Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto

Masks

by CaveDwellers 0 Reviews

It's better for the dead to remain faceless. A look into the life of an ANBU.

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG - Genres: Angst - Characters: Kakashi - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2007/03/27 - Updated: 2008/03/12 - 1210 words - Complete

Disclaimer: not mine.

.o.0.O.0.o.0.O.0.o.

((It’s better for the dead to remain faceless))

It was a harsh motto, one that was difficult to learn and even more difficult to abide by if one allowed oneself to think about it. If one chooses not to dwell on it, than that one little rule becomes surprisingly easy to keep unbroken. If one chose not to think about the fact that “yes, the person I just killed had feelings, a name, and a personality. They had acquaintances and bonds. They had a past and they would’ve had a future if I hadn’t made their heart stop beating,” then being a shinobi is a relatively easy career.

((It’s better for the dead to remain faceless))

That one painfully simple saying was the reasoning behind ANBU operatives wearing animal masks. It was a form of protection, for themselves and for others.

Being the most skilled shinobi in their villages meant that ANBU also killed more than the average ninja. Most of the time these assassinations required them to get close to and gain the trust of their victim(s). They would have to kill the person not too long they had really gotten to know them. While actually performing the assassination, they always make sure to wear their masks, so the other doesn’t see—doesn’t know—that their life was taken by their friend.

It was a technique that made both assassin and assassinated a little calmer, a little more collected. A balm to sooth the conscience, they don’t know who I am. They don’t know that it’s me. They can’t resent me—can’t hate me—because they don’t know. A bit childish, yes, but effective and, in its own twisted way, comforting.

((It’s better for the dead to remain faceless))

All ANBU have more than one type of animal mask and more than one copy of each. They switch these masks out periodically to throw homicidal pursuers off their trails. It made sense, seeing as they were wanted dead by as many people as they were wanted for protection and assassination tasks.

((It’s better for the dead to remain faceless))

A lot of the time, while wearing an ANBU mask, one feels that they can temporarily abandon who they really are and become someone else. Someone with less emotions, someone who doesn’t care about what they do because they don’t possess the ability to. Most become a totally different person the moment their facial features are obscured from view and at the same time, manage to keep a firm grip on their actual selves.

Sometimes, if one has been ANBU for too long, the condition becomes a little more serious and develops into split personality disorder. It would explains why shinobi are only allowed to be ANBU for a maximum of two-years at a time. But even so, that feeling of the ANBU mask bringing out a different, more emotionally detached person is one of the many ways their mind protects them from the stress of their jobs, and they do not even realize it. It’s but another feeble, disgusting excuse for comfort.

((It’s better for the dead to remain faceless))

A little known fact about ANBU: they make things as easy for others as they do for themselves and although it’s difficult, ANBU can and will get killed. When they do, each and every one of them makes sure to die wearing their respective animal masks. A hunter doesn’t pause to ponder about the life of its prey because it is undistinguished, just another look-alike of the species. It’s nothing special, so why should the hunter take precious time out of his life to think about it? He doesn’t, and ANBU are enough like that to stop the thoughts of their killers from straying into the what was’s and the what could have been’s before it even begins.

((It’s better for the dead to remain faceless))

It is a well-enforced, international custom that whenever a deceased ANBU still wearing his or her mask is found, the mask is never removed. They are also given a proper burial, regardless of where they seem to be from. After all, when dealing with ANBU, one can never be sure if it where they appear to be from was the real thing or merely a disguise. It is also by this custom that, was the deceased ANBU in question wanted for blood money or ranked as criminal in some societies, he or she will never be discovered and thus, never have their corpse disrespected because of their identity. It’s one of the small ways that society repays them for their efforts, even though small shows or respect and sorry’s mean nothing to a dead person.

If the dead ANBU have families, then those families will never know for sure if their missing member died working one of the dirtiest, unmerciful, feared and respected positions known in the shinobi ranks. In fact, they will never know for sure if their friend and/or family member is really dead or simply missing and in hiding. Typically, it prevents a majority of mourning on the ANBU’s behalf—which is what they want—but sometimes, it creates more pain than comfort.

((It’s better for the dead to remain faceless))

So blunt, so comforting, so confusing, so painful, so complex, and at the same time, so undeniably simple. It’s an unwritten law among ANBU, among all ninja, that most follow without even realizing it, whereas others are only all-too-aware.

Take Hatake Kakashi for example. At one point in time, he was ANBU, but he had been wearing a mask since before he was made a genin. He had realized early on that a mask protected its wearer and those who associated with him in more ways than one, so he picked up the habit of wearing one. It was a brilliant idea, but now he is so used to hiding himself from others that he finds difficult—almost impossible, actually—to bring himself to trust and love, be it openly or discreetly.

He is slowly dying from the inside out because without those two things, he is having trouble seeing the purpose in continuing to exist other than as a pawn that kills on command –what kind of an existence is that? So really, was it only worth it to remain faceless while on missions? Was it worth it to remain faceless at all? These are questions that he is still contemplating inside his head, and he has yet to come to conclusions.

((It’s better for the dead to remain faceless))

ANBU firmly believe this, and so do a great deal of other ninja. It is the way that they live their lives, and for a lot of them, it is the only way they know. It’s bitter-sweet and it borders on unfair, but it makes sense, and that’s why they use it. Life is bitter-sweet. Life is borderline unjust. It fits, and even if it didn’t, they have no suitable replacements, so it remains.
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