Hanzō (半蔵, Hanzō), feared as Hanzō of the Salamander (山椒魚の半蔵, Sanshōuo no Hanzō), was a legendary shinobi, and the leader of Amegakure during his lifetime.
At some point during Hanzō’s childhood, he found a black salamander with deadly venom residing in his village. When it died, its venom sac was embedded into his body in the hopes of creating a venomous ninja who himself was immune to toxins. This required him to wear a mask constantly, in order to protect others from his venom-laced breath. At some point after this, Hanzō became well known and renowned throughout the shinobi world, so much that enemies have been known to flee at the very sight of him.[external_link_head]
At one point, Hanzō confronted dozens of Samurai from the Land of Iron, who retreated after realising who they were up against except for one. Hanzō fought Mifune, whom he defeated and in the process, poisoned in their final clash by slashing his head. Hanzō spared his life, due to the samurai’s strength and faith. He went as far as giving him the antidote to his poison to give him a fighting chance, but then left without treating Mifune’s injury. Despite claiming to think he had killed him, in the back of his mind, Hanzō knew Mifune was still alive.
During the Second Shinobi World War, Hanzō fought some of Konoha’s forces, with Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Orochimaru being the only survivors. As a reward to them for this accomplishment, he named them Konoha’s Sannin and told them to refer to themselves as such in exchange for letting them live. He also engaged in battle with Chiyo numerous times, allowing her to create an antidote to his salamander’s poison. At some point after this, Hanzō lost his conviction and decided to stop pursuing peace, stopped honing his skills and became dull, and only became interested in preserving his power.
Years later during the Third Shinobi World War, Hanzō became aware of a group of ninja who began a quest to end war through unorthodox means within his country. Though Hanzō initially admired their strong pursuit for peace, Danzō Shimura had convinced him that the group was a threat to his power. Hanzō then teamed up with Danzō to kill the group’s leader, Yahiko and captured Konan. He lured Yahiko to a meeting where he forced Nagato, Yahiko’s team-mate, to kill Yahiko in exchange for Konan’s life. However, Yahiko committed suicide by impaling himself upon Nagato’s kunai to spare his friend the anguish and burden of killing him himself. Following Yahiko’s death, Hanzō managed to cripple Nagato, but in a fit of rage he slaughtered all of Hanzō’s forces and the Root shinobi aiding him. After a brief skirmish with Nagato, Hanzō fled the scene.
Following the confrontation, Nagato began a civil war within Amegakure against Hanzō’s regime. During the civil war, Hanzō sent seven genin teams  to participate in the Chūnin Exams that were being held in Konohagakure. Sometime later, the Six Paths of Pain confronted and easily overpowered him and all his guards. As Hanzō expressed shock at being so outclassed and by one of the Paths looking like the presumed-dead Yahiko, Pain degraded him as trash for his selfish actions and how he had become a mere shadow of the man he once admired, before killing him. Pain then systematically slaughtered every person he was ever in league, or affiliated with; from family and servants, to even ambassadors of the villages who he was associated with. In the anime, as a further testament of Nagato’s hatred for Hanzō, Nagato did not even bother to give Hanzō a proper burial.[external_link offset=1]
Hanzō was a very security-conscious individual, trusting no one. He was guarded twenty-four hours a day, and did not allow anyone in his presence, even children, without being thoroughly searched. He cared greatly about his position as village leader, and dealt with threats harshly. This obsession with security deluded Hanzō into thinking that he was preserving the great skills he had amassed, when instead it caused his skills to deteriorate due to lack of practice.
Although he viewed the Five Great Countries as his enemies, he was still willing to ally with foreign nations, even those who had caused him great harm, in order to remain in power. He was also willing to betray people without remorse, as seen by his leading the Ame Orphans and their team into a trap, then attempting to have them all mercilessly killed; this betrayal, ironically, led to his own demise.
Before his fall from grace, he was actually glad Akatsuki appeared and tried to resolve issues without violence, hoping it would help realise his dreams of uniting the Five Great Nations without violence. Upon learning the three founders were apprentices of Jiraiya, who Hanzō had fought but spared along with the other two Sannin, he even went on to say Akatsuki, with their compassion to help people, were the payment of a favour he was owed for sparing Jiraiya that day.
A long time ago during his youth, Hanzō had once sought the ideals of “peace” and even attempted to achieve this belief through the unification of the Five Great Countries. His conviction was so great, the Ame Orphans, despite not being subordinates of his, wore his forehead protectors as proof of their dedication to his cause. However, after realising that such a method would only bring about perpetual war and thus, leave only death in its wake, he cast aside this conviction. Afterwards Hanzō became devoted solely to the preservation of the power he had previously amassed, growing arrogant of his own skills in the process and leaving him unaware that they had instead dulled considerably, due in part to the lack of refinement brought about through practice. Even by the time of his death, Hanzō still couldn’t comprehend how someone he had once defeated, could have grown more powerful than himself.
A distinctive trait of Hanzō, however, was his belief in the faith of people. He believed that a strong faith would have survived the death of its owner, living on; faith, according to him, wasn’t visible to the eyes, but could only be perceived through a fight. He had great respect for the ones with a strong faith, as seen when he spared the lives of many strong-willed opponents he defeated, demanding their names in order to call them heroes in spite of their defeat. If he also sees his defeated foes have potential, he will let them live and even give them titles in recognition of their strength and conviction and demand that they are to refer themselves to the title he gives them in exchange for their lives. In the anime, he seems to enjoy a decent battle, allowing opponents he sees potential in to live to become stronger and challenge him again one day. He claimed his faith laid in his will to bring peace to the world, which, despite his harsh words and his attitude in later stages of his life, seemed to have lived on, as seen when, before releasing a poisonous cloud from his venom sac and losing his free will to Kabuto Yakushi’s Impure World Reincarnation, he entrusted his faith to Mifune.
Hanzō’s appearance when he was younger.
Hanzō was a rather muscular man of above-average height, with long blond hair reaching down to his back and a prominent scar on his right cheek. In the manga, he had unusual eyes that displayed dark sclerae and light coloured irides, similar to Kakuzu’s. In the anime, his eyes were portrayed with a normal white sclerae and brown irides. On the left-side of his abdomen, he bore a distinctive cross-shaped scar received from implanting a salamander’s venom sac within his body. He had a dark hat on his head and his lower face was mostly obscured by a helmet-like respirator, which he used to keep his own poison at bay and that differed from the ones worn by other Amegakure shinobi, as it was notably larger and featured two filter cartridges instead of the typical one. The upper portion of this mask bore the symbol of his village and was mirrored by four indentations on the part covering his mouth.
His typical attire consisted of a loose wetsuit-like outfit typical of his village, accented by bandages wrapped around his wrists and lower legs, a flak jacket with swirls on the chest-plate, standard shinobi sandals and a dark cloak that reached down below his waist. Underneath this wetsuit, he donned a dark, short-sleeved, midriff shirt which exposed his lower abdomen.
In his youth, his hair was significantly shorter and he wore a respirator with only a single cartridge instead of two. During his fight with Mifune in the past, Hanzō was shown bare-chested, wearing only the lower section of his wetsuit-like clothing, complemented by a pair of dark gloves covering his hands.
Hanzō was easily recognised as one of the strongest ninja in history, and an icon to the whole shinobi world. At his peak, Hanzō single-handedly defeated and killed an entire Konoha shinobi squad, except the soon to be-named Sannin, whom he spared for surviving his initial attack. His power was such that Jiraiya expressed intense shock learning that he had been defeated, least of all by a single person. This defeat, however, was partly attributed to his skills dwindling considerably from lack of training, something that even Pain commented on just before killing him. Despite his rusty skills, he was still a dangerous opponent during the Fourth Shinobi World War, as Mifune’s victory was in part thanks to his prior knowledge of Hanzō’s skills and tactics.
As a child, Hanzō was implanted with the venom sac from a black salamander, which resided within his village upon its death, leaving an identifiable scar on the left-side of his abdomen. This procedure conferred to him the poison-related abilities of the creature, amongst which were an enhanced resistance to poison and the alteration of his body chemistry so that he too became toxic, so much so that even his breath would intoxicate those in the immediate vicinity. This poison was deadly, causing victims to experience excruciating pain until they succumbed to numbness, where these effects would then progress to complete paralysis and ultimately death within a period of two days from inhalation. To preserve the safety of others, Hanzō always breathed using a respirator and carried a small vial of antidote with himself. The fear that this very implantation produced, earned him the epithet of “Hanzō of the Salamander“.
Fighting without his mask granted Hanzō a great advantage over his enemies, but also bore a considerable risk for himself. If the venom sac were ever ruptured after receiving a direct wound, the resultant poisonous cloud released as the toxin vaporised would immobilise him for several seconds, presenting a significant opening for his foe in spite of the venom still remaining non-fatal to Hanzō. The mask completely alleviated this risk and so he resolved to remove it only when pitted against weaker enemies that he could defeat without consequence, while keeping it on when in the presence of stronger opponents who could have exploited such a weakness.
Bukijutsu & Physical Prowess
Hanzō’s speed was said to be unsurpassed in water. Similarly, he showed considerable speed and proficiency with the Body Flicker Technique, being the only person to escape Nagato’s rage-filled assault that vanquished countless Ame and Konoha shinobi.
Since his youth, Hanzō has wielded a kusarigama with great skill, being able to match and even surpass various dangerous opponents seemingly through the use of just this weapon alone, including the likes of the now reputed Mifune. Unusually, he tended to deliver brutal strikes by swinging the sickle with the chain, rather than simply employing the weighted end, which is generally considered to be the most effective manner. The weapon’s blade was coated in Hanzō’s deadly poison, making a single blow enough to successfully dispatch enemies. However, due to Hanzō’s growing preoccupation with the preservation of his own security when he was nearing the later stages of his life, his skill with the kusarigama, and the actual weapon itself, had dulled considerably.[external_link offset=2]
Hanzō could also combine explosive tags with his Fire Release to make for a devastating explosion, as seen during his attempt to kill Nagato.
Hanzō could use the Summoning Technique, and living up to his salamander theme, could summon a massive salamander known as Ibuse, who was large enough for his master to ride on its head. When battling alongside his trademark creature, Hanzō was strong enough to fight and eventually overpower all three Sannin in their youth. Just like his master, Ibuse is a poisonous salamander and is thus capable, if given the right amount of time, of storing inside its body a large amount of poisonous gas, which can be subsequently exhaled from its mouth at Hanzō’s command. This poison is strong enough to almost completely paralyse opponents just mere seconds after inhalation, leaving them entirely at its master’s mercy. Ibuse could also tunnel through the ground in order to avoid attacks and resurface right under an enemy to swallow them whole, letting them die due to the toxins stored within its body.
Fourth Shinobi World War: Confrontation
In preparation for the Fourth Shinobi World War, Hanzō was reincarnated by Kabuto Yakushi to fight against the Allied Shinobi Forces on behalf of Akatsuki. After being mobilised, he became part of the group that Chūkichi from the Surprise Attack and Diversion Platoon requested assistance from, along with Chiyo and Kimimaro. Encountering the remnants of the Alliance’s Surprise Attack Division with this improvised team, Hanzō chastised Deidara for being caught and remarked that he would have had no intention of freeing him, if it weren’t for the accursed technique which governed his actions. As the opposition retreated, Hanzō concentrated on their pursuit and once they were within his range, he summoned his salamander and then commanded it to release a poisonous mist. Moving in for the fatal blow once the members of the Surprise Attack Division had been paralysed, Hanzō was however intercepted by Mifune, who expressed a desire to fight him.
Questioning his opponent’s devotion, as the two engaged in a brief but fierce duel, Hanzō maintained his distance with his kusarigama. Ordering Ibuse to take refuge underground when Chiyo divulged the mechanisms behind the salamander’s technique, Hanzō commended Mifune on avoiding his attacks, before recounting how he had cast aside his ideals of “peace” a long time ago. Mifune refutes Hanzō’s beliefs, as he stopped him from forming hand seals through Iaidō, preventing Hanzō’s use of ninjutsu. After recollecting his past, Hanzō attempted to counter-attack by commanding Ibuse to swallow the samurai whole, resulting in Mifune almost suffocating in its toxic mouth. Slashing through the salamander’s head, the two men approached one another, each ready to deliver the decisive blow. In a complete reversal of their first encounter when both were young, Mifune cuts the blade of Hanzō’s kusarigama in half and slashes through his opponent’s body, breaking his respirator in the process. Mifune then told Hanzō that the loss of his conviction had dulled his skills.
After Hanzō reminisced about his past battle with Mifune, where he divulged the details surrounding his infamous reputation and eventually spared the defeated samurai due to his strong devotion towards his allies, he then explained that the weakness he described then still remained despite his immortality. In a tremendous demonstration of will, Hanzō places his faith in Mifune and — overcoming the talisman that governed his actions — he committed “seppuku” (切腹, stomach-cutting) with his broken kusarigama. Piercing the internal venom gland located within his body in the process, an enormous poisonous cloud was released that paralysed the entirety of Hanzō’s movements, creating an opening for the Fifth Division to exploit in order to bind, and seal him away for the remainder of the war. In the anime, having regained his conviction and deserving a resting place, Mifune vowed to carve a grave for Hanzō when the Fourth Shinobi World War was over.
Fourth Shinobi World War: Climax
With the later release of the Impure World Reincarnation, Hanzō’s soul was returned to the afterlife.
In Other Media
Hanzō is a playable character in the following video games:
- The name “Hanzō” is made up of the kanji for “half” (半) and “storage” or “treasury” (蔵).
- According to the databook(s):
- His favourite phrase was: Unpreparedness is one’s greatest enemy (油断大敵, Yudan Taiteki).
- Hanzō may have been named after a famous real-life samurai and widely believed ninja Hattori Hanzō (服部半蔵). This is further accentuated by his connections with samurai of the Naruto universe and his final act of suicide, typical of real-life samurai.
- It is popular Japanese legend that Hattori Hanzō was killed by Fūma Kotarō. Pain’s first Animal Path was said to be from the Fūma clan.
- He may also be named after the Japanese giant salamander. This species is also called the hanzaki (半割), which shares the first kanji with Hanzō’s name.
- Hanzō’s nickname and his element affinity have significant meaning because in ancient mythology, although being amphibious, the salamander was considered the living symbol of fire and as such was completely fireproof and able to live in fire itself.
- The anime depicts Hanzō’s death to have taken place between the Chūnin Exams and the Konoha Crush, while in The Creation of the Akatsuki OVA, his death occurs sometime after the Uchiha Clan Downfall.
- (To Jiraiya, Orochimaru, and Tsunade) “You three are powerful… only you have survived. I, Hanzō, hereby dub you the “Sannin of the Leaf”. Refer to yourselves as such in return for having your lives spared.“
- (To Mifune) “One last thing. People’s lives don’t end when they die. It ends when they lose their faith.“
- (To Mifune) “Will it be death while still holding strong to faith, or a long life gained by renouncing it?“
- (To Mifune) “Once, I also sought ‘peace’. I thought I could unite the Five Great Shinobi Countries’ Ninja World into one. I quickly realised that couldn’t happen.“
- (Decrying the occupation of the samurai) “A lot of samurai changed jobs to ninja. Samurai schools also changed to teach the ninja arts. The role of the samurai has already ended. Without any convictions towards peace, financed and grown out of money, they use strong ninjutsu. Ninja have taken and changed your role. But if those ninja can be weeded out and were to die, then nothing would be left. Just like me.“
- (To Mifune) “Mifune… I’m placing my faith in you!“
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Third Databook, page 143
- ↑ Fourth Databook, page 147
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Naruto chapter 369, page 10
- ↑ Naruto chapter 532, pages 2-3
- ↑ Naruto chapter 532, pages 1-8
- ↑ Naruto chapter 531, page 13
- ↑ Naruto chapter 369, pages 11-12
- ↑ Naruto chapter 531, page 6
- ↑ Naruto: Shippūden episode 347
- ↑ Naruto chapter 446, pages 10-17
- ↑ Naruto chapter 447, pages 12-13
- ↑ Naruto chapter 39, page 10
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Naruto: Shippūden episode 395
- ↑ Naruto chapter 369, pages 9-14
- ↑ Naruto chapter 531, pages 14-15
- ↑ Naruto chapter 531, pages 11-20
- ↑ Naruto: Shippūden episode 457
- ↑ Naruto chapter 369, page 12
- ↑ Naruto chapter 532, pages 4-5
- ↑ Naruto chapter 532, page 8
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 Naruto chapter 531, page 12
- ↑ Naruto chapter 532, pages 9-10