Author: jin (altiui)
Pairing: Hyuga Neji/Uzumaki Naruto
Spoilers: Spoilers up to current manga (graphic novel/comic book) chapter, heavy spoilers for the Kidoumaru VS. Neji battle
Multiple thanks to kisaru, leona_d, rikugou, and, nataku1314 for their assistance.
Please note that Japanese comics are read from RIGHT-TO-LEFT and that this pairing includes two men (meaning: yaoi, slash, homoerotica, gayness...what have you).
Prologue: The Series
During the Third Great Ninja Wars the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox (Kyuubi no Kitsune) started wreaking havoc in the Hidden Village of the Leaf (Konohagakure), the ninja village of the Fire Country. After many lives were lost and the village received considerable damage, the Fourth Hokage (Yondaime) sealed the demon in the stomach of a newborn baby. The baby was named Uzumaki Naruto.
For more on the series: Naruto on Wikipedia, Naruto Chuushin, Naruto-kun, Naruto Chaos, Naruto Fan
Our Hero: Naruto
Naruto seems like a simple character. He's rather simple minded himself. He's a troublemaker with a loud voice, a tendency to repeat words when calling upon someone's attention, and gaudy orange clothes. You've likely seen this character plenty of times.
Luffy of One Piece, Hanamichi of Slam Dunk, Tiggr, Joey of Friends--these characters have been cut from the same cloth: the rather stupid and annoying character that just happens to be very disarming.
However, in Naruto’s case, such character flaws stem from a childhood of neglect and/or contempt. Since Naruto has the Kyuubi sealed within him, the villagers identify him either with the demon or as the demon. It's still questionable how much the adults know of Naruto’s true humanity and what they are ignoring but their feelings have passed on to their children who were supposed to be kept ignorant (by law) of Naruto’s situation. The children, of course, unknowingly imitate the adults and treat Naruto like a disease.
Thus, Naruto has turned out as the attention-seeking, hyperactive ninja that he is. Many fanfiction writers portray Naruto as someone with multiple masks while truly being a lost soul. I’d like to think that he has "moments." I do find it odd though that he can be so trusting. He believes in the hearts of his companions, trusts them to do and think honorable things. Betrayal to him seems like such a confusing concept because, despite being betrayed in many instances, he continues to believe in the people who have betrayed him.
In terms of skill, Naruto is a rather bad shinobi at the beginning. Much like many shounen manga/anime heroes, however, he learns incredibly fast, has passion for what he does (equaled only by his amazing stamina) and catches the attention of the right teachers. In recent chapters, Naruto has returned from about 2 years of secret training with a legendary ninja. It will be exciting to see the full results of said training.
A few notable things about Naruto.... Speculation is that he is Yondaime’s son. Most of the speculation stem from how similar they look.
His greatest dream is to be Hokage (the leader of Konoha). What is really behind that wish, however, is Naruto’s desire to be liked and respected by the village. He is usually ignored on a good day and likely beaten on the worst ones. As Naruto sees it, becoming Hokage signifies that the village has acknowledged or will acknowledge his existence and strength. Naruto now, however, seems more intent on protecting Konoha rather than reigning supreme as its leader.
Naruto’s upbringing is generally unknown. There are a few flashbacks to his early childhood but nothing is mentioned about how he was raised as a baby. I have my own ideas about what happened but generally fans believe that he was given care by an indifferent nurse. There are also assumptions that his life was constantly in danger given the nature of who he is and from Gaara’s own experience. Gaara is also the vessel of a demon and was "victim" to many assassination attempts.
For more on Naruto: Naruto in Wikipedia, Naruto in Brainyencyclopedia
The Prince: Neji
Neji was born to the elite clan of the Hyugas. A rather aristocratic family, the Hyuga is very attached to traditions. Just as an example, many still wear traditional Japanese clothing in training while most would have been in something that would less likely flash their opponents.
Neji is extremely talented as a ninja. In fact, he has been acknowledged by many as the most talented Hyuga alive. He first comes into the story as an arrogant, stoic, Fate-obsessed diva (and, when I say diva, I mean it in the most masculine way). His personality is explained as due to the loss of his father who he believed was sacrificed by the clan.
A bit of explanation about the Hyuga clan: the clan is divided into the Head Family and the Branch Family, with the members of the Branch Family as subordinates. The Branch Family wear marks on their head as a means for the Head Family to control them as well as seal their blood limit (special ninja abilities passed on by blood) in case they are captured by enemies. Neji’s father happened to be the twin of the heir of the clan head but, because he came out of the womb second, he was placed with the Branch Family. When Neji was very young (around four or five), an enemy village demanded the head of Hiashi (heir). However, the clan gave up Hisashi (Hiashi’s twin, Neji’s father). This was the fate of the Branch Family as Neji understood it...to become nothing but pawns for the Head Family to use. Thus, Neji grew up bitter and angry, angry enough to nearly kill Hinata, his cousin and his generation's heir-apparent.
Good thing, however, that Naruto knocked some sense into him quite literally. After the wonderful beating, Hiashi also gave Neji a letter from Hisashi that pretty much said Hisashi had volunteered to be sacrificed. He did it not for the Head Family but for Hiashi, a last thing he can do as Hiashi's brother without being blinded by bitterness.
Afterwards, Neji loosened up, so to speak. He acknowledged Naruto's strength. He's kinder to Hinata and he isn't quite so fatalistic anymore. Couple this "change for the better" to his good looks and elegant bearing then he almost seems like Prince Charming. He incidentally has bishounen hair--long, flowing locks that refuse to look ugly even when in near death.
For more Neji: Neji in Brainyencyclopedia, Neji in Wikipedia
Better Eyes Than I: The Why’s and Wherefore’s
To be honest, I didn't think of it at the beginning and, because Naruto is my favorite character, I found Neji initially to be one prickly, little bastard. Then I saw him as a four-year old and I squealed to my heart's content. Neji was an adorable little kid. As Neji’s sad past was played out in the manga, I became more benevolent to the character. Still, it was not enough to convince me to pair the two. While I certainly thought of it as a possibility, I personally did not care to because I was preoccupied with the Sasuke/Naruto ‘ship. Then kissingchaos wrote a fanfiction called "Hyuga Persuasion." I was then visited by the cheesy Hollywood epiphany--close-up, musical score at its height, symbolic lighting and a dawning expression on my face. These two characters worked. With Neji providing maturity and Naruto adding unpredictability, a relationship between them could bring forth numerous plot bunnies.
This ‘ship is founded, however, on the fact that it was Naruto’s words that convinced Neji to begin to change. There is reason for Neji to be thankful to Naruto, even so far as to be fond of him. Fanfic writers can use this. Writers turn that fondness to--dare I say it--love.
Directly after (or was it during...I forgot) my fanfic-enduced "epiphany" was the storyline that had Sasuke leaving Konoha and the five-man team of Shikamaru, Naruto, Chouji, Kiba and Neji chasing after the stray Leaf. In this arc, I was rewarded with the best Neji/Naruto moments that had yet come.
The team (reduced to four members at that point) was fighting Kidoumaru or villainous spider-dude as I like to call him. Kidoumaru was pulling Naruto with his web and readying himself to eliminate Naruto when Neji surprised everyone by suddenly appearing (he had been busy trying to get out of his own web-themed problems). He cut through Kidoumaru’s web, caught Naruto (conveniently embracing him) and took him to safety.
The team comes to a reluctant decision that someone must fight Kidoumaru alone while the rest move on to get Sasuke’s problematic ass back. Naruto does not like it and he is aware that due to Neji’s abilities he is the one most appropriate to leave behind. He looks at Neji with a very sad face as if reluctant to leave Neji alone. It is to be noted that the last time these two directly conversed was during their battle where Naruto crushed Neji. Yet, here was Naruto already developing affection (if even just friendly feelings) towards this former enemy that he once vowed to defeat.
Even when Neji told Naruto that the plan must be followed to successfully rescue Sasuke, Naruto’s face held a hint of reluctance.
There is a short moment when Neji and Naruto quietly faced each other (Shikamaru and Kiba not uttering anything and seemingly forgotten) as if waiting for Naruto to agree with what Neji has said. Naruto does not say anything. He really seems like he'd prefer to finish off spider-dude with the team together rather than leave Neji behind. Neji smiles in a way that makes me think he likes the idea of Naruto worrying about him but impatient with Naruto's silence. He convinces Naruto to go with the plan by saying...
"You have better eyes than me." This is quite a testament since Neji’s ability is the Byakugan, a blood limit that allows him to see through so many things. It is not necessarily x-ray vision but it is still quite extraordinary vision. (For more on Byakugan: Byakugan, Bloodline information)
So Neji and Kidoumaru fight. Naturally, Neji uses the words and image of his father to spur him on. However, he also uses numerous memories of Naruto to keep him from giving up. When he has lost sight of his opponent during battle and has sustained a fatal injury, Neji goes so far as to ask, "Naruto, if you were me, what would you do?"
As for Naruto and the others, he confidently tells his other teammates that Neji would win because he knows that Neji is a true tensai or genius (never mind that he was so reluctant to leave Neji behind at first). It warms my heart that, at the end of Kidoumaru and Neji’s fight, Neji says he cannot lose for the sake of those who believe that he is a tensai. The way I read this was that he fought for Naruto’s sake. ^__^
Neji and Naruto do not see each other after this. They might have seen each other in the hospital but that has not been illustrated in the manga. Naruto and Neji have yet to meet again in the recent manga chapters and I am definitely looking forward to they time that they do.
Neji and Naruto’s future is likely to be especially dramatic. No, not because of Naruto’s "bestfriend" and rival, Sasuke. The third party in this ‘ship is actually Neji’s cousin, Hinata. I do adore Hinata as a character. She’s sweet and shy but she works hard. She is also head over heels in love with Naruto, a fact that only Naruto seems to be blind to. Neji certainly knows as he has teased Hinata about it.
I think the question of how Hinata reacts is important to any Neji/Naruto fanfic. Is she crazy enough about Naruto to use her power as a member of the Head Family to ban/stop Neji from seeing Naruto? Or is she gentle and sweet enough to let Naruto choose Neji? It has been repeated in the manga enough times that Neji’s job as a member of the Branch Family is to protect Hinata, his generation’s would-be clan head. Is his newfound loyalty to Hinata more powerful than his feelings for Naruto? These are things that inspire angst-ridden fanfiction although writers often dispense of this issue by making Hinata fall in love with someone else.
Of course, there are also issues inside the ‘ship that have nothing to do with a third party. Neji and Naruto are vastly different people. Neji, as previously mentioned, has that aristocratic way about him—self-assured and graceful. Naruto is fumbling and bumbling. I like to think that they balance out each other’s eccentricities and to some people the "opposites attract" scenario is considerably cute.
This 'ship is based merely on subtext. Anything remotely romantic interpreted from canon could just as easily be a developing friendship. But many great pairings start off this way and canon has rarely dissuaded fanfic writers from writing. So to those writers, here's some inspiration....
Places, Places, Places
If anyone has other sites and fanfiction to contribute, I would certainly like to know.
NNM – Contains Japanese fanart and fanfiction. Would be easier to navigate if the links were in English but still fairly easy to explore. Navigation links are at the bottom. Fourth link from left leads to the fanfiction and fanart.
Scara-mouche - Japanese fanart site. Navigation links are in English
NN*D - Seems to be a Japanese fanlisting for Neji/Naruto fans.
To Claim the Sky – the slowly growing Neji/Naruto lj community
Fate-Bound – Fanlisting for the Neji/Naruto fans (under renovation)
Obstinate Ricecakes - kisaru's Naruto fanart site. Some Neji/Naruto. In English.
Burn the Sky – fanart by Kaminiko. Some Neji/Naruto. In English.
Fanfiction: There are, in fact, many fanfiction that contain some level of Neji/Naruto in it. The problem, however, is that usually the pairing only exists to get under Sasuke’s skin and never truly develops into anything. So in a fandom that has very little Neji/Naruto fanfiction in the first place, here is a short list of the few fairly well-written Neji/Naruto fanfics that I know.
Untitled ficlet by Vixankit – Bathroom and hormonal teenage boys. It’s short so it’s a quick read but definitely a good one. R rating.
Domestic Blues... No, not really by Yami no Ichigo – Union Rules say that bishounen like Neji have to have perfect hair. PG-13...-ish
Hyuga Persuasion by miriya – Neji persuades Naruto to fix the sticky mess he made. ^_^ Candies involved. PG-13.
First and Last by avmin – Neji isn’t the first. PG-13
Sweet Balls and Ramen, When the Day Comes and Remembrance by Wind Chijmes - Actually it is "Remembrance" that I liked but since it is the sequel to "When the Day Comes" which is the sequel to "Sweet Balls and Ramen," I thought to list all three.)
We Need A Break by Chery-chan – It’s not really Neji/Naruto but is interesting enough to make want to
recommend it. Shikamaru and Neji are fighting each other for Naruto’s affections.
Everything Under the Sun by Hyatt Insomnia – Unfinished Neji/Naruto. It has not been updated for a year and 7 months but the two chapters are still well worth reading since Neji is just starting to realize a few things.
Disclaimer: Naruto is created, written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto in Weekly Shonen Jump under Shueisha. The anime belongs to Studio Pierrot and some other people.
Credits: Manga scans and translation taken from Inane and Shannaro.