Going further with the analysis, we reach the part where Team 7 goes into the forest. As we all know, a very dangerous place, that’s why it was called the Forest of Death.
In the beginning, there are some incidents as Naruto got caught by another ninja, followed by the battle with Orochimaru.
You’ll say that Sakura was useless. And I will I disagree with you, again.
Yes, she did not fight like Naruto or Sasuke did, but in that battle she served more of a trigger for Sasuke to fight Orochimaru, and she did the best she could.
Remember that at the time, Sakura served as the brains of the team, which is highly contradictory with useless. As far as I know, useless means having no beneficial use. Well, Sakura has proven herself to be beneficial in the missions, even though her actions were smaller in power-scale compared with her teammates.
But still, she has had her use in critical situations.
Let’s take a look at what she brought beneficial in that particular time.
Contrary to the popular belief that all she did in part 1 was freeze and do nothing, when not even Sasuke himself could react because of the fear and wanted to give-up and give away the scroll, Sakura found the mental fortitude to move and throw the kunai in Naruto’s direction so that he won’t fall.
If she would’ve been so useless, then why she threw the kunai in the perfect spot, in perfect timing, so it will hold Naruto until one of them could get to him and rescue him? She did what you could call temporary-rescue. Remember those calculations from the exam? She wasn’t good just in theory. She was good in practice, too.
Then, despite Sasuke being the one she deeply liked, the so-called “selfish Sakura because she never cared about Naruto”, does something few expected her to.
She stands up to Sasuke. Jumping to Naruto’s defense and saying that even if he is clumsy and gets in the way, he is not a coward – which indeed he was not – as he had just fought for them.
So we get to see that even if Sasuke is her love interest, Sakura is rational.
Even if she cries (thing that who wouldn’t do in a life and death situation, as we even see Sasuke trembling to death), she keeps her rationality.
This actually serves as a trigger for Sasuke to later fight Orochimaru.
Now, after the fight with Orochimaru, Sasuke gets the cursed seal as we all know.
Naruto is already down because of the seal break, so Sakura gets stuck in the Forest of Death with both of them, unable to do anything.
She gets scared, she tries to look for help in Naruto when Sasuke gets hurt, but she realizes that Naruto is down, too. This is where Sakura’s biggest challenge begins: she has to do things on her own. With no support or protection whatsoever.
She wasn’t the fighting type, she was the supporting type at that moment, so being left alone in a situation like that was a big challenge for her. But she did what she could do best.
First, she took Sasuke and Naruto to cover, monitoring their state and taking care of them as best as she could.
Funny enough, this was foreshadowing her upcoming character development as a medic-nin. She mostly supervised Sasuke not because of her crush on him, but because of his highly injured state after he had gotten the Cursed Seal from Orochimaru. As we know, that was a near-death situation, as Anko commented that he might die.
In this life-death situation, Sakura got a hold of herself and got the determination she needed. She decided that she must protect them both Sasuke and Naruto. Not just Sasuke. So the rant about her being the selfish one, who only cared about Sasuke is, once again, dismissed since the early stages of the manga.
She keeps on going, taking care of both of her teammates. As she watches over them, the night slowly passes by, and the morning comes.
She was already worn-out from watching over them all night, as a proof standing the fact that as the sun was rising, she was getting sleepy. Even more proof comes with the statement from the Sound nin trio, who ask if she had been up all night, when they come to look for Sasuke.
When Sakura recognizes them, she immediately tries to find out information about Orochimaru’s purpose. Seeing that they target Sasuke specifically, she wants to put her worries to rest, and at the same time, find information on their motives.
Immediately after her questioning, Zaku, one of the Sound trio, wants to engage in taking out Sasuke. But the other member of the team observes a trap. A trap that Sakura alone conceived as best as she could in order to keep enemies far away from Sasuke and Naruto, while she took care of them.
Notice that the Sound nin guy comments that this is why she didn’t let the squirrel pass. I mean, she’s even cherishes an animal’s life. How selfless is that? You’ll say that if that squirrel passed, it would have ruined her trap. True, however, as we see next, there was more to this trap than met the eye.
While acting full of themselves, they try to engage her in order to get past to Sasuke.
Sakura being the smart one that she was, already had planned another trap, that no one saw coming.
This speaks very much about her abilities and strength at that time. I mean, for the fragile one that she was, to be able to carry that giant log and to make all those connections, she had to deal with a great physical power. I fairly think this was another foreshadowing of the fact that she was going to be a second Tsunade.
So in her highly tired state, Sakura took time to make 2 traps and take care of both her teammates, not closing an inch of her eyes in order to not fall asleep, so she can properly watch over them.
Well, as the Sound nin were clearly more experimented than her, they break through this trap as well, however, this still stands as a proof of her anticipatory skills and a trap user.
Now as that plan failed, the sound trio tries to engage her, but Rock-Lee shows-up to protect her.
This is where Sakura’s growth as a character will take place. Another major development in her character people have missed and overlooked, or downplayed in order to keep up with their hate.
As he appears, Sakura sheds a tear. Yes, she cries. But have you looked at the reason she does it? She is that sensitive being, she has that human part in her that we’ve spoke about in Zabuza and Haku Arc, and now that Rock Lee is here, she is happy about the fact that she can
better protect her teammates.
This is all that mattered for her, to protect them and keep them alive! Remember that this was a life-death situation, they had signed for some papers at the entrance in the Forest, so the danger was real, it wasn’t some sort of play.
So I don’t get it why crying of happiness because you have aid in keeping your teammates alive is bad.
You want to tell me that if you are having your dear ones in a near-death situation you wouldn’t cry out of anything? Fear of losing them, anger of not being too able to protect them, frustration because you can’t prevent it, anything like that?
So Sakura crying here is not to be blamed, at all!
Anyway, returning to the scenario, Rock Lee once again tells her that he will protect her until he dies, as he had stated it before. And this is the moment where Sakura remembers her first meeting with Rock Lee.
And if you look at her face, by the expression drawn you can already see that she starts to realize about the fact that she was wrong to behave the way she did it back then.
As the fights continues, Sakura tries to help the best she can from her position, engaging the Sound Trio Nin with some kunais. As the fight keeps going, she tries to help the best she can Rock Lee, so he wouldn’t have to fight on his own.
And as a back-up proof, comes the discussion Team Asuma had when Ino was praising Sasuke at how good he was, that he’d never lose a battle unlike Sakura.
This is when Chouji says that actually Sasuke is knocked down and Sakura is fighting pointing to the place of the fight.
As the battle continues, Lee gets hurt and we even see Sakura getting worried about him (selfish b*tch you were saying?).
And as the enemy attacks Lee, she discovers the jutsu’s basics.
After Lee is knocked-down to the ground, Sakura rises and fights back the best she can.
And this is where all the fun begins.
As she attacks, her shurikens are deflected by the air pressure and Sakura falls and gets caught by the female sound ninja.
This is where Sakura’s determination and growth as a character and personality is shown.
As Kin grabs her hair, picking-up on her looks and the fact that she was more concerned about her looks than being a ninja, she says that they should be teaching her a lesson.
Now what this actually represented? It was the point where Kishi was going to throw away the old Sakura, the shallow, fangirling, know-it-all, snob, in one word, the immature Sakura.
This is the point of the new Sakura, the evolving one, the determined Sakura, the Sakura that appreciates people more, shows up. The Sakura that matures. And as a major proof for that, comes the next pieces of back-up.
We have Sakura here thinking about everyone, acknowledging that when it comes to the real fight, she was getting in the way and always needs protection.
But this time, she does what she needs to do to protect those important to her. And we have the biggest proof of her change in personality, how mature she grows in the scene where she cuts her hair.
Let me tell you this. Sakura didn’t just cut her hair. Actually, from the research I’ve done, cutting your hair is a symbolism in Asian culture that means letting go of the past and becoming a new person, hence I was right when I said that this is the point where Kishi develops Sakura.
But it’s not that kind of developing most of you would look to, not that kind of developing in terms of power-scale. Remember that Sakura isn’t here to represent over-powered ninjas, Sakura is here to represent the human side of this manga, how we, as humans, do wrong, are superficial, shallow, think we are the best when stating something, that no one is right only we are etc.
This was Sakura, a shallow fangirl that all that she knew was to think about Sasuke all the time, lecture Naruto as if she was better than him (well, at least in brains she was, but you get the point), that treated Lee as if she was a little princess that deserved the moon. But what does she do? She acknowledges most of her faults and flaws. How many of us are so self-conscious? How many of us admit the wrongs we do, our flaws? How many of us have the fortitude to acknowledge that and change something in us, I would ask…?
Now, before getting to what I want to say further, let’s remember what it meant for Sakura to have long hair.
For her, having long hair meant that it was a chance to be at odds with her best friend Ino, in getting Sasuke’s attention. Indeed, maybe not that admirable for some, but let’s not forget a thing, this can easily be compared with Sasuke and Naruto’s rivalry. Naruto always fought him for the spotlight, for getting people’s attention. Sakura’s reasoning is as powerful as Naruto’s and as important to her.
So what this meant for her? A change. She knew she was going to lose odds in front of her friend Ino by cutting her hair, but if that meant saving her comrades’ life, she did it without second thoughts.
The stand-point where the old bratty, shallow Sakura became the new Sakura who learns that there are a lot of other things to appreciate in this life than looks, that a life is more important than any other rivalry for looks.
Indeed, with the long hair you tend to feel more feminine and more attractive, and Sakura even talked about how she heard Sasuke liked long hair, so it made sense for her to grow her hair, right? But when it came to the Forest of Death she had to make a decision: keep the long hair so you may still have a chance with Sasuke – but it does mean you might lose them all, as well as yourself – or, cut your hair, meaning give up on everything you know, and act like a ninja and defend your teammates.
So she chose her friends, put that desire for Sasuke somewhere in the back and decided to fight with all that she got! Why do you think Ino was so shocked and those memories of the old Sakura were running through her mind? Because she knew what this meant to Sakura, yet Sakura decided there was no time for that, and that she needs to change.
She got fed-up with being the one who always needs to sit back and be saved, watching their back and continue to be “useless” – although it is clearly shown throughout the manga that she was useful, however, she felt it was not enough.
So by this, she decided to put an end to that old Sakura, the one that needed to be taken care of, as it is shown to us through her little speech to herself.
So she stood-up and fought as best as she could! She used everything she had and knew, and took it all out against the Sound nin.
Yes, she didn’t win. She didn’t do that great because she didn’t have some special abilities.
But the fact that she didn’t abandon her comrades and stood there, all beaten-up, doing the best she could – even the simple biting, being something she did to gain more time for her comrades – it all counted in the long run.
Anything that she could do, didn’t matter she was beaten up to a pulp, full of blood, she took it. She risked her life in order to protect her comrades’ lives.
So if there’s someone who can think that she is a selfish b*tch, please, fairly and from my heart, go and do something else rather than talking nonsense. Because manga has proven that Sakura has risked her life for her comrades long before others were even dreaming to be put in this situation.
I will never really understand the hate people placed on her character. It will always be beyond me, as the manga has shown from the very beginning that she is a character with admirable qualities. Perfect? Of course not. None of them are. But human, with a great fighting spirit and admirable qualities? She’s been. Ever since the beginning. Even when she was shallow.
Those qualities were always there, and never left her.