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Naruto Character Review: Shikamaru
I've been dabbling with the idea of whether or not I wanted to do my Shikamaru article so early, because I love his character so much, but I ultimately decided that I don't want to wait because I'm impatient and don't want to deny myself the pleasure of writing this article! Shikamaru is one of the Ninjas of the Hidden Leaf village, and one of the ninja who grows up with Naruto. He is considered a gifted ninja, not because he is overly gifted in Ninjutsu or Genjutsu, but because he's brilliant. He is the only ninja of the group from the Hidden Leaf genin who makes chunin during the chunin exams.
Shikamaru is of the Nara clan, son of Shikaku, which allows him to use the Shadow style jutsus. Growing up, Shikamaru and Choji share a strong friendship, even before joining the ninja academy and being placed on the same team. Shikamaru always defended Choji, even when others mocked him about his weight. Choji is extremely loyal to Shikamaru for this, and would gladly die to save him. Despite his brilliance, Shikamaru was put on the bottom of the list of students because of his overwhelming laziness. Shikamaru spent most of his time sleeping, and putting forth any effort was a struggle. It was too, in Shikamaru's words, "troublesome". Shikamaru as a genin was the same way, lazy and spent most of his time watching clouds and avoiding work. He was very against fighting, less because he was non-violent and more because it was too troublesome for him. That said, when push comes to shove Shikamaru is exactly who you want on your team. He is brilliant, incredibly loyal to his teammates, and has a great sense of what is right and wrong. He deems himself cowardly, even though he has put himself in harms way multiple times to defend his friends. When Shikamaru was promoted to a Chunin he began to rapidly mature, because he would be in charge of teams, and therefore their lives were in his hands, making him mature quickly.
Shikamaru is a member of Team 10, which is made up of himself, Choji, Ino and their mentor, Asuma. The team works well together, but Asuma takes a particular interest in Shikamaru. The two often played board games like shogi together; this is where Asuma first realizes how smart Shikamaru must really be. He wonders how a student with such abysmal marks in school can be so good at strategy games. He gives Shikamaru an IQ test just to see how well he would do, when the scores come back they find out Shikamaru has an IQ of over 200 (which is off the charts for those who don't know). Shikamaru's intelligence helps him in battle and makes him a ninja you would definitely want on your side. When he concentrates, by putting his hands together in the shape of an O, he thinks ten moves ahead and plans out over a hundred different strategies and scenarios. He then picks the best strategy, which usually involves what is safest for his teammates.
Shikamaru, during the chunin exams, was one of the first to figure out the real purpose of the testing. In the second part of the chunin exam, Shikamaru, along with Ino and Choji, came across Sakura who was in distress. Even though he called it troublesome, he and the rest of team 10 stepped in to help, until Sasuke woke up and started attacking too, then Shikamaru told team 10 they should make their leave. Later, Shikamaru was one of the ninjas to make it all the way through the chunin exams, but the chaos errupted. In the preliminary fights during the chunin exams, Shikamaru fought against Kin who was from the Hidden Sound. During the fight Shikamaru managed to use his Shadow Imitation technique to possess her using the micro-thin shadow from her music string.
During the final round of the Chunin exam Shikamaru found himself facing off against Temari of the Hidden Sand, Gaara's sister. At first it seemed that Temari had the advantage because Shikamaru wasn't very successful and he seemed to just be trying strategy after strategy, with no success. Temari assumed he was trying to wait until the sunset, which would increase the range of his Shadow Technique. In reality what Shikamaru was doing was manipulating into a position that he wanted her to be in on the field. He used the tunnel on the field that Naruto used earlier, to extend the reach of his shadow. Even though he had her in his Shadow Possession, Shikamaru surrendered admitting he didn't have enough chakra to continue and didn't like attacking/fighting women.
Shikamaru's first mission as a Chunin was to retrieve Sasuke Uchiha when he abandons the Hidden Leaf. Shikamaru, Choji, Neji, and Naruto head out to bring Sasuke back. Shikamaru ends up battling Tayuya of the Sound Four. The battle was one of five epic fights in that story arc, Choji, Neji, Shikamaru, Lee and Naruto all had incredible fights against members of the Sound 4 (and Sasuke). Tayuya immediately summoned three demons, that she manipulated with her flute to gain the advantage against Shikamaru. Shikamaru took count of his remaining weapons and used his genius to come up with a strategy. He threw eight kunai at Tayuya, to see what finger movements she would use to defend herself. He eventually took over control of the three with his Shadow Technique. He told her how he enjoyed shogi because you can take over his opponent's pieces. Shikamaru then attacked her with her own three demons, prompting Tayuya to get rid of all three of the demons, but she was still caught by his shadow. Tayuya was able to break free of Shikamaru's shadow by activating the second stage of her cursed seal.
Tayuya picked up a kunai that Shikamaru had thrown and missed her with earlier and tried to slit his throat, but was suddenly punched in the stomach and caught by his Shadow Technique once again. Shikamaru revealed that he had missed with that kunai on purpose, and that he only pretended to fall prey to her genjutsu. He had actually used his own shadow to break his finger, insuring that the pain would awaken him from her genjutsu. Shikamaru then explained his plan to her, how he missed with that kunai on purpose so he could get her close, while he then prepared his Shadow–Neck Binding Technique. As he was about to run out of chakra, though, he received help from an unlikely ally, Temari. After Shikamaru filled her in on the tactical details, Temari blew away her sound based genjutsu with her wind style and then used a summon to finish Tayuya for good.
In Part II we see Shikamaru here and there until the Hidan/Kakuzu story arc starts which mostly revolves around Shikamaru and Asuma, on top of Naruto's training. Shikamaru was announced as being one of the members of the Niju Shotai (twenty, four-man teams designed to track down and destroy the Akatsuki). He was placed on a team with Asuma, Izumo, and Kotetsu. (Most people know those two as the two guys that guard the gate in the Hidden Leaf.) Shikamaru's team set out, and were the only team to manage to find a member of the Akatsuki, Hidan. The team engaged Hidan in battle, Shikamaru restrained Hidan with his Shadow Style, with the rest of the team hitting him with a finishing attack that should have killed him. Unfortunately, it did little to even stop Hidan, when Hidan's Akatsuki partner, Kakuzu showed up. Shikamaru had to release Hidan from his Shadow Bind, and the team prepared for a new battle.
Asuma started battling with Hidan, during which Hidan preformed a ritual which would link any damage done to Hidan to Asuma as well. Hidan, however, had the major advantage of being, essentially immortal. Hidan would use this advantage, and the link between the two, to injure himself, which really only did any major damage to Asuma. Shikamaru used his shadow to bind Hidan again, and quickly used his gifted mind to analyze the battle thus far. He realized that the link was formed with Asuma's blood, and was only in effect while Hidan stood inside the blood seal that Hidan drew on the ground earlier in the battle. Shikamaru forces Hidan out of the circle that he stood in, so that damage done to him was no longer done to Asuma. Shikamaru then tied down Hidan with his Shadow Sewing Technique and Asume used his Chakra blades to cut off Hidan's head.
Unfortunately, even this wasn't enough to kill Hidan, and his partner Kakuzu used his abilities to re-attach Hidan's head to his body. Kakuzu then joined the battle and subdued Izumo and Kotetsu leaving just Shikamaru and Asuma. Hidan managed to bind Asuma once more, and before Shikamaru could stop him, Hidan impaled himself with one of the metal spears. It was a final blow for Asuma. Choji and Ino arrived as backup, driving off Hidan and Kakuzu. Ino tried to use her medical training to heal Asuma, but nothing could be done. All the three could do was listen to their mentor's final words. Asuma told Shikamaru that he had incredible potential, even enough so that he could be Hokage one day. After his death, Shikamaru took his lighter and cigarettes and list the only cigarette he would ever smoke, blaming the smoke from it on his tears.
Back in the Hidden Leaf, Shikamaru didn't attend Asuma's funeral with everyone else, instead he spend all his time devising a strategy to kill Hidan and Kakuzu. I honestly can't imagine a person you want to piss off more than Shikamaru. They took the smartest, most brilliant strategist in the Hidden Leaf, let him get away, and gave him as much time as he needed, plus an entire village of powerful ninjas to work with, in order to plan their death. Shikamaru eventually came up with a strategy he liked, and start to head out with Ino and Choji. Tsunade stopped them before they could leave, telling them they had to have a traditional four-man squad. Kakashi volunteered to help them and Shikamaru re-thought his strategy to incorporate Kakashi's abilities, then the team head out.
Eventually the team tracks down Hidan and Kakuzu, and Shikamaru, using his former mentor's knives to enhance his Shadow Style, manages to ensnare both Akatsuki members. Kakuzu managed to break free, but Shikamaru uses Hidan, who was still ensnared, to attack Kakuzu. They manage to pin Kakuzu into a corner where Kakashi manages to kill one of Kakuzu's extra hearts. The team then ends up on the defensive for a little, and Shikamaru decides they must split Hidan and Kakuzu up if they are going to succeed in killing them. With this, he captures Hidan in his Shadow Style and leads him away from the battlefield. Once far enough away, Shikamaru covers the area in explosive tags to corner Hidan, right before his Shadow Technique ran out of time and released Hidan. Hidan then immediately attacked Shikamaru, getting some of his blood on his spear, and preformed his blood ritual to bind Shikamaru to him. He then immediately stabbed himself in the heart and killed Shikamaru. Or that's what he believed anyway. Shikamaru had actually stored a small vile of blood with him, that Kakashi had obtained from Kakuzu when he stabbed his first heart earlier in battle. Hidan, completely unaware, had just stabbed his partner in the heart. Shikamaru sprung to life and tried to cut Hidan's head off, but wasn't able to cut him deeply enough. In response, Shikamaru captured Hidan in another Shadow Binding technique, but it was weaker due to his shortage of chakra. Hidan tries to attack Shikamaru, but Shikamaru uses his Shadow Gathering Technique to bring all his explosive tags together in a shadow net that captured Hidan. Shikamaru then activates a mark on the ground beneath him, which causes the ground to collapse into a large pit. Hidan curses Shikamaru and vows he will get his revenge on him when he escapes. Shikamaru explains that the forest that surrounds them belongs to the Nara clan, and only Nara's can enter and leave the forest, ensuring no one will ever find him. Shikamaru lights Asuma's lighter and flicks it at Hidan, making all the explosive tags go off at once. As Hidan's remains fall into the pit, Shikamaru forces a cave in of the pit, burying him. When Shikamaru returns home he vows to protect Asuma and Kurenai's unborn child, and raise him as part of the next generation of shinobi. During the Pein invasion arc we see Shikamaru come to Kurenai's aid when she is under attack from one of the Six Path's of Pein, in order to protect her and the baby.
Shikamaru's Fighting Style
Shikamaru is a member of the Nara clan, meaning his abilities rotate a good deal around his Shadow Style. His Shadow Imitation Style is what we see the most, the ability to control your opponents movements. He also later learns a variety of other Shadow Style techniques, including the Shadow Neck Binding Technique and Shadow Sewing technique which will cause physical harm to opponents. After Asuma's death, Shikamaru incorporates Asuma's chakra blades into his arsenal, combining them with his Shadow. He uses them with a technique he calls the Shadow Imitation Shuriken Technique, allowing him to pin someone down by their shadow. It is more his levels of intelligence that are his strongest weapon. Shikamaru is able to run hundreds of battle strategies, and pick the best strategy to win, retreat, protect his friends, or anything else he is trying to accomplish, in just a matter of seconds. Shikamaru's sense of humor, laid back style mixed with maturity, sense of honor, and fighting techniques are what makes me love him so much as a character is what lands him in my top 5 Naruto characters.