In his younger years, Neji was kinder, optimistic, and he appreciated more things and smiled often. He even told his father he thought Hinata was a "cute kid" when the two branches of the Hyūga clan met for her third birthday. He also loved his father very much and would tell him many things. He even promised his father that he would always protect his cousin Hinata and never forget his duties.
Neji was born with an unmarked forehead, but when Hinata turned three years old, he was branded with the Hyūga Main Family's Juinjutsu by his uncle Hiashi. All branch members carry this curse mark, as it is a symbol that one lives only to serve and protect the main branch.
Neji's father, Hizashi was well aware of Neji's natural talent, and he was frustrated that despite Neji's skill, he still carried the fate of a servant. Hizashi openly showed his anger; consequently, he was punished through Hiashi's activation of his curse seal. Around this time, the Konoha andKumogakure had signed an alliance treaty. However, that treaty only served as a ticket into Konoha and a way to lower Konoha's guard so the Head Ninja of Kumogakure could abduct Hinata and steal the secrets of the Byakugan. This attempt failed, though, as Hiashi intervened and killed the man in his tracks.
When word of the murder reached Kumogakure, they demanded Hiashi's body as compensation (as his body would hold the Byakugan as well). Konoha wasn't prepared to comply to this request until Hizashi stepped in and offered to give himself up instead. Due to him being bound by the Hyūga Main Family's Juinjutsu when he died, the Byakugan would be sealed away, thus protecting it. Hizashi made this sacrifice willingly in order to protect his brother, family, and village. However, Neji came to believe that the main branch had forced him to do so. This misconception became the primary basis of his nine year grudge against the main branch and of his concrete view on one's unalterable fate.
Neji is extremely serious and mature for his age, and has great self-control. Before and during the Chūnin Exams and his fight with Naruto, he was cold and somewhat arrogant.
While under the belief that his father had died because he was a member of the branch house, Neji concluded that fate is something decided at birth and that no matter what one does, people cannot escape their destiny. Neji often applied this to people he viewed as weaker than himself, such as his cousin, Hinata. During his match in the Chūnin Exams, he told Hinata that she was unfit to be a ninja, due to being too kind and not confident enough. When she was eventually able to turn his philosophy against him, telling him that she believed that he was suffering from trying to become worthy of the main house, despite him being born into the branch family, Neji became enraged, and attempted to kill Hinata. He was stopped by multiple jōnin, but Hinata nevertheless was left in critical condition from his earlier attacks.
Neji displayed similar efforts to condescend others during his match withNaruto Uzumakiwho, despite being repeatedly struck down, continued to try and fight him. While Neji tried to show Naruto that fate cannot be fought, and that someone who is weak will always remain weak, Naruto was unwilling to accept this mindset, arguing that Neji, for all his belief in fate, had not accepted his own destiny. Naruto went on to defeat Neji, suggesting that, if a "failure" like himself could change his destiny, think of what a "genius" like Neji could, too.
With this example of overcoming "destiny", as well as finding out the truth about his father's death soon afterwards, Neji abandoned the concept of inescapable fate. No longer bound by the idea that he was stuck at his current status, Neji resolved to become strong enough to never again lose in a battle. To do so, he began putting more emphasis on working well with his team, and started to value a mission's successful completion and his team-mates' safety over his own betterment, even encouraging Rock Lee to continue pursuing his own dream. Also, he has shown to have more concern towards his team.
In addition, Neji began trying to remedy the estranged relations between himself and the main house members, most particularly by being kinder to Hinata and his uncle Hiashi. It was also shown that since then he has been training with Hinata, sparring with each other in order to hone their skills. During the Fourth Shinobi World War the two cousins protects each other's back as well as the great concern Neji showed for her safety on the battlefield. He similarly has great confidence in Naruto's capacity to change others, as he stated that the latter could redeem Sasuke and bring him back to Konoha. However, it seems that he given up hope for Sasuke, and given up his thoughts that even Naruto could bring him back.
In battle, he is able to stay relatively calm in most situations and carefully look at the situation at hand.
Neji has noticeably long, black hair, which is usually depicted as dark brown in the anime. In Part I, his hair reached the middle of his back and was tied back a few inches above the end, while two straps attached to a smaller headband underneath his ninja forehead protector frame the sides of his face. In Part II, he got rid of these straps, and allowed his hair, which is now longer, to frame his face instead. Like the rest of his clan, he has very fair skin and possesses the renowned Byakugan, which when activated, stimulates the veins and arteries immediately around his eyes to protrude more prominently. In the anime, his eyes are depicted with a slight tint of lavender to them.
In Part I, Neji was seen with a black headband that he wore snugly over his forehead. He wore a khaki shirt, dark brown shorts, blue shinobi sandals. He also had bandages wrapped around his right arm, chest, and right leg. In Part II, Neji abandoned the bandages and is clad in traditional Hyūga robes: a white shirt with loose sleeves, closed on the right shoulder, with a fastener running down the right part of the chest, matching pants, with a dark navy grey apron tied around his waist and black shinobi sandals. This may or may not have been to facilitate easier execution of his techniques, or to symbolise his warming relations with his clan. Neji is also usually seen with a large tan and black drawstring bag, which he carries over his shoulder. In Part I, he was also seen wearing a dull blue shirt with a mesh t-shirt under it.
Before his fight with Naruto during the Chūnin Exams in Part I, Neji's facial expression was stern, hard, and cold. As the series progressed, however, his expression relaxes. He is even seen smiling and chuckling at times. While still composed, Neji looks to be more calm, confident, and mature, rather than challenging.
From a young age, Neji has been hailed a natural genius. In Part I, he was labeled the top-ranked rookie in his class, and was said by Rock Lee to be the strongest genin to take the Chūnin Exam that year. His father even stated that with his talent, he could potentially surpass all other members of their clan. Over the time-skip, when most of the former Konoha 11 genin reached chūnin rank, Neji was the only one to advance to the rank of jōnin. As stated by Tsunade, Neji has excellent instincts, both on the battlefield and as a leader. When forced to make difficult decisions on missions, he shows himself able to make a decision through keen observation and analysis.
As a member of the Hyūga clan, Neji possesses the Byakugan, a dōjutsukekkei genkai which grants him x-ray vision, nearly 360° vision, and the ability to see chakra networks. The Byakugan has a small blind spot at the upper thoracic vertebrae, a weakness of which Neji is actually aware of and takes extra precaution in concealing it from opponents. While the Byakugan naturally has an immediate 50 metre field of vision when activated, Neji is able to increase its range several times by the start of Part II, to at least 800 metres. He is also noted to have a particularly strong Byakugan relative to other members of the Hyūga clan.
As a member of the Hyūga clan, Neji specialises in close-range, taijutsu combat. In battle, Neji has shown tremendous agility and dexterity, capable of simultaneously dodging and striking an opponent with no wasted movement. His attacks are fast and fluid, striking in rapid succession to leave very little time for his opponent to find an opening to counter, but also deliberate.
Neji's fighting style is the signature style of his clan, the Gentle Fist, which takes advantage of the Byakugan's insight into people's chakra pathway system. Gentle Fist allows for severe internal trauma with minimal external force as it relies on surgical injection of chakra into an opponent's chakra pathway system. As Neji's Byakugan is stronger than most, and is able to see special nodes on the chakra network, called tenketsu, Neji can use Gentle Fist to not only damage opponents, but control their chakra flow as well. Using the Gentle Fist, Neji can affect internal organs, and is capable of killing an opponent with a single strike should he aim to harm the heart. In Naruto: Shippūden the Movie, Neji was able to incapacitate a person with a mere tap to the forehead. Training in the Gentle Fist style implies superior chakra regulatory control and mastery of the human chakra network. As a result, Neji can eject chakra from any tenketsu in his body as a means to slow or impede incoming projectiles. He can also release himself from chakra-based substances using this technique. Continuously maintaining this expulsion of chakra allows Neji create a sensory barrier around himself to detect anything that enters his immediate area, making up for the Byakugan's blind spot, although it rapidly depletes his chakra reserves as seen when this tactic was employed against Kidōmaru.
As a member of the Hyūga clan's branch house, Neji is forbidden to learn the clan's secret techniques, but managed to deduce their workings simply through observation. He has learned many of the clan's most powerful techniques, such as the Eight Trigrams Palms Revolving Heaven, which allows him to repel every attack. He can also use the Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms, an extremely strong offensive move with which he's able to rapidly dispatch enemies by striking many of their tenketsu in fast succession, making it hard for them to both move and control chakra. Since mastering these techniques, Neji has begun to refine and strengthen them for more specialised needs. In Part II he has learned the Eight Trigrams Vacuum Palm, a more focused version of the Eight Trigrams Palms Revolving Heaven, with which he can expel chakra from his palm to attack opponents out of his physical reach. In the anime, he was able to increase the number of strikes in Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms bydoubling it. He can also collaborate with Hinata, using Eight Trigrams Vacuum Wall Palm. When trapped by an enemy, he could use the Gentle Fist Art One Blow Body, to release chakra from the tenketsu to free himself.
During the first phase of the Chūnin Exams, Neji used his Byakugan to read off of other examinees' tests. During the second phase, Team Guy split up to find weak rival teams. Neji ran into Team 10, but thought them too weak to bother with. When Team Guy later reunited, and Neji and Tenten realised that Lee was uncharacteristically late, they went looking for him. They found him after having been defeated by Team Dosu. Angered, Neji threatened to fight them, but decided not to, after noticing that Sasuke Uchiha had woken up. Once Sasuke drove off the Otogakure genin, Neji and Tenten took Lee away to recover, still managing to pass the round.
In the preliminary matches, Neji was paired up against Hinata. He attempted to have Hinata forfeit the match stating that people would never be able to change no matter how hard they tried, though Naruto snapped Hinata out of her rising panic and with this, the two cousins begin fighting. After exchanging blows using the Gentle Fist-style of their clan, Hinata seemed to defeat Neji, only for Neji to reveal that he had closed Hinata's chakra points, rendering her Gentle Fist useless. He also hit a chakra point close to one of Hinata's vitals moments beforehand, putting Hinata in critical condition. However, Hinata refused to back down, insisting that Neji was also was fighting against what could not be changed. Enraged, Neji attacks Hinata, intent on administering a killing blow when most of the jōnin in attendance stepped in to save Hinata. After the fight, Naruto, angered by Neji's philosophy and treatment of Hinata, swiped up some of Hinata's blood, and swore to defeat Neji during the finals. Neji dismissed his threats, and watched Lee's match with Gaara. He was surprised by Lee's strength, but, after the fight, thought Lee foolish to try to win by using a self-sacrificial method.
Neji was pitted against Naruto in the first rounds of the finals. Although Neji soon gained the advantage, and cut off Naruto's chakra flow, Naruto was determined to fight against Neji, and prove that fate was not predetermined despite listening to Neji's backstory. Naruto tapped into the power of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox sealed within him, and was able to keep up with Neji for a time. Neji's Eight Trigrams Palms Revolving Heaven protected him from Naruto's attacks, but when he approached a supposedly defeated Naruto, Naruto sprang out of a tunnel he had dug in the ground, and delivered an uppercut to Neji in the jaw, defeating him. Neji was angry with himself for falling for Naruto's signature technique, but Naruto revealed that the technique used to be his worst one, and that he only became good at it through practice.
Neji then heard of his father's fate from his uncle (in the anime, it was changed to Neji reading a scroll written by his father, which explained everything), and broke down in tears. When Hiashi bowed before Neji, entreating his forgiveness, Neji asked him to rise and forgave him. Neji then silently told his father that he wished to finally have control over his destiny, and that he hoped to never lose again.
Invasion of Konoha Arc
Neji can be seen at the Third Hokage's funeral alongside the other villagers, mourning his death.
Sasuke Retrieval Arc
Neji was recruited as part of the five-man team to retrieve Sasuke from theSound Four. Neji was chosen to be the rear lookout in the single file line Shikamaru organised because of his ability to use the Byakugan. When, during the course of the mission, the team was captured by Kidōmaru's webbing, Neji was able to free them with his Gentle Fist, and sent them after the remaining members of the Sound Four while he fought Kidōmaru. Kidōmaru was able to analyse Neji's defences, and found the blind spot in the Byakugan.
Neji realised that Kidōmaru was more powerful than he was, but was determined to never give up, as he wanted to show those who considered him a genius that their faith in him was correct, and to prove that he no longer surrendered to fate. Neji was severely wounded when Kidōmaru managed to fire an arrow through his chest. However, he was able to keep it from hitting his heart by moving at the last moment.
After dodging yet another arrow, Neji realised that he couldn't stop the next one. He allowed the arrow to hit him - however, he prevented it from being fatal, and took advantage of the string attached to it that Kidōmaru used to guide its trajectory by channelling chakra through the web, severely injuring Kidōmaru. He then ran towards him, saying for the sake of those believe that he was a genius he could not lose, caught and struck the latter repeatedly with Gentle Fist.
Before he died, Kidōmaru said that Sasuke was beyond salvation, and couldn't be brought back to Konoha as he had made his own choice to leave. However, Neji proclaimed that Naruto would be able to save Sasuke from the darkness, as Naruto had saved him. Afterwards, Kidōmaru died, and Neji collapsed due to his injuries. He was critically injured after the battle, but was saved with the help of Shizune and other medical ninja with the Healing Resuscitation Regeneration Technique.
Neji was commonly the team leader for Team Guy when Guy was absent, and was more cautious and pragmatic than Naruto was. Neji attempted to use his Byakugan against Raiga, but Ranmaru's kekkei genkai created illusions that he mistook for real people. During the second battle, he was easily defeated and knocked out. While he was unconscious, Tenten attempted to wake him up by feeding him the Curry of Life twice but, due to his low tolerance to spicy food, he only freaked out after eating it, and fell unconscious again.
The Academy Students were divided into teams of three and were assigned to a genin who would lead them on a mission against the other teams. Neji was assigned to lead a team of three academy students; Kōji, Jin and Futaba. His time with them was not covered much except that he was doing better than Naruto. Neji instructed his students on how to use a watch as a compass.
Neji suggested that he and the others should concern themselves with finding the star, rather than with the potential dangers the star training had to the children. When the villagers confronted Akahoshi, Neji initially refused to get involved, and when Naruto attacked Akahoshi after Akahoshi disabled Naruto's team-mates with an attack, he told Naruto that he would deny knowing anything about what Naruto did, unwilling to betray the client and erode people's trust in Konoha ninja. Despite saying this, when Tsunade reprimanded the group for Naruto's destroying the star to defeat Akahoshi, Neji accepted responsibility as team leader, before Tsunade revealed that, as Akahoshi was the client, no one would complain about their failing the mission.
He suspected that Menma was a Sound ninja, and openly admitted to Menma that he didn't trust him. While testing the theory, he learned of Menma's incredible speed. His suspicions were confirmed in part when it was revealed that Menma was part of a bandit clan, but Menma remained on Naruto's side, and sacrificed himself to save a town from bandits.
Neji, along with the rest of the Konoha 11, was recruited by Shikamaru to investigate any traces of the trap master's plans. Using his Byakugan he found an explosive tag inside the Academy and discovered a wire that led to a log in which a thrown kunai hitting the bullseye would trigger an explosion that would potentially destroy the whole village. Neji later helped in locating all explosive tags through Konoha and joined Naruto and the genin in confronting the trap master at the Hokage Monument.
Neji, Hinata, and Shino try to help Shikamaru by clearing the areas. When the Konoha 11 gather to look at Gaara's fight, Neji explains about Seimei's absorption ability that is affecting Gaara. After the mission, Neji suggests that Hinata should see Naruto leave Konohagakure in training with Jiraiya, being aware about the feelings Hinata has for Naruto. A similar scene happened after the Sasuke Retrieval Arc in the manga.
During the timeskip, Neji is the only member of the Konoha 11 to advance to the rank of jōnin. At the start of Part II, Neji and the rest of Team Guy were sent to provide back-up for Team Kakashi. They were intercepted by Pakkun, who redirected them to Team Kakashi's destination: an Akatsuki hideout. Along the way, they were confronted by Kisame Hoshigaki, who quickly captured Neji, Tenten, and Lee in a Water Prison. Neji was able to free them with his Gentle Fist, allowing Guy to finish off Kisame. They discovered that it was not the real Kisame, only a lookalike.
When they convened with Team Kakashi, Team Guy was tasked with bringing down a barrier blocking the entrance to the Akatsuki lair. Neji used his Byakugan to find the seals keeping the barrier in place, but the team was ambushed by copies of themselves once the barrier was brought down. They defeated their clones, and reunited with Team Kakashi. Neji spotted Deidara with his Byakugan, and, when Deidara prepared to self-destruct, he warned the rest to run away. Later, when Chiyo began to use a strange technique, he mistook it as a medical ninjutsu, but later realised what it really was. Team Guy returned home when the mission was complete. On the way back, Guy resorted to carrying Kakashi in order to move faster. Lee, seeing this as a new way of training, requested Neji to go on his back, but Neji entirely refused.
When Pain began his attack on Konoha, Team Guy was away on a mission. During a pit-stop on their return home, they noticed a number of birds apparently escaping from the village. They rushed to the village, Neji using his Byakugan to see what he could find out before their actual arrival. With it, he noticed a defeatedGamabunta, who told them of the village's destruction. Upon their return, they foundHinatabadly injured, and they quickly got her medical attention. When they later learned that Naruto had defeated Pain, Neji insisted on going to help him confrontNagato, even thoughNarutodid not want back-up, saying that it was too reckless for Naruto to go alone when he was exhausted. Despite this, he remained in the village, and greeted Naruto with the other ninja upon his return.
Konoha History Arc
When Konoha was rebuilding, he and Tenten were sent to get more ninja tools from Iō.
Later, he was interviewed by Konohamaru, Moegi, and Udon about Naruto's accomplishments over the years for a report they are doing about him. He tells them a story about Hinata, who was kidnapped during the Invasion of Konoha. In his flashback, Neji was seen in the infirmary room after he was defeated by Naruto from his first match. When he and Tenten went to see the match between Sasuke and Gaara, there was an explosion and the two ran out the arena and found the Hyūga Elder and he was hurt. He ordered Neji to go and bring back Hinata, who was kidnapped by two Kumo spectators. They also found Kiba and Akamaru, woke them up, and the four went to bring back Hinata. While they were after the kidnappers, they activated an earth release trap that was set by the kidnappers and Tenten told the rest to go on and she would try to hold them off. While Tenten fended them off, Neji and Kiba keep searching for Hinata and the kidnappers and found them.
Kiba decided that they should ambush them and save Hinata, but Neji says that they are outmatched and can't beat the two Kumo-nin. While Kiba went to save Hinata, Neji threw a smokebomb and disguised himself as Kiba, bringing along a decoy Hinata. He defeated Sekiei's partner with his Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms. Neji was overpowered by Sekiei as he fought him. When Neji is about to receive a powerful attack, Hiashi protects him and proceeds to defeat the other captor. When he questions him on why he'd leave the battlefield to come after them, Hiashi tells him that Hinata is his precious daughter, and that he is a precious memento of his late brother. After Hinata was saved, she apologises to Neji for the trouble, but he says he did it because he wanted to, telling her how Naruto changed him.
Five Kage Summit Arc
When news reaches Konoha of Sasuke's recent dealings with Akatsuki, Neji and the rest of the Konoha 11 decide that they should personally kill Sasuke before he involves the village in a war. When Naruto returns to the village, the Konoha 11 try to find out what happened in the Land of Iron. Neji then asks Naruto if Sasuke was in such a weakened state why didn't he kill him, but Sakura notes that Sasuke was not alone and doing so would not have been an easy feat.
The Zetsu prove very resilient to damage and the battle drags on, with one Zetsu almost managing to trap Neji and absorb some of his chakra. He uses Gentle Fist Art One Blow Body to free himself, but notices that the Zetsu absorbed some of his chakra. As the battle rages on Hinata and Neji fight side-by-side protecting each other's back.
As nightfall approached after the first day of the war, Neji rested alongside Hinata, Kiba, Akamaru and Shino. Exhausted from prolonged use of his Byakugan, Kiba urges him to visit the Logistical Support and Medical Divisionfor treatment. Neji refuses, and continues to to use his Byakugan until he collapses, causing Shino and Hinata to take over his scouting duties. Unbeknownst to Neji, the white Zetsu that had absorbed his chakra previouslyimpersonated him and infiltrated the medical compound, killing five medical-nin before being stopped by Sakura. The real Neji is later seen being carried on Akamaru's back.
As the second day of war starts, they once again engaged the White Zetsu Army clones who had this time impersonated their comrades. Neji who was seemingly rested, confronts one of the transformed shinobi when Kiba calls out to him that Hinata is in danger. Quickly dispatching the shinobi, Neji curses that he would not make it to Hinata in times and watches on with horror as his cousin is plummeted into a mountain-side only to be revealed as a Zetsu clone. As Naruto passes overhead, Neji wonders if it was really him before following after Kiba and Akamaru. He arrives in time to see that it was in fact Naruto and that he had protected Hinata from an enemy attack. After telling Kiba and an Iwa-nin that he did not realise that it was him because of his change in appearance and chakra signature. Demanding that Naruto prove that he is who he says he is, Hinata says there was no need for that because he came to their rescue. The group then mobilises to finish off the rest of the enemies.