Analysis: Naruto

Why Sasuke Went Off The Deep End by Raven Wilder

Sasuke has officially been dubbed a bad guy by In-Universe legal authorities ever since the end of Part 1, when he abandoned his village in order to join Orochimaru. But something to bear in mind is that, while Sasuke did technically betray his village, Part 2 reveals that he was planning how to usurp/assassinate Orochimaru from the moment he joined his organization. Part 2 also gives us scenes where Sasuke, despite spending three years as Orochimaru's pupil, refuses to kill anyone who's not utterly deserving. Given this, I'd say that, until he met up with Tobi, Sasuke's actions were reckless and irresponsible, but weren't actually immoral.

It's only in the aftermath of Itachi's death that Sasuke truly becomes a villain. Here's how I interpret his mindset at that point:

He's spent most of his life planning to kill Itachi; he refers to this as his "reason for living". Then he finally achieves his goal and . . . he's not happy. He comes face-to-mask with the other man responsible for the Uchiha Massacre, but now all Sasuke's drive and passion is gone; he can't think of anything except to ask to be left alone. I believe that, if Sasuke had been left alone then, he would have killed himself, having found his purpose in life to be empty and unfulfilling.

Then Tobi drops The Reveal about how the Leaf Village ordered the slaughter of the Uchihas and how Itachi, forced to commit such an atrocity against his own family, still loved Sasuke, tried to protect him, and was ultimately driven into suicice-by-proxy. Suddenly Sasuke is given an explanation for why Itachi's death brings him no joy, because, even if he could only guess at the truth through little hints (Itachi's tears after the massacre, his dying words to Sasuke), on some level he knew that Itachi wasn't the person he should be angry at.

Tobi gives him a new target for his anger, an anger that's only intensified after being manipulated into killing his brother. And Sasuke, who had been left with no reason to go on living, jumps at the opportunity to have a purpose for his existence again. And this time he expands the scope of his revenge beyond the people directly responsibile for his suffering; he starts targetting everyone remotely connected to them as well. Why? Because deep down he fears that, if he kills Danzo and the other village elders, all that will happen is he'll once again feel the way he did after killing Itachi: empty, joyless, without the will to live. He swears revenge on the entire Leaf Village, and even on the entire Shinobi world, because he recognizes that this is a goal he'll likely never be able to fulfill, that he can spend the rest of his life on it and never finish. Because if he does succeed, if he kills everyone he's sworn vengeance against, he has nothing but despair waiting for him.

Until Naruto can do for Sasuke what he did for Gaara, show him that he can have a purpose in life other than violence, Sasuke's only options are a never-ending crusade of revenge or an emotional emptiness that will drive him to suicide.


Analysis of Sakura's recent actions through the lens of her being a symbol of human weakness

Contains spoilers for the Summit of the Five Kages Arc

While some readers are accusing Kishimoto of sexism in how Sakura has been portrayed recently, her portrayal is consistent with, and especially indicative of, her status as a symbol of human weakness. Sakura is intelligent, determined when it counts and considerate of her friends, but her judgment is often swayed by emotional issues, such as her feelings for Sasuke, her feelings of guilt toward how much Naruto suffers, and her feelings of responsibility toward both. This often leads her to act without thinking, or make decisions that people will not want out of the belief that it is for their own good, but her attempt to deny those feelings in trying to kill Sasuke fails, and shows that feelings, for better or worse, will always impact human judgment.

These aspects of Sakura's behavior are frequently shown early on. In the Land of Waves Arc, she finds a seemingly dead Sasuke and says that she memorized the rules of shinobi conduct, especially not showing tears in a mission, before crying over his body, showing the difference between knowing what to do and doing it. Kakashi has her in mind when suggesting that Team 7 choose individually whether to enter the exam, knowing that if she knew her approval was necessary, she would go along out of obligation to Naruto and Sasuke. She plans on withdrawing from the exam at the tenth question so that Naruto, whom she believes cannot answer it, will not lose his chance to become a Chunin, despite knowing he wants to take a chance. For similar reasons, she later threatens to tell the instructors about Sasuke's curse mark if he doesn't withdraw, not knowing that they already know.

Sakura's actions toward Sasuke are often motivated by guilt. She failed to convince him to stay, and was not allowed to participate in the mission to retrieve him (presumably partly due to not having any useful abilities and partly due to Sasuke needing to be brought back by force). She also feels guilt with regards to Naruto, who suffers as a result of repeated failures on his quest to bring Sasuke back, and hopes to ease his burden.

Sakura begins to despair when hearing of the order to kill Sasuke and of the rest of the Konoha 11 going along with it, realizing how far Sasuke has fallen, how difficult reaching him before those out to kill him do is, and that there is no future for him even if she brings him back. Feeling responsible for Naruto persisting in order to fulfill his promise, she sets out for to convince him to abandon his search. She makes a Love Confession that Naruto, despite his feelings for her, refuses to believe, remembering how deep her feelings for Sasuke were and doubting that she would give up on Sasuke so easily. The attempt fails and Sakura leaves to kill Sasuke, not telling Naruto because she does not trust him to stay out and wishes to deal with Sasuke herself.

Sakura's attempt to kill Sasuke fails as a result of her attempting to do what is essentially impossible for her in order to take the responsibility of dealing with Sasuke upon herself. While Lee, Kiba and Sai have no special attachment to Sasuke, and no qualms about killing him, she, partly assuming (most likely correctly) that the four of them combined cannot defeat him in open battle, and possibly partly because of wanting to do this herself, gases them and knocks them out. She then attempts to kill Sasuke herself, but is unable to do it- not only has she never been shown killing anyone before, but while she may have accepted killing Sasuke as the only solution, she has not abandoned her feelings for him. By contrast, Naruto spent much of the Summit of the Five Kages arc dealing with his thoughts on how to consider Sasuke and how to bring him back with him being wanted dead throughout the world, managed to find a solution (bring him back or die along with him) that did not force himself to go against his own values.

This is not to say that Sakura's feelings are inherently bad or that all her decisions based on them have been wrong or for the wrong reasons. Her desire to no longer let her teammates down leads her to take on the Sound Ninja in the Forest of Death to protect Naruto and Sasuke. Her efforts to become strong enough to bring Sasuke back lead her to study medical ninjutsu under Tsunade, enabling her to rise to Chunin at 14 and have better statistics than much of the Konoha 11. These skills prove useful in her battle against Sasori and without her, Chiyo would most likely not have won. Sakura's determination to help Naruto and Sasuke enables her to find the courage to escape from Sasori's gas by using a paper bomb. In these cases, Sakura's feelings are a source of strength that help motivate her to become strong enough to accomplish her goals.

As the end of the Land of Waves arc and Sakura's own admission while confronting Sai about his claims of emotionlessness shows, feelings can often cloud judgment, but people cannot completely deny or rid themselves of them. Sakura, being an especially shining example of that aspect of humanity, must work especially hard to deal with her feelings, and this conflict lies at the center of her character in Naruto.


The Uchiha Clan's redemption and Kishimoto's Nationalism by Dephlogisticate/Compass Rose

Note: This may come off as Insane Troll Logic , but since this was removed from the Wallbangers page, I wasn't gonna let this observation die.

Let's look at the canon arc-villains who were *not* given any form of sympathy or chance for redemption. Gato, Deidara, and Hidan. I am excluding one-shot villains like Mizuki and the Demon Brothers, and also excluding all anime-only villains.

Start with Gato, the earliest one. Known for a legitimate shipping business, he used his financial power to take control of the Land of Waves. His shipping business was a front for much more shadier activities, and he relied soley on hired muscle as opposed to his own abilities. This is much like the don of a mafia, where they'd use financial advantages to take control of regions for their own gain, be it for the purpose of drug trade or extortion. As such, Gato represents the Italians, who Japan had sided with along with Germany in World War II. Kishimoto utilized Gato to give the viewer the chance to see Zabuza redeem himself, but it also represents him wanting to distance Japan from their role in the Axis Powers.

Next comes Deidara, our blond-haired, blue eyed bomb-lover. He stole the Iwagakure kinjutsu that allowed him to utilize his exploding clay, which ranges from the force of typical black-powder bombs to the blast force akin to the Atomic Bomb, much like the ones dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. His design is based on the japanese stereotype for western people to have the blond hair-blue eyed combo. Deidara is mainly a representative of the United States, thanks to the fact that Albert Einstein, who was from Germany, assisted the USA in the development of the Atomic Bombs, much like how Deidara fled his country and used the kinjutsu to bomb the hell out of everyone who paid (before he joined the akatsuki). His sheer persistence in taking down Sasuke [who had allegedly killed Orochimaru] is reminiscent to the USA's own persistent war efforts against various groups in the Middle East.

Now we come to Hidan, our sociopathic immortal-zealot. His religion centers around killing as many people as possible who do *not* follow the same beliefs as members of Jashin do. While many religions have encouraged this behavior, this mentality has been most associated with the members of the Islamic faith, mainly due the media giving more attention to Muslims than to, for sake of comparison, Christians or Jews. Arrogant in his own beliefs and motivated to prove his worth, he is engaged in a life-long Holy war.

The common theme between these characters is that they have exaggerated personalities and actions associated with various countries *outside* of Japan, and also their rather unique designs compared to the Uchiha. Now we go to the Uchiha. While the Uchiha are one of the main clans in the story. they seem the most standard. The major jutsu we know are directly from or at least have been showcased to be used by the Uchiha draw from Japanese Mythology; Susannoo, Tsukuyomi, Amaterasu, Kotoamatsukami, Kirin, Chidori/Raikiri, Izanagi, Izanami. Now we take into account their designs. If we knew nothing about them and just saw a large group of Uchiha clan members and put them side-to-side with a pictures of Gato, Deidara, and Hidan, it's easy to draw the conclusion that the three are more or less foreigners just by design standards. As such, the Japanese viewer can easily take a background Uchiha member and imagine themselves as one, making a subtle audience surrogate. While the Occidental Otaku can idealize and romanticize Japan itself, it is a country with its fair share of flaws and potential for criticism. Same with the Uchiha: they are painted as one of the most powerful clans and have been given the winnings of the Super Power Lottery through the mangekyo sharingan, but their Curse of Hatred, their plans for the coup (among other things I may have missed) are to show their rashness and their own flaws.

Taking all of this into account, Kishimoto's redemption of the Uchiha clan as opposed to Deidara, Hidan, and Gato, can be seen as an act of nationalism. He can take jabs at mob bosses, religious sociopaths, westerners who caused them trouble in war, and he can show the flaws of his own nation; but he also worked to redeem the Uchiha, much like how he wants people to look past Japan's flaws.


The Naruto Shipping Rollercoaster by Not Here To Cause Any Trouble

An insight into the series main Romance Arcs and the associated shipping madness.

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Something about the way romance was hadled in the Naruto franchise is... off. It's true that in the Distant Finale the author finally deigned to clean up romantic loose ends and sort out the Love Dodecahedron which had had refused to budge for ages; but for effectively the entire manga, the question of how the romance in the series was going to resolve was left very much up in the air. Most infamously, the author Kishimoto Masashi (often referred to by fans as 'Kishi') zealously kept alive a dangling, driving question which drove a large portion of the fandom insane - whether Naruto was eventually going to have romantic success with his crush Sakura despite her complete, irrational infatuation with his Rival Turned Evil Sasuke; or turn around and fall for his Shrinking Violet Stalker with a Crush Hinata, to whose plight he is completely oblivious for the better part of the manga.

The author did not make life easy for the people who got emotionally invested in this question. The romantic resolution being put off until the final chapter is par for the course, but the way in which it was done raised more than a few eyebrows, and forcefully tugged at the sanity of more than a few shippers. "Moments" appeared to happen without rhyme or reason; a romantic subplot would be brought up, advanced an inch, and dropped again, only for the author to pick it up three years later right where he left off, or worse, right where it was before the last "moment" happened. To make matters worse, both Sakura and Hinata were very evidently and deliberately teased as valid options right up until the third-to-last-chapter(!), although by the end it was becoming increasingly obvious which one was going to happen.

During the few days nearing the release of the distant epilogue, chapter 700, the Naruto fandom was at the boiling point. The opposing factions of the Ship-to-Ship Combat were each utterly convinced that the Ship Teases thrown their way were the real deal, and the rest were Red Herrings, and their animosity literally dominated the discourse relating to the franchise (partly, but not exclusively, because most of the other driving questions had been answered already by that point). If that wasn't enough, official and unofficial hype started trickling in regarding a movie which would heavily deal with the romance in the series, and finally get to all the development and wrapping-up that the shippers have spent years hoping for. The fandom was flooded with rumors of spoilers, fake spoilers, spoiler debunkings, fake debunkings for spoilers, and fake debunkings for fake spoilers — pertaining to the manga, the movie, Word of God and what-have-you.

When the resolution was finally published, all hell broke loose. Some fans of the option that didn't happen, that have been strung along all those years only to be ultimately disappointed, went as far as to say "the manga ended 200 chapters ago" and start a petition for banning Naruto in the US unless the ending was changed. And then, inevitably, some even went as far as to respond like this. If you've ever been to a really long-running Shipping War before, and particularly if you're generally a fan of big damn coming-of-age stories, all of this may seem oddly familiar to you from somewhere.

If you've ever been to a really long-running Shipping War before, you also ought to know that there's really no way to sum up the "weight of the evidence" for you. The context and timing of every little tease were hugely important, and fans would go to great lengths to interpret even the most insignificant details as 'evidence'. What we can do is attempt to briefly cover the rollercoaster timeline. Take note that even 'briefly' can kind of stretch out when you're covering 15 years of plot. Take your time to appreciate the fact that fandom did not experience this in the same pace at which you now read it; rather, the below stretched on for years, and every single mid-point in it represents weeks - and sometimes years - of the fans being left to speculate on exactly the development mentioned up to that point.

So without further ado, the timeline goes roughly as follows:

Part I shortly dabbles in the Sakura option by introducing Naruto's crush on her, having a moment between her and Naruto where Naruto says to her exactly the romantic nothing she had always fantasized about hearing from Sasuke (except she doesn't know it's him; fans of the pairing spent years obsessing about that precious moment where she would finally find out). Later, Sakura blushes at seeing Naruto display his increasing strength, which signals that the "Sakura likes Sasuke and that's it" equation may not be so set in stone as previously suspected. Then the Hinata option is introduced properly in an arc where Naruto sees Hinata almost killed by her homicidal cousin, and sympathizes with her plight so much that he swears on her blood to kick his ass. He almost falters due to self-doubt, but she gives him a very nice pep talk (this is kind of a running theme) and he succeeds. Looks nice, except that at this point Hinata disappears off the face of the storyline and is not heard from again for a few hundreds of chapters (this is also kind of a running theme).

Those few hundreds of chapters do contain a final relevant moment in Part I where Naruto witnesses Sakura's reaction to Sasuke being hospitalized and waking up, and sees them metaphorically drifting away from him, signifying his feelings that Sakura's feelings for Sasuke are so intense that they're a barrier between him and the two of them. As a curious aside, the very last time we see Naruto in Part I, it is Hinata who is shown watching him leave the village to train with Jiraya, while she promises that she'll also do her best to get stronger. But that's it for Part I, and come Part II begins the golden age of the Sakura option: Hinata, as mentioned, is MIA for arcs upon arcs; Sasuke, who was previously the lightning rod for all of Sakura's romantic affections, has defected to the side of evil and become a massive douche; and the story becomes largely focused on Naruto and Sakura as main characters, and starts being coy regarding the possibility of Naruto's feelings for Sakura being reciprocated. Sakura asks Naruto whether she has become more "womanly" during his absence, their new sensei tells Sakura in regards to Naruto that "I can see that in reality, you..." and lets the readers fill in the blanks, and Naruto decides to never rely on his Super-Powered Evil Side again, because it made him hurt Sakura.

Looks nice, except at that point Hinata returns for another one-scene wonder (this is kind of a running theme). She gives a despairing Naruto a pep talk, confesses her undying love to him and performs a suicide charge at an apparently invincible villain because she absolutely can't stand aside and just let Naruto die; and for her trouble she is unceremoniously stabbed in the neck, apparently to death. At this point Naruto loses all reason and goes on his single most over-the-top berserk rampage in the series, which is supposed to result in a Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies scenario, but doesn't.

This is a turning point (in a later deleted tweet, Kishimoto's assistant mentions that 'Naruto has stopped chasing Sakura since [that arc]'). During the story phase following this episode, the manga blatantly pushes Hinata as a love interest for Naruto, and downplays Sakura's prospects in that regard. As Sakura is running to aid Naruto in his final battle, she thinks "I will be there for you - not just me, but everyone"; earlier, but more significantly, in a move which she figures will cure Naruto of his destructive obsession with Sasuke, Sakura "confesses her love" to Naruto and makes a speech which is a verbatim readout of the favorite talking points of the people who ship them together, except she doesn't mean any of it. Naruto calls her out on "lying to herself", in what suspiciously looks like an outright Take That, Audience!. Meanwhile, Naruto & Hinata get cheesy scenes involving the phrase "I can see it in your eyes" and as she runs to aid Naruto in his final battle, Hinata vows to walk beside him after the war and hold his hand. During the war, when Naruto is on the brink of despair, she gives him a nice pep talk and they actually hold hands. OK, so it's obvious where this is now going, right?

Not so Fast, Bucko! Hinata's act has always been to do a huge Wham Episode reagrding her Romance Arc and then promptly disappear, and this time is no different. After she holds hands with Naruto, she disappears back into the crowd of side characters, and stops being an influence again. Meanwhile, Naruto's resurrected dad arrives on the scene, comments basically that Sakura totally reminds him of Naruto's late mom, and proceeds to ask whether Sakura is perchance Naruto's girlfriend. Naruto, incredibly, answers "well, yes, come to think of it —", which earns him a smack upside the head. For maximum effect, this harkens back to an earlier comment made by Naruto's late mom when he met her in his mindscape - "find a girl like your mom", she said. When it was drowning in the noise of the earlier push for the Hinata option, this comment was a faint curiosity of a fan theory, but suddenly now it is spoken aloud by an actual character calling back to it, and seems mighty significant. To top it off, Hinata remembers she exists again, runs towards Naruto, falls on her face and is promptly forgotten again; and Sakura gives Naruto a mouth-to-mouth CPR, which certainly gives off vibes of nudge-nudge-wink-wink.

Then - in a final grand act of muddying the waters, and what may be seen as the author accepting and embracing the degree to which he had strung fans along - Naruto actually recalls the aforementioned conversation he had with his mother, talks about each and every point of the conversation one by one, and then when he reaches the part about finding a girl like her, he gives a little pause and goes "Well! Anyway...", elegantly neglecting to address the issue at all. But, of course, every final grand act requires an encore, which the author provides in the form of Sakura confessing her love to Sasuke again, which he blows off again. Was this the final cue that she will never stop loving him, no matter what? Was this the final straw before her finally deciding she is fed up with Sasuke and moving on? Better wait a few chapters to find out!

To make matters worse, the metatext - the mythology of where the two characters came from, what influenced their beginnings, and what the author had to say about them in interviews - was equally suggestive and confusing. Hinata was a very early character thought of at the pilot stage, before the plot was even about hidden villages and ninjas, to serve a purpose that fans could only guess at, before her role was rewritten to be one of Naruto's ninja classmates. The author, when blatantly told that fans were hoping she would get her chance with Naruto, answered "I hope so, too". Sakura, meanwhile, was known to have been introduced explicitly as a target for Naruto's romantic affections when the rest of the story had already more or less taken form; this was specifically due to advice from Kishimoto's editor, who took the same opportunity to suggest that Naruto should have a rival, thus leading to the creation and introduction of Sasuke. The story spared no opportunity to stress the strong parallelism between Naruto & Sakura and their previous-generation counterparts Jiraiya & Tsunade, who in turn drew heavy inspiration from their married namesakes from The Tale of The Gallant Jiraiya; Insistent rumors were circulating that Kishimoto drew inspiration for Sakura's design from his wife, and that the love story that led to his own marriage was very similar to Naruto's Parents' and what would be Naruto's and Sakura's: she was a "popular girl" who never gave him the time of day, but in the end, she learned to appreciate him and fell for him.

Another factor fanning the flames was the various scenes and interactions introduced by the adaptations (such as Filler in the anime adaptation). The people behind those adaptations would blatantly take sides on this whole issue, and their conflicting pushes would get the various shippers, like clockwork, to shout "oooh my feels" from one side and "lol this is not even canon" from the other. Both the anime team up until mid-part-II and CyberConnect2, responsible for the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm video games, were very clearly hardcore Hinata fans and kept introducing arcs and interactions that put Hinata in the spotlight and portrayed her relationship with Naruto positively, even (especially) during the hundreds of chapters where Hinata would up and disappear as she is wont to do; in contrast, during late part II the anime team seemed to lean more towards Sakura, and kept inserting reminders that Sakura is still the girl that Naruto loves way late into the game, during stretches of plot that in the original material failed to re-assert any such thing.

In the end, in the epilogue, Kishi finally laid all the commotion to rest. Naruto's love interest, the one he ends up marrying and having two kids with, is Hinata, and the aforementioned movie is set to properly tell the story of how they fell in love, and how the other option was laid to rest. But throughout all of this, fans went completely bonkers trying to make sense of all the subtle little pushes that way and the other. What matters more - who the hero loves from the beginning, or who loves him? Unstoppable rages or parental parallels? Trailing comments or blood oaths? Priority in the creative process or similarities to the cherished love story of the author actually doing the writing? Some fans are under the impression that the pairing that happened in the end was planned from the start, that the evidence and emotional pushes for it were all along more significant and treated as more of a big deal, that the other one was written as just a Romantic False Lead that the author had just a little too much fun toying with. Other fans would have it that the author had no such plan at any point at all, other than the plan of profusely, earnestly trolling the shippers on whichever whim caught him.

And what does Kishi himself think? Well, he testifies that writing romance has always been awkward for him, and every time he started writing something romantic he would get kind of embarrassed. He also testifies that he was "on the fence" about which girl Naruto was going to marry for a while, but he made his choice quite a long time before the ending, and the suddenly flip-flopping feelings that the alternative would have involved just seemed too absurd to him. Personally, I think he's telling the truth, and only one piece of the puzzle is left to our speculation - the one that goes "and in the end, for a little while there I kind of indulged in pulling people's legs". And once you accept that, the full picture finally emerges, and connecting the dots is not too difficult.

Epilogue: A month or so after this essay was written, Kishimoto more or less confirmed its conclusion. "Naruto ending up with Hinata was decided in the very early stages of the story," he reiterated, and then added the aforementioned final piece of the puzzle: "So Naruto & Sakura being close was a deliberate mislead, a red herring, from the start. That's why scenes like Sakura being compared to Kushina, Naruto's mom, were introduced." The Trolling Creator theory, which many fans had called - and which TV Tropes had also called - has been finally confirmed by Word of God.