Next up on the Hunt for the Great Antagonist is one of the antagonists from the cornucopia of characters that is Naruto. Zabuza Momochi is bar none one of the most impactful antagonists of my childhood. I remember still starting out watching anime when I came across Naruto and started on this arc. I was used to two dimensional antagonists or monsters of the week, but I was surprised to see one with nuance. One that could make me cry. Zabuza Momochi is a one off antagonist in Naruto only being used at the very beginning of the series for one full arc. A menacing first opponent for Team 7 and considered to be one of the most dangerous rogue shinobi in the Ninja World. That huge sword isn’t meant for show. Is Zabuza one of the greats however? Is he able to stand the test of time or is he best forgotten as a footnote in the spanning generational story of Naruto?
The Hunt for the Great Antagonist is a series that will spoil elements from the series surrounding the antagonist and most likely key points within the series itself. You have been warned.
Zabuza Momochi is a man trapped in the world of “being a shinobi”. His past and his ideals have been clouded by what many consider what shinobi should be. Zabuza grew up knowing one thing which was in order to live and have a future he needed to fight and kill. To remove oneself from the mission, to be emotionless during every assignment and to follow orders to the T. To some respects the society he grew up in, one which had him kill many of his classmates in a final exam, warped his perception of what the world is. His world was an unforgiving one of people using one another in order to get what they wanted. Therefore when he came across Haku he didn’t see a boy, he saw a monster he could tailor into the tool he needs to enact his goals of taking over the Village Hidden in the Mist. Zabuza for the most part is a man shaped by the stereotype of the word “shinobi” and sees others as merely tools.
Zabuza however effectively changes in his final moments. This was probably one of the bigger turning moments in Naruto as a series. Zabuza had shown himself to be human after all. All the lies he had told himself were merely thing he wanted to be true, but in fact he never could make them reality. His relationship with Haku was not that of a master and his tool, but rather close comrades and maybe something more with the way the ending of both of their lives plays out. Zabuza had always tried to beat the soft side out of Haku, since emotions only make a shinobi weak in his mind, yet that very soft side had infected him as well. Zabuza, for once, acknowledged that he was human in his final moments and no longer the demon he was made out to be by his village. His ideals and perception shattered in an instant of Naruto explaining how much Haku had given up his own life to make Zabuza’s dreams a reality. That Zabuza’s reality was a sickening one. Zabuza actually agreed admitting defeat to Naruto, the one Haku had fought instead of the superior Kakashi whom defeated him. Zabuza for the short time he was on screen managed to have a full character arc from lone assassin to one that could no longer be a shinobi since his views of the term were shown to be false. Zabuza is a textbook example of a shinobi in the world of Naruto before Naruto’s generation, one built around the idea of the unfeeling tool. Perhaps he saw a little bit of himself in Haku the first time he saw him.
Zabuza’s prime objective was to overthrow the Village Hidden in the Mist. Everything he did was in order to make the goal a reality. He became a mercenary hired by Gato, used Haku, tried to kill Tazuna the Bridge builder all for the sake of his motivation. It is a rather simplistic one with very little deviation from the fact since the motivation is thrown away after the death of Haku in order to enact revenge on Gato for desecrating Haku’s corpse. In some ways one could say that his motivation changed over time, that because of Haku he felt more content with life yet he was unable to accept that new motivation. Though besides the final scene we couldn’t say that. His motivation can be shaken by the words of a young boy and that does make for a great scene, but not an effective use of motivation especially when he was about to cleave the boy’s body in two. His motivation for the most part is shaky and does evolve a bit in the end, but it is not a long-lived one.
Accomplishment is a hard word to describe what Zabuza did in the Naruto series. In no way was Zabuza victorious in the end, nor did he ever accomplish anything great besides being one of the Swordsmen of the Mist. His name however is well known as a rogue ninja and his moniker does strike either fear or create tense situations depending on the individual. One thing he does accomplish however is in completing his final wish or killing Gato. This is one of the better executed personal victories of Naruto. One where he becomes the demon one last time to admonish it. Accomplishing something that is hard to obtain in Naruto, respect. He earned the respect of his foes, fighting for what he believed was right in the very end even while he knew he was dying. Even to the point of them wanting him to join Haku in heaven as Kakashi points out that he can. Zabuza accomplished small personal feats, yet never managed to accomplish much in the grand scheme of things. History might forget him, but those who have experienced his final moments would not.
This is a tricky one, as Naruto is a long series to hold relevance in. To some degree however Zabuza was the start of Naruto’s ninja way. The very essence of an antagonist is to be relevant to the hero in some way, and Zabuza was the start of Naruto’s path to being a better “shinobi”. During the Great Ninja War against Obito and his forces, Naruto even remembers Zabuza and Haku showcasing how the memory of what happened between him is still important. Zabuza was the first big villain Naruto had faced besides Mizuki, but Mizuki did not change who Naruto was but rather it was Iruka believing in him that changed his ways. Zabuza was the first antagonist to teach Naruto how to be a better ninja and how ninja should be.
His relevance over the course of the whole story however is brought up only when Suigetsu takes the sword from Zabuza’s grave and the Great Ninja War. Besides that he was more a one off antagonist, yet what he did in that one off story was more predominant to Naruto than a lot of villains who carry on throughout the series. His death was a large part of Naruto growing up and the way Zabuza viewed the world helped to positively shape Naruto’s into someone who wants to change that very perception of Shinobi only being used as tools. We all have to start somewhere and I would say that Zabuza (along with Haku) is one of the more important moments in Naruto’s life.
Screen Presence can go one of two ways. The character can be imposing towards our protagonist when they show up on screen, or they can showcase their personality in interesting ways. Zabuza often showcases a cold mentality filled with arrogance and aggression. The numerous times you see him about to pop a blood vessel after the genin attack happens more often than not. His presence of screen is defined by the two moments we see him let loose. The first being when he first meets up with Squad Seven immediately setting them off guard by setting himself up in the middle of all of them ready to swing after his Hidden mist jutsu. Zabuza gives us the cold arrogance that is brought on by his past really fast, acting cocky over his opponents. In some ways this made him fun to see on screen as you knew he was a decent threat to the team and his imposing techniques that promoted stealth made him dangerous in any circumstance besides Kakashi using his right eye.
Zabuza though I think is defined by the fight on the bridge. The brutality he possesses in his time of need almost swinging through the body of Haku to get to Kakashi gives us the one side of him that we all knew he possesses but it breaks our hearts to see it. There is that cold side to him we are shown continuously and it is at its most menacing then as after Haku’s story about wanting to be Zabuza’s tool, you can’t help but see Zabuza’s cruelty in a new light. He has always shown us on screen why he is meant to be feared and now he shows how far he is willing to go to make his dream a reality.
After Naruto’s impassioned plea however, Zabuza’s true moment shines and it is one of the best moments in Naruto. Where he truly becomes a demon with his bloodshot eyes the numerous weapons stabbed into his back and that kunai in his mouth charging into a den of mercenaries all to kill one man. It is both chilling, and effectively gives us the human side of Zabuza after he cries for Haku. We see the man and the demon coincide for one moment and it is spectacular. All of that fury and ferocity we were witnessed to being used as a new outlet and it is made all the better by the terror he bestows upon the mercenaries before he collapses. His death is a heartfelt one and his screentime gives us enough reason to find ourselves mixed about who he is and what he stands for and give us that moment where we can finally see the real Zabuza reaching for Haku’s cheek. It is somber, chilling, saddening, and bittersweet all in just a few scenes and it is hard for an antagonist to do that from time to time across their entire screentime.
At the end of all that Zabuza Momochi is left with a final score of:
This was a great showing for one of the more memorable antagonists from my childhood! To me his arc in the Naruto canon is always the one that stuck with me the most. While rewatching his best moments I still found myself crying after all this time at his final moments. If it wasn’t for the motivation being shaky in order to give more weight to Naruto’s journey as a ninja and give him the moment to highlight himself instead giving Zabuza a more subtle end then he would have been a bit higher. In order to get a great scene sometimes you have to just have to let the emotions write themselves.
So what did you think about Zabuza Momochi? Did you enjoy his final moments or think it was a weird turn? I have an email for the blog now at
so feel free to send me recommendations on a new antagonist I should focus on. Please leave the name of the show rather than the antagonist since I want to try to avoid spoilers but I want to try shows that could give me a truly unique one. You can also leave a comment down below as well and like always don’t forget to have yourself a amazing day!