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Nature transformation (性質変化, Seishitsu Henka) is an advanced form of chakra control. It entails the moulding and defining of one's chakra into an innate type of chakra nature, altering its properties and characteristics. Nature transformation is one of two necessary techniques for creating a technique, its counterpart being Shape Transformation. Few shinobi can use both shape manipulation and nature manipulation.
There are five basic types into which the nature of chakra can be transformed, called the Five Elements Nature Transformations (五大性質変化, Godai Seishitsu Henka). These five types are also called elements and are not only the origin of the names of the Five Great Shinobi Countries, but also the foundation of all elemental ninjutsu.
These elements allow for elemental ninjutsu to be performed:
- Fire (火, Hi) natured chakra allows for Fire Release (火遁, Katon), which is strong against Wind but weak against Water.
- Wind (風, Kaze) natured chakra allows for Wind Release (風遁, Fūton), which is strong against Lightning but weak against Fire.
- Lightning (雷, Kaminari) natured chakra allows for Lightning Release (雷遁, Raiton), which is strong against Earth but weak against Wind.
- Earth (土, Tsuchi) natured chakra allows for Earth Release (土遁, Doton), which is strong against Water but weak against Lightning.
- Water (水, Mizu) natured chakra allows for Water Release (水遁, Suiton), which is strong against Fire but weak against Earth.
Basically, this means that if an elemental technique is put against another elemental technique of the same level, but of a stronger nature, then the technique with the superior nature will prevail. However, a technique with a weaker nature can overpower a technique with a stronger nature if the former is of a higher level, for example a technique that employs only Water Release cannot extinguish a wind-enhanced fire technique, as seen when Kakashi attempted to douse Kakuzu's combined Fire and Wind Release technique with the Water Release: Water Encampment Wall to no avail, it was however countered with a combination of water and wind: Typhoon Water Vortex Technique.
For relationships between chakra natures, there is a principle known as counterbalancing (相殺, Sōsai). This principle states that two techniques of the same nature would cancel each other out if the same amount of chakra was put into them. For example, in Kakashi's fight with Kakuzu, he was able to cancel Kakuzu's Lightning Release: False Darkness by deflecting it with his own technique, the Lightning Cutter.
However, if one of the techniques had more chakra put into it, it would overcome the other technique. Not only that, but the stronger technique would absorb the weaker one, and the user of the weaker technique would receive more damage than the original amount, as he will have added to the technique. For example, in Sasuke's fight with Itachi, they both use the Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique against each other, and Sasuke's technique begins to overwhelm Itachi's as he activates his Cursed Seal of Heaven. Itachi would have been hit by both his own technique as well as Sasuke's. Itachi responds to this by using Amaterasu, the highest level Fire Release technique, which absorbs all the fire previously created by the two techniques, growing into a large mass of black flames.
In general, every person has chakra that has an affinity towards one of these types, a characteristic that seems to be genetic, since whole clans sometimes share the same affinity. Most members of the Uchiha clan, for example, had an affinity towards the Fire nature.
To find out what affinity someone has, pieces of paper made from a special type of tree (that are grown and fed with chakra) are used that react to even the slightest hint of chakra in any of a number of ways, depending on the nature latent in the chakra.
The chakra paper reactions are as follows:
- Fire: the paper will ignite and turn to ash.
- Wind: the paper will split in two.
- Lightning: the paper will wrinkle.
- Earth: the paper will turn to dirt and crumble away.
- Water: the paper will become wet/damp.
This affinity makes it easier to learn how to create and control the nature in question, although even with an affinity this process will usually take any number of years. Shinobi are not limited to the nature they have an affinity to, though. By the time they reach the rank of jōnin, most shinobi have mastered two natures.
Because of the difficulty of mastering a nature and the time required to learn it, it is almost impossible for any one person to master all five natures through natural methods. However, those who possess the Rinnegan can use all five elements, while Kakuzu got them by stealing other people's hearts.
Besides the five basic nature types, there are several more advanced types. By initiating more than one basic chakra nature transformation simultaneously, one can create a completely new nature of chakra with unique properties, and is referred to as an "elementally-recomposed nature type". Doing this requires a special ability and such abilities are rarely seen outside a kekkei genkai or kekkei tōta. In the anime, it is stated that those with the ability to utilise advanced natures possess an affinity for the chakra natures they must simultaneously activate.
So far, fourteen advanced natures have been shown:
- The Ice (氷, Kōri) nature, used by Haku and the Yuki clan, is created by simultaneously combining the Water and Wind natures. This nature allows for the use of Ice Release (氷遁, Hyōton) ninjutsu. Used through a kekkei genkai.
- The Wood (木, Ki) nature, used by Hashirama Senju, Yamato, Danzō Shimura], Madara Uchiha, Zetsu, and Obito Uchiha, is created by simultaneously combining the Earth and Water natures. This nature allows for the use of Wood Release (木遁, Mokuton) ninjutsu. Used through a kekkei genkai.
- The Lava (溶岩, Yōgan) nature, used in the canon by Son Gokū and it's jinchūriki, Rōshi, as well as Mei Terumī, Kurotsuchi and Dodai, is created by simultaneously combining the Fire and Earth natures. This nature allows for the use of Lava Release (熔遁; 溶遁, Yōton). The Four-Tails and Rōshi used it through a Tailed Beast Skill, while Mei, Kurotsuchi and Dodai used it through a kekkei genkai.
- The Crystal (結晶, Kesshō) nature, used by Guren, is possibly created by simultaneously combining the Earth nature and another unspecified nature. This nature allows for the use of Crystal Release (晶遁, Shōton) ninjutsu.
- The Blaze (炎, Honō) nature, used in the canon by Sasuke Uchiha, originates from the flames of Amaterasu and allows the use of Blaze Release (炎遁, Enton) ninjutsu. It is unknown what this nature entails.
- The Storm (嵐, Arashi) nature, used by Darui, is created by simultaneously combining the Lightning and Water natures. This nature allows for the use of Storm Release (嵐遁, Ranton) ninjutsu. Used through a kekkei Genkai.
- The Boil (沸騰, Futtō) nature, used in the canon by Mei Terumī, is created by simultaneously combining the Water and Fire natures. This nature allows for the use of Boil Release (沸遁, Futton) ninjutsu. Used through a kekkei genkai.
- The Dust (塵, Chiri) nature, used in the canon by Ōnoki and Mū, is created by simultaneously combining the Fire, Earth and Wind natures. This nature allows for the use of Dust Release (塵遁, Jinton) ninjutsu. Used through a kekkei tōta.
- The Dark (冥暗, Meian) nature, stolen by Hiruko, allows the use of Dark Release (冥遁, Meiton) ninjutsu. It is unknown what this nature entails. Used through a kekkei genkai.
- The Steel (鋼, Hagane) nature, stolen by Hiruko, allows the use of Steel Release (鋼遁, Kōton) ninjutsu. It is unknown what this nature entails. Used through a kekkei genkai.
- The Swift (迅速, Jinsoku) nature, stolen by Hiruko, allows the use of Swift Release (迅遁, Jinton) ninjutsu. It is unknown what this nature entails. Used through a kekkei genkai.
- The Explosion (爆発, Bakuhatsu) nature, used in the canon by Gari and Deidara, allows for the use of Explosion Release (爆遁, Bakuton) ninjutsu. It is unknown what this nature entails. Used through a kekkei genkai.
- The Scorching Heat (灼熱, Shakunetsu) nature, used in the canon by Pakura, allows for the use of Scorch Release (灼遁, Shakuton) ninjutsu. It is unknown what this nature entails. It is presumably used through a kekkei genkai.
- The Magnetism (磁力, Jiryoku) nature, used in the canon by Toroi, the Third Kazekage|Third, and Fourth Kazekage, allows for the use of Magnet Release (磁遁, Jiton) ninjutsu. It is unknown what this nature entails. Used through a kekkei genkai.
Combining with Shape Transformation
While nature transformation changes the actual nature of the chakra, Shape Transformation allows a ninja to change the actual shape and actions of the chakra, altering its abilities. Because of this, a technique like the Rasengan can be turned into the Wind Release: Rasengan or the Wind Release: Rasenshuriken, because of Wind Release being joined with the movement of chakra. The cutting nature of wind-natured chakra is used in conjunction with the form of millions of minuscule blades in a spiralling formation, resulting in a much more powerful technique, as seen when used against Kakuzu.
Yin and Yang
Aside from the five basic types of nature transformation, there is also a sixth type: the Yin (陰, In), the basis of imagination and spiritual energy, used to perform Yin Release (陰遁, Inton); and the Yang (陽, Yō), the basis of vitality and physical energy, used to perform Yang Release (陽遁, Yōton). Together, they are used to perform Yin–Yang Release (陰陽遁, Onmyōton). Yamato implied that the Yin and Yang are the source of non-elemental techniques such as the Shadow Imitation Technique, Multi-Size Technique, medical ninjutsu, genjutsu, etc.
The transformation of the Yin and Yang seemingly has to do with altering the amounts of and balance between spiritual and physical energy in chakra. As explained by Shikamaru Nara, Tayuya's "spirit worms" were forms of spiritual energy that have small amounts of physical energy, thus they require stability and feed upon the physical energy they lack. Shikamaru also mentioned that Tayuya was the same type of ninja as he is, being able to use such kinds of "special chakra" in battle, supporting the belief that the Nara clan's shadow-based techniques are also Yin and Yang-based.
- The concept of nature transformation parallels the real-life art, Onmyōdō (陰陽道; Literally meaning "The Way of Yin and Yang"), which is a mixture of natural sciences and occultism. It largely features Wu Xing and Yin and Yang.
- Some natures, such as Explosion and Magnetism, were not revealed to be advanced natures until many chapters later after their débuts.
- Shukaku and Gaara's sand manipulation abilities are often speculated as chakra natures. Due to Shukaku's power over wind and Gaara being able to use Shukaku's sand to grind nearby earth into more sand, it is often believed that it is a combination of Wind and Earth natures. However, no "Sand Release" has ever been mentioned, and it is only known that Shukaku possessed an ability to infuse sand with its chakra to manipulate it.
- The Yata Mirror was said to be imbued with all nature transformations to change its own characteristics to deflect any attack.