Neji Hyuga was a shinobi from the Hyuga clan of Konohagakure. Despite being a prodigy by Hyuga standards, Neji was a member of the clan’s branch house, which meant that no matter how talented he became, he would always be in service to the Hyuga’s main house, a fact that convinced him that his fate was predetermined.
Neji Hyuga realized his fate was what he chose it to be after witnessing Naruto Uzumaki’s refusal to be bound by such an ideology, and as a member of Team Guy, he sought the strength he needed to create the future he wanted for his family and friends, and ultimately sacrificed his life to protect the very person who taught him about the freedom of one’s choice of fate, Naruto.
Voice Actor of Hyuga Neji
The Japanese voice actor, Koichi Tochika contributed her voice to Hyuga Neji whereas Steve Staley voiced the English version of this character.
Neji was born into one of the Hyuga clan’s branch houses as the son of Hizashi Hyuga. When Hinata, the heiress of the main house, turned three years old, his uncle, Hiashi, branded Neji’s forehead with the customary cursed seal. Regardless of how young he was at the time, Neji’s natural talent with the Hyuga’s signature techniques was obvious to his father.
Hizashi resented Neji’s cursed seal because he believed it bound him to a life of service to the main house when he should have been destined for greater things. Hiashi’s subconscious anger would often manifest, prompting Hiashi to activate Hizashi’s cursed seal and punish him with pain, a traumatizing act for Neji.
A Kumogakure Head Ninja visiting Konoha took advantage of a peace treaty and attempted to kidnap Hinata in order to obtain the secrets of the Byakugan shortly after Neji received his cursed seal. Hiashi came to a halt and dispatched the Head Ninja. In the Hyuga Affair, Kumo denied the allegations leveled against its Head Ninja and claimed that Hiashi’s actions were a declaration of war by Konoha and that the only way to prevent hostilities between the two villages was for Hiashi’s body to be handed over to Kumo as compensation.
Hiashi was willing to do so in exchange for Konoha’s protection, but only if it meant giving Kumo the Byakugan. Hizashi, Hiashi’s twin brother, volunteered to be his body double because his cursed seal would destroy Hiashi’s Byakugan when he died, despite Hiashi’s protests. Neji was too young to comprehend what was going on at the time, and over time, he came to believe that his father had been forced to die in order to save the main house.
Neji became enraged at the members of the main house for what he believed they had done to his father, and in the anime, he didn’t waste any time in attempting to harm Hinata. He also came to believe that a person’s life path was predetermined from the moment of birth and could not be changed under any circumstances.
When he graduated first in his class from the Academy, he was assigned to Team Guy, where his philosophy clashed with that of one of his teammates, Rock Lee: Lee wanted to become a great ninja despite his limitations, which Neji thought was impossible. Tenten was easily wowed by Neji, but Lee became determined to prove him wrong by defeating Neji in a fight. Might Guy, their instructor, encouraged them to do so, believing that competition and the desire to succeed would propel them to new heights.
Neji had fair skin and long black hair, which was usually dark brown in the anime. He has featureless white eyes when his Byakugan is not active; the anime gave them a slight lavender tint. Neji wore a beige shirt, a dull blue shirt beneath it, and mesh armor beneath that in Part I.
He was dressed in dark brown shorts and blue shinobi sandals, with bandages wrapped around his right arm, chest, and leg. His hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail a few inches above the end. He wore a black forehead protector over a smaller headband with two straps framing the sides of his face, both of which concealed his Hyga main family’s juinjutsu.
Neji wore a white kimono-shirt with long, loose sleeves, matching pants, a navy-grey apron tied around his waist, and black shinobi sandals in Part II, replacing his previous clothing and bandages. He no longer wore the straps that framed his face, opting instead to let his now longer hairdo so. He usually carried a tan and black drawstring bag over his shoulder when on missions. He replaced much of his wardrobe with the standard Konohagakure flak jacket and other attire during the Fourth Shinobi World War. He wore his hair in a ponytail at the start of the war, but as the conflict progressed, he let it down.
Neji was a sweet child who liked to smile; on Hinata’s third birthday, he told his father that he thought she was cute.
After his father died, he lost these qualities, becoming serious and cold, and more mature than most his age. For years, he was consumed by the fatalistic belief that his and everyone else’s fates were predetermined from birth and could not be changed. He saw himself as a rare talent, which caused him to arrogantly place himself above those he considers to be “weaker” than himself. He also believed that his abilities would always be limited by his obligatory servitude to the Hyga’s main house, which he despised and fuelled his hatred for the main house and its members.
Neji gladly shared his philosophy of fate with those he met, gladly telling them when they were straying from the paths that had been laid out for them by, for example, attempting to exceed their natural limitations or defeating him in combat when they lacked any apparent ability to do so.
When he shared his philosophy with Hinata, she concluded that his insistence on destiny was actually a source of inner suffering for him: he so desperately wanted to prove himself to the main house but felt incapable of doing so. In retaliation for her words, Neji attempted to kill her. Naruto Uzumaki also disagreed with Neji, claiming that Neji was preventing himself from fulfilling his destiny by holding himself back. Neji dismissed Naruto’s suggestion at first, but was forced to reconsider after Naruto, a “failure,” defeated him, a “genius,” in a fight.
Neji believed that fate is not inescapable and that one’s destiny is what one makes of it as a result of his encounter with Naruto; he felt indebted to Naruto for rescuing him from his previous “darkness.” Although Neji’s inevitable destiny would soon come to pass, the destiny he chose for himself was to become strong enough to never lose again.
He trained with his teammates, whose dreams he supported, and later with members of the main house, with whom he gradually began to mend relations, in pursuit of this goal. His desire to become stronger became as much a motivation to never lose as it was to protect his friends and family over time. He took seriously his responsibility as a member of a branch house to keep Hinata safe, showing greater concern for her in combat than anyone else and, ultimately, giving his life to save hers.
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; and when attempting to overcome the limitations of his Byakugan, he observed birds at play.
Power and Abilities
Even by the Hyuga clan’s high standards, Neji’s aptitude as a natural genius was evident from a young age. Neji was technically forbidden to learn any of the clan’s advanced techniques as a member of the branch house. Despite his lack of formal training, he was able to perform many of these techniques solely through observation.
Hiashi was so taken aback by Neji’s raw talent and rapid growth despite being self-taught that he came to believe that he should have been the Main Branch’s successor and that he would eventually surpass all other Hyga to ever exist, which he did by Part II despite his young age. Apart from his advanced clan traits, Neji graduated from the Academy at the top of his class, persuading Rock Lee that he was the best competitor in his first Chunin Exams.
He was the only Konoha 11 member to become a junin during the time skip, despite not being promoted during those exams. Hiashi began training Neji in all of the Hyuga’s secret techniques by the end of Part I. He could also release Fire, Water, or Earth.
Neji, like the rest of the Hyuga clan, specialized in taijutsu. He was a master at systematically knocking out his opponents with pinpoint strikes to key body parts. He also displayed blistering speed, which he combined with superb reflexes, coordination, and agility to seamlessly dodge nearly any attack while also counterattacking his opponent. These characteristics made him particularly dangerous at close range, forcing opponents to keep their distance and making him difficult to hit.
Neji was taught his clan’s secret signature Gentle Fist fighting style from an early age, which uses the Byakugan’s piercing vision to strike directly at the opponent’s chakra system, constricting or cutting off their chakra flow with only minimal contact. Because the chakra pathway system is so closely linked to so many of the body’s major organs, it’s easy to cause debilitating and even fatal damage. While Gentle Fist strikes are difficult to defend against by default, Neji’s ingenuity and methods made his application of the style particularly effective.
In battle, Neji was extremely versatile, employing several of the style’s most powerful techniques. He could attack multiple targets at once with the Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms, either multiple opponents’ tenketsu to restrain them all at once or deflect an incoming volley of projectiles; in the anime, he improved the technique to double the number of strikes. He could use Eight Trigrams Palms Revolving Heaven on the defensive to expel chakra from his body and deflect all incoming attacks from all directions at the same time.
If he was restrained and couldn’t use Revolving Heaven, he could free himself by releasing chakra from his tenketsu. Neji began using the Eight Trigrams Vacuum Palm in Part II to attack targets outside of his physical range or to repel incoming attacks; when used in conjunction with others, its strength is increased accordingly.
Neji possessed the Byakugan as a Hyga. While his clan’s djutsu was common, Neji’s was known to be particularly powerful. He had a near-360° penetrative field of vision with these eyes. Behind his third upper-thoracic vertebrae, he has a small blind-spot, which he was well aware of and tried to overcome to no avail. Instead, he took extra precautions to compensate by emitting chakra throughout the area, giving him a way to sense any approaching attacks and slowing them down enough for him to react.
It allowed him to see the 361 tenketsu that run along with the chakra pathway systems. He was able to extend the range of his Byakugan over time: in Part I, he could only see things from 50 meters away, but by Part II, he could see things from at least 800 meters away.
The climax of the Fourth Shinobi World War
Death of Neji
Naruto enlists the help of Neji and the rest of the Allied Shinobi Forces to fight the Ten-Tails. Neji, Hinata, and Hiashi band together to stop attacks directed at Naruto, knowing how important he is to the war’s victory. The attacks of the Ten-Tails become overwhelming, and Neji and Hiashi must split up to protect the other Allies from the Ten-Tails as well. The Ten-Tails fire several volleys of wood projectiles at Naruto while they are away, which Hinata defends with her body. Neji arrives just in time to defend her with his own body, mortally wounding him in the process.
Naruto summons a medic, but Neji accepts that he will not be saved. He collapses over Naruto’s shoulder and warns him not to put his life in danger in the future because he is now responsible for many other lives, including Hinata’s. Naruto questions why Neji would give his life for him as he watches Hinata cry for him, to which Neji responds that it is because Naruto once called him a “genius.” Neji dies, noting that he now understands how his father felt when he chose to die for his friends. The Hyga main family’s jujutsu activates when he dies, sealing his Byakugan.
“Father, I finally understand your feelings… The freedom you felt when you chose to die to protect your friends…’
“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”
“People share only one common fate… death.”
“Fear. That is what we live with. And we live it every day. Only in death are we free of it.”
“No one can determine another’s destiny.”
“The heavens will not allow a pawn who can only seek victory at the cost of himself to advance…”