The true role of Zabuza and Haku: The perfect first villains of Naruto

Zabuza and Haku reanimated during the 4th Great Ninja War
Zabuza and Haku reanimated and fighting Kakashi and Lee during the 4th Great Ninja War. Pic credit: Studio Pierrot

The first chapter of Naruto’s adventure tells the story of a young boy who wants to succeed his father as Hokage and the legends of the people he encounters.

Early on, the relationship between Naruto Uzumaki, Sasuke Uchiha, and Sakura Haruno attracted viewers with their comedy and well-developed storylines. However, what awaited them took many viewers off guard with a moving tale of Zabuza and Haku, two tormented souls.

The Demon of the mist and the lonely child

Haku shared his mother’s genetic ability of ice and was born to two villagers in the icy village deep inside the land of water. The town feared and employed anyone with the ability to control ice as mercenaries, but after the battles were over, they were pursued.

When his father learned of Haku and his mother’s secret, he killed his wife out of terror while they stayed hidden from the world that had come to hate them. He turned on Haku and came dangerously close to killing his son before Haku killed his father in a fit of vengeance. As the bitter, hard winter began, Haku—now an orphan and homeless—became an illusion to anyone who passed him.

Haku attacks shinobi during the war
Haku attacks shinobi during the war with her ice powers. Pic credit: Studio Pierrot

The Demon of the Mist, or Zabuza Momochi as most people would call him, discovered Haku in his position of helplessness and recognized an excellent chance. Feared mercenary Zabuza, who possessed the Kekkei Genkai of ice abilities, took Haku under his care while blatantly satisfying his desire to use the little child for his abilities. Zabuza was highly forthright about his goals. He, too, desired to utilize others for his benefit, especially Haku, having been used by the seven swordsmen. Haku, who had been cast aside, ignored the possibility of being a weapon of war and concentrated instead on his need to be wanted.

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Tazuna, a skilled bridge builder from the Land of Waves, was the objective of Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura’s first mission under the direction of Kakashi Hatake. To raise money for their ambitions, Zabuza and Haku set their sights on Tazuna by accepting a contract from Gato as mercenaries. The fanciful conflict between Naruto and Sasuke colliding with Haku and Kakashi opposing Zabuza continued until Episode 19 in the anime and down to Chapter 33 in the manga. Even though Team 7 used incredible techniques and strategies for a young, inexperienced team, Haku and Zabuza stand out as the most significant antagonists in the series because of the lessons they learned they would carry with them for the rest of their lives and are still remembered today.

The lessons of Zabuza and Haku: The perfect villains

Zabuza beside Haku after fighting Gato's men
Zabuza beside Haku after fighting Gato’s men. Pic credit: Studio Pierrot

Team 7 discovered during their training that to be a great shinobi, one must be able to set aside all human feelings to be capable of completing a mission. Shinobis are skilled ninja fighters whose primary function is to be employed as mercenaries and carry out missions quickly and accurately. To achieve this, they must not experience any human feelings, such as grief, rage, or fear. Team 7 found it difficult to balance their opponents’ immediate battle and emotional aspect despite having to accept a severe yet accurate vision of the world. This dynamic ran against Naruto’s unshakeable conviction that compassion should always be shown, regardless of circumstance or the opponent.

When the battle was over, and Haku gave his life to save Zabuza, Kakashi and Team 7 had to confront the harsh truth of what Zabuza had learned. As Haku lay motionless and Gato mocked the Demon of the Mist, a shinobi mercenary who had never displayed any signs of weakness or empathy suddenly broke down. In the instant of weakness, Zabuza demonstrated his finest quality: compassion. Some of Naruto’s most essential life lessons came from that experience: human emotion is genuine, and those who ignore it in favor of becoming shinobi also lose touch with who they are.

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Zabuza finished the sole mission that had any significance to him as he charged the band of mercenaries led by Gato. Although doing so cost him his life, by killing Gato, he was able to get revenge on the evil kingpin for his torture and ridicule. The shinobi world is one in which one uses and is used. Still, Naruto already knew that if he sacrificed who he was to become a great shinobi, he ran the risk of becoming what Zabuza later saw was wrong and losing himself. Losing that would mean the end of Naruto’s value because human feeling is a strength he possesses more than any other character.

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