If you were to ask someone which of the current 7 Hokages of Naruto was the best, there seems to be a common answer that Tobirama Senju was that one, simply because he managed to incorporate many of the systems of shinobi that is used to this day. Despite what I’m going to say throughout this blog post, I am willing to give credit where credit is due. Tobirama did change the way shinobi operate, and some of his advancements move far beyond the village of Konoha. He was a true revolutionary, but I am not willing to call him the best Hokage because of one simple thing.
Growing up, the Senju clan was plagued with war, back when the concept of the hidden villages was still in its infancy. It was a world where you either killed or were killed. Through all the years of war, it was survival of the fittest, no place for connections between clans or anything like that. At least, that was the case before Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha met and caused a change in how society worked.
Even when forced to go to war from childhood all the way to adulthood, Hashirama never actually tried to kill his friend turned enemy and instead always strived to understand and cooperate with him. They always talked about wanting peace for their world, and while Madara forgot about that dream, Hashirama never did, and this drive to understand and help others is what would eventually become the driving force behind Naruto’s actions later on. This would lead to a new age in the ninja world, and thus the hidden villages were made and an era of peace was established, but unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
Tobirama Senju had a different way of thinking than his brother. He was a more strict Hokage, often only caring about the benefits of the village and defending it from any potential threats. His sour history with the Uchiha Clan played a major role in how he made his decisions, and constantly tried to suppress their influence despite Hashirama being extremely welcoming towards them. Tobirama may have had good intentions in mind for the people of the village, but his neverending overly cautious behavior towards the Uchiha would be the cause of arguably the biggest betrayal to Konoha in history.
While Hashirama was able to make peace with Madara and the Uchiha Clan, his brother ultimately could not share the same sentiments after so many years of war and bloodshed between the two clans. Madara could not live with this constant tension and blatant racism against him and his clan, and as such, he felt that he could never be seen as a respected member of society, especially when people looked up to Hashirama, who was a Senju himself, making him feel more isolated from everybody else. That was a huge reason as to why he left in the first place, and when he returned, it wasn’t to meet up with Hashirama and chat about the good old days.
The fight initiated by Madara only served to give Tobirama all the conviction that he needed that the Uchiha were not to be trusted. Combined with Hashirama betraying his old ways of trying to understand Madara and Tobirama’s ideology was set in stone. However, it is after his death where his ways of thinking would be taken to an even greater extreme than before. His will would be passed on to Konoha’s most secretive ninja, Danzo Shimura.
The way Danzo took Tobirama’s will to the extreme was simple. While he ultimately wanted the best for Konoha, he sees it as Konoha needing to be the one above all, and that meant eliminating any potential threats to the village. That didn’t just go for the Uchiha, but also for everyone else, whether it be another clan, an organization like the Akatsuki, or another village. In other words, he wanted to turn the village into a dictatorship.
It is this way of thinking that blindsided Danzo to the cycle of hatred that Pain constantly talked about. He saw that the Uchiha posed a threat to the village with their plan to overthrow the ones up top, but instead of trying to come to a civil solution, he ended up assigning Itachi to kill the entire clan, leading to a domino effect that would lead to his downfall. With Itachi wiping out the Uchiha, that made Sasuke vow revenge, but once he figured out the truth about Itachi’s mission, he set his sights on Danzo and the rest of Konoha. This would lead to their fight in the Five Kage Summit.
The fact that it even lead to this fight in the first place shows exactly how much of a terrible impact Tobirama’s thinking had on the village, and that isn’t even counting the other things that happened previously. The massacre of the Uchiha clan? Sasuke joining up with Orochimaru and later on the Akatsuki? Him planning to destroy the Leaf? When you look at things with the proper context and a broad view point, this was indirectly caused by Tobirama by the simple act of him not being able to accept the Uchiha as part of the village.
Am I trying to say that Tobirama was unjustified for being wary of the Uchiha? Not at all. The Uchiha and the Senju were enemies since the days he was a young boy, of course he would have the right to be wary, but there is a difference between being wary of people and being downright tyrannical towards them. Tobirama had managed to create a form of thinking all on his own, and to some extent, that particular ideology could be compared to the ideals of Indra and Ashura. Alas, it didn’t have the same staying power as either one, and it would eventually come to an end with the death of Danzo.
The resolution to the final battle between Naruto and Sasuke is many things. It’s a reunion of friends, the final big moment in Sasuke’s development as a character, and the the end of the fight essentially put a rest to the conflict between Indra and Ashura that had been going on for generations, but there is one other aspect that I think people often overlook. It proves that Tobirama’s ideals of killing any threats for the safety of the village was ultimately not the way to go, and this is not the only example, as stuff that happened previously like the Allied Shinobi Forces and Naruto’s conversations with many of his foes since Part 1 proved that if things were to truly head towards peace and a brighter tomorrow, the way to go about it is through understanding and cooperation and not through oppression and violence.
A lot of you may disagree on this particular topic, but it’s clear that this is the message that Kishimoto wanted to give to the audience. I hope this post has managed to give you a new perspective on what you think about Tobirama, so that next time somebody asks you who is the best Hokage, you may think twice and look harder at what each one has done before you make you decision.
As always, thank you all for reading.