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Ensemble Darkhorse / Naruto

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Naruto is a Long Runner with Loads and Loads of Characters, resulting in many of them getting quite popular despite a dearth of screen time.

  • Hinata's sister, Hanabi Hyuga, is very popular despite only appearing twice in the manga and not having much relevance other than being stated to be stronger than her despite being younger.
  • Iruka Umino appears rather infrequently, and in fact went without an appearance in the manga (save for appearing on a couple covers) for over four years. Yet he has consistently placed within the top five characters in popularity polls. Iruka hardly gets any screen-time, but he arguably makes one of the most important contributions to the plot in that he's the first person to genuinely and openly accept Naruto. Also, the girls like him. Lots. Especially when he shows up with a certain Jonin—it doesn't take much work to uncover the phenomenon of KakaIru.
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  • Shikamaru placed as high as fourth and fifth overall in popularity polls despite appearing no more than any other side character. Perhaps due to this popularity, he is one of the few non-main characters to get significant Character Development and regularly appear post-Time Skip. A couple fans have since argued that Shikamaru is Naruto's true best friend, unlike Sasuke.
  • Shikamaru's father Shikaku and future wife Temari are popular, as they're both pretty badass in their own rights - Shikaku's the Jonin Commander of the Leaf forces, and Temari's pretty much the series' most consistent Action Girl. Being easy on the eyes doesn't hurt either.
  • Rock Lee enjoyed quite a fair bit of popularity for being one of the most badass characters in Part I despite having absolutely zero aptitude for the ninja magic that almost every other character heavily utilized. Even though he somehow got less screen-time after the Time Skip, he still remained popular enough to get a spin-off, Rock Lee's Springtime of Youth.
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  • Lee's sensei Might Guy is beloved for being a complete goofball who had his occasional moments of badass (and like Lee, he did it without any ninja magic). While he was already popular in mid-2000s thanks to his high tier status in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 video game, his popularity grew even bigger towards the end of the manga as he really broke out the badass, single-handedly defeating Kisame and performing a Heroic Sacrifice in order to give a major beatdown to Madara.
  • Guy's father, Might Duy, became quite popular, being considered amongst the best dads of the whole series. His Heroic Sacrifice against the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist — successfully killing 4 of them in the anime despite being a mere genin — is another notable reason.
  • Anko is really popular, despite only appearing in the Chuunin Exam arc before she disappeared from the manga for seven years before finally showing up again. This is probably why she had several brief appearances and a filler arc in the anime.
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  • The Fourth Hokage is a Posthumous Character who has only appeared in a few photos and flashbacks, yet he has a following of whoa, probably for being the manga's epitome of a badass Bishōnen. It might also be that in a series best described as a World of Badass he's ones of the closest things to a Badass Normal among the Kages. He has no gamebreaker eye powers, no combination of elemental styles/releases (e.g. wood style) and no special clan lineage. Still, he was the youngest Hokage so far and generally considered one of the stronger characters in the universe.
  • Naruto features a character that may well be the ultimate Ensemble Darkhorse: Hayate Gekko, the Ill Boy Jonin with the Incurable Cough of Death. He placed eighth overall in his first popularity poll despite his only actions being overseeing the third round of the Chuunin Exams, stumbling onto the Sand and Sound villages' plan to invade, being found out, and dying instantly. Even long after his death, he still remained a popular character, surpassing Orochimaru and even Minato in Polls 4 and 5.
  • Shino Aburame is a really popular character, despite mainly being in the background. This probably has something to do with the fact that he is Naruto's version of Batman.
  • On the dark side; Hidan and Kakuzu. They got way less screen time and chapters than any of the other Akatsuki, yet they're still very popular.
  • Fuu and Yugito, the female Jinchuriki, are the most popular Jinchuriki after Gaara, Killer Bee and Naruto himself. Perhaps they are just a way to look at a female version of Naruto, perhaps its because one has a flaming cat in her, or the other green hair....
  • A, the Fourth Raikage, has a lot of fans despite his limited screentime, appearing most during the Kage Summit and then the attempt to keep Naruto out of the Fourth Shinobi war. note  This is because he is a Crazy Awesome ninja-wrestler who could keep up with Minato. He also benefits from synergy with his brother, Killer Bee, who is himself a popular character and more prominent in the series, being one of Naruto's mentors and a Jinchuriki. It doesn't hurt that each of their first fights consists of them utterly kicking the ass of Sasuke Uchiha, a character who is widely despised outside of Japan.
  • Tobirama Senju, the Second Hokage because he happens to be the Only Sane Man and Deadpan Snarker, who has a good sense of humor and is highly intelligent. He also knew what to do with a near Always Chaotic Evil group of people, and has been giving a lot of the spotlight even fighting alongside Naruto, Minato, and Sasuke on the front lines against Obito Uchiha. A few popular memes have been 'We should have listened to Tobirama' with a picture of Hashirama above it, or 'Tobirama was right'.
  • Tayuya of the Sound Four is the most popular of the Ninjas from Otogakure shown in fanart or in stories. Most stories have her doing a Heel–Face Turn. Being one of the few females in Part One who could actually fight and do stuff greatly helped make her sympathetic in the minds of fans.
  • As the Uchiha clan as a whole became more and more base-breaking, Shisui remained fairly popular, hailed as one of the few decent Uchihas due to his all-around kindness and being willing to do anything for the village and his comrades.
    • Prior to the reveal that he was alive and was Tobi (leading to his infamous base-breaking status), Obito in Kakashi Gaiden used to fit this trope as well for being a All-Loving Hero that was a sharp contrast to the Uchihas seen so far (Itachi and Sasuke).


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