WARNING: The following article contains discussion of suicide and self-harm.
The Uchihas of Naruto possess a visual prowess is unrivaled in anime, yet those who obtain the Sharingan are plagued with grief and misfortune. Known as their Curse of Hatred, the origin and secrets behind their powerful jutsu make the Uchihas destined to suffer in their blind pursuit of revenge and power. Here's what makes the Sharingan perhaps the strongest yet saddest power in all of anime.
The History of the Sharingan
Hagoromo and Hamura Ōtsutsuki are the only two sons of Princess Kaguya, a powerful Ōtsutsuki clan member who left the moon for earth and ate the Forbidden Chakra Fruit from the God Tree. When Hagoromo discovers his mother has been sacrificing people to the God Tree, he becomes the first person to awaken the Sharingan in his grief.
As the eldest brother, Hagoromo becomes the Ten-Tails' jinchūriki when he and Hamura work together to stop their mother from reclaiming chakra and free the world from her Infinite Tsukuyomi. However, Kaguya soon brainwashes Hamura and forces him to attack Hagoromo, giving him no choice but to kill his younger brother to free him from their mother's control. When he does so, Hagoromo becomes the first person to awaken both the Mangekyō Sharingan and the Rinnegan.
Wanting to restore peace to the Naruto world and make up for his tragic past, Hagoromo later enters priesthood as the Sage of Sixth Paths and decides to hand out chakra to people across the globe and become the father of the Tailed Beasts. He has two sons, Indra and Asura, before leaving behind a tablet detailing their history and the secrets behind their eyes for their descendants to read. However, the Uchiha descendants will misinterpret it -- one must possess the Rinnegan to read the tablet in its entirety, while the Sharingan only reveals limited information. This misunderstanding leads to a dark and sinister belief among the Uchihas that a person must kill someone they love to awaken the Mangekyō Sharingan.
The Sad Eyes That Reflect The Heart
In Naruto, the Uchiha awaken the Sharingan when extreme grief and distress emotionally trigger a chakra release straight to their optic nerve. Given the misinterpretation of Hagoromo's tablet, the Uchiha believe they must kill a loved one to awaken the much more powerful Mangekyō Sharingan, causing them to fall victim to the Curse of Hatred. The more pain and suffering an Uchiha endures, the more abilities they can unlock, directly linking their sadness to their strength.
Given the source of their power, many Uchiha fall into a cycle of violence until their clan is nearly wiped out by Itachi and Obito. The latter awakens the Sharingan when Rin is kidnapped, and soon awakens the Mangekyō Sharingan when he witnesses Rin dying by Kakashi's chidori. Meanwhile, Itachi arouses his own Mangekyō Sharingan when Shisui commits suicide right in front of him.
While Sasuke doesn't awaken his Mangekyō Sharingan until he kills Itachi, he's consumed by the Curse of Hatred early on after watching his entire clan get wiped out by his older brother. At the beginning of Naruto, Sasuke -- now carrying the entire rage and hatred of the Uchiha clan -- declares his one goal is to get revenge and kill his brother for what he did.
How Naruto's Sharingan Compares to Other Anime Abilities
Immense power triggered by extreme emotional reactions isn't a new or rare concept in anime. Most shōnen characters derive great strength from pain and desperation, often when protecting those they love. Natsu Dragneel from Fairy Tail unleashes his greatest Dragon Slayer magic when his guild is in danger, also becoming a dark and sinister force when Lucy's life is threatened. Similarly, Meliodas the Sin of Wrath is transformed by uncontrollable demon energy when his loved ones are in danger in The Seven Deadly Sins. This common issue has also been demonstrated recently with Deku in My Hero Academia as he struggles to control his Quirks.
In Dragon Ball Z, a Saiyan can accumulate S-Cells and energy that will transform them into a Super Saiyan when experiencing intense sadness or rage. This power derived from negative emotions works similarly to the Sharingan, where Goku finally achieves the Super Saiyan form after witnessing his best friend's murder. Giving in to his envy and frustration, Vegeta later activates this same power through sheer anger that he was unable to access the form before Goku.
While this Super Saiyan form driven by negative energy is comparable to the Sharingan in Naruto, it does not require the same emotional toll to activate -- nor does it have multiple stages of power accessed through greater pain and grief. Therefore, the Uchiha clan's Sharingan from Naruto remains anime's greatest yet saddest power.
For more information on the warning signs and prevention of suicide, click here. If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you live outside the U.S., click here for a list of international hotlines.