Like a lot of shonen anime and manga, Naruto dabbles in romance from time to time. Romantic relationships are by no means the focus of the expansive franchise, but it certainly appears pretty frequently as the young ninjas grow and mature. While some relationships bud over the course of Naruto, many of them are on full display in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, as many of the major characters from the original series are now married and have children. Some of these relationships are brilliant and loved by the vast majority of fans, while others just seem to exist as a way to put characters in a corner and rarely show them again.
It’s no surprise that Naruto fans are so interested in the romantic relationships between characters. With its collection of well defined and distinctive characters, as well as its status as one of the biggest anime of the 2000s, fans were incredibly eager to ship characters and see who would actually end up together. While some canon pairings and relationships added legitimacy to countless fanfics, others disappointed fans and either made little impact on the series or actively made it worse. Then again, with Naruto’s sizable number of characters and the many changing relationships in the series, some people were always going to be disappointed with some of the couplings.
Much like the people involved in these couples, every relationship in Naruto is unique. Some of them are fantastic while others hurt the series more than if the characters stayed single. These are 10 relationships that hurt the extended Naruto series, and 10 that made it an even bigger name in anime and manga.
20 Hurt: Choji And Karui
Choji and Karui are married and have a daughter named Chocho in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. You’d think if they married each other that they’d have some kind of established relationship or numerous exchanges in their appearances in the original Naruto series. However, the two never interact at any time prior to them appearing as a couple. Rather than have either character end up with someone that they have an established relationship with, or just leave them single, the series awkwardly puts them together. It’s nothing short of bizarre that the series would have two characters that are never shown saying a single word to each other marry one another.
19 Saved: Sakura And Sasuke
Sakura and Sasuke’s relationship is a major presence in the series since some of its earliest story beats. Sakura’s crush on Sasuke quickly turns into genuine romance, which creates an interesting dynamic between the two as Sasuke abandons their home and eventually plots its destruction. For much of Naruto Sakura has a difficult time reconciling her feelings for Sasuke, and Sasuke struggles to commit to his justified vengeance against the Hidden Leaf Village with his friends enduring love for him. Watching their relationship grow over the course of the series is one of its best elements and the fact that they start a family is icing on the cake.
18 Hurt: Ino And Sai
Ino and Sai are two underwhelming characters that end up together in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. Ino never really evolves beyond much more than a rival to Sakura and Sai felt like a lackluster replacement to Sasuke in the second half of Naruto. They’re no more interesting as a pair than when they were single, and both characters are so underdeveloped that it’s hard to imagine what their relationship is like. This weakness is only exacerbated by the fact the series rarely depicts the two holding a romantic interest in each other. This couple just doesn’t work because it’s hard to see these two having this kind of relationship with each other.
17 Saved: Rock Lee And Tenten
Rock Lee and Tenten are two supporting characters in Naruto. Rock Lee quickly became a breakout character and his fight with Gaara during the Chunin Exams story arc is one of the best in the entire series. Tenten made less of an impression on fans of the series, but her focus on using a variety of weapons in battle did earn her some attention. The real reason this relationship is so great is that the two of them named their son Metal Lee. Boruto is largely a mixed bag of a series, but the fact there’s a kid literally named Metal is pretty great and Lee and Tenten are responsible for this as his parents.
16 Hurt: Kakashi And Kahyo
In the ancillary Naruto novel, Kakashi Hiden: Lightning in the Icy Sky, it’s heavily implied that the elite ninja Kakashi and the criminal turned prison warden Kahyo have romantic feelings for one another. As interesting as it would be for the rather aloof Kakashi to have a romantic relationship, this couple actually hurts Naruto overall because it’s so poorly explored. This romance doesn’t appear outside of the novel, which may not even be canon, and it only hints at this side of Kakashi’s character rather than exploring it. After a lifetime a hardship, Kakashi deserves some kind of fulfilling relationship and it’s a shame that this one doesn’t give him that.
15 Saved: Shikamaru And Temari
Shikamaru and Temari are two fan-favorite supporting characters in Naruto, whose relationship is built up over the course of the series and culminates with the two marrying and having a son between Naruto and Boruto. While the two initially have a rivalrous relationship, they grow to appreciate each other’s unique perspectives and outlooks on life. Shikamaru makes Temari take a step back and take life less seriously and Temari motivates Shikamaru to put more effort into his ninja career. The way Naruto subtly hints at their influence on each other and their budding feelings over the course of its long narrative is terrific, and they are easily one of the best couples in the series.
14 Hurt: Kiba And Tamaki
The supporting character Kiba and the side character Tamaki are apparently in a relationship by the time Boruto: Naruto Next Generations begins. The fact that the two are a couple is somewhat comical because Tamaki is a cat lover while Kiba uses his dog Akamaru to aid him in ninja missions. However, it’s kind of weird that Kiba would be in a relationship at all. He never expresses romantic interests during his appearances in the series and it feels like the two are together as some kind of artificial happy ending. Kiba would be a far more interesting character if he were still a bachelor and the series better overall for showing that a person doesn’t need to be in a relationship to be happy.
13 Saved: Minato And Kushina
Naruto’s parents only make a handful of appearances in the series and only appear together during flashbacks, but they are still one of the best couples in the entirety of the franchise. The two fall in love at a young age, struggle together through their demanding positions in society, and eventually parish while protecting their son and the Hidden Leaf Village from a devastating attack. Their absence made Naruto’s life considerably more difficult, and their brief appearances help him reaffirm his beliefs and his self-confidence. They are nothing short of one of the most influential couples in the series, and one of the best as well.
12 Hurt: Itachi and Izumi
Itachi and Izumi’s relationship is explored in the novel Itachi Shinden: Book of Bright Light and Book of Dark Night. Here Itachi slowly warms up to Izumi’s romantic advances, but still falls to him during the Uchiha Clan Downfall. However, Itachi creates an illusion that allows her to live out a happy life with him in a fraction of a second. This relationship would be great if it were more established in the Naruto anime or manga, but it just feels pandering as a side story. In fact, the anime actively changes the events of Izumi’s life to make this relationship less canonical.
11 Saved: Obito And Rin
Obito and Rin’s relationship is the driving force behind the actions of many of Naruto’s antagonists. Unable to cope with her passing, Obito begins to manipulate the Akatsuki organization so that he can create an artificial world where he and Rin are able to be together. Obito performs some horrific acts to achieve his goal, but to him, they are completely justified as any world where he and Rin aren’t able to be together, or she isn’t able to be happy, is an unjust one. This relationship makes Obito a much more sympathetic figure and therefore a much better villain overall.
10 Hurt: Karin And Sasuke
Karin and Sasuke’s relationship is one of the most uncomfortable in Naruto and actively makes the series worse. Karin is infatuated with Sasuke to an unhealthy degree and is extremely forward with her romantic advances. Sasuke is overtly not interested in having a relationship with Karin and uses her love for him as a means to manipulate her into helping him pursue his goals. This relationship is incredibly toxic and creepy, with it culminating in Sasuke mortally wounding Karin so he can attack the villainous Danzo. Of course, Karin quickly forgives Sasuke the next time they see each other, but that just makes this relationship feel all the more unhealthy and manipulative.
9 Saved: Tsunade And Dan
Tsunade and Dan’s relationship is one of the most tragic in Naruto. Dan exits the series before he and Tsunade are able to establish a substantial medical division in the Hidden Leaf Village’s military, and this becomes an overwhelming source of grief for Tsunade. Eventually, the two have a touching reunion in the Fourth Shinobi World War when Dan is reanimated. This is one of the most touching moments in Naruto, and further helps Tsunade learn to cope with her trauma. This couple doesn’t have a major impact on the series or see much exploration, but it does help establish the brutal nature of Naruto's world and further defines Tsunade’s character.
8 Hurt: Mito And Hashirama
The relationship between Mito and Hashirama is unusual because it’s one of the few elements of Naruto’s lore to not have much exploration. Hashirama was the first Hokage and founder of the Hidden Leaf Village and his wife Mito the first bearer of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox. How these two important figures married and how they felt about each other never appears in Naruto and viewers never even see the two interact with each other. Mito and Hashirama are one of the worst couples in Naruto because their relationship is treated as more of a cliff note than a meaningful part of the story.
7 Saved: Asuma And Kurenai
One of the best relationships in Naruto comes from the supporting characters Asuma and Kurenai. The two are hinted at having romantic feelings for each other over the course of the series and plan on tying the knot when Kurenai becomes pregnant with Asuma’s child. However, they aren’t able to do this as Asuma tragically falls to a member of the Akatsuki while on a mission. This couple made the world of Naruto feel vast, as it established that the many supporting characters all have developing and complex relationships with each other. Even if it ended tragically, Kurenai and Asuma are one of the best couples in the entire series.
6 Hurt: Kizashi And Mebuki
Kizashi and Mebuki are Sakura’s parents and only appear in the film Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie and related material. They are also one of the worst couples in the entirety of Naruto. They made such a weak impression on viewers that, following their premier, conversation about them mostly centered on how neither of them look at all similar to their daughter. Moreover, their limited presence in the series undermines one of the core plotlines of Road to Ninja, that being Sakura learning to appreciate her family. This theme might have hit harder if Kizashi and Mebuki had any presence in the series beyond the film and if the couple were less of an afterthought.
5 Saved: Boruto And Sarada
Boruto and Sarada are the main protagonists of Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, and have growing romantic feelings for each other. As the sequel series goes on and the two spend more time together, there are hints that their relationship might be evolving beyond friendship, with the two becoming more flustered around each other. Sure it might be cliche for the children of the main characters from Naruto to end up together, but it’s a good cliche that touches viewers. Even if the Boruto anime and manga are a bit rough, this relationship improves it and makes the entire Naruto franchise better in the process.
4 Hurt: Kaguya And Tenji
The broader Naruto story begins when the cosmic being Kaguya crashes into Earth and has two children with a human emperor named Tenji. This is the event that resulted in humans in Naruto having the ability to manipulate chakra, and is the source of many of its supernatural elements. As vital as this couple is to the story of Naruto, it's rather underexplored and hurts the series as a whole. We never learn what made Kaguya fall in love with Tenji, which is a shame as it would have helped expand her character and make her less of a one-dimensional, over-controlling mother.
3 Saved: Konan And Yahiko
Konan and Yahiko’s relationship is like many of the romantic relationships in Naruto, subtle and tragic. The two develop feelings for each other while training and establishing a civilian army, but aren’t ever able to act on their feelings for each other. In fact, the grief of Yahiko’s passing drives Konan to support their mutual friend Nagato in his plot to end the war by becoming the ultimate enemy of all humanity. This relationship serves as the backbone of Konan’s character and her desire to protect and support her remaining childhood friend at any cost. This couple improves Naruto overall because it adds depth to characters and plays into the series’ focus on the effects of generational strife.
2 Hurt: Hayate And Yugao
So apparently that sickly guy who appeared as an instructor for a bit of the Chunin Exams arc had a girlfriend. Hayate and Yugao are incredibly minor characters in Naruto and have their relationship explored in filler episodes. This couple actively hurts Naruto as they embody one of the anime’s biggest flaws, the incredible amounts of needless filler arcs. It’s interesting that these two minor characters have a relationship, but they don’t affect anything in the broader narrative and exist simply for the sake of making more Naruto lore. They actively hurt Naruto by making the anime even more needless, long, and tangent-filled than it was already.
1 Saved: Naruto And Hinata
Naruto and Hinata are easily one of the best couples in the long-running series. Naruto inspired Hinata to overcome her difficult family situation and Hinata expanded Naruto’s goals in life besides becoming the Hokage. Their romance is greatly explored in the film The Last: Naruto the Movie, and in Boruto the two are married and have two children. Their relationship is pretty textbook as far as shonen romances go, but it’s still nice to see two fan-favorite characters fall in love and end up happy together. It might be cathartic and cheesy, but sometimes those romances are the best and this couple dramatically improves the series.