I was sitting in my literary analysis class today and we were doing an analysis of some short shorty about a store clerk coming face to face with a gangbanger whom he helped out when the gangbanger was 10 years old. My professor began to have us disect this story and I drew a parallel from the words he was saying to my feelings about Obito Uchiha.
By now, this portion of the story has been revealed to anime and manga fans alike. The man behind the mask and the Tobi alias was none other than Kakashi's childhood best friend Obito Uchiha. For those of us who have read the manga, we've know for awhile but with it just recently being revealed in the anime, it has become apparent to all fans of the series. It may come as a shock to some but I think there were enough clues leading up to the event that we all knew there was only one true possibility. The initial reaction to the unveiling was mixed. A good portion of the people were pleased by the reveal. However, there was probably an even greater number of people whom were dissatisfied with the direction the character headed. My reaction, now having gone through the material a different number of times and a varying opinion has led me to believe it was time to, in a sense, analyze the character and his importance to the series.
With the mysterious Tobi's identity now revealed, we are starting to get some backstory as to what happened to the charismatic troublemaker whom we were all left to believe was dead. However, this isn't our first introduction to the character. We are first physically introduced to Obito in the Kakashi Gaiden chapters/episodes of the series which tells the story of how Kakashi gained his Sharingan. Although this is the first time we physically see and hear Obito, this isn't the first actual introduction of his character. We learn about Obito right from the beginning stages of the story. Kakashi introduces Obito from the get go when he uses the line of his old friend that "a shinobi who breaks the rules is trash but a shinobi who abandons his friends is even greater trash." He also visits Obito's grave and says of him that he is a good friend he lost in the last Great Ninja War. So Kishimoto was making Obito's presence felt right from the get go. He was introduced as a huge plot point that would play a factor in this story. The foreshadowing here was imminent, but I believe was just missed by a great number of people, including myself at first. It wasn't until further re-examination that I noticed that Obito was being pressed hard in this story from the early stages and got more prominent the further the story progressed. So it isn't as if this wasn't set up from the get go.
I guess some people just found it hard to believe that this is what could've become of Obito. I personally have come to love the decision by Kishimoto to make Obito the main antagonist of the series and to mask him under the Tobi alias. It just works on so many levels. It was the missing story to how Kakashi was able to utilize his Sharingan. He had to come head to head against the man sporting the opposing one. Not only this, but it also completely tears down Kakashi's ideals as a Shinobi that he has instilled in his student, Naruto. Kakashi based a lot of his morals off of his heroic friend who died in battle saving Kakashi's life. For Obito to return, dawning the mask of a man who has committed multiple international crimes and also trying to bring an end to the world, completely breaks everything Kakashi had come to represent. It also works because Obito was an exact parallel to Naruto when he was his age. He was the talent less goofball ninja who could never get the girl he liked. Obito was the mirror image of Naruto, the only difference is he walked a different path than him and lost his way. Naruto would've repeated Obito's mistake and walked down the path of hopelessness and despair had it not been for Minato. In Naruto's fight with Pain, he almost gave in to his haterege and unleashed the Kyuubi but was saved by Minato.
So it's clear that Obito as the main antagonist makes sense. I think where my problem with the character lies was with the execution. Kishimoto has created a reasonable main villain who has a legitimate gripe with our main heroes. It's a great idea yet fans weren't able to appreciate it. The reason? It's because Kishimoto does a poor job of executing this story arc.
After Obito is unmasked, we begin to get more of his backstory post rock crushing. It was revealed to us that after Obito was crushed presumably to death by falling rocks in order to let his friends escape, he had somehow survived certain death by an elderly Madara Uchiha. As Madara put it, Obito was somehow able to just slip right through the boulders (indication that Obito was unconciously saved by his Kamui ability). Madara patched up Obito and gave him new limbs using Hashirama cells. He asks Obito in return that he return the favor and help him launch his Infinite Tsukoyomi plan. Obito refuses saying that he has to return to the village to help his friends. Madara convinces Obito to stay and rehab his new limbs. Obito, still having every intention on leaving, begins to wait out his limbs rehabilitation until he learns from Zetsu that his friends are in trouble. Obito uses Spiral Zetsu's body to break out and go to the scene where his friends are. Upon his arrival, he is shocked by the scene of his best friend Kakashi killing his long time love interest Rin. Enraged, Obito killed all the surrounding Mist Ninja and proceeded to cradle Rin's dead body in his arms. It is at this point that Obito believes in Madara's words and decides to help aid him in his plan. Obito abandons his identity and takes on the persona of Tobi in order to set the plan into action.
This sounds like a great motive for our main antagonist but it is somehow botched by Kishimoto's execution of this story line. He constantly gave Obito poor dialogue and explanations for why he would join the likes of Madara. His most famous and despised line being "It's because you let Rin die." Obito also when explaining his image of what he would envision during the Infinite Tsukoyomi would be with his friends when they were kids again. This also lead to the assumption that Obito was stuck at the age he was before he died. Obito was painted in a negative light where it looked like he was just a child trying to go back to the way things were instead of moving on. Besides this, Obito also often contradicted himself when he gave his reasoning for why he was doing what he was doing. For example, when he said he was trying to revive the Ten Tails and basically end the world was because Kakashi let Rin die yet later reveals to Kakashi that he knew the full story the whole time and told him that he doesn't blame him and it wasn't his fault yet still couldn't let it go. This helped cement the idea that Obito was stuck in the past and couldn't move on.
The plot for this story line was brilliant. Obito lost the love of his life and unfortunately his attatchment to the real world and instead tried to create a fantasy world where things could go back to the way he wants life to be. He, much like Nagato, was a direct parallel to Naruto's character in different aspects but the result was the same. They were both redeemable characters and were able to make a mends, or at least try to in Obito's case, at the end of their lives thanks to Naruto's polarizing charisma. His reasons were undeniably justified. He had a legitimate motive to lose faith in humanity after the love of his life is killed. Obito was captivated by Madara's whimsical speeches and unable to resist Madara's words in the face of the ultimate tragedy he could encounter. So the motive was there, the story was there, it was just poor execution on Kishimoto's part that made it a hard connection for the audience to grasp. Had Obito's story been executed better and painted in more of a traumatic light then perhaps we'd be talking about one of the greatest and most compelling antagonists of all time.
It's a love/hate relationship with Obito Uchiha. I started off loving the character, then despising him, then appreciating his character while still disliking him, to ultimately fully accepting the character and being completely captivated by the complexities of Obito. I understand people who are going to dislike Obito regardless, but I believe he is one of the most compelling characters in the series. Perhaps only being second to Itachi Uchiha. Obito is your classic literary tragic hero. He was the hero of Konoha who gave his life to save his friends in war, who fell from his pedestal due to the loss of his love Rin. It's just as Harvey Dent said, you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. In this case, those words have never rang so true, Obito's story is tragic, sad and overall brilliant. He is a very dynamic and complex character with many layers and a lot of depth. Obito is a complicated character, and that is one of the reasons he grown to be one of my favorites.