First Manga Appearance: Chapter 35
First Anime Appearance: Episode 20
Name Meaning: "Self-Loving" ra=Kanji used in demons of myth
Character Study: Gaara is very popular within the series and one of the most well-developed and fleshed out characters, going from a seemingly emotionless, trigger-happy, sadistic murderer to a misunderstood scapegoat who draws sympathy and even parallels Naruto. Over time, he developed into a loving sibling and a hero of his own village, possibly foreshadowing Naruto, the character who he has the deepest relation with, more so than his own blood siblings.
Chuunin Exam | DB 1
Pre-Timeskip | DB 2
Post-Timeskip | DB 3
Height: 166.1 cm
Weight: 50.9 kg
Registration ID: 56-001
Hidden Village: Sand
Team: Temari, Kankurou, Baki
Academy Grad Age: 12
Chuunin Exam Age: 14
Jounin Age: ?
Jutsu: Daisan no Me, Fuuton: Mugen Sajin Daitoppa, Tanukineiri, Sabaku Fuyuu, Sabaku Kyuu, Sabaku Rou, Sabaku Sousou, Sabaku Taisou, Shukaku no Hoko, Shukaku no Tate, Shunshin, Suna Bunshin, Suna no Muya, Suna no Tate, Suna no Yoroi, Suna Raishin, Suna Shigure, Suna Shuriken
Known Elements: Fuuton
Gaara, also known as "Gaara of the Desert", is the fifth and current Kazekage of Hidden Sand Village in the Wind Country. He is younger brother to Temari and Kankurou, the son of the Fourth Kazekage, a student of Baki and former host to the one-tailed demon tanuki known as Shukaku. Before Gaara’s birth, a policy change by the feudal lord of the Wind country forced the village to reduce the number of ninja. Gaara’s father the Kazekage decided that quality should exceed quantity. He chose to use an old weapon of war, a bijuu, which had been imbued into two former Sand ninja in the past.
At his demand, one of Hidden Sand’s elder kunoichi's, a profoundly skilled woman by the name Chiyo sealed this weapon known as Shukaku into the unborn son of the Kazekage’s wife, Karura. Transferring it from the tea kettle it was held in, Gaara was imbued with the Shukaku, making him what many call a "Jinchuuriki", or "power of human sacrifice”. The term originates from the immense abilities that the subject wields, but at the loss of another human’s life. In this case, it was Karura who lost her life as her son was born. Furious about how she was to lose her life for the sake of a weapon, she named her baby in an accursed way. The name "Gaara" itself could be broken down to "A demon that loves only itself", a reflection of his inhuman nature and his status in the village as a weapon and nothing more.
Gaara grew up isolated, as the Shukaku came with more than just the loss of Karura as a price. Having been bonded so closely to Gaara, his will was ever-present in Gaara’s mind. His murderous nature instilled a violent mean streak in Gaara, further isolating him and shutting him off from the world socially. In addition, the Shukaku’s abilities generated an almost sentient and instinctive shield of sand that automatically protected Gaara from physical harm, even when he was the instigator, something Gaara himself realized when he never got cut and bled. Emotionally and physically shut away from everyone and everything, Gaara had no real friends, even with his immediate family looking down at him scornfully. The only person Gaara had come to be able to trust eventually was his uncle, Yashamaru, who educated him on some of the most basic human emotions that he would otherwise never learn.
One fateful night, Gaara was attacked from behind by an avalanche of kunai. Even though he was blind to the danger, his shield of sand protected him and wounded the attacker. Upon investigation, he saw the masked assassin was Yashamaru, who said the one who ordered the strike was none other than his father the Kazekage, who had deemed Gaara a failure as a weapon due to his instability. Yashamaru also confided that while he could have refused to carry out the assassination, he chose to take it willingly for Gaara's part in his sister's death. In his last moments, he activated a mass of exploding tags beneath his flak jacket in an attempt to take Gaara with him. Due to the sand shield, Gaara survived. His mind snapped due to the emotional torrent his immature mind was being burdened with. He wailed in agony and directed his sand to his forehead, carving the kanji "ai" or "love" into it, forever marking his body to remind himself of his new approach to life, to love only himself and fight only for himself.
Not deterred, the Kazekage ordered further assassinations towards Gaara, but every one met in failure. Gaara had learned to finally be the weapon he was intended, but he still retained his mental instabilities. He could never sleep for fear of the Shukaku’s influence on his unconscious mind. Some labeled it as the Shukaku "eating away at his personality". In truth, Shukaku’s personality replaced his, possessing Gaara’s body. Gaara never knew the full truth of the demon inside him. Believing that the blood of his victims that mixed with his sand strengthened him, or how he was possessed by the corrupted spirit of a priest of sand. For all the bravado, Gaara never rebelled against his father, welcoming the challenge of each life-or-death situation he was placed in as a confirmation of his existence.
Gaara was eventually entered into the Chuunin Exams held by Hidden Leaf village, although with an ulterior motive. He and his siblings passed the first stage, followed by the second without so much as a scratch. It was in this second test where he murdered a trio of rival Hidden Rain Genin for his own amusement and demonstrating his signature Desert Funeral attack, surrounding the victims in sand and crushing their bodies to powder before pain could even register in their brains. The incident was witnessed by Team 8, where Gaara’s mere presence made Akamaru quiver in fear.
During the third test prelims, Temari and Kankurou both noticed that each violent fight, Gaara began to grow more excited. Finally, Gaara himself stepped into the arena in the penultimate fight, facing Rock Lee. The first half of the fight saw Gaara mostly disappointed as Lee failed to strike him once, until Lee removed the weights on his legs and began to move at superhuman speed, eventually not only kicking Gaara on top of his head but also landing a punch on his face that appeared to crack it, something rarely seen. It turned out to be a layer of sand Gaara used as an outer shell, revealing Gaara’s real face beneath it, now grinning in a psychotically gleeful manner. Gaara began to assault Lee and throw him all over the arena and rip at him with torrents of sand, Lee was forced into using his Omote Renge, requiring several kicks to lift Gaara up to the required height while under immense pain himself. Spinning and crashing back to the ground, Gaara was driven into the floor.
To Lee’s shock, Gaara cracked apart like a hollow shell. The moment he closed his eyes from the pain, Gaara was able to substitute a sand clone and avoid the impact, which allowed him to go back on the offensive. Enraged, Gaara once again began to violently tear at Lee. With all hope seemingly lost, Lee used his trump card, the Ura Renge. Pummeling Gaara with a series of strikes that were too fast for the eye to see, Lee managed to completely strip every last grain of protective sand from Gaara’s body and drag him around at speeds too high for the sand shield to block. With a final blow, Lee sent Gaara’s unprotected body plummeting down for a final strike. At the last second, Gaara’s gourd itself turned into sand, cushioning the impact. Enraged at being made to feel pain again and not being able to kill Lee, Gaara crushed Lee’s arm and leg, intending to kill him. Luckily for Lee, the fight was stopped when his sensei Gai stepped in to knock away the oncoming sand.
The concept of Gai stopping the assassination sent Gaara’s mind reeling with confusion, forcing him to recall his past. He took his leave and was later placed against Sasuke in the third round test. Foolishly, Dosu Kinuta decided to challenge Gaara the next night as he sat alone in the moonlight, intending to kill him and take his place as Sasuke’s opponent with the intention of ruining Orochimaru’s plans. For his recklessness, he was killed as Gaara allowed the Shukaku a brief moment of freedom, reducing Dosu to little more than a bloody stain on the rooftop. Later, he would track down the unconscious Lee in his hospital bed with the intention of killing him. He was confronted by Shikamaru and Naruto, where he once again suffered a mental lapse and restated his desires, explaining his name. Naruto soon realized he and Gaara were very much alike. Gai soon arrived and sent Gaara away once again. After that, Gaara sought out Sasuke, not to kill, but to acknowledge him as prey formally and go so far as to state a certain level of similarity between them, all under Kakashi’s protective eye.
When the match finally came to take place, Gaara was stopped on the way into the stadium by two Grass ninja who asked him to stage a loss in order to help a bet. Gaara crushed them in a bloody shower, and then proceeded onwards, luckily for Shikamaru and Naruto who were also in his way. Telling them he had been sated for the moment, he allowed them to live, seeing as how his next match was also part of a secret mission. Facing off against a "fashionably late" Sasuke, he was struck several times during the match. Enraged, he formed a sand cocoon around himself made of sand that extended out into spines when approached. Inside, Gaara was beginning to transform his body into the Shukaku’s. However, before it was completed, Sasuke pierced the shell and drove a Chidori into Gaara. For the first time ever, Gaara bled, sending his mind reeling and his half-transformed body slashing out at Sasuke from within.
With the plan forced to begin early, Gaara’s mission began as a joint invasion of Hidden Sound with Sand’s backup started. Still unstable, Kankurou and Temari threw themselves in to help him get to safety until he recovered. Sasuke, under orders, followed him, though Kakashi also managed to throw Sakura, Naruto and Shikamaru into a mission along with Pakkun to follow Sasuke. Shino also decided to follow, seeking the match Kankurou denied him to keep in order with the plan. With his siblings taken out of the picture by Shino and Sasuke, Gaara finally tapped into the Shukaku’s true power and began to transform again, with the right side of his face and his arm grotesquely deforming into a shape reminiscent of the sandy talons that swiped from his shell, drooling and screaming. Screaming out at Sasuke to show himself, Gaara took a second Chidori, tearing his transformed arm off, but he did not give up.
Sasuke was driven to the point where he had to deny Kakashi’s warning and released the power of the cursed seal for a third Chidori, but Gaara’s rage and determination barred him from stopping. Naruto then entered the fray, picking up from where Sasuke left off, with the incentive of Sakura’s life on the line as Gaara bound her to a tree and threatened to crush her. The two battled, with Gaara falling deeper into the Shukaku’s hold as his body sprouted a tail and the only human parts left of him were his lower legs. Naruto managed to hold Gaara off, calling thousands of clones to aid him and knock the sand off his body. Utterly livid, Gaara finally decided to sacrifice his free will. Creating a gigantic body in the shape of a monstrous tanuki, Gaara emerged from the forehead and put himself to sleep, allowing the Shukaku’s personality to emerge in a suitable body.
Naruto summoned Gamabunta, who fought Shukaku with some persuasion from his son. Even Gamabunta was outmatched by Shukaku’s drilling blasts of wind that it literally punched out from the gut. Seeking to end things quickly, Naruto and Gamabunta used a combined transformation technique, changing into a replica of the nine-tailed demon fox to try and get close. Naruto was able to wake Gaara up with a punch, dispelling Shukaku’s hold, but then found himself trapped by Gaara and about to share Sakura’s fate. With one last burst of strength, he crudely head butted Gaara, nearly knocking him out and sending both of them plummeting to the ground as Gamabunta’s summoning was also dispelled. They both gasped for air and they lay immobile. Gaara began to feel legitimately threatened for his life when he noticed a determined Naruto beginning to crawl towards him.
Screaming at how his existence would not end, Naruto told him that it was his friends who gave him the strength and motivation to keep going. Gaara thought back to Yashamaru's words on love and began to see a new path in life. Defeated, Kankurou and Temari retrieved him once more and fled back home, but not without Gaara apologizing first in a shocking display of humanity. However, a worse situation yet had arisen as a few days after the invasion, the Fourth Kazekage’s corpse was discovered, decomposed to lengths that suggested he had been dead months before the Chuunin exam invasion had been planned. It indicated all correspondence with Sound had actually been Orochimaru himself posing as the Kazekage. Hidden Sand was forced into an unconditional surrender with Leaf and became their ally once again.
Gaara’s changed outlook on life was noticeable in his next appearance, as he had not only switched to a new, less dark outfit but showed none of his previous sociopath urges. The Sand siblings were sent to assist Hidden Leaf retrieve Sasuke from the Sound Four. Gaara himself sought out Lee to help. He greeted Lee and stated he also sought to repay a debt to Naruto. Up against Orochimaru’s strongest bodyguard, Kimimaro, Gaara found several of his tactics useless. The first part of the conflict appeared to end when Gaara trapped him in a Desert Funeral, only for Kimimaro to emerge with superficial injuries. Kimimaro activated his cursed seal, forcing Gaara to use a strategy so powerful it rearranged the terrain, swamping Kimimaro with sand until he was buried under it, where Gaara used his "Desert Imperial Funeral", a gigantic version of Desert Funeral that affected the land for hundreds of feet around them. And yet still, Kimimaro would not by stopped.
Emerging from his arid prison, Kimimaro stepped out with his cursed seal fully active, now looking like a misshapen dinosaur. He tore out his own spinal column and used it as a whip to ensnare Gaara. Kimimaro then reshaped the strongest bones in his body to become a drilling implement on his left hand. Gaara responded by using his absolute strongest defense, an effigy of the Shukaku no bigger than himself, suggesting his change of heart had allowed him to tame the Shukaku. The shield was constructed from strong minerals that he mixed into his sand and pressurized with his chakra. Kimimaro stabbed deep in, but ultimately lost as the bone shattered. Before he could launch another attack, Gaara created a whirlpool in the sand that dragged him far below the ground, imprisoning him in a suffocating prison. But Kimimaro was not done.
A huge eruption of bony protrusions littered the area like a freshly sprung forest, forcing Lee and Gaara to take refuge on floating clouds of sand. Gaara admitted he was low on chakra and lucky to be alive, all too soon as Kimimaro emerged from one of the pylons of bone. However, before Kimimaro could strike the fatal stab, his time ran out. The disease that had crippled him for months finally took him. Gaara understood completely, as Kimimaro’s devotion to Orochimaru’s cause was the same kind of faith Naruto had in his friends that caused him to move after total exhaustion. The Sand Siblings then returned to Sand. Over the following years, Gaara spoke with Kankurou about proving himself to their village. He wanted to be respected and seen as something other than a weapon. He sought to become Kazekage and the village advisory council relented, in the hopes of placating and making full use of him. The village soon grew to love and respect Gaara.
When a threat came in the form of the Akatsuki organization’s Deidara, Gaara himself took him on personally. The fight raged on in the sky as Deidara flew on a clay sculpted bird, with things going in Gaara’s favor most of the way. Deidara even lost an arm, cruelly torn away by Gaara's sand. However, this would play into Deidara's plans. Revealing another clay sculpture charged with a special kind of explosive chakra designated "C3", he sent it to the village below. He knew it had the ability to wipe the village and everyone in it. Gaara was forced to divert all the nearby sand into a huge shield to contain the explosion. However, with his defenses diverted to the village, Deidara revealed that he had managed to include some of his explosive clay with Gaara's sand when he withdrew it to protect his body.
Deidara forced Gaara to draw this tainted sand close to his body and then he detonated it. The shock knocked Gaara out, allowing Deidara to kidnap him and take him back to the Akatsuki lair, a cave they used to carry out a ritual to remove Shukaku. Team 7 and Chiyo, the kunoichi who originally placed Shukaku in Gaara, gave chase. At the Akatsuki cave base, a mysterious statue rose up from the ground. Over the course of the next three days, Shukaku was ripped from within Gaara's body. Once the ritual ended, Gaara dropped to the floor, utterly and totally dead. Deidara showed no respect for him, mockingly sitting on his corpse as Naruto’s rescue party burst into the cave. For reasons unknown, Deidara scooped up the body and fled the scene. Naruto gave chase and grounded him with the help of Kakashi, forcing him to return Gaara, despite him already being dead. Naruto was furious and sad that the old guard had seen the Jinchuuriki as nothing but weapons, damning their existence without every taking their feelings into consideration.
Chiyo realized the older generation's past mistakes and sought leave things in the capable hands of the younger generation. She stated she had an ability that could "bring life to the lifeless" by transferring the life-force of the user into someone or something else. However, she was elderly and had already donated a portion of her life to an already-living person, Sakura, to save her. Naruto volunteered to help, providing some of his own chakra to help. As Chiyo's eyes closed for the final time, Gaara’s opened to see not only the rescue party but numerous ninja from his village who had came to help, including a female fan club. Gaara was moved and asked everyone to say a prayer for Chiyo. They returned to Sand and Gaara offered a handshake to the departing Naruto. Although Naruto was embarrassed, Gaara "encouraged" his hand closer with a few gentle grains of sand, revealing he still retained his sand control abilities in some form.
BSS: Before Series Start
ASS: After Series Start
(All dates approximate - There is no official comprehensive timeline)
12 Yrs. BSS - Shukaku imbued into Gaara, Gaara Born.
6 Yrs. BSS - Kazekage orders Gaara's assassination, Gaara kills Yashamaru.
0 - Series Start, Graduates Ninja Academy.
6 Mo. ASS - Enters Chuunin Exam, Defeats Lee in prelims.
7 Mo. ASS - Injured in battle by Sasuke, Transforms into Shukaku and is defeated by Naruto.
9 Mo. ASS - Comes to Konoha's aid against Sound Four.
10 Mo. ~ 3 Yrs. 3 Mo. ASS - Increases skills and strength, Becomes Kazekage.
3 Yrs. 3 Mo. ASS - Loses to Deidara in battle, Has Shukaku removed and dies, Ressurrected by Chiyo.