that by a simple motion of a hidden hand seal, a Main family member can “punish” a Branch member by activating the curse seal which causes the distruction of their brain cells. In other words, They walk around with death sentences etched on their foreheads… Neji received his on Hinata’s third birthday. He was only four years old at the time…
Neji’s theme of Fatalism
Being birthed into this world is not planned, cannot be planned. It’s something that happens by the natural flow of things—or if you religiously inclined; by the grace and will of God. In other words, fate. Fate that Hizashi was born as the younger twin, fate that he was branded like an animal, fate that Neji would be his son and fate that he too would be branded as such—fate even so that he stood as Naruto’s opponent during those exams.
“Look closer at Reality!
Those that become Hokage are born into that destiny.
You don’t become it by trying.
It is decided by destiny.
People must live within their own unchangable flow…
The only destiny that every person shares…
– manga chp 100 pg 12 –
Now, tell me… can anyone escape death? I believe I don’t have to call on experts to stay this with absolute confidence. No one. Even those that believe in resurrection; you have to die first. Even those that believe in reincarnation; you have to die first. I think I made my point (I don’t mind if someone aruges with me though)
But there is one big BUT that Neji missed by a long shot. The large factor that Naruto brought in with that match.
If fate is really predetermined, I can safely assume that we would all become fortune-tellers and have that occupation as common as a grocery store clerk. But no. This isn’t so. Fate cannot be so easily decided. Neji before every match, before deciding any little thing, calculated the outcome. Naruto, you are weaker than I, therefore, you lose. But who lost? Neji did. And with what? Naruto’s most troublesome technique: The kage bushin. It was the jutsu that Naruto struggled the most to master; he was the worst at it.
There is some wiggle room between the individual and fate just like there is this space between birth and death—it’s called life. If you commit suicide you’ve given into fate. But how many stories of organ transplants, and cancer survivors out there, of people who ‘cheated death’? The world’s oldest man/woman? Controvorcial lives, significant figures in history that have their existance and memory kept alive long after their death? Those haven’t given into fate. Those haven’t felt resigned to what fate dictates.
“Can I ask you one thing?
Why do you go against your destiny so much?”
I was called a loser.”
– manga chp 103, pg 14 –
Even Neji himself unconciously fought against it. He longed to fly free, finding the outlet in provoking Hinata’s death, going against his fate to always protect her. Hizashi too, seeked that outlet in deciding for his own life, he chose the ideas fro which he sacrificed his life for,
Not for the Main family,
Not for the laws of the clan,
Not to protect the Byakugan eye.
This was the truth that was revealed to Neji soon after the match none other then by Hiashi himself.
Even a captured bird
If it’s clever enough,
Will try to open the cage with it’s beak.
Never giving up,
it’s desire to freely fly in the sky…”
– manga chp 105 pg 06 –
Penny for your thoughts
So can we conclude that a person’s will is completely free from fate?
Ehh.. I’d have to say that is debatable. Highly debatable. One cannot succumb to fate but of course then, on the other end of the scale, a person can’t be as haughty to proclaim that he is above the law of natural order.
Chew on this:
Neji declared that only those that are Hokage are born into that destiny right? Well how about that Naruto’s father is the fourth Hokage. How about knowing he was taught by Kakashi, who was a student of the fourth Hokage—Naruto was also taught by Jiraya who was ALSO a student of a Hokage; Sarutobi the third Hokage. Naruto has a tailed beast sealed inside of him—Gaara son of the third Kazekage, has such a beast inside of him as well as the fourth Mizukage (which is sealed with the four tails), AND Killerbee (sealed with the eight tails) brother of the Raikage. Which shows having a tailed beast related to the place of being a ‘Kage’ of a village. Now if that doesn’t make you think, I don’t know what does.
Oh maybe this.
In the manga chapter “Sasuke’s Dogma” (462) Naruto is compaired to the first hokage Senju Hashirama as Tobi explains that Naruto is “fated” to fight against, to become rivals with Sasuke Uchiha, because it runs in their blood.
But in truth, for Naruto to have made it this far, he needed the determination that is not provided by fate or destiny, but by his own will. If Naruto would have given up, he would have missed many battles, meeting new people and aquiring the skills he now posseses. Indeed, Naruto in his own way has fought against fate… only to fall right into it…
I cross my fingers and I hope that Shippuden Neji will come and make a full blown appearance (as in fight and hog some screen time) like Naruto, Gaara, Sasuke, and Shikamaru had done… But maybe I’m just dreaming…
“Father is a person’s destiny,
A thing like a cloud flowing with an inescapable flow?
Or can a person choose the flow that he wishes?
I still don’t know the anwser to this.
Either way, the destination may be the same in the end.
By choosing to live like the latter,
A person can live and strive toward a goal.
And in this match, I have finally understood
that those who have, are truly strong.
I have but one goal…
I want to be stronger…
Enough to not lose to anyone…
that’s how I feel now…
Father, the birds are flying freely today,
They look so happy.”
– manga chp 105, pg 20 –