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Shikamaru Nara (奈良シカマル, Nara Shikamaru) is a shinobi of Konohagakure's Nara clan. Though lazy by nature, Shikamaru has a rare intellect that consistently allows him to prevail in combat. The responsibilities that these successes leave him with cause him frequent annoyance, but he gladly accepts them so that he may be of service to his fellow members of Team 10, and to prove himself to generations of the past and future.
Shikamaru is the only child of Yoshino and Shikaku Nara. When he was young, he once played "ninja" with other children his age. Chōji Akimichi wanted to play with them, but the other children refused to allow him to do so, claiming he was too stupid to participate. When Shikamaru couldn't convince the others to let Chōji join, he left the game and went to his favourite spot to watch clouds. Chōji happened to be sitting in the same spot when he got there, so Shikamaru introduced himself, and invited Chōji to watch the clouds with him. Chōji asked Shikamaru if he wanted some snacks. From that point onward they were best friends; upon entering Konoha's Ninja Academy, they'd usually sit together in class and hang out afterwards. Shikamaru had very little interest in the class itself, preferring to spend his time sleeping rather than listen to Iruka Umino's lessons. Shikamaru showed the same lack of enthusiasm for the tests he was given and couldn't be bothered to actually answer the questions, leading to his poor grades.
Shikamaru is naturally a lazy person and his inclination is to do as little work as possible. As an Academy student and even during his early career as a genin, Shikamaru is able to get away with this, spending his days sleeping, watching the clouds, or playing games of shōgi and Go. His goal is to live unremarkably, free of anything of noticeably good or bad, and then to die just as unremarkably as he lived. When he is faced with the potential for conflict or commitment, he responds first by saying, "how troublesome," and then by trying to find some way out of it, either by pretending to be indisposed or even outright saying that he doesn't want to do whatever it is.
Although Shikamaru describes himself as "the number one coward", he has a strong moral compass and dedication to his friends. It is these qualities that earned Chōji Akimichi's friendship, as Shikamaru was one of the first people to look past his weight and find value in who he naturally was. It is also these qualities that force Shikamaru to move away from his lazy pursuits, as he finds himself volunteering to do work or to sacrifice himself if it will in some way benefit his allies. Such selflessness, once displayed during the Konoha Crush, exacerbates his "troublesome" situations: he is given the responsibility of leading his friends into battle, for which reason he does everything that he can to keep them safe, for which reason he is given even more responsibility over even more of his friends, and so on. He still clings to his lazy origins as much as he can; even if he can't spend his entire day being idle, he at least avoids having long-term goals or confessing any particular pleasure in the duties he's assigned.
Shikamaru undergoes a rapid maturity after the death of his teacher, Asuma Sarutobi, whose loss forces Shikamaru to recognise that the world is not safe that he cannot be kept protected from it forever. After avenging Asuma, Shikamaru takes it upon himself to do all that he can to make things better for future Konoha generations, especially Asuma's then-unborn daughter, Mirai; such is the Will of Fire. He may still balk at the prospect of the work he must do, but he no longer runs from it, even going so far as to argue in favour of difficult choices if it will guarantee his friends' and village's survival. In Shikamaru Hiden, he describes his new goal in life as, rather than living unremarkably himself and watching the clouds all the time, to instead make a world where his children or grandchildren can live that way if they choose to.
One of the more "troublesome" things that runs throughout Shikamaru's life are the women he knows: his mother, Yoshino, his teammate, Ino Yamanaka, and his frequent companion, Temari. He describes each of them as aggressive, demanding, and sometimes even scary. Shikamaru tries to treat women delicately, being non-confrontational or at least polite to them and never asking anything of them that he believes he can do himself. During Part I, he generally believes he can do anything himself, and as such is mortified if and when a woman needs to assist him in any way; his frustrations are similar when he repeatedly finds himself facing female opponents. Because his father, Shikaku, has similar views and experiences with women, Shikamaru asks him for help in understanding them. Shikaku explains that men destroy themselves without a woman's influence and that women, despite how they may act, are kind to the men they love. As with most things, Shikamaru resists entanglements with women as much as he can; his Infinite Tsukuyomi dream world sees him successfully avoiding marriage entirely. However, upon realising in Shikamaru Hiden that Temari is one of the most important things in the world to him, he ultimately marries her and even has a son with her, Shikadai. Ironically, his relationship with Temari became very similar to his parents, where he once mocked Shikaku for being "whipped", which he himself became.
Overtime, having come to recognise Naruto's great contributions to the village despite his own hardships, Shikamaru came to sympathise for him, deciding to be there to support him much like the Second Hokage did for his older brother. His newfound goal became to aid Naruto in his goal of becoming Hokage and act as his personal adviser. Ultimately, as an adult, Shikamaru succeeds in this goal, often handling many duties to lighten the workload for Naruto as Hokage. At the same time, he still holds much of his original carefree nature from youth. He is not very strict with his son, viewing his acting out and/or punishments at school as a learning curve for him, trusting that Shikadai will find his way.
Shikamaru has narrow brown eyes and a typical expression suggesting he is either bored or irritated. He has shoulder length black hair tied in a spiky ponytail. During Part I, he wears a short-sleeved grey jacket with green-edged sleeves and the rudimentary Nara clan symbol on the back, under which is a green-lined mesh T-shirt. He also wears brown pants, a pair of his clan's traditional silver hoop earrings, and wears his blue forehead protector around his left arm. When he becomes a chūnin, he adds a flak jacket over this usual clothing. In Part II, he trades most of his personalised wardrobe for the standard Konoha-nin outfit, the only customisations being green-lined mesh armour on his wrists and ankles and the plate of his forehead protector sewn into his left sleeve. He also replaces the hoop earrings for studs, a gift from Asuma Sarutobi.
In The Last: Naruto the Movie, Shikamaru's attire remains largely the same as in Part II, with the flak jacket being updated with Konoha's new design. He also wears taller sandals that reach more past his calves. In adulthood, Shikamaru finally abandons the normal infantry's attire, instead wearing a coat and pants very similar to what his father, Shikaku, used to wear. He also grows a short goatee.
Shikamaru's nature transformations include Yin Release, which he commonly uses to perform his shadow-based techniques, as well as Fire and Earth Release. In the anime, he has shown to be able to use fūinjutsu, as seen when he tried to seal Kakuzu's lightning technique into a scroll, and when he unsealed water from a scroll to use as a medium to electrocute Kakuzu. He is also able to use the Flying Swallow, and can create clones of himself, either by flowing chakra into his shadow and shape them, or by using the Shadow Clone Technique.
Nara Clan Techniques
As a member of the Nara clan, Shikamaru's specialty is in manipulating his own shadow. His signature move is the Shadow Imitation Technique, which in the anime he learned before even entering the Academy. By connecting his shadow to a target's, Shikamaru can use the Shadow Imitation Technique to restrain their movements and force them to mimic his own. When used against opponents, they may be able to resist his control, requiring that Shikamaru exert additional effort to keep them bound; when used for whatever reason on allies or others who have been incapacitated, no resistance occurs and the process is accordingly much easier. Throughout Parts I and II, Shikamaru must perform the appropriate hand seals in order to use his shadow, but in later years, he is able to manipulate it without them.
After he becomes a chūnin, Shikamaru is taught the Shadow–Neck Binding Technique, which allows him to use his shadow to strangle those who have been bound with the Shadow Imitation. Like the Shadow Imitation itself, the Shadow–Neck Binding can only be used on flat surfaces, for which reason opponents can resist it if they're strong enough. In Part II, Shikamaru is able to use his shadow independently off surfaces, using his shadows to pierce targets and pick up giant things. He could even channel his chakra into his late mentor's chakra blades to pierce a target's shadow and bind them from a distance.
After Shikamaru was assigned to Team 10, Asuma noticed that Shikamaru was much sharper than his Academy scores indicated. By disguising a number of intelligence tests as games and puzzles – the only way Asuma could get Shikamaru to be interested – Asuma discovered that Shikamaru has an IQ of over 200; his poor grades were because he was too lazy to take any of the written exams. It is chiefly because of his intelligence that Shikamaru receives as many responsibilities as he does, with the Fifth Hokage routinely pushing Shikamaru to use his intellect for his allies' and village's benefit. Indeed, the Hokage's faith in him is well-founded, as Shikamaru remains acutely aware of his own and others' limitations, allowing him to avoid surprise and unnecessary risk. By the time of Boruto: Naruto the Movie, he is regarded as the smartest person in Konoha.
Whether he is about to go into combat, issuing orders to those who are in combat, or is personally involved in combat himself, Shikamaru's general approach is the same: he remains aware of all actions that allies and opponents make, even things that seem insignificant at the time or that he doesn't yet understand; he keeps track of where everything is located in relation to everything else, even features that lack obvious practical use; he studies the behaviour of all combatants, gradually learning how they react in any given situation. By then focusing on this vast amount of information – which he usually does by closing his eyes and cupping his fingers – Shikamaru can quickly think ten moves ahead of his opponent(s) and devise over a hundred strategies, from which he instantly picks the most effective. Such strategies are often highly elaborate and use multiple layers of misdirection, where he takes small victories just to eliminate extraneous factors, pretends defeat in order to re-position opponents, and engineers conditions that will lead opponents to defeating themselves. Tobi regrets that Shikamaru's ability to see through deception and correctly put together seemingly unrelated pieces of information is "wasted" in service to the Allied Shinobi Forces.
After Shikamaru and Temari marry, they have a son, Shikadai, who Shikamaru trains to be part of a new generation of Ino–Shika–Chō alongside Ino's and Chōji's children. Most of his time is spent in his advisory capacity to Naruto, the Seventh Hokage; when Naruto doesn't show up to his own inauguration, Shikamaru has Konohamaru Sarutobi disguise himself as Naruto. In the following years, Shikamaru helps Naruto navigate the Hokage's heavy workload and accompanies him to Five Kage Summits when they are held.
Sarada Uchiha Arc
Versus Momoshiki Arc
Creation and Conception
Masashi Kishimoto has noted that he likes Shikamaru due to his easygoing nature despite being a genius, and contrasted him against Sasuke Uchiha's intelligent but abrasive personality. Kishimoto also comically remarked that he would marry Shikamaru if he were a girl, noting that Shikamaru would likely be successful in life. When designing Shikamaru's Part II appearance, Kishimoto wanted to give Shikamaru a unique appearance despite drawing him with a vest that several other ninja wear in the series. As a result, he drew his forehead protector on his arm in order to not obscure his hair.