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Senju Hashirama (Shodaime)
Senju Tobirama (Nidaime)
Sarutobi Hiruzen (Sandaime)
Namikaze Minato (Yondaime)
As Madara stated, probably Senjuu Hashirama is the strongest shinobi of all time (with the exception of rikudou sennin). Following him, the best is probably Minato, and who knows, maybe Minato would have superpassed Hashirama if he were still alive.
But lets try this again and this time pay attention and not ignore the presented fact.
Since your arguement is specifically directed towards their final encounter(which i understood before anyway), I will only show what happen during that final encounter with manga fact.
Final encounter: http://www.mangareader.net/93-55464-...apter-502.html You see here that Minato had some knowledge of Tobi's space and time tech which is contrary to what you are implying (which is that Minato could attack with some tech) "How is it senseless? Before attempting to stab Tobi with the kunai, Minato reasoned that he needed to kill Tobi right then due to the threat he was and so he could go help Sarutobi. He wasn't planning on testing Tobi out and he hadn't figured out Tobi's phasing to avoid damage tactic yet, so he wouldn't have known it wouldn't have worked." Look I don't mean to be rude but you need to revisit the chapter and apply logic to your arguement. You are contradicting the manga because the page i just presented was the first page of their final encounter and Minato already proved to us that he had an idea of how Tobi's tech is utilised. How in the world can Minato think this "My attack slipped right through him but moments later he was solid and trying to.. suck me into some dimension or something, What was that move?" Yet according to you he should have used some high level tech knowing that it might not work (just like his previous attack didn't work). Do you think the guy is that dumb to used a tech, knowing Tobi can just go intangibility? Essentially wasting some chakra and stamina in the process? Again how is that not senseless??? o_o.
You seem to be under this concept that using a kunai is ineffective, I say destroy that notion right away because a Kunai to the head is gaveover and considering the fact that the battle of that night was a close range one, a battle Minato excel in, then using kunai is by no means ineffective. Minato used a Kunai vs the two brothers Raikage and Killerbee yet both of the two brothers never questioned his proficiency with the kunai, infact they were conscious of it. I do recall Killerbee actually knocking away his brother (who had his armor on) and from what? Minato's kunai. Tobi himself felt the power of the kunai when his hand was cut off. Itachi used his shurikens to render a very troublesome Nagato boss summons useless.
A profound statement made by Zetsu "A tool is only as powerful as the shinobi who uses it". We know Minato utilisation with the Kunai is effective and we know a kunai can kill. This can take 15mins or 1secs because the effectiveness of the kunai is entirely dependent on the user and what the user decides to do with the kunai.
So you're claiming that Minato was aware that an attack against Tobi wouldn't work because he would just phase and thus attacking at close range with a kunai, risking the possibility of failing and being caught again only to have to use chakra and stamina to escape, was more sensible then using said chakra and stamina to attack at a range and gain the same information? How exactly does that work?
A kunai attack to the head could be deadly, if it had been to the head, not to the chest as Minato attempted. And factoring in his previous experience, wouldn't that suggest close range kunai combat wouldn't be effective anyway? Unless you assume he did it to test Tobi's phasing ability, and then the question would be why wouldn't a range attack have worked just as well? He was still using chakra and stamina in either case. On the otherhand, if you do presume that Minato didn't fully understand Tobi's ability and that he believed that his kunai would kill Tobi, then why attempt a kunai stab when a technique would have been a more sure thing? Either way you look at it, attacking at a range would not have been senseless.
Also, Tobi didn't lose a hand due to Minato's kunai, it was due to his Rasengan. Regardless, a kunai is still a kunai. Itachi used multiple kunai to take out Nagato's sight, and even though he was shown excellent at using them, never relied solely on them as an offense. If proficiency with a kunai meant much, then Tenten wouldn't be considered so lackluster even with her ability to always hit a target.
Tobi caught Minato off guard and almost trapped him in his space&time tech but he failed, essentially revealing some secrets to Minato, secrets like TOBI CAN USE INTANGIBILITY TO AVOID DAMAGE so yes I'm claiming and proving that Minato had an idea on how Tobi's space&time tech is utilised based on his previous encounter with him http://www.mangareader.net/93-55464-...apter-502.html thus if that same ability is used again, Minato would be aware and react much quicker than the pervious encounter. Though Minato still had to be sure as to how his tech work 100% in order to prevent any form of errors when he finally decides to counterstrike.
Because Minato had to accurately confirm how Tobi's tech work, it only made the most sense that he stick to close range combat (u know, where he could actually clearly see with both his eyes). Also Minato is proven to excel greatly in short distance combat.
So we have:
.Evidence of Minato excelling in short distance combat
.Regarding his fight with Tobi, Minato had to make sure he fully understand the mechanics of Tobi's tech and he did that in the best possible way which prevented any form of visual obstruction
.He had to think about the villages safety as the Hokage/President/Leader
.Minato had to "risk the possibilities of getting caught" when Tobi dashed at him while he was just getting up from the ground
Again Minato was at on the flood and Tobi dashed at him so that's why the kunai was chest related. A long range could cause destructions thus short range was best.
He attempt to stab him because Tobi ran at him while he was at the ground and he confirmed everything from there.
I made a mistake about the hand cut off from kunai sorry
---------- Post added at 10:47 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:29 AM ----------
Itachi never solely relied of kunai like Minato because he had other great techs and also because Minato makes use of Kunai best in the whole Manga. Kunai with Space&time combo which u saw with ur eyes vs Tobi
Proficiency means much with the individual using the kunai i.e Minato can combo with space and time, Itachi and Sasuke can summon it extremely fast, others can enhance it with elements and etc.
Just think back to what Zetsu said.
Also Kishi had labeled Minato as a character who doesn't do things without a purpose.
That's questionable considering he didn't even bother to inform Sarutobi of the mastermind behind the attack or inform anyone of the reason he placed the Kyuubi in Naruto.
Not that I'm saying Minato has a ranged attack since for all we know, he doesn't. Just trying to justify his plan of attack.
I don't know. I mean sure, statistically the attack could cost more then it would to use Hiraishin, but that the same time, we don't really know the cost of Hirashin so it could be the same or lower. Hiraishin, being a personal summon, should go by the same rules as summoning another creature. That's the way it seem to be when Minato had to take the Kyuubi along too. And during the war, Minato may not have had to teleport 50+ times. He showed against Ee that spreading kunai around was more of a safe measure to ensure he had a place to dodge when needed. Given that I doubt the majority of Iwa ninjas could even react to his natural speed, odds would be that he wouldn't have had to constantly teleport around the battlefield. Then again, all this is pretty deep speculation.
We don't know if Minato had enough chakra pool, but would it really take a lot of chakra for him to summon himself? I was under the assumption that the amount of chakra required for summoning was proportionate to the chakra of who they wanted to summon. In that case, it shouldn't really take Minato as much chakra,, if at all. Might be why it took a lot out of him to Hiraishin Kyuubi, but apaprently not much to send the bijuu bomb away. Though, that could be because he had big enough chakra pool.