Keeping it going from where we left off, we have Ino-Shika-Cho coming to her rescue. Yes, Sakura didn’t manage to beat the Sound nin, but she managed to buy some time until help came from other sides.
We have Ino-Shika-Cho coming to her rescue and this scene is so beautiful, if you ask me. Here it’s like we see again the rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke. We know what they want to mean by their acts, however what they say it’s different.
We know that here, Ino wasn’t referring about losing to her, she wanted to protect her, but, still…they were rivals for Sasuke’s affection, so she had to pretend like that was the only reason. Though few panels ago she burst into tears after seeing Sakura being in danger. This is what I call a beautiful friendship. 🙂
Anyway, we have the next panel where the formation goes into battle with the Sound Nin. This, after Chouji declared a War between Konoha and Sound village, in a funny way, of course, though things where serious. Meanwhile, we have Sakura looking towards Naruto and Sasuke, especially Sasuke, as his cursed mark starts to get reactive.
Ino tells her to look after those two, meaning Sasuke and Naruto, as she and her team-mates will proceed to attack, in order to protect her.
Sakura once again smiles, relieved that she managed to get help in order to be successful with her plan – meaning protecting her two comrades (actually 3, since Lee was there too). Once again, I want to put a really big emphasis on this, as it will be brought to discussion much later on, in a very delicate subject to Naruto fandom.
Anyway, let’s get further with events: Ino, Shikamaru and Chouji proceed with their attack and they are successful for a quite a while, until Kin is attacked by her teammate.
As we know, Kin’s body was taken by Ino via her Mind Transfer Jutsu. Here, Ino makes a comment about the other Sound nin hurting their comrade.
What do we get from here? What Kishi tries to put emphasis on? That one of Konoha’s most important lessons was protecting your comrades, and no matter what, don’t hurt or abandon them. This, once again reinforce’s Kakashi’s words, back in the beginning of the manga.
I’d like for people to remember the importance of comradeship, as it will be used later on a very delicate manner – as I previously stated, that has a lot to do with Sakura’s further development as a character. I hope you got the idea with comrades and I won’t have to explain more, but if someone feels like I should do it, just give me a “call”.
Anyway, let’s go further, shall we? As we know, after fighting a while and getting in danger, Ino-Shika-Cho are interrupted by Lee’s Team. Neji is quite prepared to kick some ass (I always loved how badass he was back in Part 1, minus the hate, of course), however he sees Sasuke’s coming back to his senses. He also observes his chakra and comments he won’t have to fight at all.
At first, Sakura is very happy to see him standing. I mean, who wouldn’t be? She just managed to save her comrades from getting killed by all means and Sasuke, her more fighting-capable team-mate has just woken up.
But quickly enough, Sakura notices something. Something is wrong. Something isn’t how it usually is. Something is different about Sasuke.
Next panel, we quickly switch to Sasuke, who now has the curse mark activated, and questions Sakura about her wounds and the author of those wounds.
Now, before going on with Sakura, let’s take a little look at Sasuke. What does Sasuke do here? He acknowledges Sakura. Unspoken, if you want to say like that, but he does. The mere fact that Sasuke asks her who did that to her, shows that he acknowledged her, her capabilities and the fact that she was willing to die in order to protect them, standing proof being her wounds from the fight she just had.
Keep in mind this subject as it will be quite important to future reference.
Regarding Sakura, she is quite shocked by his state, as we see her reaction to this new Sasuke. She calls him out with a quite appalled face, while one of the Sound nins admit they had hurt her.
She keeps worrying about him (selfish you were saying, once again?), as she states “your body…”. Wanting to underline that something’s wrong with his body, Sasuke quickly cuts her off assuring her not to worry, as he feels power “overflowing from within him”.
Afterwards Sasuke states that he (Orochimaru) gave him the power, and that he finally understands that he’s an avenger. Sakura keeps looking at him quite confused and disturbed as Sasuke turns to the Sound nin saying “It was you guys, right?”.
He then proceeds on attacking them, while Dosu calls for retreat as he has observed a change in Sasuke’s chakra, and it’s like they’re seeing Orochimaru.
But Zaku, the other Sound nin, gets over confident and arrogant, blatantly displaying it and recognizing the fact that they hurt Sakura, wanting to fight Sasuke back.
After a short battle and getting Sakura and Naruto out of harm’s way, Sasuke goes all-out at Zaku, trying to break his arms.
At this very moment, Sakura notices something, as tears burst in her eyes.
She sees the same killer look in Sasuke’s eyes as she did in Orochimaru’s ones. Based on her previous experience with the latter, she gets frightened, as she remembers Orochimaru’s words regarding Sasuke’s search for him, in order to gain power.
Quickly after this, Sasuke snaps Zaku’s arms, as Sakura tears start flowing.
Now you’ll say “but she cries again!”. Yes, she does. That’s an undeniable fact… but let me try to enlighten you with that. Why does she do it? What is Kishi’s emphasis on this? Sasuke is turning dark! He had the killing-intent look, just snapped someone’s arms like that’s no big deal, and was planning to do the same thing to the other guys.
As Sakura sees that, she comments to herself that the one standing in her face is not the Sasuke-kun she knew. This isn’t the old Sasuke. This Sasuke is cold, acts totally dark and he feels no remorse in regards to the damage he’s doing. His reasoning is lost. As a proof come the panels showing the two versions of Sasuke that we know. The quite silly Sasuke who was blushing and the one that now has the killer look. The one who genuinely smiled and the one who was prepared to kill. And on the same panel, Orochimaru.
So, Sakura went by impulse and stopped Sasuke the best way she could think: hugged him and asked him to stop.
Why the crying, the stopping and the worrying, you might ask yourselves.
Well, first, crying because she had just faced Orochimaru together with Sasuke and later on, Naruto. They saw the pure evil inside him, so she didn’t want that for her comrade, as well. Stopping him was the best thing she could do at that time, in order to prevent Sasuke transforming into a criminal. Because, let’s face it, this was what Sasuke was going to turn into. Funny enough or not, later in the manga, guess what he’s declared? Yup, international criminal, as he had killed Danzo, attacked the summit arc etc. But anyway, getting past this, she was worried about Sasuke and about the other guys as well.
Remember Sakura in the beginning days at the training camp? Even though Kakashi said they’ll have to come with him with the killing intent and that he’ll be the enemy, Sakura was worried about his well-being, although he was supposed to be their enemy.
Same here. Once again, may I bring to your attention that Sakura cherishes human life. Even if we’re talking about the enemy here.
She doesn’t want for people to get killed, she is the life-valuing shinobi we talked about, back in Zabuza and Haku arc.
So, if you need an explanation, look for reference there.
Now, regarding her hug. Most would say “What a stupid thing to do!”
Well, what I have to say is that stupid or not stupid, it did stop Sasuke to go beserk. Thus, she prevented Sasuke going into a criminal state and just saved the lives of 3 people, as Zaku comments that since the cursed mark is gone, they’re saved.
So here we have Sakura, saving lives from early chapters of the manga. She had just saved Naruto, Sasuke, Lee, Sound nins. Not so useless, now, eh? Now, indeed, the Sound Nin later get killed by Orochimaru, but it doesn’t change the fact that she saved their lives earlier now.
You’ll say that Sasuke wouldn’t have killed them but I’ll ask you: Wouldn’t he? You seem to forget/get past his killing-intent look and behavior from earlier time. The fact that Sakura stopped him going beserk indeed it gives you the possibility to refute the argument on a 50% scale. But it also gives me the possibility to sustain it the other 50%.
Fair and square, don’t you think?
Soon after, Zaku gives them one of the scrolls, saying that at the moment, they can’t win. But if they meet again, they won’t run or die and they’ll fight back.
Before they leave, Sakura stops them, questioning them about Orochimaru’s actions. However, they answer they had no idea, they were just ordered to kill Sasuke.
So, this only enforces the idea that thanks to her, him and Naruto/Lee were saved, as they did have killing intent. Well, not only intent, but orders as well.
You’ll say the orders were only for Sasuke, but the previous battle just enforces the idea that they would’ve killed anyone standing in their way.
So, once again, here we have Sakura fighting and saving lives, once again, from earlier chapters of Naruto.
Going further, sometime later, we have Naruto waking-up, after dreaming that Orochimaru was attacking Sakura and he was the one protecting her. Quickly afterwards, Chouji knocks his head with a piece of wood, he wakes up and starts acting silly screaming that everyone should run and hide. In the meantime, he’s ponders about where did that guy go (aka, Orochimaru from his dream).
While Ino says to herself that “That idiot is finally awake” (remember, he was still the pre-teen acting idiotic Naruto, and the genins were still getting to know him), Sakura turns around and looks amazed that Naruto has woken up.
While Naruto still blabbers around, acting silly with Chouji and Shikamaru, he then notices Sakura’s new image change and goes all “Oh, Sakura-chan, your hair!”
What happens next?
As you can see, Sakura lies to Naruto. Yes, she lies. But, if you look underneath the underneath, why did she do it? I mean, if she would’ve been that type of character many have made her look like, that she always brags about herself and stuff, she could’ve said “I cut it because I was grabbed by it while fighting to death to keep you both alive.” Yet, she doesn’t.
She only says that it could get in the way. The purpose? She lied to him in order not to worry him, hence the panel with Ino and Sasuke going (…).
They knew the truth, they know that Sakura had fought for both Naruto and Sasuke with her life on the line. That she could’ve gotten killed. However, seeing her choice and, probably, knowing Naruto, they chose to respect Sakura’s choice of not telling him the truth.
My interpretation of this deed is that Sakura lied to Naruto in order to protect him and stay strong for him, up to a certain extent. We know that if he would’ve found out, he would’ve gotten crazy, trying to stubbornly go and find those guys to beat them up for that they did to his beloved Sakura-chan. And eventually would’ve ended with problems. So, knowing Naruto, Sakura did best, lied for his own benefit.
Soon after, Naruto sees that the other rookies are around them and seems quite suspicious about the situation. He asks what they were doing there.
And what does Sakura say?
“Everyone came to save us”.
She takes zero credits, despite the fact that she was about to lose her life in order to protect them.
You already can see the change in her.
From the Sakura at the beginning of the story that put a lot of accent on her looks, to the Sakura that doesn’t care that much about her hair. Though as we saw, to her, it was a big deal.
From the Sakura that always bragged about herself and how good she was, to the Sakura that is humble takes zero credits for something major that she did.
Now, I’m curious, really, where was the Naruto fandom when this happened? How could they have skipped such a major character development for Sakura? They always complain “OMG, Sakura is one of the most undeveloped characters!”
People, people, besides the fact that I explained her meaning in this manga, power-ups are not the only development a character gets.
Actually, character development has more to do with the change in characterization of the dynamics of the character itself, who changes over the course of a narrative, in our case, Sakura. It has more to do with personality, than with power.
I give you the fact that it’s an action manga. But even if it’s an action manga, in this action manga, Kishi touches upon a lot of subjects, portrays a lot feelings, that have nothing to do with action in itself. A lot of personalities, dramas and bonds and dynamics. Things that have nothing to do with power per se in the end. A lot of things that connect with the human touch of the world. That human touch of the world is represented by her. And she represents the growth in a human life. We all learn, and that’s what she did.
This is Sakura, who in the beginning was really mean towards Naruto, and now she’s lying for his benefit. How comes you didn’t see this back then? How comes everyone is stuck with Chapter 3 Sakura? Really, most of the people I come in contact with, when they bash her, bring the chapter 3 Sakura, who, funny or not, it’s portrayed as learning from her own mistakes ever since then. How comes they skipped those changes in personality?
But of course, it’s actually easier to bash, rather than to start analyzing a character’s actions and see the changes. Especially a character such as Sakura’s, considering the complexity she has. This was just the beginning.
But, since I went a little overboard with what I wanted to add as an extra, let’s move forward.
As TenTen picks up Lee and shakes him up in order to get him up, Naruto runs to him and he’s all like “Oho, Thick-Brows!”
What’s Sakura next reaction? Yes, she hits him!
People that don’t understand her, that hate her would say it is one of those moments of “B*tch Sakura”. I say NO!
Sakura hit Naruto because Naruto has just picked-up on his looks, like she herself did back in the previous chapters, remember?
While, yes, later on, this becomes a way of Naruto’s bonding with Lee, at this time, this is meant to express that Sakura is quite unsatisfied with the fact that Naruto was picking up on Lee’s looks. In a tsundere manner, of course. As this is also a way to portray the comedic relief of the story. If you are not familiar to the term, just google it.
Sakura considered it rude to pick on Lee’s looks, given the fact that he had helped her protect both Naruto and Sasuke.
And since she was a victim of people who made fun of her looks back in the days, she knew how much this could harm a person’s self-esteem.
So, she punched Naruto, yes, but that panel had a lot of hidden messages behind it. And the rest of the page just confirms it.
Sakura goes to Lee and thanks him. For what? Well, as we all know, Lee had just put his life on the line in order to protect Sakura. Remember Konoha’s teachings, Kakashi’s words about comradeship, Haku’s words to Naruto? Lee has used his important, but at the same time, forbidden move (the Lotus one), in order to protect someone dear to him.
Witnessing such thing, Sakura went there to thank him for that.
As well, she confesses that thanks to him, she has awakened and felt like she has become a little stronger. What did that mean? That Sakura has learned from Lee that she needs to protect those ones dear to her. Even if it costs her own life. That looks are not important at all in situations like these. And she has learned the meaning of comradeship, like, for good. On a whole ‘nother level. And thanks to that, she has become stronger.
This is like it happened with Naruto and Sasuke back in Haku and Zabuza Arc.
Sasuke awakened the 2 tomoe Sharingan, in order to protect Naruto.
Naruto awakened for the first time, the Kyubi power, in order to protect Sasuke (up to a certain degree, as it was though he was dead, but we all know the result in the end).
And last, but not least, Sakura’s awakened a new Sakura, a determined, strong one, in order to both protect Naruto and Sasuke. And Lee.
Yes, she didn’t awaken any flashy, visually appealing jutsu, but she let go of the old Sakura, the shallow, fangirly one, the bratty, know-it-all, who was always staying in the back. She awakened the Sakura that learned that looks are not so important when it comes to serious matters. That the ones next to you, your friends, comrades and their lives are more important than your own desire to win a boy’s attention with looks.
She awakened a Sakura that fought with all she had, in order to protect the life of the ones important to her. This is the Sakura that in order to protect those important to her, became strong. Just like Haku said to Naruto “When you have someone important to protect, that’s when you truly become strong”.
So, this was Sakura, the new one, the real one.