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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 Hyuga has limited screen-time in the manga, but is still the most popular female character of the whole franchise. Then there was the massive freak-out over both her Love Confession and Disney Death. The animation studio are all fans of her and noticed her popularity enough to increase her screen-time in fillers.
    • Her sister, Hanabi Hyuga, is also 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.
    • On the subject of Hinata, her Alternate Universe counterpart from Road To Ninja has a lot of fanart.
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    • Her popularity would later result in her becoming more prominent by the end of the manga's run, and becoming a main character in the film that serves as the canonical epilogue of the main story and shows how she and Naruto became an Official Couple.
    • Her and Naruto's daughter, Himawari Uzumaki, has a sizable fanbase.
    • Kishimoto confirms Hinata as a Breakout Character and her new status as "eventual" heroine of the series. She also happens to be his favorite female character.
  • 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.
  • Another example in Naruto is Shikamaru. He 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.
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    • By extension, his father Shikaku and his future wife Temari also get this. Helps that 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.
  • Lee's sensei Might Guy is also this, initially for being a complete goofball who had his occasional moments of badass (and like Lee, he did it without any ninja magic). His popularity grew exponentially 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.
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  • Anko is also 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.
  • 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 also 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 and his brother Killer B, the Fourth Raikage and Eight Tails jinchuriki respectively. Both of them are utter badasses who verge on being Crazy Awesome, with A occasionally doing something akin to either a Super Saiyan transformation or a Pro Wrestling move, and B having a fighting style that involves breakdancing and using seven swords at the same time. It also doesn't hurt that each of their first fights consist of them utterly kicking the ass of Sasuke Uchiha, a character who is widely despised outside of Japan.
  • Out of all the antagonists from the movies, The Masked Man/Menma from the Filler movie Road To Ninja is the most popular.
  • Tobirama Senju, the Second Hokage has became one during the current arc. Doesn't hurt that 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 most often the popular of the Ninjas from Otogakure shown in fanart or in stories. Most often have her doing a Heel–Face Turn. Being one of the few females in Part One who actually could fight and do stuff probably helped.
    • The Ninjas of Otogakure in general (not counting main characters Orochimaru and Kabuto) are fairly popular compared to their relatively brief screentime. Mostly Tayuya (as mentioned above) who is, along with Temari, one of the series' most consistent Action Girls and Kimimaro (for being a badass and an interesting Anti-Villain, with honorable qualities and a tragic backstory). But all the Sound Five and the Sound Genins qualify to some extent, especially before Shippuden aired.
  • Deidara. In one poll he was more popular then the titular character himself (this was his first poll ever and he ranked #3, higher than any Akatsuki member then or since). In the last poll he was still a very high #6.

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