Although it?s not terribly indepth or terribly insightful (especially since I had to erase a lot due to image limits for blogs), here?s my offering to the unbashing gods. Late, per usual but heartfelt.

Hopefully that counts for something. >.<

Minor warning: some of my thoughts on Neji are...different than most.


Hyuuga Neji: How He Became One of My Favorite Characters Against All Odds




::: Blindspot:::

Okay, I?m going to be totally honest here and say that I truly disliked Neji for a very long time, mostly due to the fact that his personality was one that seemed to conflict with mine, initially. Actually, one could say that he was my least favorite character and the only character that I felt even passive aggression towards. I didn?t ever bash him, but I never cut him much slack and I tended to shrug off all of his development as a fluke.

So, it was with utter chagrin and embarrassment that I realized something, right around the moment when Kidomaru was finding Neji?s blindspot. By feeling the way that I did, I was being just as ?bad? as the character I incomprehensibly disliked. When I got past this and started actually looking at the guy and the reasons for the ways he acted and the bundle of confusing pain that he must be dealing with. My hatred suddenly pulled a 180.

I, now, liked Neji.

Scratch that...I loved the adorably dysfunctional jerk. He quickly went from being my least favorite to climbing up my top ten. And, it was entirely due to one chapter/episode that my mind was changed, the one I mentioned up top, the Kidomaru vs. Neji fight.

I want to say that it was the higher sense of morality and heroics that Neji presented which won me over. Or, maybe the thematic implications of the Hyuuga blindspot and how it relates to the disease of discrimination that eats away into the clan?s structure. But, the truth is that it was just a simple sentence.

?Haha...I give up.?

Finally, I got a chance to see the real Neji, stripped of his pretension.

And all things considered, he was a truly good man and a great character.

In the rest of this essay, I will fangirlexplain exactly why I feel this way.

:::Genius...of Hardwork?:::

One admirable aspect of Neji?s character that I think gets glossed over and forgotten most often (like all geniuses in the story) is his work ethic. It?s true that he doesn?t run from dawn til dusk, punching logs and wearing heavy weights on his ankles. And, it?s also true that he picks up techniques easier than the average shinobi. Thus, by comparison, Neji seems to have an easier time of things, making his arrogance all the less justifiable.

However, it is interesting to note that there have only been two characters shown during the course of the story that were training so hard that they passed out from chakra use and exhaustion: Naruto (every five minutes, PreTS) and Neji (while training with Tenten during the chuunin exams).

Although, it?s safe to say that Neji was probably bulking up his techniques in order to make chuunin, the fact remains that he pushed his body to its limits. And, likely, considering his development of Main House restricted jutsu, this was not an uncommon occurrence. Especially when considering how little help Gai could offer Neji, due to differences in their fighting techniques.

In many ways, it is similar to Sasuke?s painstaking journey towards mastering katon no justu as a child. Neji was most likely given rudimentary instruction in gentle fist before his father died, teaching himself afterwards. As, I highly doubt that Hiashi or any branch members would have been inclined to pick up the boy?s training.

The light is subtly thrown further on Neji?s work ethic when we discover that he has been made a jounin over the Time Skip. In less time than it took him to reach chuunin status, the Hyuuga becomes the first of the Konoha 12 with the recognized ability to not only lead and complete solo missions but to someday have his own trio of genin. This not only points to his growth as a shinobi but also to his growth as a person.



:::The Bird:::

There are so many moments throughout ?Naruto? where characters resolve some form of massive emotional growth, which translates into a physical action: Gaara and Naruto shaking hands, Zabuza stroking Haku?s face, etc. While it isn?t actually the point where the characters have their revelation, these times are almost more important because they show the effects of that revelation.

Also, each of these moments share a few general characteristics. Most notably, the acts tend to be terribly simple and poignant. And, although the characters do not necessarily show it, these times are still moments of extreme trial, requiring a kind of internal strength that one?s chakra capacity has nothing to do with.

For me, no character has come farther, fought harder, and more completely realized their moment than Hyuuga Neji. And, here it is.

Spoiler: Is that a smile I see?


Most characters who came from a troubled past or had to deal with some form of tragic angst (in other words, about 99.9% of them) responded in various ways but they all had one reaction in common. In some way, shape or form, they either separated themselves from the world (Gaara, Sasuke, etc.) or desperately tried to force themselves into it (Naruto, Lee, etc.). The major exception to this rule is Neji and its why his moment was so much harder to come by.

Neji didn?t shut himself away from the world nor did he run leaping to embrace it. Rather, he reservedly became a part of it and barricaded his true personality, his real self behind seemingly impenetrable walls of destiny and attitude.

In other words, he went out into the world but left his ghost (for lack of a better word) behind.

Until, of course, something violent occurred.

Hinata?s words break through his barriers with incomprehensible ferocity, but it?s only when Neji feels Naruto?s punch crack into his jaw that they finally hit home. It wasn?t a life-changing, personality-warping epiphany. It was Neji finally having no excuses left, no justification for not becoming the man he always was on the inside. Rather than the embittered weapon against the Main House that his father had left behind.

And, instead of running from the truth of his father?s past and how he has wasted his passions, Neji accepts it all. He allows his walls to be stripped from him, and the young boy who once tugged on his father?s sleeve and whispered compliments towards his cute, younger cousin can be seen once again.

It is due to this if nothing else that Neji gets into the top of my favorite character list.

Because, for some reason, I can think of few moments in the show that would take such courage and such humility.



:::Arrogance:::

So, I believe that Neji tried to forget his true self and that's why he felt the need to put up a front of cold arrogance and disdain.

And this attitude, I blame mostly on his father, Hizashi.

Going against popular opinion, I don?t consider Neji?s father to have been the kindest and most loving of men. The only time we see the man being mildly affectionate with his son in the manga is when Hizashi?s telling Neji that he wishes that he could have borne his son into the Main House, but alas he did not. Every other moment we see with the pair tends to center around Neji witnessing an aggressive Hizashi?s humiliation or anger.

Neji?s relationship with his father might have been a healthy one but the example that he set was not. Even Hizashi, who I do believe is a good man, admits this before he sacrifices himself to save his brother. He says that he regrets having only shown Neji his ?evil? side.

Growing up, Neji must have romanticized Hizashi in his head, making his father into a martyr whose beliefs he could stand behind. But, looking back, the thing we see Hizashi doing more than anything is resisting the Main House, to the point of wanting to kill his three year old niece in defiant rage (a feeling that Neji eerily mirrors during the second chuunin exam).

For me, the day that Neji decided to try and destroy his old self is also the day that he started down the path towards trying to become the man that he thought his father was. And, this makes his climatic change so much more meaningful to me, because its not only Neji finding himself, he?s also finally being able to accept his father?s death.

(CONTINUED ON NEXT POST)