Orochimaru by Masashi Kishimoto
|First appearance||Naruto manga chapter 45|
Steven Jay Blum
|Notable relatives||Mitsuki ("son")|
Orochimaru (大蛇丸) is a fictional character from the Naruto manga created by Masashi Kishimoto. In the anime and manga, Orochimaru is a former ninja of the village of Konohagakure who is known for his abilities. However, creating his ninja village Otogakure as means to perform inhuman experimentation, Orochimaru sought a means to gain power and cheat death. In the latter, Orochimaru obtained a means for immortality by transferring between different host bodies which became one of his driving motivations throughout the series as he targets Sasuke Uchiha for his genetic heritage. While the main antagonist in Part I of the series, Orochimaru's role became overshadowed by the Akatsuki organization prior to the Fourth Ninja War arc. Orochimaru has appeared in media outside the Naruto anime and manga, including several video games.
Based on Japanese mythology, Orochimaru was created as one of the series' main antagonists, and intended to represent the opposite of the protagonists' morals and values. His snake-like appearance and related features were intended to make it easier for the reader to recognize that he is a villain. In Japanese, Orochimaru has been voiced by Kujira whereas in the English dub he is voiced by Steve Blum.
Several anime and manga publications have praised and criticized Orochimaru's character. As one of the series' premier villains, he has been praised in this regard. His lack of redeeming qualities and open malevolence was also praised by reviewers. Among the Naruto reader base, Orochimaru has been popular, ranking within the top twenty characters in several polls. Numerous pieces of merchandise in Orochimaru's likeness have also been released, including action figures and plush dolls.
Creation and conception
Most of the traits of Orochimaru's character were taken from Japanese mythology. Orochimaru originates from the Japanese folktale Jiraiya Gōketsu Monogatari where he opposes the title character who also appears in Naruto as his former ally. He wields a sword named Kusanagi is said to be related to creature known as the Yamata no Orochi. In Japanese mythology, Yamata no Orochi is defeated by the god Susanoo with Orochimaru taking using the a technique also known as Yamata no Orochi but is defeated by Itachi Uchiha's own Susanoo technique.
The introduction of Orochimaru to the series was first suggested by Masashi Kishimoto's superiors in order to improve the series' popularity. Kishimoto believed the series grew personality based on the Chunin Exams story arc and wanted it to end normally with Shikamaru Nara's victory. However, he eventually accepted their advised and Orochimaru was set up to interrupt this arc. As one of the villains in the story, Kishimoto created Orochimaru as an antithesis to the protagonists' values. His snake-like appearance and related features were intended to make it easier for the reader to recognize that he is a villain. In an interview, Kishimoto asserted that making the villains "flamboyant" was one of his "guiding principles," and attributed this to his desire to have the villains have a "powerful aura." When asked if Orochimaru was still good, Kishimoto answered that Orochimaru is "truly evil" and that he is one of the several "hopeless evil characters" that appear in the series. Originally Kishimoto planned to make Orochimaru's look androgynous. However, because of the concept of him being a strong antagonist, he made him more creepy. Of most of the characters, Orochimaru was hardest one to write. Kishimoto wanted wanted him to be a terrifying opponent, so he wondered if that was really the way to go to make him sound strong. Then I started thinking it was good like that, he's strong and creepy, and the creepyness started increasing.
Following this theme of distinguishing villains, Kishimoto attempted to make Orochimaru's face appear "pasty and sickly," which serves to emphasize the "scary looks" that Kishimoto frequently has Orochimaru performing in the manga. Orochimaru's nature type is fire, earth, and wind. As these occurrences are his "trademark," Kishimoto modifies Orochimaru's appearance and the scene to focus on Orochimaru's face; for instance, highlights that are normally added to Orochimaru's hair are removed and the background is blanked out to create a "creepy atmosphere."
Orochimaru acts as the primary antagonist for the first part of the series. After his parents were killed when he was young, Orochimaru's only source of affection was received from his teacher, the Third Hokage Hiruzen Sarutobi, and his two teammates. As they grew older Orochimaru, Jiraiya, and Tsunade collectively became known as the "Legendary Sannin" (伝説の三忍 Densetsu no Sannin) due to their exemplary ninja abilities in the Second Great Ninja War against Hanzo. Much of Orochimaru's arsenal of abilities deals with snakes, using them in summoning to battle multiple opponents while simultaneously keep himself out of harm's way. Through his experimentations he has also been able to add some snake-like characteristics to his own body. Desiring immortality to learn every jutsu, Orochimaru developed a forbidden jutsu to steal his victim's body. Though essentially immortal, Orochimaru learns the process can not be done more than once every three years.
Orochimaru, however, craved more power than could be obtained from training with his master, and began abducting villagers of Konohagakure for various experiments with Yamato among his surviving victims. Unwilling to bring himself to harm Orochimaru upon learning of his actions, Hiruzen allowed his former pupil to escape and flee the village. In time Orochimaru joined the criminal organization Akatsuki and became partners with a fellow Rogue Ninja named Sasori. However, after his attempt to steal the body of Itachi Uchiha through a forbidden jutsu so as to gain the Sharingan failed, Orochimaru is forced to leave the Akatsuki. Orochimaru then founded his own ninja village, Otogakure, populated with ninja loyal to him who mostly serve as test subjects in his experimentation to become an ultimate being and as pawns to do his dirty work.
During the Chunin Exams, Orochimaru plans the invasion of Konoha with the ninja of Sunagakure to not only kill Hiruzen but also claim the body of Itachi's brother Sasuke Uchiha. To that end, Orochimaru infiltrated the Chunin Exam's Forest of Death round by killing a Grass ninja named Shiore and assuming his identity to personally test Sasuke before branding him with a Curse Mark once satisfied with the youth's abilities. For the duration of the Exams, Orochimaru laid in wait and secretly murdered the Fourth Kazekage to assume his identity and get close to his mentor as the invasion begins. However, Orochimaru is forced to retreat when Hiruzen sacrifices himself through the Reaper Death Seal to take away Orochimaru's ability to perform jutsu with his forces pulling back while Sunagakure later learns of Orochimaru's treachery. Wanting to regain the ability to use jutsu, Orochimaru attempts to get aid from Tsunade before seeking out another way to cure himself. When all his efforts prove unsuccessful, Orochimaru sends his Sound Four to fetch Sasuke, hoping that a body-transfer will allow him to use his arms again. Though he waits as long as he can, Sasuke takes too long to arrive and Orochimaru is forced to switch to the body of one of his prisoners instead. Once Sasuke arrives, Orochimaru decides to train him instead until the day that he will be able to take the body for himself.
Two-and-a-half years later, in the second part of the series, Orochimaru confronts Naruto and his friends when they attempted to track down Sasuke. Later, when Sasuke attempts to kill Naruto, Orochimaru stays his hand by pointing out the boy's use in taking down the Akatsuki and thus lessening the number of enemies he has. Eventually, Sasuke uses his Sharingan to void Orochimaru's technique and retains control of his body while trapping Orochimaru's soul within him. The suppression, in turn, gives Sasuke access to many of Orochimaru's abilities in the process. During Sasuke's later fight with Itachi, Sasuke is left too weak to continue suppressing Orochimaru's soul, allowing Orochimaru to escape and try to take his body again. Before he can do so, Itachi seals him away.
In the aftermath of Kabuto's defeat and needing answers, Sasuke exposes Orochimaru's survival as the Cursed Seals are revealed to hold a copy of Orochimaru's consciousness in it along with the cells of Orochimaru that Kabuto injected into himself and subjugated. Using the Cursed Seal Orochimaru placed on his former student, Anko Mitarashi, Sasuke releases Orochimaru and gives him a new body which Jugo provides with an absorbed part of Kabuto's flesh. Despite expressing no interest in the ongoing war and still desiring to claim Sasuke's body, Orochimaru then joins Sasuke in his quest for answers over the nature of ninja, taking him and Taka to the Nara Shrine where he undoes the Reaper Death Seal and regains the use of ninjutsu before transferring his being into one of the White Zetsu clones placed on Sasuke. In his new body, Orochimaru then brings the first four Hokage back to life with the Reanimation Jutsu to give Sasuke the answers he wants. Once Sasuke got his answer from Hashirama, out of curiosity to see his former apprentice's new path while the actions of Madara and Obito jeopardize his laboratories, Orochimaru offers to help the Allied Shinobi Forces by first coming to the aid of Tsunade and the Kage and assist in subduing the Shinju. After the Fourth Great Ninja War ended, among those caught under Madara's Infinite Tsukiyomi before being freed, Orochimaru resumes his experiments with Team Taka (minus Sasuke who returns to Konoha) supporting him as lab assistants, though Konoha remains suspicious of him and keeps tabs on him in case he resumes his former human experimentation activities.
Appearances in other media
Orochimaru so far has only appeared in the fifth Naruto film, Naruto Shippūden 2: Bonds. He is not present in the other four films in the series, had a small part in fifth OVA "The Cross Roads", and is mentioned and makes a cameo appearance in the post-credit scene of Boruto: Naruto the Movie. Orochimaru is a playable character in nearly all Naruto video games, including the Clash of Ninja series and the Ultimate Ninja series. In some games, he utilizes variations of his techniques not seen in the anime or manga, and in the second installment of the Ultimate Ninja series, his state after his arms were sealed by the Third Hokage is available as a separate character. Naruto Shippūden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX 2 marks the first appearance of Orochimaru in a video game set in Part II, with the second one being Naruto Shippūden: Narutimate Accel.
Orochimaru also appears in two light novels from the franchise. In Sasuke's Story, he aids Sasuke in a mission by providing him information of his target. Meanwhile, in Konoha Hiden he makes a cameo congratulating Naruto Uzumaki and Hinata Hyuga for their wedding. He also appears in the spin-off Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, which takes place 15 years after the main story, but he has a younger appearance, much to the confusion of the main characters. In the manga sequel Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, Orochimaru creates an artificial human based off of his DNA, whom he names Mitsuki, and refers to him as his son. At some point, he sends Mitsuki to live in Konoha after helping Mitsuki find his independence and decide what path in life he prefers. In Boruto: Naruto the Movie, Orochimaru is seen watching his son with his teammates.
Orochimaru has been featured consistently in the Weekly Shonen Jump popularity polls, commonly placing in the top twenty characters. However, in the last popularity poll, he was out of the top thirty characters. Merchandise based on Orochimaru has also been released, including action figures, plush dolls, and key chains. AnimeCentral listed him as tenth best villain in anime owing to his objectives and methods, most notably how he scares Sasuke Uchiha the first time seeing him despite Sasuke's strength. In the book Listverse.com's Ultimate Book of Bizarre Lists: Fascinating Facts and Shocking Trivia on Movies, Music, Crime, Celebrities, History, and More by Jamie Frater, Orochimaru was listed as the eighth most evil villain with the writer calling him "pure evil".
Several publications for manga, anime, video games, and other related media have provided praise and criticism on Orochimaru's character. IGN writer Jason Van Horn compared Orochimaru's search for power and subsequent fall into villainy to that of Darth Sidious from Star Wars, and labeled Orochimaru as "something more than just pure evil." Justin Rich from Mania Entertainment considered Orochimaru the "first real villain" of the series, noting that he had no redeeming qualities, as versus Zabuza Momochi, the villain of the previous arc. DVDTalk's Todd Douglass Jr. celebrated the introduction of Orochimaru into the series, as well as the potential plot development from the curse seal Orochimaru placed on Sasuke, noting it was one of the best parts of the series. Carl Kimlinger from Anime News Network that Orochimaru's influence over him kept the tension high even when he had minor appearances. Javier Lugo from Manga Life praised the fight between Orochimaru and the Third Hokage based on the surprises such encounter showed. Instead, Bamboo Dong from Anime News Network labeled Orochimaru to be a character that can not be killed. IGN's Charles White considered Orochimaru as "one of the more interesting characters on the show" as he states Orochimaru "can literally steal the show at any time". A. E. Sparrow from the same site praised Orochimaru's scenario in the 13th volume of the manga as he interrupts the current story arc in order to engage with the Third Hokage in a possible deadmatch despite interrupting the fight between Sasuke and Gaara which readers have been looking for.
Following Orochimaru's fight against the Hokage there have been more comments. About.com writer Deb Aoki commented that after his fight with the Third Hokage, Orochimaru was in poor shape to the point being replaced by the Akatsuki organization as the new antagonists. In the book The Rough Guide to Manga, Jason S. Yadao notes Orochimaru impact in Part I of the series due to his influence on one of the protagonists, Sasuke, to abandon his comrades and join him. Nevertheless, Holly Ellingwood from Active Anime described him as "sinister" and noted her proposal to revive Tsunade's loved ones in exchange to healing his arms made it appealing. Additionally, Kimlinger considered Kujira, Orochimaru's Japanese voice actress, as one of the best ones from the series.
Despite the character's small appearances in Part II, most of them were well received. The way Orochimaru angers Naruto Uzumaki in their battle as well as how he manages events ever since his reintroduction have been deemed as "near perfectly" by Mania's Chris Beveridge. Orochimaru's fight against Sasuke in later parts from the series was praised by Mangalife's Park Cooper due to how it changes "the nature of things" in a short time. While agreeing with Cooper, Beveridge found that the fight did not bring a certain end to Orochimaru which he thought it would have made it more entertaining. On the other hand, Beveridge liked how during the fight between the two a flashback showed Orochimaru's backstory in Konoha, which helped in expanding his character. His apparent redemption to follow Sasuke in later parts of the story was criticized by writer Jason Thompson during a review of the manga. On the other hand, Bryce Coulter from the Fandom Post found Orochimaru's change based on Sasuke's new interest intriguing due to the future possibilities of becoming Konohagakure's ally. Ramsey Isler from IGN still praised the relationship between Orochimaru and his ally Kabuto Yakushi as the former often wondered if Kabuto was ever going to betray him. In the final episodes of the anime Naruto Shippuden Orochimaru made small cameos during the preparations for Naruto and Hinata's wedding which were found hilarious by Amy Mcnulty from Anime News Network.
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