Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto ended in 2014 after 15 years of captivating story lines and character development that intrigued millions of people. Even though the manga ended in 2014, the anime is slowly inching its way to a close. And we can also enjoy Boruto — the manga that takes place in the future and follows Naruto’s son in his journey to surpass his father. Naruto will remain a relevant talking point in the discussion over the best anime/manga of all time.

As with all manga, debates still rage over who the best character in the manga is. Even though Naruto is the main character and the namesake of the franchise, Kishimoto did such a good job at character development and fleshing out the stories of both heroes and villains alike, that there is a range of opinions on who the best character can be. Some people say Itachi because of his dedication to his brother and how tragic his backstory is. Some people like Shikamaru for his calm demeanor. But by and large, the greatest character on the show is everybody’s favorite taijutsu user, Rock Lee.

There's none better
There's none better

Rock Lee may not be the first person that you think of when discussing the greatest characters on the show. People often focus on strength or demeanor as the most important traits for picking out their favorite. On the surface, Rock Lee is not the strongest or the coolest person on the show. He cannot even use any form of ninjutsu and must solely rely on his taijutsu skills in battle.

However, Rock Lee’s inability to use ninjutsu is what makes him a standout character on the show and why he should be considered everybody’s favorite. He is the most determined and hard-working character. We learn that Rock Lee was often made fun of because of his inability to use ninjutsu. Even the adults doubted the possibility of him becoming a ninja. But, with the help of his mentor, Might Guy, Rock Lee stuck to a steadfast training regimen and was able to compete with even the most powerful of ninja. When you envision Rock Lee, think of Deku from Boku no Hero Academia. He lacks something that everybody says he needs in order to achieve his goal, but through sheer determination and willpower, he works to achieve said goal.

Furthermore, Rock Lee had some of the most epic battles in the early stages of Naruto. In the Chunin Exam arc of the show, Rock Lee went up against the strongest villain on the show at the time, Gaara. Everybody thought that it was going to be an easy win for Gaara, but out of nowhere, Rock Lee takes off the weights that he uses for training. In that minute, we learn that Rock Lee might be one of the greatest fighters on the show, behind Might Guy. And then, like something straight out of Dragonball Z, he releases the inner gates that are designed to control the flow of chakra and goes damn near super saiyan on Gaara – moving fast enough to surpass Gaara’s sand barrier. We know that had he not been facing Gaara, Lee would have easily defeated probably every other person who was taking part in the Chunin Exam. It would not have even been close.

His battle with Kimimaro was also epic. Lee is a master of the drunken fist, probably one of the funniest and most awesome fighting styles ever made. Although a young kid should not be consuming alcohol, when Lee is drunk, he is able to compete with almost anybody. He becomes very strong and shows a level of skill and expertise that we only find in the adults of the show.

Had the story not began to focus completely on Sasuke and Naruto’s relationship, Lee would have been an even more important character as the manga came to a close. However, we see a glimpse of what Rock Lee could have done in Might Guy’s battle with Madara. Might Guy, alone, was able to take on Madara and do something that no other shinobi was able to do. Might Guy, and by extension Rock Lee, are completely self-sufficient shinobi who are able to fight against almost any ninjutsu using shinobi. They are quintessential examples of how honing one skill can make you stronger than almost any other individual. If you like success stories and perseverance, Rock Lee should be your favorite Naruto character and should always be counted as top 5 characters in the history of the manga.

Shine on Lee
Shine on Lee

Photos via Tumblr (1, 2), Wikia

Adrian is a writer born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. A recent Hamilton College graduate, he is a lover of all things philosophical, superhuman, and nerdy.