Three Powerful Deaths in Naruto, Martyrdom, and Leaving a Legacy

Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

– Tertullian

Right from the beginning, I’ll let you all know that this post is full of spoilers up through episode 133 of Naruto Shippuden.

Because of the the adolescent community that worships it and perhaps because of endless fillers of questionable quality,  I think at times many of us are afraid of admitting we like Naruto.  But I do – I like it a lot, even though I don’t follow it as closely as I once did.  R86, who once wrote about an important scene in the series involving Shikamaru, enjoys it even more than I do.

The thing is, I didn’t like Naruto at first.  I hated the first arc.  So what was it that got to me?  The answer can be given in just one word: death.  The stakes are high in Naruto, with a number of important characters (and good guys at that!) dying in the course of the series.  The following deaths marked important turning points and not only add that certain weight to the show, but are also deeply meaningful:

  1. The Third Hokage’s death in the fight against Orochimaru (Naruto, episode 79)
  2. Asuma’s death after imparting final words of wisdom to Shikamaru (Naruto Shippuuden, episode 80)
  3. Jiraiya’s death after investigating and fighting Pain (Naruto Shippuuden, episode 133)

But the story of each of these heroes did not conclude with their deaths (and I’m not alluding to resurrection techniques).  Each motivated and changed others by how they lived and by how they died, particularly leaving imprints on Naruto through Jiraiya, Shikamaru through Asuma, and the entire village through the Hokage.

All three left a legacy.

Art by さゆめ

The early Christian church was very similar in this regard.  While martyrdom came in waves, it’s true that many or most of the great church leaders were martyred.  And as with the leaders of Konohagure, the early Christian community relied on the church fathers.  And as the ninja ironically became stronger with their mentors’ deaths, so did the early church:

While this posts post’s quote means more than just legacy (more immediately, some Romans actually converted upon witnessing executions and torture), the ideas is similar.  The deaths of the martyrs couldn’t kill the Christian movement; in fact, the Christians grew stronger in sharing these sufferings.

In Japan, the state leaders who effectively killed the Christian movement wised up in this regard.  As reflected in the masterpiece, Silence, they began to focus on other means, turning away from martyring the missionaries who were church fathers in the country, since their deaths, again, only strengthened the movement.

We, too, can leave a legacy – and ours doesn’t have to come at the end of life.  Naruto, for instance, is already leaving a legacy by how his actions are transforming others.  What we do now affects those around us.  For instance, reaching out to a difficult person in love could help melt that individual’s heart and lead to change in his or her lifestyle.

But for use to leave a legacy, we have to make that movement and act.  What are you doing to leave a legacy?

6 thoughts on “Three Powerful Deaths in Naruto, Martyrdom, and Leaving a Legacy

  1. I stopped reading Naruto a while back. But while I still don’t care much for it, your post does bring up a very good point about the power of deaths. In fact, just being faced with mortality can have a profound effect on people. Coming close to losing someone you were close to can really shake you up quite a bit. But at the same time, it can also change you and make you stronger in the end.

    1. Good point – I had a family member whose best friend was murdered, apparently without reason. The case was never solved. He changed dramatically, going from being very money-driven and career-oriented to being far more focused on family and friends. OUt of something really bad can come something good, if we allow the lessons of that event really sink in.

  2. “A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life.” G.K. Chesterton

    Actually I find this post intertwined with the idea of mentorship in Naruto…. Legacy or even “tradition”. maybe you’ll give me a chance to write out a more thorough post about that….

    Alot of the characters die for the sake of the village, but the question is taken deeper when Asuma asks Shikamaru about the King he defends…. What is your loyalty to? A person with a title? or something bigger? So Shikamaru takes up the Will of the Fire passed onto him by Asuma, to defend a “king” not the Hokage or the Emperor but something bigger

    Jirayia dies but only after passing onto Naruto his desire to end the cycle of hate in the Shinobi world.

    I know lately the legacy question has been consistently on my mind. Am I passing on my faith? the way Asuma or Jirayia are passing on their unique techniques and their passion to put their lives on the line for the things we love.

    We need Chrisian artists to train young artists, Christian engineers teach christian engineers not just passing on knowledge but passion. Mentorship is more than just a transference of knowledge. It’s what I love about Ninja training, it’s personally shaped (i.e. Guy trains Lee in taijutsu), not a one size fits all but a relationship. Not some compartmentalized training but the whole man transformed through relationship We deeply need spiritual mentors who don’t segment our lives into “spiritual” (the Will of Fire) and “physical” (jutsu techniques). …

    Well I guess I need to get around to writing that post…..

    1. Great insights – you are most certainly welcome to write something more formal up for the site, if you’d like.

      Your comments remind me of the idea of discipleship. Investing in another’s life does take effort and energy and love – like you say, it can’t be a “one size fits all” type of relationship.

    1. Thanks! We certainly all have that effect – each live touches others. The questions are, are we touching others in positive or negative ways, and how much of an impact are we leaving?

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