Gaara by Masashi Kishimoto
|First appearance||Naruto manga chapter 35|
|Ninja rank||Genin in Part I
Fifth Kazekage in Part II
|Ninja team||Sand Siblings in Part I
Five Kage in Part II
Gaara (我愛羅) is a fictional character in the Naruto manga and anime series created by Masashi Kishimoto. Kishimoto designed Gaara as a foil to the series' titular character, Naruto Uzumaki, as the two were born through similar circumstances, but develop vastly different personalities as they deal with their troubled upbringing. Initially introduced as an antagonist and Naruto's rival, the two eventually develop a bond as kindred spirits and become close friends as the series progresses.
In the anime and manga, Gaara is a ninja affiliated with Sunagakure, and is the son of Sunagakure's leader, the Fourth Kazekage. As a fetus, his father attempted to turn him into a human weapon by placing a tailed beast into him, and he was ostracized by the Sunagakure villagers. As a result, he develops into a ruthless killer, slaying others without remorse, and treating his siblings Kankuro and Temari with contempt. His battle with Naruto during the series changes this outlook, and he begins to aid others in order to emulate Naruto. In Part II of the series, he becomes Sunagakure's Fifth Kazekage. Gaara has appeared in several pieces of Naruto media, including the second featured film in the series, the third original video animation, and several video games.
Numerous anime and manga publications have commented on Gaara's character. IGN labeled the disparity between Naruto and Gaara as "emotional" and "a tad creepy". Anime News Network called Naruto's fight against Gaara the high point of the entire series. Among the Naruto reader base, Gaara has been popular, placing high in several popularity polls, and always making it to the top ten characters. Numerous pieces of merchandise have been released in Gaara's likeness, including plush dolls and key chains.
Creation and conception
Naruto author Masashi Kishimoto created Gaara as a foil to the series' protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki. He and Naruto have a similar background: he was rejected by his peers and fellow villagers for being the host of a tailed beast, Shukaku, a situation that Kishimoto describes as "very much like Naruto's". Gaara's development from this state into a highly withdrawn, sadistic character was intended to induce sympathy for him from readers, as it was contrasted against Naruto's development into a cheerful troublemaker. Additionally, his design was designed to look like the Tanuki since Kishimoto thought that it would make him a good rival for Naruto's Nine-tailed Demon Fox since several parts from the Shukaku were considered by Kishimoto to be opposite ones from the Demon Fox. Gaara's backstory became one of Kishimoto's favorite stories from Part I; Kishimoto had to revise his illustrations in such chapters in as he wanted readers to understand more Gaara's mental state.
Gaara's initial attire, along with the costumes of his siblings, was difficult for Kishimoto to draw on a weekly basis. Because of this, Kishimoto gave the three of them simpler costumes towards the end of Part I; Gaara received an outfit with an upright collar. In addition to being easier to draw, it was used to demonstrate the change in relationship between Gaara and Naruto following their previous fight. Kishimoto cites The Matrix, one of his favorite movies, as an inspiration for Gaara's new costume, and he considers it to be his favorite costume of the three siblings.
Before he was born, Gaara's father, the Fourth Kazekage, had Chiyo make Gaara into the Jinchuriki for the tailed beast One-Tailed Shukaku (一尾の守鶴 Ichibi no Shukaku , English TV: "Shukaku the Sand Spirit") while he was still in his mother's womb. As a result, Gaara gains the power to manipulate sand---an ability that he uses primarily to subconsciously create a nearly impenetrable defense. The Fourth Kazekage intended to use Gaara as the village's personal weapon, but Shukaku's bloodlust and occasional manipulation of Gaara's sand to harm anyone around cause the boy to become feared to the point his father decided to have him assassinated. After his uncle (who was the only person that Gaara thought cared for him) tried to assassinate him, Gaara adopted the belief that he could only rely upon himself and Shukaku, and that he had to kill others in order to confirm the value of his own existence.
Gaara first appears in the series when he is sent to Konohagakure, a rival ninja village, to take part in the Chunin Exams (the biannual ninja exams for ninja that wish to increase their rank). In truth, he is sent in order to infiltrate Konohagakure in preparation for an invasion by Sunagakure and its ally, Otogakure. During the exams, however, he is injured by Sasuke Uchiha, and is unable to participate in the invasion. The invasion proceeds without him and Gaara flees Konoha, but is pursued by members from Team 7 on the village's outskirts. After using Shukaku's power to wound Sasuke, Gaara is defeated by Naruto Uzumaki who sympathizes with his feelings as both are Jinchuriki. Later, Sunagakure sends Gaara to help in preventing Sasuke from defecting to Otogakure, which became enemy of Sunagakure since learning that Orochimaru murdered the Kazekage. While he is able to help Rock Lee fight Kimimaro, Gaara is unable to prevent Sasuke from escaping. He makes amends with the many characters he had alienated, apologizing to those he hurt and improving his relationship with his family. At the same time, Gaara's fundamental characteristic becomes the desire to protect as many people as he can, as in doing so he will be able to find true strength. This culminates in his replacing his father as the Fifth Kazekage during Part II of the series.
In Part II of the series, three years after the failed attempt to retrieve Sasuke, Deidara, a member of the criminal organization Akatsuki, is sent to Sunagakure to capture Gaara. Deidara manages to capture Gaara by threatening Sunagakure, and the members of the Akatsuki extract Shukaku from his body. Gaara dies in the process, but is revived by Chiyo sacrificing her own life so that he can continue to protect Sunagakure. Some time later, he goes to the meeting of the five Kage, where the Akatsuki's leader Tobi, claiming to be Madara Uchiha, announces the Fourth Shinobi War to capture the last two Tailed-Beasts, Gaara joins the new Shinobi Alliance to protect Naruto and Killer Bee. He becomes the commander of the Shinobi forces for the upcoming battle. On the second day of the war, Gaara encounters his resurrected father, who is shocked by his development. Revealing that both Gaara's uncle and mother always loved him, with the latter actually protecting him automatically through the sand, the Fourth Kazekage recognizes his son has surpassed him and entrusts the Hidden Sand Village to him. Gaara later defeats and seals the revived Second Mizukage and joins the rest of the five Kage to fight the actual and revived Madara Uchiha who has previously been impersonated by the Akatsuki leader. However, they are defeated and nearly killed by Madara.
Appearances in other media
Gaara has made several appearances outside of the Naruto anime and manga. He is present in the second Naruto feature film, Naruto the Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel. He protects the Land of Wind from an assault by Haido, the antagonist of the film, and later battles the lightning user Ranke, one of Haido's subordinates, and defeats her. Gaara is also present in the third original video animation released in the series, in which he participates in a tournament of various characters from across the series. Naruto video games commonly feature Gaara, including the Clash of Ninja and Ultimate Ninja series. In some games, he uses his Shukaku form for combat, as well as other moves not seen in the anime or manga. Naruto Shippūden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX marks the first appearance of Gaara in his Part II appearance in a video game.
Gaara has ranked highly in the popularity polls for the series, continuously placing in the top ten. The last such poll was in 2011, in which Gaara was in 4th place. Several pieces of Gaara merchandise been released, including key chains of his Part I and Part II appearance, plush dolls, and a limited edition figurine. AnimeCentral listed him as eighth best villain in anime with comments focused on how flashbacks made him a tragic character and at the same time similar to Naruto Uzumaki. Additionally, his fight against Rock Lee was listed as the second best one in anime for exchanges in moves and its conclusion.
Anime and manga publications have mostly praised Gaara's character. IGN noted that Gaara was an "anti-Naruto", possessing a "dark, solemn character" as opposed to Naruto's continuous cheer and excitement. In another review, IGN also called Gaara's background "emotional" and "a tad creepy" due to the disparity between the development of Naruto's and Gaara's personalities. Anime News Network celebrated the "depth and emotion" that Naruto's and Gaara's similarities added to the plot, and commented that "nowhere in the entire series run does Naruto shine brighter than in the peak period of his battle against Gaara". They also complimented Kishimoto's visual presentation of Gaara in the manga, referring to "chilling [glimpses] of Gaara's crazed, exposed face". Mania Entertainment noted that Gaara and Sasuke's first fight shows how the former has a "fragile" psyche despite his violent attitude. His backstory was also praised by Mania Entertainment since it includes "a ton of legitimate emotion" allowing viewers from the series to understand more Gaara's personality. Liam O'Brien, Gaara's voice actor in the English dubbed version of the anime, has been praised. IGN noted that he did an "excellent job" of making Gaara sound terrifying to the viewer, and Anime News Network noted him as one of the best voice actors in the series.
Gaara's promotion to leader from Sunagakure in Part II of the series was deemed as the most surprising development in the series by Briana Lawrence from Maniaa Entertainment. UK Anime Network's Kevin Leathers stated that while in the first part of the series, Gaara was a fearsome villain, in the following one he became "much more three-dimensional." Similarly, Todd Douglass Jr. from DVDTalk praised Gaara's development in later episodes from Naruto: Shippuden owing to his relationship's expansion with Naruto. His fight against Deidara has also received positive response, with critics poiting the revisit of Gaara's popular moves and the strategy both fighters employed.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Gaara|
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