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Senju Hashirama (Shodaime)
Senju Tobirama (Nidaime)
Sarutobi Hiruzen (Sandaime)
Namikaze Minato (Yondaime)
Tobi has apparently knowledge about Hashirama and Minato, having have fought Minato and having Madara's knowledge (at least the end of it) of the fight.
Though in terms of being an actual ninja, Minato's still superior because he can actually kill quickly. Hashirama has raw power and could beat Minato, but Minato has more chances of landing surprise attacks and being stealthy. Plus, Minato's a coldblooded killer when he has to be, he's killed his enemies while Hashirama didn't even manage to kill Kakuzu for some reason. Maybe it was pity, maybe he couldn't care less, but he didn't complete the job.
Too bad we don't know more about Hiruzen. I'm sure the hype he got in manga is well deserved, we just haven't had a chance to see it yet.
Also you actualy belive Hashirama is not as "cold" when he needs to be? The simple fact that Kakuzu was alive means nothing. I can give you a long list of posible scenarios on how that dude was left alive. Minato himself was unable to "complete the job" and kill Tobi now was he.
PS. Do you remember Minato not killing Bee? Yeah he is a softy to.
this is a very tough question, the two obvious answers are the 1st and the 4th
if you would have asked me about 100 chapters ago i would have said the 4th pretty easily, just based on all of the mythology type discussion of him by the kakashi and jarayai as well as others,
but when this whole madara vs hashirama story started really unfolding, and many said the 1st was the strongest shinobi in history , it is pretty hard to argue that point as well
however the ET version of the first was defeated by an aging , out of his prime sarutobi , so honestly
it really is an impossible question to answer, but this is a GREAT THREAD
i love discussion like this
But that's the problem, we saw both Hashirama and his Brother fight before and we saw some impressive Jutsu but nothing close to the scale of now, though we also saw old man 3rd take them both on and even find a way to win against the both of them at once, he wasn't called the God of Shinobi for nothing, I believe that going by what the Manga implies, we can assume the 3rd was OP as all hell in his Prime and likely on the same level or greater than Hashirama and Madara, the Databooks did say he had a counter for each Mangekyo Sharingan jutsu, so I guess that's that.
The issue is, he himself regarded Minato as the best to have ever been produced in Konoha, we still haven't seen everything he could do, and it was also implied that sacrificing himself to seal the Kyuubi wasn't even necessary but he did it anyway for the future's sake.
Anyway, my point is I believe Hashirama, Hiruzen and Minato could very well be all around the same level of power, ultimately.
Kishi throwing continuity out of the window with Madara means they were all probably far stronger than we thought or saw.
Hashirama was the most powerful from what we are getting from kishi recently
I sincerely doubt Kishimoto ever intended to put in someone as overpowered as Edo Tensei Madara in the manga when he was writing the characters of the Third or the Fourth Hokage in the early parts of the manga. Hell, when Sandaime was fighting Orochimaru, both of them were probably supposed to be among the strongest characters in the manga. This was before even a mention of the Mangekyou Sharingan, let alone Susanoo, Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan, Rinnegan, Izanagi, Izanami, the Rinnegan conveniently emerging from the Sharingan, or Shodaime's Mokuton Ninjutsu that inconveniently makes everything go uber through cellular infusion.
Trying to compare the hokage becomes incredibly difficult because there are essentially two separate Naruto universes. If we consider the amount of raw power elite shinobi were expected to have as a function of time, in the beginning, it was pretty much a very steady but gradual upward curve. With the time-skip, that upward curve began to rise more steeply, but it still looked like something that could be seen to fit in with the earlier curve. But all the recent upgrades that have been tossed into the show over the last couple of years or so have resulted in a new curve that goes up so sharply, that it literally divides Naruto into two different universes; the shinobi universe and the deux ex machina pileup universe. The second, the third, the fourth, and even the fifth hokage are relics of the shinobi universe, while Hashirama and Madara are pretty much the flagbearers of the deux ex machina pileup universe. The problem is, there are interconnections between these two universes because of the Sandaime, and so if one tries to use transitivity to connect the power levels in these two distinct phases, we end up with a very convoluted sort of Condorcet Paradox.
Well, apparently madara's susanoo was like that before getting the rinnengan considering the kage's wondered just how hashirama fought it. If this is the case then we should expect sasuke to pull of a similar susanoo soon enough.
Anyways, I think the manga has shown way too much that hashirama was overwhelmingly superior to any other kage by now. I mean, he was feared as the strongest and he was chosen by a number of clans to lead them. We saw minato fight and nothing he showed suggests he has the sheer firepower to change the landscape as hashirama could. Hashirama was in fact the strongest, I don't see how else the manga could possibly make it clearer by now. Does hashirama have to turn into god and create life and be almost immortal (which he could and was).
Didn't he already have the power to create life? (trees and such)
Hashirama is easily the strongest of all the kage that has existed. Minato is the deadliest, but I don't think he could hurt Hashirama easily since Hashirama can heal. Hashirama is the true definition of overpowered, ET Madara doesn't count since he has Hashirama's power, Rin'negan, and is an ET. He can change the landscape at his whim, he can come up with a powerful offense, great defense, and attack opponents hundreds of meters away. He can even make an enemy go to sleep without them suspecting anything other than an unusual plant. Madara could have been superior to Hashirama, but thanks to his healing ability, it would mean nothing.
Hashirama is clearly the strongest 'overall' at this junction of the story. It was believed that Hiruzen was the strongest, but this was way back in part 1, where as of now the story is completely suitable to Madara and Hashirama's importance and powers to the story..