Okay, so admittedly, I may be a little too harsh when it comes to Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. But I have good reason to be a little mean here, considering it just isn’t a good follow-up to something as iconic as Naruto Shippuden. The plot itself leaves much to be desired, but the one thing it didn’t deliver on was its character exploration. I’m talking about individuals outside of the main trio, the characters that were left to ambiguity. Out of all of them, the fate of Orochimaru remains the most tumultuous.
Technically, Orochimaru has died at the hands of Sasuke Uchiha, all the way back in episode 114th of Naruto Shippuden. However, he was unsealed during Sasuke’s fight with his brother, Itachi Uchiha. He was quickly sealed away yet again through Sasuke’s sword, the Totsuka Blade, but since then, it has been a tossup between Orochimaru being incapacitated for some time and coming back to continuity through some mishap or the other. In short, the man just doesn’t stay dead for very long.
But hey, that’s just the game’s name when it comes to Shonen anime, in general. Very rarely do characters that die stay dead in these anime. The biggest offender of this is Dragon Ball, where Son Goku has supposedly died so many times and subsequently brought back to life that it’s practically a running gag at this rate.
Orochimaru is still alive in Boruto: Naruto Next Generation, maintaining amicable relations between Konohagakure and Otagakure, his village. He even has a son that’s on Boruto Uzumaki’s team named Mitsuki. But how did he get a redemption arc and live? That’s what we’re here to discuss in Character Analysis – where we take a close look at some of the most iconic characters in anime. Today, it’s the legendary Sanin himself, Orochimaru!
The Snake: From Villain To Non-Binary Icon?
Orochimaru is a peculiar character, even by Naruto standards. He was, arguably, the first big villain we saw in the show. He became the overarching villain to showrunner Naruto Uzumaki and would remain so until the advent of the Akatsuki later on.
And yet, despite how he was directly responsible for extremely important plotlines such as the Third Hokage’s death and Sasuke’s defection from Konohagakure? He’s the only foe to be, like, 95% redeemed by the start of Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. It’s so odd because, arguably, he still committed war crimes, right? And yet here we are, with him being on relatively good terms with Naruto as Hokage and being a decent-ish dad to Mitsuki, to boot?
It’s wild and kind of out there, but it works so well for Orochimaru. And, oddly enough, I think Orochimaru became sort of a fan favorite. He’s cunning, slippery like a snake, so it’d make sense that of all the characters killed off, he’d be the one coming back unceremoniously.
Also, who can forget his iconic talk with Mitsuki, where he answers his questions about whether Orochimaru is his mother or father, with how it doesn’t matter because “There have been times when I was a man, and times, a woman. Outside appearances don’t matter.”? Like, man is adaptable.
Why Orochimaru Hasn’t Died (Permanently):
It’s this tenacity (and body-hopping) that is likely why Orochimaru has persisted for as long as he has. Even after being sealed away, he was revived by Sasuke using Anko Mitarashi’s curse mark and Kabuto Yakushi’s flesh during the Fourth Shinobi War arc. And since then, he’s made amends and stopped trying to pursue immortality through questionable means.
Nope, now his experimenting is more ethical and being monitored by Konoha intel very thoroughly. Plus, it just seems like he doesn’t harbour any more resentment. Like, yeah, he’s still creepy. But he isn’t exactly out here pursuing hostile takeovers of various villages through a personal army comprised of super-enhanced children.
It’s odd, but the man did change. He just happens to be tenacious as well and seems to harbour no ill will towards his previous enemies. Considering Mitsuki is part of the same Genin team as Boruto, and he supports him through it, it’s kind of brilliant.
You don’t see a lot of truly evil characters both survive and turn over a new life in Shonen. So, this thing with Orochimaru was unexpected. But oddly refreshing at the same time.