The mystery of Kakashi’s full face is a running joke in the Naruto anime, and several hundred episodes later, the mask was finally removed.
What does Kakashi look like under his famous mask, and how was the secret ultimately revealed in the Naruto anime series? Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto story follows the titular young ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, as he aspires to become the next Hokage, but Naruto never could’ve managed such a feat alone. Alongside fellow Team 7 members, Sasuke and Sakura, Naruto trains under the watchful eye of the “Copy Ninja” and future Sixth Hokage, Kakashi Hatake, who remains a central character right until the end of the series. Even though his reign as Hokage isn’t covered in detail, Kakashi has a vital role in the battle against Kaguya Otsutsuki and features heavily in the inordinate amount of filler jammed onto the end of Naruto: Shippuden. Even in the Boruto: Naruto Next Generations sequel series, Kakashi is afforded a little screen time.
Aside from his unrivaled combat skills and strong leadership, Naruto’s Kakashi Hatake is known for a few hilarious running gags. There’s his love of erotic fiction, his constant lateness, and his unique rivalry with Might Guy. There’s also the mystery of the appearance of Kakashi without his mask. Early on in the original Naruto series, the members of Team 7 note how they never see their sensei without his trademark mask, and they spend an entire episode trying to catch Kakashi out to see what lies beneath. Despite going to increasingly desperate measures to spy on Kakashi eating or taking a shower, Team 7 never succeeded in revealing whether he was covering up embarrassingly large lips or buck-teeth.
Well over 500 episodes later, Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura make a second attempt to answer their burning question: what does Kakashi look like under his mask? This time, the trio recruits members of other teams to assist, bringing in the likes of Hinata and Shikamaru, as well as a photographer named Sukea, who overheard their plan and offered to help capture the moment of Kakashi’s reveal on film. After numerous failed attempts to snap their sensei unmasking, Sukea leaves the youngsters for the day and returns to his apartment. Once safely alone, the “photographer” gradually peels back his disguise to reveal he was Kakashi all along, taking advantage of his students’ curiosity to stage an elaborate team-building exercise. As Sukea disappears and Kakashi emerges, viewers finally get a glimpse of Kakashi without his mask for the very first time.
Why Kakashi Without His Mask Was Disappointing
In terms of what Naruto‘s main cast of ninjas had been imagining, the reveal was a bit of an anti-climax, as the only feature of interest Kakashi’s mask covered was a tiny mole on his chin. It’s not explicitly revealed whether the mole is why Kakashi refuses to show his full face or if the birthmark is entirely unrelated. From the audience’s point of view, however, revealing Kakashi’s face for the first time was arguably a good use of filler episodes. The conclusion to the Naruto anime was marred by an endless stream of inconsequential non-canon material, and although the Sukea story was another light-hearted, fun adventure, the reveal of Kakashi’s face at least added some intrigue for long-time viewers of the Naruto anime.
With that said, sometimes there’s no right way to end a long-running TV gag in a way that’ll be satisfying. For example, some might say that the episode deserved a bigger spotlight and that the unmasking of Kakashi should’ve been integrated into a more important storyline. However, others might strongly believe that the reveal shouldn’t have happened at all, maintaining that the mystery of what Kakashi really looked like should’ve been one that Naruto carried to the grave, keeping both Team 7 and the audience tantalizingly in the dark.
Why Naruto Waited So Long To Show Kakashi’s Face Without His Mask
The question “what does Kakashi look like under his mask” was arguably more interesting throughout Naruto than the answer itself. In all likelihood, the reason this reveal was saved until near Naruto‘s ending was that it didn’t have any bearing on the series’ plot and was instead a fun ongoing gag for audiences. If Kakashi without his mask had been revealed earlier on, the mystery would have been spent without adding any new intrigue to the story (since, unfortunately, there’s nothing unusual or shocking about Kakashi’s true face). By waiting almost 500 episodes, Naruto got as much mileage as possible out of the mystery, which is also probably why it was destined to feel like a let-down no matter what happened.
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