Wilting Flower, Shrinking Violet – First Cherry Blooms Late
This is Mollie (IbikiTeishi) cracking open a little dialogue about Kishimoto-san’s female characters. Before I get right to my focus (Haruno Sakura, if you couldn’t guess), I have to preface my remarks with some general disclaimers. Commence lecture introduction…
Disclaimer #1: Kishi freely admits that he has trouble writing female characters. In fact, in Volume 3 of the North American manga release he says the following about Sakura: Let’s face it…she’s not really that cute, is she? Especially back then! But that was mostly because I’m not that good with female characters in general…There’s a lot more to being a good female manga character than cuteness, you know…
Perhaps he loves his mommy/gramma/aunties too much, and doesn’t want to put women in harms way enough to be awesome. Part of learning to write is learning to be callous to your characters (causing pain) so they can rise above it and be awesome.
His treatment of female characters almost seems like protection–in a sense he pulls punches on them, so they never get to face and conquer the really bad stuff. It makes them look weak, but I think its Kishi’s psyche (a word that here means his mind and soul, the very essence that is Kishi-ness) that’s getting in their way.
Disclaimer #2: He has improved over the last decade, and grown his female characters, but in the end Naruto is a shonen manga and aimed at beasts of the male persuasion. Therefore, regardless of how awesome the female characters are, we should naturally assume the the hero is a guy and that the primary focus is on guy things.
Disclaimer #3: We should also assume that, although the series is character driven, relationships only appear to the extent that they alter the behavior of the character. And let’s face it, gals tend to be motivated by and dwell on relationship things a good bit of the time. That’s why most of the female fans like to contemplate who is going to kiss who and you guys (the majority of the readers on this site) like to talk about elemental jutsu and balls a lot. So the female characters, who also tend to think about relationships, look weak for that preoccupation.
Fine. Even given these facts, does Sakura SUCK? I will refute the arguments by the haters one by one. Uh, that means I’ll show you how dumbass they are. Am I a Sakura lover? No. She’s normal in a world of oddball characters, and I like to spend my time figuring out the nutcases. But people often mistake her normalcy, her humanity, for mediocrity and that’s generally unfair.
In other words, it’s easy to call his female characters weakass, stupid and sucky if you have the attention span of a gnat on crack.
Ahem. Let’s start with Haruno. It’s not one of the great clan names, is it? Yet, her parents are known to be alive.
Remember how she complains about parents interfering…to Sasuke who wishes he still had parents. Oops. So, her parents are alive and yet we never see them in 430 chapters–why?
Der. Hold the phone. I can hear Alec saying something, in my head. Here’s the cleaned up version: “They are unimportant to a shinobi manga.”
They are either so low ranked they don’t even go to funerals OR (gasp!) they aren’t shinobi.
Let’s go through the Konoha twelve (the rookie 9 plus team Gai).
Ino, Shikamaru and Chouji all descend from nin clans–we know this because their team is the mirror of their parent’s team.
Hinata and Neji are Hyuugas. Sasuke is Uchiha.
Both clans are noted for being
- hierarchical and
- really badass.
This among the many badasses that make up badass Konoha’s ultra badass shinobi-class citizens.
Kiba descends from the Inuzukas–his mom and sister are proof of that. And as you can see, he’s a momma’s boy.
His clan name comes from his mom, but what do you expect from such a tough bitch?
(Tsume, this one’s for you.)
Shino’s an Aburame pimp, as we’ve seen from his baggy clothing line and family of homies backing him up as he faced Konan a couple issues back.
That bad boy stance went a long way–it’s still stuck in my mind.
Not only that, he’s the chosen one…look how dad defers to his offspring here…
This leaves our last four: Rock Lee, Ten Ten (who alone of the twelve has no last name), Naruto and Sakura.
Naruto was raised an orphan, but is known to descend from some serious power (quick, someone say Yondaime). No, I’m NOT talking about Jiraiya right now, sit down, dumbass before I hit you with a piece of chalk.
Rock Lee looks to be Maito Gai’s bastard child from a union with a caterpillar, but that’s a theory for another day.
Again, he has no known ninja in his family tree, and the result is…no ninjutsu.
Ten Ten also has no last name, perhaps she and Lee were both orphans.
We just don’t know.
However, in this last group, notice the one person with a last name and a known, living set of parents is Sakura Haruno. What does that mean?
If her parents were ninja, I think we would have seen them. The fact that they are not shown–ever, even at funerals or during invasions–tells us they are likely normal citizens of Konoha. If so, Sakura had to become completely divorced of her family when she entered the shinobi world–they would no longer understand her nor she them. (“Where are you going today, dear?” “Oh, off on a mission to assassinate some poor bastard, be back for dinner, mom.”) That’s hard core, but it’s well hidden underneath. Perhaps that’s also true of Ten Ten and Lee, but we don’t know because their parents are never alluded to once.
So, it seems likely that Sakura’s parents are not shinobi. Why should this make any difference?
Think about it. The bloodline imparts special gifts (shadow manipulation, bugs, byakugan, sharingan, control of huge ass dogs…), if you don’t have those blood talents, what do you have to fall back on? Ah, taijutsu, chakra control and wits (does this sound like any of the 3 I’ve just mentioned?).
Then there is the teaching that takes place at home. Think back, Sasuke’s dad teaching baby Sasuke the fire jutsu that is supposed to mark manhood for an Uchiha boy. Shikamaru learning shadow neck bind from his dad. Kids in shinobi clans get all the advantages: blood talents/aptitude from their DNA and extra special coaching at home from mom or dad in their “off hours.” SO…are you starting to understand the absolute disadvantage Sakura has in this arena when compared with the bulk of the twelve?
No wonder she’s such a limp noodle at first, she’s completely out of her element. Naruto too in a way, which is why he sometimes used to be a complete retard in the field. People bash him for that too, but come on. Tactics and strategy are learned, and a lot of it would come from stories told around the dinner table. Neither Naruto nor Sakura got to have those shinobi tales of glory days every night. (Sasuke wasn’t a douche but a saint for putting up with their ignorance of stuff he likely learned before he could talk.)
Lee and Ten Ten are both on Maito Gai’s team, and had been seasoned a year before the chuunin exam arc. I’m reasonably certain Gai talked a lot in that year to get them up to speed–mainly because, well, he’s Gai and he talks about how to be…a lot.
Sakura and Naruto were miles behind Sasuke when they formed a team. Naruto was driven, though, and with a little bit of mentorship started to pull himself together. Sakura found her drive through her teammates (it’s a girl thing), so her motivation grew slowly. She cries because that is essential to her character: she can’t follow shinobi rule number 27 and FEELS for her teammates. The old shinobi world would call her flawed. The shinobi world Naruto is building will call her an example of how to live correctly.
Before time skip we have Sakura progressing very little. She starts to feel protective enough of the boys during the chuunin exam that she wakes up a little bit and actually DOES something. As she changes her outward behavior, inner Sakura doesn’t have to come around as much. Still, Sakura is the weakest link until Tsunade shows her how to be.
A lot of that training isn’t in the manga, but enough is shown in the anime to establish that Tsunade didn’t coddle her (see video clip of her training from Shippuuden ep 24 above), taught her how to face an attack without closing her eyes and made her want to die on a daily basis. For the first time in her life Sakura had a mentor who knew what to do with her–how to teach her without condescending to her because she didn’t have a penis. pfft.
Good for Kishi for picking up on that. There aren’t many guys who understand that about being a female with potential in a male society, but its something I started realizing in 6th grade. I got the second highest score on a math test (93) that pretty much everyone else failed (the boy above me got a 94). The boy stood next to me as he got his paper back and was told–‘you’re really good at math, you should consider being an engineer.’ I was given my paper back without comment. Yeah, well, you do the math.
(If you think Kakashi knew how to mentor a girl, in any way shape or form, or that he wasn’t a sexist in how he chose to handle her–I’d sure like to hear your case. Best case, he looks clueless; worst case, he looks like a chauvinistic bastard. Oh, take some time off, hun, you know how to climb trees better than the boys…puh-leeze, that’s the most patronizing bit of condescention…)
Personally, I look at Sakura’s home life and background and think: wow, look how awesome she is to have PASSED as a genin the first time, to have survived the chuunin exam and to have become an incredible apprentice to a legendary sannin. A clanless noob is hanging with heirs of the elite clans and holding her own? She’s incredible for getting this far and has actually been incredibly fast coming around given her disadvantages.
Plus, she ain’t done baking yet. Kishi himself has talked about how she needs to grow up and I think when she does, some of you are gonna be eating that sass I’ve heard spouted in the comments. Sakura post time skip is about to knock your socks off, boys.
Sasori was completely pwned by Sakura. Yes, she and Chiyo acted as a team, but by the very end, Sakura pulled some moves that left both Chiyo and Sasori surprised. Sasori was ultimately KILLED by Chiyo, but none of the 12 have been shown actually finishing any of their kills in an even fight (with the exception of Sasuke and Deidara–the Oro and Itachi kills are debatable). Hidan? Shikamaru took him out but didn’t directly kill him. Kakuzu? Finished by Kakashi. Laser head? Only dropped of puppetry, you can’t kill the dead.
Why should Sakura be held to a different scale than Shikamaru and Naruto?
In a recent anime filler arc (Sora goes foxy), she DID kill a villain (Fuen) outright–with fast thinking, use of trickery and one deadly ass punch–putting her on a has killed/hasn’t killed scale equal to Sasuke. Summoning Pain’s centipede felt her wrath and she dropped it like a wii remote smashed against the wall three days after Christmas. And yet, they still said “that girl” took care of it. Learn her damn name, citizens of Konoha.
When she grows up, I think you’re going to see her jump to a whole new level, and even the haters will have to admit that she’s worthy of her sannin apprenticeship. End lecture, commence smarting off…
Some of the arguments against Sakura (found out in the nets):
- She cries too much. (not a bad thing in the new ninja world; a sign of compassion not weakness)
- She’s a bitch. (Well, good. Sometimes somebody needs to be. Inner Sakura was always a bitch.)
- She’s ugly. (Kishi admits she isn’t cute, part of his handicap with girl characters who are WORTH something.)
- She flirts with Sai. (Maybe Sai would think so, but he’s confused about a lot of stuff.)
- She can’t make up her mind. (Oh, I beg to differ. Didn’t you see the way she watched shirtless Naruto train?)
- She didn’t own Sasori, Chiyo did. (Again, who among the 12 has actually killed? Sasuke and Sakura.)
- She whines over Sasuke. (Stuck in the chuunin exam arc, huh? These days only Naruto mentions him.)
- She’s useless/doesn’t do anything. (Centipede. Antidotes. Sasori. Fuen. Healing. Yeah, that’s nothing.)
- She’s annoying. (So is Naruto. So is Sasuke. Your point?)
- She’s not as good as Hinata (Well, we have yet to see Hinata in action post time skip. Perhaps in another post?)