The Shadow Imitation Technique is the signature technique of the Nara clan.
The user manipulates their shadow across a surface to merge it with a target or targets' shadow. The user can stretch their shadow however they wish in order to accomplish this goal, but they are limited by their shadow's surface area; if a target can move far enough away from the Shadow Imitation's user, they are theoretically safe from it. But there are ways around this: the user's shadow can freely move within other shadows, extending its range; Shikamaru Nara frequently uses flash bombs, either to briefly extend his own shadow or to extend his targets'. Shikamaru Hiden clarifies that a user must have a shadow to manipulate, and so the Shadow Imitation cannot be used in utter darkness.
Once a user merges their shadow with a target's, the target cannot move on their own other than to talk. The only movements they are able to make are those that the user makes: if the user walks forward, the target walks forward; if the user raises their right hand, the target raises their right hand. Nara tend to wear their shuriken holsters in atypical locations so that, when they reach for and throw shuriken, their targets will reach for and throw nothing. Although most often used against opponents, the Shadow Imitation Technique can be used to save allies, freezing them in physically impossible positions so that they won't trigger booby traps or causing them to cling to sheer surfaces with no means of support. At times, the Shadow Imitation's mimicry is two-way, as if a third-party forces the target to make a move, the user will be forced to make the same move.
Keeping a target restrained requires a great deal of chakra, making it difficult to maintain the Shadow Imitation for long periods of time; in Part II, Shikamaru can only maintain it for five minute intervals. With repeated use or against multiple targets, the duration of the binding becomes shorter. If a target is strong enough or if the user is weakened enough, targets can resist and even overpower the Shadow Imitation's control. When that happens, Nara will inevitably use one of their other techniques, such as the Shadow–Neck Binding Technique or Shadow Sewing Technique.
The Shadow Imitation Technique was previously known as the "Leaf Secret: Shadow Bind Technique" (木ノ葉秘伝・影縛りの術, Konoha Hiden: Kageshibari no Jutsu, literally meaning: Tree Leaf Secret: Shadow Bind Technique), which was only capable of restricting targets' movements. The imitation aspect was apparently not added until after Orochimaru defected from Konohagakure, as his Otogakure invaders did not know about it prior to the Konoha Crush. Shikaku Nara still uses the old name sometimes. Young Nara are initially only taught the Shadow Bind, with the Shadow Imitation not being learned until later; in the anime, being able to use the Shadow Imitation is considered a rite of passage within the Nara clan.
- The Shadow Imitation Technique was originally created as a way to capture deer for their antlers.
- A distinct sound can often be heard as indication of the technique successfully binding the user's shadow to the target's own.
- On occasion, Shikamaru will say the name of the technique followed by "complete", to signify that he was successful in capturing his opponent.
- In the novelisation of Boruto: Naruto the Movie, it is the Shadow Bind Technique - not the Shadow Imitation - that is usable through the Shinobi Gauntlet.
- In the anime, Akita Inuzuka could perform this technique through the Shinobi Gauntlet.
- In the English dub of the anime, Sakon states that he mastered this technique.
- In the anime, Inojin Yamanaka tricked Metal Lee into believing that his ink snakes were this technique.
- In the Naruto: Clash of Ninja series, Kakashi can perform this technique by copying it with his Sharingan.
- In Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2, using this technique on multiple opponents at once gives it the name "Eight Way Shadow Imitation Technique".
- Rin no Sho, page 171
- Naruto chapter 107, page 12
- Naruto chapter 207, pages 17-18
- Naruto chapter 108, pages 16-19
- Naruto chapter 119, pages 2-4
- Naruto chapter 185, page 16
- Boruto: Naruto the Movie
- Naruto chapter 96, page 16
- Naruto chapter 336, page 7
- Naruto chapter 337, page 13
- Naruto chapter 208, pages 13-14
- Naruto chapter 325, pages 9-10
- Naruto chapter 137, page 10
- Naruto chapter 119, page 1
- Boruto episode 97
- Boruto episode 183
- Naruto episode 112
- Boruto episode 3