|Please note that this is the Narutopedia's article on the story arc. If you are looking for the article on the actual invasion then you should head to Invasion of Konoha.|
The Invasion of Konoha Arc was included in Part I of the series, and comprised chapters 115 to 138 of the manga and episodes 68 to 80 of the Naruto anime. The previous arc directly led into this one. This arc covered Gaara's change of heart towards people after battling Naruto, and the death of the Third Hokage at Orochimaru's hands. This arc is preceded by the Chūnin Exam Arc and is followed by the Search for Tsunade Arc.
The Third Hokage vs. Orochimaru
Three giant snakes were summoned, and broke down the walls guarding Konoha before proceeding to wreak havoc on the village. Meanwhile, approximately one-hundred and twenty Suna and Oto ninja invaded the village. Suna had joined the attack because their daimyō had mistreated their village and had showed favour towards Konoha; this attack was to show that Sunagakure didn't appreciate being treated as second-rate in their own country.
Meanwhile, Orochimaru began to fight the Third Hokage. Orochimaru revealed his secret: he had created a ninjutsu to grant him immortality. Orochimaru's spirit was able to live forever, but he must change bodies frequently. Orochimaru had also mastered Summoning: Impure World Reincarnation, which allowed him to summon the souls of the first two Hokage at the cost of sacrificing the two remaining genin of Team Dosu. It appeared that the Third managed to stop the third coffin, containing the Fourth Hokage, from being summoned. Sarutobi then used the Summoning Technique to summon Monkey King: Enma.
The summoned Hokage, although perfect in form to the original and retaining all their abilities, had lost their personalities, and were merely Orochimaru's slaves. They couldn't be killed, since their bodies simply regenerated. The Third realised that he must do something about their souls, and used Dead Demon Consuming Seal, the same technique the Fourth Hokage had used to seal the Nine-Tails. Sarutobi was able to sacrifice two Shadow Clones to seal away the souls of the two Hokage, and then attempted to do the same to Orochimaru. However, Sarutobi was low on chakra and stamina, and thus was reduced to doing the next best thing: sealing away Orochimaru's arms, so that Orochimaru would be unable to perform any more techniques. The Third died with a smile on his face.
Naruto vs. Gaara
Initially, Sasuke was sent after Gaara by Genma. Sakura, Shikamaru, and Naruto chased after Temari and Kankurō, who had been charged with protecting Gaara until he had recovered from his fight with Sasuke. It was later revealed that Shino also followed them, claiming that he wanted to have his battle with Kankurō. Shikamaru fell behind to stop nine Oto jōnin from following them, although Shikamaru was still low on chakra from his own match. However, Asuma arrived to bail him out.
In the anime, Temari, before Kankurō stopped to fight Sasuke, set traps in order to deter Sasuke before engaging him in combat herself.
Kankurō stopped to fight Sasuke, giving Gaara enough time to recover. However, Shino declared that Kankurō was his opponent, as they had been set to fight during the Chūnin Exams. Shino was able to defeat Kankurō by placing a female insect on him. The scent of this insect attracted all of Shino's other insects, which then overpowered Kankurō, but Shino was also rendered unconscious after being poisoned earlier in the fight, until his father came to his aid to remove the poison. Finally, Sasuke caught up with and fought Gaara. Gaara began to transform into his Shukaku state, overpowering and defeating Sasuke.
When Sasuke was about to be killed, Naruto and Sakura arrived. Gaara continued attempting to kill Sasuke until Sakura placed herself between them. Gaara trapped Sakura in one of his Shukaku sand claws and pinned her to a tree. He then taunted Naruto, stating that, unless he defeated him, Sakura would eventually be crushed by the sand claw trapping her to the tree.
At first, Naruto was clearly overpowered, but, later in the fight, he gained the upper hand by using clever tactics and by employing the techniques Jiraiya had taught him. Naruto used One Thousand Years of Death to injure the partial Shukaku form to prevent any movement, then used the Naruto Uzumaki Two Thousand Combo to pound Gaara, surprising everyone watching their battle. However, Gaara then transformed into the full Shukaku form, and attempted to finish Naruto off with his Sand Binding Coffin and Sand Waterfall Funeral techniques. However, Naruto was able to break out of Gaara's Sand Binding Coffin by summoning Gamabunta, and, after a little convincing from Gamakichi, Gamabunta decided to fight Shukaku.
However, Gaara then used his Feigning Sleep Technique to call out Shukaku's real powers. As Gamabunta was no longer a match, Naruto would have to force Gaara awake. Using a Combination Transformation technique, Naruto transformed Gamabunta into the form of a giant fox (the Nine-Tails itself in the anime), which was able to grab Shukaku long enough for Naruto to punch Gaara awake. Angered, Gaara attempted to trap Naruto in his Sand Binding Coffin technique again. Although Gamabunta failed in an attempt to stop Gaara's attack, Naruto escaped using the Nine-Tails' chakra. He launched himself at Gaara, but was unable to reach him with his fist, and therefore head-butted him. As blood trickled down both their foreheads, Gaara's Shukaku form crumbled away around them.
The two each only had enough chakra for one more attack. Gaara and Naruto launched themselves at each other, and Naruto knocked Gaara down with one final punch. Despite being unable to walk, Naruto crawled to Gaara to make sure he had been defeated. The two then realised they were almost identical to each other; they both had monsters in their bodies, which had led to them being ostracised by the people in their village. While Gaara wondered why Naruto was so strong, Naruto explained to Gaara, that although he knew exactly what Gaara had gone through growing up and being hated by everyone, he would not let him take away those that had saved him from the hell of being alone and unloved, even if it meant killing Gaara. As Naruto continued to crawl towards Gaara, a recovered Sasuke dropped down next to him and informed him that Sakura was now free of Gaara's sand claw, and was safe. Temari and Kankurō dropped by Gaara and prepared to face off with Sasuke until Gaara told them that he gave up and asked them not to fight any more. The two agreed, and took Gaara away from the scene. After seeing the job was done, Naruto fell asleep due to exhaustion.
In the end, what enabled Naruto to triumph was his devotion to those important to him, which turned out to be a source of much greater strength than Gaara's hatred. After the battle had ended, Gaara wondered whether he would be able to love again, and apologised to Temari and Kankurō for his earlier treatment of them, much to their surprise.
Also, as Gaara had been an opponent that Sasuke could not face equally, this reversed Naruto and Sasuke's roles in their rivalry, and induced deep feelings of inferiority in Sasuke, despite the façade of superiority that he continued to maintain. Later on, a funeral was held for the Third Hokage.
The invasion was called off, as Orochimaru was unable to use any more techniques, and the Suna and Oto shinobi retreated. The surviving Suna ninja also discovered the body of their leader, the Fourth Kazekage, and realised that Orochimaru had murdered him and disguised himself as the Kazekage, thereby manipulating both sides of the alliance he had created, which resulted in the restoration of their alliance with Konoha.