Pre-emptive Author's Rambling:
As I said in the summary, this is not really a work of fiction but a piece of non-fiction. Well, as much non-fiction as You can get in Naruto... This serves to merely vent my thoughts on some concepts from Naruto that I find particularly interesting and would like to share them with this community but think they are too long to be posted in my profile, which people are less likely to visit than this "story" anyway. Although I do plan to post about two more "chapters", beyond that I will update only if I decide that I have thought extensively enough about a concept to justify the posting.
Thoughts and Speculations One: Hand Seals
There are a few things I love about Naruto and the most obvious one for me is the concept of hand seals. You know them, those strange shapes You form with the fingers of both of Your hands that You have probably tried on Your own at least once in Your life if You are a Naruto fan. Do not feel ashamed by it, I tried to form a few as well! I have not yet tried to form a decent sequence to pretend I am casting a jutsu, though, because it is tough and requires practice I do not have time or longing for. The only jutsu I would be able to cast without being afraid of messing the seals would be Kage Bunshin no Jutsu. It cannot get any simpler than one seal that does not even intertwine the fingers. Now that I think about it, there is a possibility that there are probably videos of people "performing jutsus", maybe even the super difficult ones like Suiryūdan, masterfully on YouTube. I may check that later…
Well, back onto the subject. Hand seals, hand seals, yes. There are twelve basic hand seals: Ne – Rat, Ushi – Ox, Tora – Tiger, U – Hare, Tatsu – Dragon, Mi – Snake, Uma – Horse, Hitsuji – Ram, Saru – Monkey, Tori – Bird, Inu – Dog, I – Boar. I took this information from www dot Leafninja dot com – You might want to visit the site once in a while, if You feel unsure about some Naruto details. There are also slight variations of these zodiac seals, special seals, like the one for Kage Bunshin I mentioned or for Yamanaka clan techniques, and one-handed seals, as seen performed by Haku.
What are hand seals for? They basically help a shinobi to focus and mould chakra in a certain way that will allow for the desired jutsu to be performed. Note that the senseis never explain to their pupils how they should mould chakra to perform even the simplest of jutsus, like the Henge or the Bunshin; they only tell them what they should strive to form and show them the seals for it and occasionally tell them how much chakra they require. After that, practice makes perfect. Without the seals, any jutsu would be much more taxing on the focus factor and a ninja cannot afford that during battle. Speed is the key. If two identical foes face each other and one of them is better skilled in forming seals, that ninja will perform the jutsu first and win the battle. Well, that can be said about any aspect of being a ninja. Pit two clones against each other and give one a slight edge… Yeah…
Now, do You think the number of hand seals is high enough or too low? I think it is more than high enough, even if there were exclusively the twelve basic zodiac-inspired seals. I think it is more than anyone could handle. Let me explain myself. As I have never witnessed a jutsu being performed with two same seals following each other in a sequence, neither in canon nor in fillers, I presume that a different seal should always follow the one before it. I assume that once chakra is moulded into a certain shape determined by the seal, using that seal again would only prolong the presence of this shape, which would be no different from holding that one seal for a longer time. Let's say I want to perform a two-seal jutsu. How many alternatives do I have for the first seal? The answer is twelve, I can begin with whatever seal I please. How many alternatives do I have for the second seal? If my assumption that there cannot be two same seals in sequence is true, I have eleven possibilities, which is all but the one I have just used. If Your maths class has covered combinatorics, You already know that this gives You the total number of all possible two-seal combinations equal to 132 (12x11 equals 132). Holy hell! One hundred and thirty-two possible jutsus that require only two seals?!
Let me try to form a three-seal jutsu; those are either quite frequent or I am just not quick enough to realise that they are in fact longer. I have twelve options for the first seal and eleven options for the second. How many options do I have for the third one? Eleven, because it is twelve minus the one before it again. Let's see how much that is: 12x11x11 equals 1452!! Fourteen hundred and fifty-two possible jutsus performed by the usage of a mere three-seal sequence! Holy goddamn pit of hell!! I have never tried to count ALL jutsus performed in canon, fillers, films, OVAs and games but I suspect that the number of them most likely does not even get close to five hundred. Kakashi may be famed for knowing one thousand jutsus but even this number is still almost one and a half times that and I think the "one thousand" is just bragging to inspire uneasiness in opponents anyway.
The possibilities are literally limitless! Even if there was a restriction that one seal could be repeated only after all eleven other seals have been used in that jutsu sequence, there would still be no final limit to jutsus. If You are geeky enough, You can check Neoseeker forums for the topic "JUTSU HAND SEALS COMBOS COME AND SEE!!", find the sequence for Suiryūdan and see that its first seal, Ushi – Ox, appears again in the seventh position. If I established that as a rule, then the number of seven-seal jutsus would decrease but the total number of all possible combinations would still remain infinity. I do not have enough patience to check other jutsus to find the one with the soonest repetition and establish it as a rule but I do not need to because it will not change anything either.
However, to demonstrate the full impact the seal system had on me, I should present You with another restriction that does not exist in Narutoverse – the harshest possible restriction. Let me repeat that I still consider the twelve basic seals to be the only ones for this. Next, let's pretend that none of the seals can appear twice in a jutsu, which means that the longest possible sequence would be composed of twelve seals. It would also mean that there would be only ten options for the third seal, nine options for the fourth seal and so on to the only one possibility for the final seal. The twelve-seal jutsus would likely be the top-of-the-line, super-strong, mostly forbidden ones. Now, let me show You how many twelve-seal jutsus there would be: twelve factorial or mathematically 12! and that equals 12x11x10x9x8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1. If You think this transcription is too long and looks intimidating, then brace Yourselves for the result! The total, finite, number of twelve-seal jutsus is 479,001,600! More than four hundred million!! Do not forget that this is not the final total number of jutsus in this theoretical twelve-seal-max universe. To get that number, You would have to sum up the amounts of one-seal jutsus (12) and two-seal jutsus (132) and three-seal jutsus (here it would be 12x11x10 equals 1320) and so on. I will not bore You with the transcription of the whole sum and give You the number right now: 1,302,061,344. My super-restricted universe would have more than one billion and three hundred million jutsus to discover and learn.
Phew, okay. Let us take a break to absorb all of that, shall we! … Okay, I am back! Let's continue! I have already talked about the presumed impossibility of two same seals in sequence. As Kishimoto Masashi always remembers to put some downsides to the powers wielded by his characters (even Naruto and Sasuke have their limitations, just admit that it is true), I think there should be other catches to the seal system. Every seal, no matter if it is a standard zodiac one, a special one or a one-handed one moulds the chakra inside a shinobi's body in a unique way and that is what makes every seal sequence unique as well. However, one cannot dismiss the idea that SOME ways of moulding chakra would be completely ineffective and would just expend the chakra supplied. As the number of possible combinations rises drastically with each seal added, the logical conclusion would be that the percentage of ineffective ones would also rise drastically. But even if 95% of twelve-seal jutsus in my super-restricted universe were ineffective wastes of chakra, there would still be more than 23 million functional twelve-seal jutsus. That is still more than enough. Of course, in canon Narutoverse, where there is probably only the first restriction I presumed, no matter how many percent of jutsus You declare ineffective, the total number would remain infinity. How much is 50% of infinity? The answer is infinity. How much is 1% of infinity? The answer is infinity. How much is 0,000001% of infinity? The answer cannot be anything else but infinity. It is pointless to argue.
You probably got a headache reading this but imagine Orochimaru's infinitely greater splitting headache when he does the math! Master every jutsu in the world? Dream on, maniac!
Let's move onto another aspect of seals that I find intriguing. I have already mentioned that their function is to mould the chakra in a shinobi's body to allow him or her to cast a ninjutsu or a genjutsu (or a kinjutsu or a fūinjutsu, if You want to be precise and exhaustive). However, it is a known fact that skilled shinobis can achieve perfection through repetition and are able to reduce the number of seals they need for a jutsu or even do without them altogether. I did not check back to confirm it but Narutopedia (naruto dot wikia dot com) states that Nidaime Hokage Senju Tobirama was able to perform the Suiryūdan with only one seal instead of 44. Also, the Byakugan is activated through a seal sequence but Neji activated it without any seals during his battle with Naruto a few times. This is a testament to their skills and how much they know and understand their jutsus. They know exactly how to mould the chakra to the point that casting the jutsu without the seals is as natural to them as to a regular shinobi to cast it with a full sequence, if not easier.
This leads me to one of my ideas for a story that lie abandoned in the dusty corners of my brain because I do not have enough willpower and supplementary material to realise them. It would be a story of an OC (read my profile to find out just how exceptional this idea sounds coming from my keyboard) who would desperately suck at performing seal sequences correctly at a quick enough pace to survive out on the battlefield. That OC would inevitably have to turn to the only possible way to not have to give up the career of a shinobi, which would be to thoroughly research every jutsu he or she wants to learn and understand how to mould the chakra on his or her own. To make it a little more plausible, that shinobi would always use the one-handed chakra focusing gesture You saw Deidara make every time he detonated one of his artistic bombs. Thus, the initial debilitating limitation could turn into an advantage for that OC shinobi because as he or she would not be using any seals, the opponents (save for Hyūgas or Uchihas) would have no way of telling which jutsu is the OC casting and would have less time to react. It would also provide the OC with considerable knowledge of the workings of jutsus and potentially make him or her a good teacher in the future. If You know of an existing story that utilises this concept, let me know, or if You think this is an idea You could work with, let me know that You would like to write a story around it and I will give You my full support.
Another thing I would like to reflect on is the possibility of abstract concepts related to hand seals. It is merely a fan-speculation because it never appeared in the franchise. I got this idea from reading the fic "Legacy of the Rasengan I: Naruto" by Tellemicus Sundance and its companion "Clash in the Land of Snow: Legacy Version!" by FictionReader98. For example, Tora – Tiger being is used for Power or Saru – Monkey is being used for Speed. The notes from Leafninja and Narutopedia also mention that Tora – Tiger frequently appears in Katon and Suiton jutsus, that Mi – Snake is frequently used in Doton and Mokuton jutsus and that Ne – Rat is characteristic of the Nara clan jutsus. To me, it seems very plausible that different seals, which are different moulds for chakra, would yield different results. It could easily be implemented into my story idea – once the OC decides to help his or her fellow shinobi with a jutsu problem, he or she would be better equipped to explain both the problem and the solution. This idea would once again limit the possibilities of combining seals to achieve palpable and useful results but, again, eventually do nothing to erase the infinity.
I think this is all I have to say on the subject of hand seals. I hope I did not bore You to death. In fact, I hope I have made You think about this in a new way and showed You that it is worthy of Your appreciation. The concept seems very simple at first glance and it indeed is but You know what they say: "There is beauty in simplicity". And not only that – some of the most genius things are surprisingly simple in their core. I daresay that the hand seal system in Naruto is one of them.
Author's Last Words:
Now that my ranting is over, You probably expect me to tell You to review. Well, I am not going to do that because, again, this is not fiction and, frankly, does not need reviewing because there is no way to develop it. It is as it is and it will stay like this, unless I decide to amend it in some way. However, if You want to react to my text or ask me some questions about something I may have omitted, You are free to do so by sending me a PM or an e-mail, which is a more direct way.
Stay on the safe side!