Neji Hyuga is one of the main supporting characters of the series. He is a Jonin-level Shinobi of Konohagakure, and a branch member of the Hyuga clan. He is also a member of Team Guy, and is famed as a natural genius.
Neji was born with an unmarked forehead, but when his cousin Hinata turned three years old, he was branded with the Hyuga Main Family's Juinjutsu by his uncle Hiashi. All branch members carry this curse mark, as it is a symbol that one lives only to serve the main branch. Neji's father Hizashi was well aware of Neji's natural talent, and he was frustrated that despite Neji's skill, Neji still carried the fate of a servant. Hizashi openly showed his anger; consequently, he was punished through Hiashi's activation of his curse seal. Around this time, the Leaf and Cloud Villages had signed an alliance treaty. However, that treaty only served as a ticket into Konoha and a lowering of Konoha's guard so the Head Cloud ninja could abduct Hinata and steal the secrets of the Byakugan. The attempt failed, though, as Hiashi had intervened and killed the man in his tracks.
When word of the murder reached the Hidden Cloud Village, they demanded Hiashi's body as compensation (as his body would hold the Byakugan as well). The Hidden Leaf Village was prepared to comply to this request until Hizashi stepped in and offered to give himself up instead (when he dies, the Byakugan will be sealed away). Hizashi made this sacrifice willingly in order to protect his brother, family, and village. However, Neji came to believe that the main branch had forced him to do so. This misconception became the primary basis of his grudge against the main branch and of his concrete view on one's unalterable fate.
A year before the start of the series, Neji graduated at the top of his class, and was placed in Team Guy, with Might Guy as the Jonin leader, and Rock Lee and Tenten as his teammates. After officially being promoted to Genin, Neji declined to reveal his dream, and laughed at Rock Lee for claiming that he could become a great ninja with just taijutsu. During their first year in Team Guy, Lee challenged Neji many times, but always lost. Guy decided to have his team wait a year before taking the Chunin Exams, in order to ensure that they were prepared. At some point before his first Chunin Exam, his animosity towards the main branch became apparent to Guy, who made him promise not to let the issue influence his feelings during the Chunin Exams.
Outside of his initial feelings towards his clan, Neji has been shown to be extremely mature for his age, and to have great self-control. In battle, he is able to stay relatively calm in most situations and carefully look at the situation at hand. As stated by Tsunade, Neji has excellent instincts, both on the battlefield and as a leader. When forced to make difficult decisions on missions, he shows himself able to make a decision through keen observation and analysis.
While under the belief that his father had died because he was a member of the branch house, Neji concluded that fate is something decided at birth and that no matter what one does, people cannot escape their destiny. Neji often applied this to people he viewed as weaker than himself, such as his cousin, Hinata. During his match in the Chunin Exams, he told Hinata that she was unfit to be a ninja, due to being too kind and not confident enough. When she was eventually able to turn his philosophy against him, telling him that she believed that he was suffering from trying to become worthy of the main house, despite his being born into the branch family, Neji became enraged, and attempted to kill Hinata. He was stopped by multiple Jonin, but Hinata nevertheless was left in critical conditions from his earlier attacks. In this instance, Neji's only concern was that he could not complete his attack, and he accused the Jonin of giving special treatment to the head family members. He disregarded Hinata's personal growth in the match, concluding that, because she was defeated, "a failure will always be a failure".
Neji displayed similar efforts to condescend others during his match with Naruto Uzumaki who, despite being repeatedly struck down, continued to try and fight him. While Neji tried to show Naruto that fate cannot be fought, and that someone who is weak will always remain weak, Naruto was unwilling to accept this mindset, arguing that Neji, for all his belief in fate, had not accepted his own destiny. Naruto went on to defeat Neji, suggesting that, if a "failure" like himself could change his destiny, a "genius" like Neji could, too.
With this example of overcoming "destiny", as well as finding out the truth about his father's death soon afterwards, Neji abandoned the concept of inescapable fate. No longer bound by the idea that he was stuck at his current status, Neji resolved to become strong enough to never again lose a battle. To do so, he began putting more emphasis on working well with his team, and started to value a mission's successful completion and his teammates' safety over his own betterment, even encouraging Rock Lee to continue pursuing his own dream. In addition, Neji began trying to remedy the estranged relations between himself and the main house members, most particularly by being kinder to Hinata. His efforts seem to be effective, as he begins training with Hiashi, and, in Part II, even starts to wear traditional Hyuga robes. He similarly has great confidence in Naruto's capacity to change others, as he stated that the latter could redeem Sasuke and bring him back to Konoha.
When Team Guy was first formed, Neji dismissed Lee's dream of becoming a great ninja, despite his inability to mould chakra, as hopeless, and suggested that Lee could never defeat him. Because of this, Lee accepted Neji as his rival, though Neji never replied or agreed with it. After abandoning his fatalistic philosophy, he suggested that he would not have persevered in Lee's situation, and believed that, if Lee worked hard enough, he could surpass the gifted. They became good friends because of this, though Neji tends to spend most of his time with Tenten, as neither of them can compete with Lee or Guy's antics.
Neji has noticeably long brown hair for his gender - in fact, his hair is longer than some of the kunoichi in the series. In Part I, his hair had been completely tied back in a ponytail, while two straps framed the sides of his face. In Part II, he got rid of these straps, and allowed his hair to frame his face instead. His hair has been shown to be longer in Part II as well. Like all Hyuga clan members, he has pale skin, and the infamous Byakugan eyes. His eyes have been shown with a lavender tint to them, While Hinata's eyes have a gray tint.
Before his fight with Naruto, Neji's facial expression had been always been stern and hard. As the series progressed, however, his expression loosened to a relaxed, content state.
In Part I, Neji was seen with a dark brown headband that he wore snugly over his forehead. He wore a khaki shirt and slightly dark brown shorts. He also had bandages wrapped around his right arm, chest, and right leg. In Part II, Neji abandoned the bandages, and switched his headband color to black. Instead of the regular tan jacket and shorts, he now wears traditional white and black Hyuga robes. This may have not only been to make his attacks easier, but to show that he is now closer to his clan. Neji is usually seen with a large tan and black drawstring bag, which he carries over his shoulder.
During the first phase of the Chunin Exams, Neji used his Byakugan to read off of other examinees' tests. During the second phase, Team Guy split up to find weak rival teams. Neji ran into Team 10, but thought them too weak to bother with. When Team Guy later reunited, and Neji and Tenten realized that Lee was uncharacteristically late, they went looking for him. They found him after having been defeated by Team Dosu. Angered, Neji threatened to fight them, but decided not to, after noticing that Sasuke Uchiha had woken up. Once Sasuke drove off the Sound Genin, Neji and Tenten took Lee away to recover, still managing to pass the round.
In the preliminary matches, Neji was paired up against Hinata. After exchanging Gentle Fist-style blows, Hinata seemed to defeat Neji, only for Neji to reveal that he had plugged up Hinata's chakra points, rendering her Gentle Fist useless. He also hit a chakra point close to one of Hinata's vitals moments beforehand, putting Hinata in a critical condition. However, Hinata refused to back down, insisting that Neji, not she, was fighting against what could not be changed. Neji was about to administer a killing blow when most of the Jonin in attendance stepped in to save Hinata. After the fight, Naruto, angered by Neji's philosophy and treatment of Hinata, swiped up some of Hinata's blood, and swore to defeat Neji during the finals. Neji dismissed his threats, and watched Lee's match with Gaara. He was surprised by Lee's strength, but, after the fight, thought Lee foolish to try to win by using a self-sacrificial method.
Neji was pitted against Naruto in the first rounds of the finals. Although Neji soon gained the advantage, and cut off Naruto's chakra flow, Naruto was determined to fight against Neji, and prove that fate was not predetermined. Naruto tapped into the power of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox sealed within him, and was able to keep up with Neji for a time. Neji's Heavenly Spin protected him from Naruto's attacks, but when he approached a supposedly defeated Naruto, Naruto sprang out of a tunnel he had dug in the ground, and delivered an uppercut to Neji in the jaw, defeating him. Neji was angry with himself for falling for Naruto's signature technique, but Naruto revealed that the technique used to be his worst one, and that he only became good at it through practice. Neji then heard of his father's fate from his uncle (in the anime, it was changed to Neji reading a scroll written by his father, which explained everything), and broke down in tears. When Hiashi bowed before Neji, entreating his forgiveness, Neji asked him to rise and forgave him. Neji then silently told his father that he wished to finally have control over his destiny, and that he hoped to never lose again.
Sasuke Retrieval arc
Neji was recruited as part of the five-man team to retrieve Sasuke from the Sound Four. Neji was chosen to be the rear lookout in the single file line Shikamaru organized. When, during the course of the mission, the team was captured by Kidomaru's webbing, Neji was able to free them, and sent them after the remaining members of the Sound Four while he fought Kidomaru. Kidomaru was able to analyse Neji's defenses, and found the blind spot in his Byakugan. Neji realized that Kidomaru was far more powerful than he was, but was determined to never give up, as he wanted to show those who considered him a genius that their faith in him was correct, and to prove that he no longer surrendered to fate. Neji was severely wounded when Kidomaru managed to fire an arrow through his chest. However, he was able to keep it from hitting his heart by moving at the last minute. After dodging yet another arrow, Neji realized that he couldn't stop the next one. He allowed the arrow to hit him - however, he prevented it from being fatal, and took advantage of the string attached to it that Kidomaru used to guide its trajectory by channeling chakra through the web, severely injuring Kidomaru. He then caught and struck Kidomaru repeatedly with Gentle Fist.
Before he died, Kidomaru said that Sasuke was beyond salvation, and couldn't be brought back to Konoha as he had made his own choice to leave. However, Neji proclaimed that Naruto would be able to save Sasuke from the darkness, as Naruto had saved him. Afterwards, Kidomaru died, and Neji collapsed due to his injuries. He was near death after the battle, but was saved with the help of Shizune and other medical ninja with the Healing Resuscitation Regeneration Technique.
Pre-Shippūden filler arcs
Neji was commonly the team leader for Team Guy when Guy was absent, and was more cautious and pragmatic than Naruto was. In the Raiga arc, Neji attempted to use his Byakugan against Raiga, but Ranmaru's kekkei genkai created illusions that he mistook for real people. During the second battle, he was easily defeated and knocked out. While he was unconscious, Tenten attempted to wake him up by feeding him the Curry of Life twice but, due to his low tolerance towards spicy food, he only freaked out after eating it, and fell unconscious again.
In the Hidden Star Village arc, Neji suggested that he and the others should concern themselves with finding the star, rather than with the potential dangers the star training had to the children. When the villagers confronted Akahoshi, Neji initially refused to get involved, and when Naruto attacked Akahoshi after Akahoshi disabled Naruto's teammates with an attack, he told Naruto that he would deny knowing anything about what Naruto did, unwilling to betray the client and erode people's trust in Leaf ninja. Despite saying this, when Tsunade reprimanded the group for Naruto's destroying the star to defeat Akahoshi, Neji accepted responsibility as team leader, before Tsunade revealed that, as Akahoshi was the client, no-one would complain about their failing the mission.
In Episode 158; Follow My Lead! The Great Survival Challenge, the Academy Students were divided into teams of three and were assigned to a genin who would lead them on a mission against the other teams. Neji was assigned to lead a team of three academy students; Koji, Jin and Futaba. His time with them was not covered much except that he was doing better than Naruto. Neji instructed his students on how to use a watch as a compass.
In the Menma arc, he suspected that Menma was a Sound ninja, and, while testing the theory, learned of Menma's incredible speed. His suspicions were confirmed in part when it was revealed that Menma was part of a bandit clan, but Menma remained on Naruto's side, and sacrificed himself to save a town from bandits.
Rescue Gaara arc
Neji made his debut with the rest of Team Guy when they were sent to provide back-up for Team Kakashi. They were intercepted by Pakkun, who redirected them to Team Kakashi's destination: an Akatsuki hideout. Along the way, they were confronted by Kisame Hoshigaki, who quickly captured Neji, Tenten, and Lee in a Water Prison. Neji was able to free them with his Gentle Fist, allowing Guy to finish off Kisame. They discovered that it was not the real Kisame, only a lookalike.
When they convened with Team Kakashi, Team Guy was tasked with bringing down a barrier blocking the entrance to the Akatsuki lair. Neji used his Byakugan to find the seals keeping the barrier in place, but the team was ambushed by copies of themselves once the barrier was brought down. They defeated their clones, and reunited with Team Kakashi. Neji spotted Deidara with his Byakugan, and, when Deidara prepared to explode himself, he warned the rest to run away. Later, when Chiyo began to use a strange technique, he mistook it as a medical ninjutsu, but later realized what it would do. Team Guy returned home when the mission was complete. On the way back, Guy resorted to carrying Kakashi in order to move faster. Lee, seeing this as a new way of training, requested Neji to go on his back, but Neji refused.
Invasion of Pain arc
When Pain began his attack on Konoha, Team Guy was away on a mission. During a pitstop on their return home, they noticed a number of birds apparently escaping from the village. They rushed to the village, Neji using his Byakugan to see what he could find out before their actual arrival. With it, he noticed a defeated Gamabunta, who told them of the village's destruction. Upon their return, they found a badly injured Hinata, and they quickly got her medical attention. When they later learned that Naruto had defeated Pain, Neji insisted on going to help him confront Nagato, even though Naruto did not want back-up, saying that it was too reckless for Naruto to go alone when he was exhausted. Despite this, he remained in the village, and greeted Naruto with the other ninja upon his return.
Five Kage Summit Arc
Neji is seen with the other Konoha ninja teams as they discuss that Sasuke should be dealt with to prevent a war with Konohagakure and Kumogakure. He suggests that Shikamaru should explain to Naruto and Sakura about the situation as Shikamaru failed in his first mission as a Chunin before.
Naruto Shippūden the Movie
Neji, replacing Kakashi Hatake, led a group composed of himself, Naruto, Lee, and Sakura on a mission to protect Shion, a priestess who was destined to save the world from the demon Mōryō. The group was first sent to Shion's temple, where they discovered that their enemies had already attacked. Before he could order the group to do anything, however, Naruto quickly intervened, and got himself trapped. Neji then ordered Sakura and Lee to help Naruto as he chased after Shion, who was being pursued by Kusuna. Neji was able to block the attack that would have killed Shion, which forced Kusuna to retreat.
Later during the mission, Neji led the group, now with Shion and Taruho, through a large torrent, because he had seen the enemy group fighting with fire. However, he was proven wrong when Shizuku attacked them with Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique. This surprised Neji, as he detected no water-natured chakra in him during their first encounter. As Lee and Naruto ran off to fight Shizuku and Gitai, Neji and Sakura remained behind to defend Shion from the water dragon, only to have it dispelled by Naruto. Neji then knocked Shion out, and he, Shion, and Sakura separated from Naruto and Lee to get the priestess to safety.
Neji and Sakura were pursued by Kusuna and Setsuna. He ordered Sakura to go ahead with Shion. Setsuna then began to attack Neji with Wind Release: Rotating Shuriken, which he deflected with Kaiten. However, he later realized that Kusana had been a puppet all along, and rushed to save Sakura and Shion. He caught up too late; he had been able to prevent Sakura from receiving any major injuries, but he had failed to save Taruho, who had taken Shion's appearance and sacrificed his life.
Later in the movie, Neji sent Naruto to aid Shion in sealing the demon while he, Lee, and Sakura took care of the group of enemies. Neji learned, from Lee's fight with Gitai, that the enemy ninjas received chakra from an unusual source. The three of them provoked an attack from The Gang of Four, and evaded until they were depleted of chakra. Before Kusana could revive their chakra, Neji killed him with a slightly upgraded version of Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms.
He was seen at the end of the movie with everyone else, waiting for Naruto to reappear from the mountain.
Naruto Shippūden 2: Bonds
Neji made a short cameo appearance in this movie. He was first seen rescuing children when ninja from Soragakure attacked Konoha. During that time, he carefully scanned the Sora-nin's equipment, and discovered that they channeled chakra through flyers to move through the air. He later told this information to Shikamaru, who pinpointed the location of the Soragakure carriers.
He didn't appear again until the end of the movie, where he, along with Choji and the others, ran into Shikamaru's group. There Neji wondered what was happening in the Sora-nin's base, as Naruto was recklessly destroying it, which Shikamaru replied that no explanation was needed.
Since a young age, Neji has been held to be a natural genius, even becoming the top-ranked rookie in his class. His father has even stated that his talent and potential surpasses all other members of their clan, while his uncle told his youngest daughter that no-one else had thicker Hyuga blood than he did. While most of the former Konoha Genin become Chunin over the timeskip, Neji is the only one to become a Jonin.
As a member of the Hyuga clan, Neji possesses the Byakugan, which gives him an almost 360-degree field of vision, except for a small blind spot at the back of the neck. Neji is acutely aware of his blind spot, and takes extra caution in keeping it away from opponents, as well as paying close attention to it. While the Byakugan naturally has only a 50 meter field of vision, Neji is able to increase the range of its sight several times over by the start of Part II, to at least 800 meters. He is noted to have a particularly strong Byakugan in comparison to other members of the Hyuga clan.
As a member of the Hyuga Clan, Neji specializes in taijutsu combat. In battle, Neji has shown tremendous agility and dexterity, capable of simultaneously dodging and striking a person with no wasted movement. His attacks are very fast and fluid, allowing him to attack in rapid succession with leaving very little time for his opponent to find an opening to counter.
Neji's fighting style is the Gentle Fist fighting style, which takes advantage of his Byakugan as he has mastered it to the point where he can damage an opponent's Chakra Pathway System and inner organs directly with even a slight tap. Neji has also demonstrated in Naruto Shippuuden the Movie the ability to incapacitate a person with a mere tap to the forehead of a person. Neji also uses this technique to attack his opponent's heart directly and send them into cardiac arrest, resulting in the death of the opponent with but a single strike. He can eject chakra from any chakra point in his body to either slow down objects or release himself from chakra-based substances that will get him out of trapped situations. This also allows him to sense anything that enters his immediate area, which he can attack or defend against with his extremely fast reflexes.
Gentle Fist Techniques
As a member of the Hyuga clan's branch house, Neji is forbidden to learn the clan's secret techniques, but has managed to deduce their workings simply through observation. He has learned many of these techniques, such as Eight Trigrams Palms Heavenly Spin. Since mastering these jutsu, Neji has begun to refine and strengthen them for more specialized needs. In Part II, he learned the Eight Trigrams Empty Palm, a more focused version of the Heavenly Spin, with which he can expel chakra from his palm to attack opponents out of his physical reach. In the anime, he also learned to increase the number of strikes of the Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms, by doubling it. He also used a jutsu in the anime called Eight Trigrams Mountain Crusher.
- "Neji" means "whirl" or "screw", which might be referring to his Heavenly Spin. His name is one of the few known Hyuga names that does not feature a sun- or light-based theme, or begins with an "H".
- "Nejia" is an internal Chinese martial art that focuses on developing internal chi. The technique uses a lot of whirling and spinning techniques, which may or may not have had an influence in Neji's name.
- When Neji was first seen in the manga, his hair tie was higher, directly below his head. However, after the second part of the Chunin Exams, it moved lower, to the hairstyle he has now. In the anime, he had the newer hairstyle nearly the whole time.
- Hinata uses the title "Neji-niisan" ((Big) Brother Neji) when speaking to Neji, initially causing Sakura Haruno and Naruto Uzumaki to believe that they are siblings rather than cousins.
- In the manga, Neji's curse mark is a Manji, a common symbol used in Buddhism, instead of an X in the anime. It was edited, as the manji looks similar to the symbol for the Nazi Party.
- Neji is a common playable character in the Naruto video games series.
- In the Naruto character popularity polls, Neji was placed 12th in the first, 13th in the second, 10th in the third, 6th in the fourth, and 7th in the fifth. He finished 8th in the sixth and most recent. While at first Neji was in between 10 and 19 in most of the character popularity polls, and Lee was in the Top 10, Lee has gradually become less popular, while Neji has become more popular, even though the two had equal exposure. However, in an overall tally of all of their scores, Lee and Neji made it to the Top 10.
- Neji and Tenten have the same theme in the anime, but Tenten's has a slower beat, and Neji's is more upbeat.
- Neji is aware of Hinata's feelings for Naruto, and, shortly before Naruto's departure at the end of Part I, suggested that she see him off.
- According to the Naruto databook:
- Neji's hobby is meditation.
- Neji wishes for a rematch with Naruto.
- Neji's favorite food is herring soba, while his least favorites are pumpkins, and he also has a low tolerance for anything spicy.
- Neji has completed 62 official missions in total: 26 D-rank, 19 C-rank, 4 B-rank, 11 A-rank, 2 S-rank.
- Neji's registration number is 012587.
- Neji's favorite phrase is "Progress in leaps and bounds".
- "You're a failure."
- "Do you understand now? You have no way of beating me!"
- "Naruto ... sometimes your eyes are better than mine."
- (To Kiba, Shikamaru, and Naruto) "Sasuke's out there right now, heading toward Orochimaru. We can't allow such evil to take someone from our village ... that is not our way."
- "All this time I've been called a genius, so I cannot lose."
- "Because Naruto ... you saved me from the darkness."
- (About Lee and Guy) "As usual, I can't keep up with their craziness."
- (About Guy) "He's so childish. He acts like a seven year old!"