9 Characters Whose Potential Was Wasted In Naruto

Anko Mitarashi

One of the biggest problems with Naruto is how many side characters there are who don’t get the attention they deserve. 

There are so many Naruto characters with wasted potential that this list can’t possibly cover them all – but these fifteen characters had serious unmet potential. Some are powerful ninja who could have and should have appeared in more important fights, while others are characters who could have added a lot to the plot if the story had slowed down to fully explore what they had to argue. 

While some might argue that Naruto didn’t have time to fully develop these characters, it totally did. This is a series with hundreds of filler episodes focused on characters that would never reappear or be relevant to the overall story. That space could have easily been given to preexisting characters to develop them further. 

Which of these characters do you think deserved better?

1. Shisui Uchiha

Shisui Uchiha

Other than his brother Sasuke, Shisui Uchiha was the person Itachi cared for the most. Both of them so desperately desired peace that they were willing to go against their own clan and make huge personal sacrifices to achieve it. In Shisui’s case, that sacrifice is his life. 

It’s not that that backstory needs to be changed – it’s perfectly reasonable for some characters to exist firmly in the past – but it would have been nice to see him developed further in flashbacks. How did his opinions differ from Itachi’s, if at all? What did they bond over besides their mutual trauma? Did he ever actually meet Kagami Uchiha, whose Will of Fire he supposedly inherited? Why was Danzo able to manipulate him into giving up his plans to stop the coup d’etat. What regrets did he have before he ended everything? 

Also, the guy is strong. He has a unique ability called the Body Flicker technique that was worthy of some serious attention – but his real power was Kotoamatsukami, one of the strongest genjutsu in Naruto history outside of Infinite Tsukuyomi. He was both feared and revered for his raw strength. It’s unfair that we hardly get to see that strength in action. 

2. Sakumo Hatake

Sakumo Hatake

It’s not that we need Sakumo to have survived – his passing was actually an integral part of Kakashi’s background. But considering how many flashbacks there are in Naruto, the narrative could definitely have spent a bit more time on him.

Known as Konoha’s White Fang for his proficiency with the White Light Chakra Sabre, Sakumo was one of the most fearsome ninja in Konoha. Actually seeing him throw down in a fight would have been thrilling. 

Also, Sakumo could have added more to the story. His career fell apart because he chose to prioritize saving his teammates over succeeding at a mission, and he ended up taking his life. Expanding on this story could have offered real insight into the priorities of the village.

It also could have been cool to see a direct comparison to Kakuzu, who was also harshly punished by his village for failing a mission. 

3. Neji Hyuga

Neji Hyuga

Neji passing away during the Fourth Shinobi War was one of the most unfair things that happened in the whole series. War means serious loss, so it makes sense that somebody had to go – but did it really have to be Neji? 

He was supposed to be one of the greatest shinobi of his generation. He could use the Byakugan to its fullest extent – seriously, the dude could see 800 meters ahead of him at his peak. He could also learn techniques that were forbidden to him through observation alone. Though he did participate in some important battles, he was typically shunted to the side. For that matter, why wasn’t the Byakugan itself developed further? The Sharingan gets multiple upgrades, but the Byakugan doesn’t see any real development until the main series is over. If it were further developed in Neji’s timeline, he could have been a powerful rival for Sasuke. 

It’s not just Neji’s powers that could have been written better – it’s his whole arc. When he chose to sacrifice himself for Hinata, he was replicating his father’s choice to do the same for Hiashi. Watching a man who had been mistreated all his life voluntarily give his life for the benefit of his oppressors was devastating. Having Neji do exactly the same thing wasn’t fair to his character, and it didn’t do the arc justice. Not that we want Hinata to lose her life, but it would have been so much more meaningful if she sacrificed herself for him instead – reversing their family’s gruesome history and setting them on a more equitable path towards the future. 

4. Yamato


Yamato is the sole survivor of an Orochimaru experiment that cost 59 children their lives and left him with the ability to use Wood Release. Later, he becomes a Root operative who goes out of his way to defy Danzo, and starts working directly with both Itachi and Kakashi, ultimately becoming a respected member of ANBU. Later, he becomes the temporary leader of Team 7 while Kakashi is recovering from an injury.

Despite his history of accomplishments and his ability to use an inconceivably rare technique, Yamato doesn’t get many opportunities to show off his skills. He appears in few major battles, and his compelling backstory is only gently touched upon. It feels like they spend more time on his ability to make scary faces than on actually giving him meaningful character development or showing his valuable kekkai genkai in action.

5. Rock Lee

Rock Lee

Rock Lee is a fan favorite for a good reason: despite being only able to mould chakra to a limited extent, he manages to become a taijutsu master through intense, hard work with the help of his mentor, Gai. In addition to nearly completing the perilous Eight Gates technique, he’s also unexpectedly skilled at the Drunken Fist technique. It makes sense that that was a one-time thing in Naruto itself, since he was a minor, but this easily could reappear in Boruto. 

Lee actually does have a decent number of fights, but he could have played a larger role in the more important ones. 

Another thing: Lee’s near-inability to mould chakra opens up fascinating questions that the series never really addresses. Why can’t he do this? Is it recognized as a disability? Are there other people like him? A character who can’t use in-universe powers the way that everyone else can is the premise that formed the backbone of later shows like Black Clover and My Hero Academia, so it’s obviously an interesting one with plenty to explore. 

Instead of more actual Lee development, we get Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals. It’s cute, but not really the same. 

6. Mei Terumi

Mei Terumi

How is it that Naruto has a whole Mizukage whose defining character trait is her desire to get married?

Mei Terumi has two kekkai genkai strong enough to make a dent in the nearly impenetrable Mangekyo technique Susano-o, and she’s been recognized as the strongest ninja in her entire nation. Considering the caliber of Kirigakure ninja, that’s not nothing. 

But despite Mei’s truly prodigious talent, she barely seems to think about anything other than wedded bliss. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to get married, but Mei is about as one-note as Shikamaru was at the beginning of the show when the only thing he ever said was “how troublesome.”

Somebody as strong as Mei shouldn’t be reduced to a caricature. If she’s powerful enough to be the Mizukage, she deserves a few more character traits, an actual story arc, and more opportunities to show off her skills. 

7. Shino Aburame

Shino Aburame

Shino Aburame is an almost criminally underutilized character. His signature ability, while potentially off-putting, is actually pretty incredible. Since birth, he’s had a symbiotic relationship with a swarm of Kikaichu bugs. In exchange for his chakra, the insects mobilize to help him in battle. Besides his unique ability, he’s also a skilled tactician. Maybe he isn’t on Shikamaru’s level, but he’s still highly skilled…and actually, maybe he is on Shikamaru’s level.

That’s the thing – we don’t know what else Shino might be capable of, because Shino does not get the opportunity to do anything worthwhile in the series. Sure, he has his moments, but he never gets the chance to really shine.

Also, in Boruto he becomes the Ninja Academy teacher. While it’s an important job, and it’s interesting to see him in an unexpected role, it’s not exactly one where he gets a chance to show off his prowess as a shinobi.

8. Anko Mitarashi

Anko Mitarashi

Anko Mitarashi was Orochimaru’s former students. He taught her just about everything he knew about his pursuit of immortality, and several of his signature jutsu. He also used her as a test subject to create Cursed Seals – in fact, she was the only survivor of those initial experiments. Once Anko understood the full extent of Orochimaru’s evil plans, she left him. Unwilling to destroy her because of her value as a research subject, Orochimaru altered her memory so that she’d think he abandoned her because she wasn’t the best Cursed Seal candidate. From then on, Anko thought it was her responsibility to take down her former teacher.

After that, she does try to take him down once and fails. Later, her unconscious body is used to try and gain enough chakra to fuel Orochimaru’s reincarnation through Summoning: Impure World Reincarnation

Basically, a character who was traumatized and abused by one of the worst villains in the series gets no closure of any kind. In fact, she barely even gets a chance to show off what she learned from him – she doesn’t even get to use her Curse Mark. That’s a conscious choice on her part, but it didn’t have to be. She could have developed some sort of connection with any of Orochimaru’s victims. She could have temporarily defeated him, or provided key information that would help someone else do the same. Anything other than doing virtually nothing the whole series. 

9. Kurenai Yuhi

Kurenai Yuhi

Kurenai Yuhi was supposedly a master of genjutsu, one of the rarer and more difficult to use categories of jutsu. But despite her supposed talent, we almost never get to see her actually use it. One of her more memorable scenes involved her getting totally owned by Itachi, whose Mangekyo abilities easily outmatched anything she could do. Even if the only purpose of that scene were to show off Itachi’s skills, it would have been much more effective if we’d actually seen Kurenai strut her stuff beforehand. 

While she does teach a genjutsu user in one of the filler arcs, she doesn’t do this in the main series. None of her three students have any real inclination towards genjutsu. Why is she teaching Kiba, instead of someone who could truly benefit from her expertise? She’s supposed to be the greatest genjutsu-user in Konoha!

That’s not the last time her skills will be wasted. Towards the end of the series, Kurenai’s primary role has little to do with her actual career – rather, she’s Asuma’s grieving, pregnant lover. It’s not like her personal life is unimportant or uninteresting, but with Naruto’s tendency to sideline female characters the instant they become parents, this is a hard pill to swallow.