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I think there are 2 major points regarding why Edo Tensei wasnt overused during previous wars by other villages.
1st being that the jutsu can be broken as shown by Madara. While it is true that Madara was exception with given enough time and proper research the secrets of it could have been unlocked , but that poses problems. Fact is that to use Edo Tensei properly you have to revive someone strong enough to make it worth it , but what if those strong enough knew the secrets behind it , it would be useless to revive someone that can turn into an immortal like what Madara did and you dont have enough power to demolish him later. Reviving weaklings while sacrificing village members on the other hand just doesnt seem productive , so that is what i think the first major issue is behind why it wasnt overused.
2nd is that finding a viable sacrifices to be used as hosts to the Edo's isnt easy. Zetsu's are like stroke of luck from heaven for Oro and probably Kabuto , who probably resorted to severe modifications of the bodies as well , shown to us by his Madara tensei , thats why i think this is the 2nd and more important reason why Edo Tensei isn't as overused as people think it should majorly because it doesnt have many drawbacks , but a couple pretty heavy ones.
anyways if edo tensei was used so easily then it wouldnt be special
That would decrease the benefits of the edo's greatly and take too much of caster's focus , that could otherwise be targeted elsewhere.
Even if criminals and prisoners are used , i doubt there would be an abundance of them to make it worth it and sacrificing war prisoners isn't really a good strategy when they can be used as bargaining chips during negotiations with other countries.
I didn't say they did , i only specified that they were gift from the heavens to be used as sacrifice. Kabuto on the other hand probably modified all his sacrifices in order to use them, Madara was just special even among them.
My impression is that edo tensei had indeed been used before for wars. The second hokage came up with it and I doubt he just never tested his technique. He even said he had special techniques to use with ET and was the one who originally came up with how to fight with it. I think the situation was that the second hokage developed the technique, saw how much of an abomination it was and eventually banned its use. Sarutobi simply didn't know the technique and the kages from other villages didn't know how to use it either. Its an ideal technique and it is easy to imagine a younger second hokage going crazy with the technique. The second hokage probably took part in the first and second great ninja wars, I would think ET would be quite a good technique for either.
Makes one wonder when the jutsu was labeled as forbidden. I seriously doubt the label stopped other villages from using the jutsu, especially the Raikage and even Oonoki. The way Edo Tensei is constantly talked about, seems more like shinobi found the jutsu too disgusting and immoral to use. I also doubt they knew the jutsu, but I think there was no effort made because of what they felt towards it. Otherwise I'm sure one of the villages would have tried to get the secret considering the unstoppable power of Edo Tensei.
Were forbidden jutsu ever actually against the law? As far as we have seen there are tons of characters using kinjutsu and they still have not yet gone to prison or anything. Gai taught lee the gates techniques and neither has seen repercutions to it. Naruto uses taju kage bushin on a daily basis. I think the kinjutsu terminology is not really a legal thing, its more of a suggestion. In the particular case of edo tensei it does seem like you would need a extremely powerful shinobi just to be able to control a couple of edo tensei. Kabuto himself turned out to be obscenely powerful at large, being a sage and having done massive modifications to his body, and even then he implied he had trouble controlling the edo tensei he had (although he did have quite a few of them) and a few people commented that the one controlling them must be quite powerful.
Depends. Some forbidden jutsu like Edo Tensei may have been against the law because of how evil it was, while some like kage bunshin would have been forbidden because of the danger it posed, but not against the law. Wasn't kage bunshin or tajuu kage bunshin forbidden? But Naruto gets away it, likely because the main drawback is mostly hindered by Naruto's chakra. I could see something like Edo Tensei and the hearts stealing jutsu be outlawed because of how evil and immoral they are.
Not sure if you need an extremely powerful shinobi to control Edo Tensei, seems like the fuda would be enough (Kabuto didn't use fuda, did he?). He's probably the only one who has summoned more than three Edo Tensei, from the looks of it, without placing fuda in them. Seems there are three classifications to forbidden jutsu: risk to one's self, immorality/danger of the jutsu, and the price paid for using a jutsu. Kage bunshin, Edo Tensei, and Shiki Fuuin respectively, to name an example.
Kabuto did have fuda, he even tried to put a new one in itachi.
My point was not about laws of nature but laws of the village. If forbidden jutsu were illegal in the strict sense of the word then at least gai should already be thrown into the deepest dampest hole they can find in konoha for teaching dangerous kinjutsu to an 8 year old and at a minimum lee should be forbidden for using those jutsu under any circumstances. But then again gai is free even though lee used those techniques in front of the kage. From what we have seen no one gives a crap, people don't even frown on gai anymore for the technique. My guess about the techniques is that the ones that actually harm others are the ones that can get you into actual trouble. For example killing one of your men to use edo tensei would probably be considered murder while at the same time the use of the kinjutsu itself won't get you in trouble.
But did he put any fuda in any ninja? I remember him saying he chose not to use fuda or control ninjas as their personality could be useful.
I was answering your point with my point, using laws of village and what would make them classify a jutsu as forbidden and the price for using it. Seems Gai teaching Lee a dangerous kinjutsu was for combat reasons, and if Lee didn't use it he'd have died. Laws of nature also could play a part with laws of the village, and since Gai and Lee broke no laws of nature, they wouldn't be in trouble. Seems the Lotus and Gates were forbidden because of the effect it'd have on its users, so they wouldn't get in trouble for that. But Kakashi did reprimand Gai for teaching Lee that.
Doubt it, considering Edo Tensei doesn't need a sacrifice of one's man. Other villages or even Konoha can choose an enemy to capture and perform Edo Tensei on, which is probably what Tobirama did. I'm guessin the idea or nature behind some forbidden jutsu is what makes people frown upon them.
I think the reason they didn't rely on ET is that it's too much trouble. You'd have to find special ninja to revive in order to make sacrifices count. Another reason is that the stronger ninjas which are most likely sought after are hard to control. Like in Pokemon when you try to catch and train high level Pokemon without having obtained badges first. This was shown when orochimaru tried to restrain hashirama but couldn't. It was like O-man is level 89 with the hash cell modifier of +5 while hash was 100. Now kabuto could control Kage level ninja because he was a perfect snake sage. Being a sage alone puts him at an equal or even higher level than the Kages from other villages(which are shown to be below the hokages..except tsunade and hiruzen ).
Given the trouble they'd have to go through(grave robbing and finding Kage level ninja who could use ET), I think most villages would pass on it.
during the time of war they did not need to use their villagers as sacrifice, even one man is required. edo tensei used on enemy spies or prisoners from opposing army is on the other hand profitable. you get information about enemy ranks through torture, once you get all info you need, rather than killing you use him as sacrifice.
catch 2 mist ninja,a and b. get intel from them through torture. kill a and sacrifice b to edo tensei a. use a to kidnap another ninja or assassinate some stronger ninja, or use a as nuke with tobirama's continuos explosive tag jutsu. this will kill many ninja or at least the explosion will cause confusion. during the confusion kidnap as many ninja as possible. use them to gather intel and sacrifice them to reanimate stronger ninjas.