The world of Naruto is populated by colorful characters. While some are used primarily for comedic relief and deliver outlandish lines, others frequently drop pearls of wisdom. There are rare instances, however, when a character does both.
While titular protagonist Naruto Uzumaki is someone who matures from an overactive child to a determined adult, he’s not the only one to see his lines change from hilarious to inspirational. Shikamaru Nara, Naruto’s classmate and eventual advisor, walks a similar path. He begins the series as a bit of a slacker, but grows into one of the most responsible and formidable shinobi in Konohagakure. Some of his best quotes perfectly track that growth.
10 “What A Drag…”
When Shikamaru begins his journey in the Naruto franchise, he doesn’t want to be bothered. He just wants to relax and do his own thing, and anything that he doesn’t consider his own thing is “a drag.”
This might as well be Shikamaru’s catchphrase in the early days of the franchise. Responsibility or any kind of work sent his way is met with this phrase and a sigh. He freely admits that he’s lazy, but Shikamaru eventually outgrows this approach to his life in the shinobi world.
9 “Sometimes, I Wish I Was A Cloud, Just Floating Along.”
The animated arm of the Naruto franchise is actually very adept at fleshing out its large cast of characters. While most of Naruto’s generation gets the spotlight at some point in the manga, not all of them get much additional backstory on the page. One aspect added to Shikamaru’s backstory as the anime flashes back to Naruto’s childhood is his love of just watching the clouds.
He’s seen doing this a few times as a teen, but flashbacks reveal that Shikamaru would actually skip class at the Academy with some of his friends, and this time skipping class was largely spent just watching the clouds and picking out shapes amongst them.
8 “It’s Stupid To Talk About Things You’re Not. Be Yourself And You’ll Be Fine.”
Ambition and trying to prove oneself is a big part of the storyline for many members of the Konoha 11. Sasuke wants to have enough power to get revenge for his clan, Hinata wants to prove herself as capable to her family, and Sakura wants to be useful in the field, as just a few examples. That ambition can lead to a lot of characters struggling with who they are, like Shikamaru’s teammate Choji.
Shikamaru, however, doesn’t see the point in trying to twist himself into someone else’s vision of him. He knows who he is, and he accepts it. Sure, he might change over time, but at his core, he’s still someone who likes a good strategy game instead feeling like he’s working.
7 “Laziness Is The Mother Of All Bad Habits, But Ultimately, She Is A Mother, And We Should Respect Her.”
Not all of Shikamaru’s lines are wise, but this particular quote is very indicative of both his most beloved personality trait and his sense of humor.
While other characters might get annoyed with his tendency to avoid work, Shikamaru embraces it. He has no trouble admitting who is, and with this line about honoring laziness, he definitely made fans chuckle a bit.
6 “I Know I Usually Seem Like A Pretty Lazy Guy, But Not Today. Because Now, I’m Responsible For You Guys Too.”
There are two things in Shikamaru’s life that cause his priorities to begin to shift: one of those is Asuma’s death, while the other is the mistakes he makes on the Sasuke Recovery Mission. When Shikamaru’s skills mean that he’s trusted to lead his friends on a dangerous journey beyond the walls of the village, he realizes that things have to change.
He can no longer relax and get by doing the bare minimum — even if his minimum involves more skill than most of his peers can muster up. Shikamaru takes responsibility for his friends’ survival very seriously. Seeing his friends get injured and left behind one by one nearly breaks him.
5 “The Problem Is The World Won’t Let Me Be A Kid Forever, So I Can’t Lie Around Crying About It.”
The younger Shikamaru would absolutely find reasons to whine about having to grow up. He’d do it while also thinking himself more mature than his friends, of course. The Shikamaru who passes his Chunin Exams and leads his friends into battle, however, knows that the shinobi world isn’t going to coddle him or sympathize with him.
Shikamaru and his friends spend most of their formative years with their village on the brink of war. The threat of Orochimaru looms in the shadows, tensions between villages intensify, and the Akatsuki become an ever-present threat. Shikamaru has no choice but to grow up, and he knows it.
4 “That Pathetic Lord Jashin Or Whatever Isn’t Your God Anymore. I Am. The Only One Bringing Down Vengeance Is Me.”
If there’s any one person in Shikamaru’s life who most shaped the shinobi he becomes, it’s Asuma Sarutobi. Asuma isn’t just Shikamaru’s sensei, but also his friend; they’re like family. It’s Asuma who understands that Shikamaru has a head for strategy and that games aren’t just a sign of laziness for him. When Asuma sacrifices himself in a match against Hidan so that Shikamaru can live, Shikamaru can’t let the Akatsuki villain get away with his crimes.
Shikamaru’s confrontation with Hidan is heartbreakingly emotional, but it’s also the first time the teenager is truly fierce in battle. He leaves nothing to chance as he immobilizes Hidan and buries him in the forest the Nara family controls. Shikamaru challenges Hidan completely on his own and doesn’t just live to tell the tale, but thrives. Getting closure for Asuma helps Shikamaru become the leader and the fighter he needs to be.
3 “If Women Made You A Better Person, I Wouldn’t Want To Know What You Were Like Before.”
Shikamaru’s feelings about the women in his life are complicated, to say the least. His mother and Ino are the two closest with him growing up, and he sees them both as overbearing and pushy. He goes as far as to call the women around him “troublesome” on a regular basis, and even as he grows closer to Temari, he thinks of her the same way.
That being said, Shikamaru’s assessment about a man only being better because of his interaction with the women in his life really isn’t far off. Shikamaru grows and changes because he wants to be better, not because of the influence of a woman. He sees the world around him becoming a more dangerous place, and he steps up to the challenge on his own.
2 “Never Avert Your Eyes, Because If An Opening Arises, Even Our Insignificant Power May Be Enough To Determine The Fate Of The World.”
Shikamaru grows from a little boy who would rather stare at clouds all day to a man who gives inspiring speeches before leading his friends into battle.
Though he claims to have no ambition as a child, he certainly ends up being one of the most important people in Konohagakure. As he grows older, Shikamaru’s intelligence leads to him becoming advisor to three different Hokage, starting with Lady Tsunade as a teen. He also finds himself as the one person advising multiple battalions during the Fourth Shinobi World War after his own father dies in a strike. He might not see his single contribution to the effort as significant, but the village absolutely does.
1 “I Believe In The Will Of Fire.”
Shikamaru doesn’t initially put a lot of thought into the Konohagakure tradition of passing on the “will of fire” to the next generation. The idea is that Konoha’s shinobi improve with each subsequent era, with each generation teaching the next and fostering growth amongst those who follow in their footsteps.
When Asuma dies before his daughter is born, however, Shikamaru makes a vow to do everything he can to protect the shinobi to come, including his former sensei’s little girl. His belief in the next generation is what keeps pushing him forward even when things look bleak.