Jiraiya’s Sage Mode: What Is Wrong?

Here’s what’s wrong with Jiraiya’s sage mode:

Jiraiya cannot perfectly balance natural energy and his own chakra.

Because of that, his sage mode distorts his face, giving him a wart-covered engorged nose along with a few other frog-like features.

Even if Jiraiya had perfect sage mode, his life would have played out the exact same way.

So if you want to learn all about the flaws in Jiraiya’s sage mode, then this article is for you.

Let’s get right into it!

Jiraiya's Sage Mode: What Is Wrong? (Everything to Know)

Who Is Jiraiya? 

Before I get into any of the important details, let’s have a spoiler warning.

Jiraiya is a significant character in both the Naruto manga and the two anime series (Naruto and Shippuden).

In order to talk about Jiraiya and sage mode, I have to discuss major plot points.

There will be spoilers.

Granted, these are plot points that happened more than a decade ago in the original manga, but if you aren’t up to speed, you might not want to read this yet.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about Jiraiya.

There’s a lot to say.

Jiraiya is known as one of the Legendary Sanin.

He’s one of three ninjas from Konoha (the Leaf Village) that became famous in the great ninja wars of the past.

At the time he is introduced in the original series, he is already in his 60s, but he’s still one of the most powerful ninjas in the world.

Jiraiya was trained directly by the Third Hokage.

When he was a full-grown ninja, he ended up training Minato, the man who became the Fourth Hokage.

Minato trained Kakashi, and Kakashi was the ninja in charge of training Naruto when he became a full-fledged young ninja.

So, in a matter of succession, Jiraiya passed down knowledge that made it to Naruto.

But, it goes further.

When Naruto is still pretty young, Jiraiya decides to train him personally.

He teaches Naruto how to use and control some of the chakra of the nine-tailed fox.

He also teaches Naruto the rasengan technique.

At the end of the original Naruto anime, Naruto goes off to train with Jiraiya for two years.

All of this is to say that Jiraiya is a central character in the series, he’s very important to the protagonist (Naruto), and it’s important to understand his legacy as a trainer of legendary ninja, along with his own status as one of the great ninjas in the world.

What Is Sage Mode in Naruto?

JIraiya is one of the most powerful ninjas in the world, and it’s largely due to his use of sage mode.

Granted, Jiraiya is a pretty brilliant ninja with a lot of techniques up his sleeve, but sage mode is his ultimate trump card.

In the world of Naruto, ninjas are born with the ability to control chakra.

It’s a form of energy inside of their bodies, and they can manipulate chakra to do all of the different special techniques you see in the series.

Sage mode is something else entirely.

It allows the user to tap into natural energy.

When most ninjas are limited by the amount of chakra present in their bodies, sage mode provides access to virtually unlimited energy stores.

By collecting natural energy, a ninja can accomplish great feats and not run out of stamina.

On top of that, natural energy is extremely potent.

It dramatically enhances the physical attributes of the user, making them incredibly strong and fast, even by Naruto standards.

Natural energy also grants a huge boost to the potency of ninja techniques.

So, someone who can use sage mode is going to be able to overpower most ninjas in the series, and that’s exactly what Jiraiya does in many instances.

What Is a Perfect Sage in Naruto?

For all of that power, sage mode comes with a few drawbacks.

First off, in order to tap into sage mode, the user has to stay perfectly still.

While still, they can focus and tune in to the frequency of natural energy.

Once done, they can then absorb that energy into their bodies.

Done correctly, this gives a temporary boost that allows the sage to fight with sage mode until they run out of natural energy.

From there, they would have to stay still and recharge, so it’s a risky thing in combat.

Even riskier is that natural energy is difficult to wield.

Many ninjas can learn to absorb the natural energy, but most will prove unable to balance it.

If a ninja absorbs natural energy out of balance, it will deform their bodies.

Jiraiya is a master of the frog sage mode, so if his energy is out of balance, he will turn into a frog, and eventually, he will turn into a stone statue of a frog.

Once turned to stone, the process is irreversible.

There are other types of sage modes that we see in the series.

As an example, Kabuto learns snake sage mode, and since he can’t control it, he largely turns into a snake.

Regardless, unbalanced natural energy is extremely dangerous.

And, that brings us to the perfect sage.

A perfect sage is someone who can perfectly balance natural energy with their own chakra.

When they succeed in this way, a perfect sage can use sage mode to its fullest potential, and they are at no risk of turning into an animal or a stone statue.

Circling back to Jiraiya, even though he is a master of sage mode, he is not a perfect sage.

What Is Wrong With Jiraiya’s Sage Mode?

Jiraiya is very close to being a perfect sage.

When he uses natural energy, it is very slightly out of balance, and because of that, you can see signs of physical distortion.

Most prominently, Jiraiya’s nose enlarges, and he gets warts on it.

There are other minor physical changes too, and it shows that Jiraiya is competent enough to use sage mode effectively, but there is still room for improvement.

It’s never clearly stated how much this impacts his proficiency with sage mode, but we know that there are levels of use beyond what Jiraiya accomplishes.

So, he’s not quite as strong and powerful as he could be if he was a perfect sage.

I want to emphasize that internal balance is the only issue here.

Jiraiya is extremely good at putting sage mode to use.

It’s only his balance that is slightly off, and the detriments of that are quite minor.

What if Jiraiya Had Perfect Sage Mode? (2 Scenarios)

That brings us back to the original question.

What if Jiraiya had perfect sage mode?

Would that have changed the outcome of the overall story?

To answer that, we have to consider two different periods of time.

We can see how Jiraiya’s life might have been different before he started training Naruto.

We can also look at how his life might have changed after Naruto.

Most notably, Jiraiya was killed by the villain known as Pain.

Would perfect sage mode have changed his fate?

#1 Before Naruto

Jiraiya lives a legendary life long before he ever meets Naruto.

In fact, Jiraiya is known as a Legendary Sanin before Naruto is even born.

In the Third Great Ninja War, Jiraiya takes on some of the most powerful adversaries in the world.

He doesn’t always win, but he does always walk away.

Among those enemies is Hanzo.

He is the ruler of the village hidden in the rain, and he is formidable.

Jiraiya, along with the other Sanin, fights Hanzo a handful of times.

Ultimately, every fight ends in a draw.

But beyond that, Jiraiya wins countless fights and battles across the war, establishing himself as a powerhouse.

If he was a perfect sage, it’s possible that the boost would have been enough to defeat Hanzo.

That wouldn’t have changed his life too much except for one specific chain of events.

If Jiraiya defeated Hanzo, it’s likely that Pain never would have become a villain.

Pain ultimately took a dark path because of how he suffered at the hands of Hanzo.

Without that, Pain might have been a good guy.

Other than that, though, being a perfect sage wouldn’t really have changed the course of Jiraiya’s life.

#2 Fighting Pain

The other question has to do with the fight against Pain.

Regardless of the chain of events that gets us there, let’s assume that Jiraiya ended up fighting Pain under the same circumstances as happened in the manga and anime.

The difference is that this time, Jiraiya is a perfect sage.

With this setup, Jiraiya would probably still die in the fight, and there are a few reasons for that.

First, perfect sage mode isn’t a massive boost over the power Jiraiya already commanded, and he was handled rather deftly by Pain.

Jiraiya didn’t push Pain far enough to uncover all of the villain’s secrets, and without knowing all of the secrets, victory was extremely unlikely.

Furthermore, we saw Naruto fight against Pain as a perfect sage, and Naruto still lost.

On top of that, Naruto had information on how Pain fights that Jiraiya was able to send as a final message before he died.

Even more, Naruto had help among the villagers of Konoha.

Even with all of that, Naruto—the perfect sage—was handily defeated by Pain.

It was only when Naruto unleashed nearly all of the power of the nine-tailed fox that he was able to even the playing field.

And, at the end of all of that, Naruto only defeated the avatars of Pain.

As we learned in the series, Pain was really a group of ninja puppets being controlled by Nagato.

When Naruto defeated Pain, he was pretty gassed.

Still, he found Nagato who was still supported by Konan.

Naruto didn’t have enough strength left to defeat the two of them in combat.

Instead, he only succeeded because he was able to talk Nagato down, and that was actually the whole point of the arc.

Naruto was a child of prophecy, destined to end conflict across the world.

He didn’t do that through spectacular ninjitsu.

He did it by relating to his adversaries and talking them down.

Jiraiya couldn’t defeat Pain for plot reasons, and being a perfect sage wouldn’t have changed that.

The story was set up that way on purpose.

Fans were led to believe that Naruto could succeed where Jiraiya failed because he was a perfect sage.

We then found that that wasn’t the case at all.

Naruto succeeded because of his character.

So, ultimately, being a perfect sage would not have really changed Jiraiya’s life or his death.

It all would have played out the same way.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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