Both Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden produced a large stable of shinobis with an array of jutsus and hidden talents. From this group, some of these characters grew before our eyes over the many chapters of manga or episodes of anime (fans likely saw both). However, some shinobi never outgrew their original concepts, and some even became less impressive as time went on.
Look, it is always subjective to talk about which character is strong and which character is weak. Some fans cannot contemplate certain characters having an ounce of weakness in them. Still, some characters in Naruto get weaker over time. Yet, when it comes to deciding which characters got weaker and which got stronger over time, there will always be disagreements. Luckily, this list exists to give fans a beginning guide to making their arguments.
With that, here are some quick rules for this list to know. First, weaker is always relative so characters can be defined as growing weaker in age in one of two ways: either their growth in power was stagnate compared to their fellow class of shinobi, or old age/disease limited their ability to grow. Second, stronger is always relative, too, so characters can be defined as growing stronger in age in one of two ways: either they continued to grow at a constant rate in at least two jutsus over the span of the series, and/or they continued to develop special techniques on par with their class of shinobi. Lastly, these characters are not being considered for their strength (or lack of it) in Boruto, unless otherwise mentioned. Reincarnated forms are not also not considered in this list.
Here are 10 Naruto Characters That Got Stronger With Age (And 10 Who Got Worse).
20 Stronger: Shikamaru
Shikamaru Nara is one ninja that has come a long way. In his early years, Shikamaru only wanted to watch the clouds and live a carefree life. He showed little concern for grades and never admitted to wanting to become a powerful shinobi.
Fans saw this all change though, during the Chunin Exams final part. Shikamaru displays an immense talent for tactical intelligence that he uses to best Temari in combat...until he gives up. That lack of drive changes, when Shikamaru’s sensei, Asuma Sarutobi, passes away in combat defending him. From here, Shikamaru’s goals change, and with it, his strength grows. Now, granted he froze up during Obito’s strike against the Alliance of the Four-tailed Beast, but that does not mean he had not become stronger as a shinobi all the way through the series.
19 Weaker: Shino
During the Konoha Crush storyline, Shino Aburame is shown as a powerful genin able to defeat Kankuro during their battle. This gave many fans high hopes as to how Shino would continue to grow as a ninja during the following years. It’s safe to say some fans are still reminiscing about the Shino of old.
This is not to say Shino has not been able to hold his own in some battles. However, Shino never developed his clan’s technique to anything impeccably strong. His bugs ability to resist toxins and absorb chakra is powerful, but Shino does not establish much taijutsu or genjutsu around this powerful technique. It seems as if his ability to rely on his bugs carried him through the series, but he never got as strong as his some of his fellow classmates.
18 Stronger: Hinata
Hinata Hyuga is not the greatest shinobi to ever fight in a battle. That being said, she is a capable shinobi, which did not seem likely early on in the series. Hinata had an uphill battle to prove herself and time and time again she showed viewers that she was getting stronger with each fight.
Although Hinata loses to Pain and is defeated and hospitalized by Kinshiki and Momoshiki Otsutsuki, she holds her own and shows the strength she has built up over the series. Fans will look back on her demeanor and talent during the Chunin Exam storyline from early in the series and recognize the fact that Hinata is a stronger shinobi than most thought possible.
17 Weaker: Orochimaru
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Look, Orochimaru is one of the legendary Sannin and used the senjutsu chakra to create the curse seal. However, keep in mind, he was not able to use sage mode generally due to a frail body.
It is that frail body that made Orochimaru weaker and weaker. Orochimaru pushed his spirit and his chakra to its absolute limits and at the end that weakened him. This weakness climaxed in his battle with Sasuke where the apprentice overcame the master and absorbed him into his body. Now, again, this is not to say Orochimaru was weak in a traditional sense, but instead, Orochimaru did get weaker with “age” as his host body deteriorated.
16 Stronger: Sakura
When a flower blossoms, it can be a beautiful sight. The same can be said about Sakura Haruno’s blossoming as a ninja. Well, beautiful but also the kind of fist-pumping moment fans love about the series.
Sakura grew her talent by working with Sannin Tsunade (the fifth Hokage) and becoming one of the ninja world's best medical-nin--ever, in the history of the shinobi. Fans likely remember seeing the first signs of her growth during her battle against Sasori where her strength and medical prowess are out on display. Sakura only continues to grow from here, and by the end of the series, she is able to hold her own as a powerful member of Team 7 when they reunite at the climax of the fourth shinobi war.
15 Weaker: Iruka
One would assume that a teacher would be strong, which is why many fans likely assumed Iruka Umino must have talents not seen in the series. Iruka did show he is a master of the basic ninja techniques (he has to be if he is going to teach them). However, the more profound talents did not come to fruition as many viewers hoped.
Iruka did show a talent for barrier ninjutsu, but talent seems to stop there. One can assume he is moderately proficient as a chunin, but he lacks any other growth in the series. Iruka got weaker by the way his fellow shinobi outgrew him. At least Iruka acknowledges this and uses his talents to teach, because that is where he is the most effective.
14 Stronger: Gaara
How is it that a ninja who was never scratched until the final stages of the Chunin Exam could actually get stronger? Well, somehow the creators found a way. Gaara is always considered a formidable shinobi from his introduction in the series, but the threat he poses only continues to grow.
Gaara becomes the Kage of the sand village due to his strength, and he is the commander of the Fourth division during the Fourth Shinobi World War. It is safe to say without Gaara there during the Kage’s battle with Madara, the group would not have lasted as long as they did. In fact, the strength of Gaara’s sand defense grows immensely during the series and saves many lives throughout the series.
13 Weaker: Third Hokage
Hiruzen Sarutobi is a powerful ninja. His talent is noticed at a young age, and he is given a chance to train with the First Hokage, Hashirama Senju. He was appointed the Third Hokage by his teacher Tobirama Senju. With all this in mind, it is hard to see how he became weaker, but just hold on for a second.
Hiruzen Sarutobi only gets weaker in the sense his old age catches up to him. Now, he stills matches Orochimaru during their fight and he does have the ability to use the Dead Demon Consuming Seal. However, his physical strength is admittedly weaker at this point than when he was in his youth. This is how the third Hokage can be considered more vulnerable with age. His physical prowess has wilted, and that is a big reason Orochimaru is able to escape with his life.
12 Stronger: Kakashi
Kakashi Hatake is a favorite among many fans of the series. One Youtuber puts it best when he describes Kakashi as “overwhelmingly cool” and that its the only way to describe him in the opening arc. This is undoubtedly the case, and Kakashi seems only to get cooler and stronger as the series progresses.
Kakashi grows leaps and bounds by the time Kaguya Otsutsuki attacks and even uses the Mangekyo to manifest Susanoo. That is a serious power that showed fans Kakashi was not done proving himself as one of the strongest ninjas. Kakashi becomes the sixth Hokage of the village putting a cherry on top of the strength Kakashi displays throughout the series run.
11 Stronger: Jiraiya
Alas, poor Jiraiya, we knew thee well. It was heartbreaking to see Jiraiya pass away in his fight with Pain. However, some may argue that in his death Jiraiya showed that he had not grown weak yet like Orochimaru. After all, Jiraiya was fighting an enemy he did not fully understand at that moment, but he still held his own. This gives some insight into the possibility that Jiraiya may have aged better than the other two legendary Sannin.
Considering Jiraiya was just as easily fooled as Naruto during his time as a genin being trained under Hiruzen Sarutobi, one can argue that Jiraiya has grown the most of that team since then. To be fair, Tsunade and Orochimaru grew too. The argument here is that Jiraiya maintained his strength up to his passing and arguably grew stronger unlike Orochimaru, whose thirst for power constricted his natural growth.
10 Weaker: Might Guy
Konoha’s Sublime Ao Beast of Prey wallops one heck of a punch. Might Guy is a dutiful shinobi who dedicated himself to taijutsu and became a jonin mostly off hard work alone. So, how exactly did he get weaker? Well, you have Madara Uchiha to blame for that.
Guy unleashes the eight gates and attacks Madara with Night Guy. By triggering all eight gates, Guy’s body begins to deteriorate. His body becomes a shell of itself after this. Guy is only weaker because he sacrificed his body to defeat Madara (sadly, Might Guy fails to defeat him). Unfortunately, this does mean his taijutsu will never be effective like it once was.
9 Weaker: Anko
To be the first person to survive Orochimaru’s Cursed Seal of Heaven means something. Anko is spoken of as a legendary kunoichi. This clearly says she is no slouch. However, given what fans know of her background it seems as if Anko does not show the same strength fans perceive her of having during her time training under Orochimaru.
Anko loses her cursed seal during the Fourth Shinobi World War when Sasuke uses it to revive Orochimaru. Ultimately, losing that power matters in the grand scheme of things. Meaning some of the power she received from surviving the seal initially was lost with the curse seal. In losing that power, Anko became a weaker shinobi even if it’s just barely weaker.
8 Stronger: Konohamaru
Konohamaru Sarutobi grows a lot throughout the series. Konohamaru initially is shown as a bratty, spoiled grandson to Hiruzen Sarutobi, and this explains his poor performance during his time at the academy.
However, with Naruto as inspiration, Konohamaru is able to grow leaps and bounds. He begins showing his development by mimicking Naruto's Sexy Technique. However, this soon gives way to Naruto teaching him the Rasengan, a technique Konohamaru masters by the time Boruto begins. Its safe to say as Konohamaru grows up so did his strength till eventually, he is able to stand up to the Nakara Path (though he would not have defeated it).
7 Weaker: Kiba
This one hurts. Look, Kiba Inuzuka is a dedicated shinobi with all the courage in the world. The guy took on Ten-Tails clones without a second thought and refused to be a spectator to the Team 7 reunion. Kiba deserves more admiration than he gets.
That being said, Kiba definitely saw a cap to his power similar to that of Shino, who was mentioned earlier. He developed the ability to use the shadow clone technique to create a giant three-headed wolf. However, even Naruto points out that he was able to do that technique years ago, so clearly Kiba gets weaker with age due to the fact his growth is so much slower than some of his classmates.
6 Stronger: Kabuto
The path to becoming a powerful shinobi can be sad and lonely. Just ask Kabuto Yakushi, who desired a role and identity in this world. Due to this, he worked under Orochimaru until it no longer proved fruitful for him. From here, Kabuto continues to strengthen his resolve.
Kabuto grows so strong that he becomes a significant factor in the Fourth Shinobi World War. Kabuto is able to realize the full potential of the Impure World Reincarnation that Orochimaru created with Kabuto’s help. Kabuto even takes on Orochimaru’s remains making him even stronger before his defeat at the hands of Itachi. He ends up outliving Orochimaru, which says a lot.
5 Weaker: Asuma
Asuma Sarutobi is an underrated shinobi. He led team 10 during their genin years and proved to be a powerful jonin and a wonderful sensei. However, compared to his time as a member of the twelve guardian ninja he seems just a little weaker.
Asuma is a descendant of the third Hokage, so clearly, his talent is not to be underestimated. Still, by the time fans get to see Asuma in a real battle, he is taken out almost immediately. Asuma has shown a mastery of wind release and his military prowess is remarkable. However, Asuma is being considered weaker here only because of his passing at the hand of Hidan. One can assume that during his time as one of the twelve guardian ninja he may have actually defeated Hidan.
4 Weaker: Ino
Ino Yamanaka’s Mind Body Switch Technique was a powerful tool. She wielded it with high capability, and on top of that, she developed a talent as a medical-nin. That being said, Ino's talent in concerns of ninjutsu, never made up for what she lacked in pure strength or taijutsu.
It’s safe to say that Sakura outgrew Ino by a hefty margin by the end of the series. Although Ino did show that she could hold her own as a shinobi, she never grew her physical prowess like her counterparts. For this reason, Ino can be considered a weaker ninja by the shows end than when she was first introduced, again relative to her fellow classmates.
3 Stronger: Sasuke
Now, this is an obvious entry. The avenger of the Uchiha clan had one dream: to grow strong enough to eliminate his brother, Itachi. Well, that dream was realized. However, from there Sasuke only continued to grow and prosper as a shinobi. By the end of the series, he and the rest of Team 7 were able to save the world from Kaguya.
However, the high point for some fans that first showed just how far Sasuke had come was his battle against Kabuto with the help of his brother Itachi (reincarnated). As he and Itachi force Kabuto to end the Impure World Reincarnation, Itachi begins to disappear. However, in his last moments of reincarnation, Itachi puts his forehead against Sasuke's forehead as a gesture proving that he sees the two as equals. The moment certified Sasuke's dream and demonstrated his strength was on a level unmatched by almost all shinobi.
2 Weaker: Itachi
Okay, put the pitchforks down and let us explain. Itachi is one of the strongest characters to ever appear in the series. He mastered the Sharingan and is the penultimate genjutsu user. So, by now many readers may be screaming: then how the heck is he weaker? Well, here is the rub: Itachi was terminally ill, and that has to be taken into account.
So while not weaker than just about any character in the manga and anime, Itachi never reached his full potential due to the illness. Just imagine the kind of ninja Itachi could have been had he not contracted a terminal disease. He battled Sasuke to a stalemate as he was dying from that said illness. One should wonder how much stronger Itachi could have been and just how much weaker the terminal illness made him.
1 Stronger: Naruto
Think back to early on in the series. Remember the end of the forest of death arc, when Iruka sensei greets Team 7? Iruka mentions to Naruto that he must balance heaven and earth to become a great ninja. What Naruto lacked at the time was the keen intellect and mastery of the way of a shinobi.
Naruto certainly came a long way since that encounter. Naruto is able to enter Tail Beast Mode by the end of the series and shows that he is in control of the nine-tailed fox. Think about this: Naruto went from not being able to do a transformation jutsu to becoming the Seventh Hokage. His growth is the focus of the series and is a reason why so many fans love the show. It is always rewarding for fans to look back on the series and see how much Naruto grew from the village’s number one hyperactive knucklehead ninja to the admired seventh Hokage.
What other Naruto characters get better or worse with age? Let us know in the comments!