One of the reasons I ship NaruSaku, besides other metaphorically-speaking – thousands of reasons, is the underneath implications of this pairing. NaruSaku isn’t just a pairing representing love and sacrifice, grief, support, compassion and all those other things. It isn’t just a pairing for the sake of having a pairing introduced in a manga.
NaruSaku represents ideals and morality, NaruSaku represents prodigious children, NaruSaku represents the generation who slowly, but surely is changing the shinobi world.
You might ask yourselves why I state that? Let me go back in time and show you some things that probably many of you got past. I know I did initially, but after re-reading the manga, I connected the dots and understood, once again, why this pairing among the others is the one who is the most prominent. And not just in terms of romantic plot, but in terms of the overall manga, seated deep in the biggest theme Naruto has: the theme of one’s humanity, with all the implications it holds.
Why is it that I say that NaruSaku represents that? Well, let us go back in time. Here, I have talked about Sakura’s individual representation of the theme, as at that time I was more focused on her. But now I am going to talk about both of them, since the ones to represent the said theme are none other than the two of them.
As we all know, Naruto is the hero, he is bound by the story to change the world around him. But what makes it really interesting, is the subtle context Kishimoto has put underneath these two. What I mean by that? Let’s go a bit back in time.
As we remember, the very first arc we’re being introduced is the Haku & Zabuza one. In that arc, we learn what shinobi meant in those times, how they were used as tools, and the fact that the same world was teaching them to erase all their humanity in order to become this perfect functioning tool. That was what the perfect recipe for the perfect shinobi.
One of the highlights of the battle in terms of the humanity concept is when Sakura recites the Shinobi Rule no. 25: “No matter the situation, a shinobi must keep their emotions on the inside. You must make the mission your top priority and you must possess a heart that never shows tears”.
Through Sakura it’s shown to us that humanity meant a shinobi’s weakness. An imperfect shinobi is the one who sheds tears. That emotions only makes you an impractical shinobi.
At the same time that Sakura recites these words, on the other hand, Naruto dwells with Zabuza in regards to these ideals, these codes.
He wasn’t a perfect student like Sakura, one that remembered all the codes and teachings, but he had a big heart. And that big heart puts Zabuza into an emotional turmoil, by telling him how much he – Zabuza, meant to Haku, how much Haku loved him, how he sacrificed his life in order to protect him. And Zabuza, who was the representation of the perfect shinobi in that era – cracks open. Naruto cracks him open and we see Zabuza crying. He, who was meant to be the perfect tool, has shown now an imperfection: feelings, tears, in one word… humanity.
Now, reviewing these two moments, in terms of what I said earlier, that NaruSaku isn’t just a pairing, that they are the prodigious children that vowed, silently, to change the Shinobi world, there are two important moments we need to recall.
Both Sakura and Naruto question the teachings of the Shinobi world. It was their dream to become a shinobi; as we all know, Sakura has taken pride in her status as a ninja, and Naruto wanted to become the greatest ninja of all times, to become a very powerful ninja, a Hokage, that will surpass all the previous generations. They both wanted to acquire a status as a renown shinobi. But as they barely lay down their dreams and start working towards that realization, their ideals are questioned. Becoming a shinobi in its most “perfect” form means that you must kill your humanity, you must shed no tear, you must show no emotional weakness, you aren’t even allowed to grieve the loved ones.
They were barely children. What did they knew? They thought that being a ninja was- probably at that time, a play, that it was a career taken in few steps and voila, you become a ninja.
But no. The real shinobi/ninja world out there, was a cruel one, a world in which you had no individualism, and all you needed to do is act like a tool. A robot. A machine.
At that point in time, both of them realize that what they had thought to be just a play, it’s actually not. That the world around them was not a playground, it was a battlefield, a battlefield where you’re not allowed to put your comrades above the mission, where you’re not allowed to shed even a single tear if something happens to them. That your comrades were just tools like you, and if something happens to that tool, all you’d have to do was to dispose of it, with the coldest of your hearts.
But Naruto and Sakura couldn’t do it. Naruto and Sakura started to question, in their own way, this world, this ideal of a perfect Shinobi. They started wondering if it’s worth throwing away your heart and care not about those around you, the comrades that fight alongside you, the ones you go through various experiences with, the ones you become close with, the ones you form a bond with.
So they sat there, in front of Haku’s and Zabuza’s grave and silently, they made a vow: they were not going to be those ninjas. They were going to be their own version ninjas. Of course, being more outspoken, Naruto even said it with a loud voice.
But as the time goes, we see that Sakura as well, shares the same belief. That Sakura as well, shares the same ideal as Naruto and as the story unfolds, her role becomes one of the most representative: she’s the life keeper.
In a shinobi world where killing is the norm, Sakura is there to breathe life into death. She’s there to save, she’s there to give life, not take it away.
And she does this not only because she is a medical ninja, but because like no one else, she cherishes human life itself. She cherishes humanity, itself.
As we go throughout the story, the ideal she shares alongside Naruto is questioned, but she doesn’t go back on this ideal, and she doesn’t allow anyone else to even tell her otherwise.
And one of the battles where we can see that is her battle with Sasori alongside Chiyo.
At the end of the battle itself, Sakura has a one of ideals with Sasori. As he was telling her that he would feel nothing if Chiyo dies, Sakura gets enraged.
“What do you think a human life is?”, she asks him absolutely infuriated by his reaction. She couldn’t explain herself why? Why out of all people, him, who was Chiyo’s grandchild, would feel any remorse over her death? Had he no feelings, had he no heart, had he no humanity left in him? And then, Sasori asks a simple question , yet one with heavy connotations:
“Hey, are these the words of a shinobi?”, Sasori asks her back.
For some, an irrelevant question.
For others of us, a question with heavy implications behind, that takes us back to Part 1.
Where? To Zabuza and Haku arc, where we learn about what a real shinobi meant.
One that puts his mission before a comrade. But Sakura didn’t… Sakura put her mission in danger in order to save Chiyo, she did the exact opposite thing of what a shinobi would’ve done. Sakura put life before mission. And that is what baffles Sasori. Why this little girl thinks differently? Wasn’t she supposed to be a ninja? A shinobi? A tool, a puppet?
Because tools or puppets, it’s the same thing. Someone from behind pulls the strings.
Sasori was a puppet. But not in the literal sense of puppet like he was. But in the sense of being a puppet, a tool for the system that governed the Shinobi world at that time. Ironic, if you think about it. The thing he ran most from- being someone’s puppet, he already was before even knowing it.
Because he had given himself to a system that was controlling the human beings like puppets.
On the other side, though, he – in a way – considered Sakura to be a puppet for having feelings, for putting a human life above her mission. She was the one that was actually his total opposite. She studied all those sayings, shinobi code nr. 25 being the deepest reference to that, however, she didn’t fall under that system. She didn’t become a puppet of the system that governed those times.
Thus, in the end, she was the one who won, while Sasori lost.
And Sasori didn’t lose in the literal sense of words, he lost in the sense that, in the end, although not admitting, all he wanted was a simple, human thing: him, just even if for one more time, to be in his mom and dad’s arms.
He didn’t want to admit that, he wanted to play the puppet-guy until the end, but what gives him away are Chiyo’s words. He could’ve avoided that, but he didn’t. Why, some might wonder? Because he saw again people caring, people fighting for each other, people that were supposed to be ninjas, were protecting and taking care of each other. And the one who was most prominent in this sense was Sakura, through her refusal to leave Chiyo’s side, through her refusal to let anything happen to Chiyo.
She was the one that reminded Sasori what it meant to be human, what it meant to care about someone, what it meant to be blessed with someone’s concern for you.
But he couldn’t bear it, he didn’t want to and he threw himself into his mother and father’s attack. He died symbolically, in their arms, the same arms that as puppets, he wanted to be hugged by, the arms of his mother and father.
But before that, he made sure to give Sakura something in return. He, Sasori, who would never do anything for anyone else, did something for a little girl that meant absolutely nothing to him. But she impressed him that much, not only as a shinobi, but as a human, that he decided to give something back.
Of course, on his face one wouldn’t ever observe that as he concealed it. Why? Because the same humanity years ago hurt him, made him the bitter puppet he was today. But he missed that humanity, even though he didn’t want to admit it, but as he was away from home, it was easier to bear, not think about it, not care. All that, until he met Sakura. The humane shinobi, something he hadn’t seen until then…
Sakura changed Sasori. Of course, maybe not alone as Chiyo was there too, but it was Sakura’s ideals and humanity that moved something in Sasori, the same ideals and humanity that moved Zabuza when he was challenged by Naruto, back in Part 1.
I find it very symbolical from Kishimoto to begin both parts of the manga, Naruto and Naruto Shippuden with the same themes: shinobi as tools and the prodigy children who fight to change that world.
Zabuza considered that shinobi were mere tools, but Naruto’s own ideals, own way to be changed him. His humanity showed Zabuza that no matter what, in the end all shinobi are like that: humans who cannot let go of their humanity, no matter how hard they try.
Same with Sasori. Sasori saw the ninjas as puppets. And what is interesting here that be it you view it as tools or puppets, the idea is still the same. That there was a system who killed humanity, a system that used people as either tools or puppets, a system that controlled them.
And even though Sasori saw everyone as tools/puppets and saw humanity as something useless, unnecessary, one day, like Zabuza met Naruto, he, Sasori, met Sakura…
This young little girl that challenged his ideals in life, his way to be, his way of thinking and took out of him something that he had buried a long time ago: his humanity. And like Zabuza, he returned to his humane roots, he let himself, in a secret way, be a prey of that which he ran away for so long: his emotions, feelings, humanity.
And the one who made that happen was Sakura.
This is why I say NaruSaku isn’t just a pairing on a manga, isn’t just a pairing that will become cannon because they are the hero and heroine and that’s how shonen works.
No, NaruSaku is more than that because they are more than ninjas. They are humans, they are the children who, in front of a grave made a silent vow to change the views of the shinobi world they lived in, worked together, through fire and flames, through tears and smiles, through impotence and power, through weakness and strength to change said world.
To show one that no, showing emotions doesn’t make you less powerful, nor less of a shinobi. That showing emotions and care, cherishing a human life, fighting for the ones dear to you will make you stronger than you have ever been. That in the end, we’re all humans and no matter how hard we try to conceal it sometimes, we’re at the same time frail and powerful because our humanity. But that humanity doesn’t make us weak. Humanity gives us strength!
And this is why, with the same resolve, both Naruto and Sakura fight together in this war. For that human life, for each individual to be their own selves and to have the right to life.
A life of joy, a life of freedom to be whoever they want.
Yes, I know that basically all the Shinobi Alliance are fighting for the same goal, and that being their freedom, but Sakura and Naruto stand on a different pedestal than the whole Shinobi world as they, from their very little own childhood, have been fighting for that ideal.
That makes them powerful, that makes them more than a pairing, that makes them beautiful and that… makes them not only the NaruSaku pairing, but the hero and the heroine of this story, in their own rights. Like I like to call them, the prodigious children who vowed to change a world.
And that is, ladies and gentlemen why, as I said, NaruSaku isn’t just a relationship, isn’t just some parallels, NaruSaku is more than that and I wish some people would see that.
Oh well, I would’ve talked probably more but that would mean this would be a very very very long analysis, as the manga is full of moments which highlight this theme, but I chose these two moments as they are the best representative of the said theme.
Hope you enjoyed.
Till next time, lots of love.