NaruSaku symbolism 3.1 is the first part of the new post from the series which is following one of my favorite pieces of symbolism within the story. As we all know, Naruto has a lot of symbolism. Whether it’s followed through its end, it’s debatable.
However, it’s present. Sometimes in a more subtle way. Other times in a more direct way.
I think that the one I am addressing here today has an equal amount of subtlety and direction. So let me show you what I’m talking about.
Now, because I’ve seen the length this will have, I decided to spread it in two parts: NaruSaky symbolism 3 will be actually compiled from NaruSaku symbolism 3.1 (treating the darkness aspect) & NaruSaku symbolism 3.2 (treating the light aspect).
How is the flower’s life fitting between the two?
We’re taking it on turns. In this post today I’ll address the following:
1. NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: the flowers of the story
In part 2 of the series, I talk about another flower symbolism – that of language in the world of flowers.
This one here covers the symbolism of the flower itself. Better said, its life.
Now, while this is certainly part of a post dedicated to NaruSaku symbolism within the story, I feel is necessary for the reader to understand one thing. Some symbolical evidence isn’t direct. Nor is directly done via the character in case themselves.
Like the definition of the symbolism itself says. It’s an artistic movement to express ideas. In order to express ideas, you can make use of a lot of tools or mechanisms. In our case, characters and setting.
Now, in the series, all shinobi girls were compared to flowers. Back in the ninja academy days, the girls’ class if you recall, is literally about flowers in a field full of them.
Thus, the story first sets this analogy between the girls and flowers.
However, from all the girls Naruto cast has, in terms of flower symbolism we have three of them that stand out the most. And the reason they do so, it’s because the story itself sets them so.
Who are the girls I’m talking about? Well none other than Sakura, Ino and Konan.
Sakura is the main flower of the story, while Ino is the gardener. But on a more deeply and philosophical level, there is Konan. The teacher. The master of a flower’s life, if you want to call it like that.
NaruSaku symbolism series 3 is basically covering up their symbolism within the story. And how that symbolism plays in the grand scheme of things.
2. NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: the gardener, the flower and the master
The reason I went for it this way, it’s because, as I believe, this will help you better understand what I mean. And by it, I want to be able to create a mental imagery for what I’m about to analyze and show you.
Let’s take it step by step. Shall we?
2.1 The gardener
First one, let’s start with Ino.
By the virtue and theme of her character, you could call Ino the gardener of the story. Why? It is from her we learn all of the info regarding the flowers of this story. She is the one whose parents own a flower shop.
She is the one most gifted with knowledge on flowers. Remember, back in chapter 71, Ino is the one who schools Sakura on the subject.
Not only she shares a lot of her knowledge with Sakura. She also uses her knowledge in more ways than one. Like telling the girl who attacks Sakura about the poisonous nature of the flower she throws at her.
Not only that, Ino is also the one who schools Sakura about her own name and the compatibility between flowers.
It’s an aspect I’ve talked about in my second post of the series: NaruSaku symbolism 2: flower language & harmony. You can read more about that in there, I won’t repeat myself here.
However, connecting that information with the information from here, we can safely say it. Ino could be very well be seen as a gardener. She’s passionate about them, she knows their ‘mechanics’. She also knows how to talk to them. Their language. And how to complement them.
Ino is in the whole sense of the word, a gardener.
Plus, she is the one who introduces us the flower of the story itself – Sakura herself.
2.2 The flower
What do I mean when I say she’s the one who introduces us the flower itself? Well, allow me to clear that up.
Of course, Sakura is shown waay earlier in the manga. From chapter 3. But we don’t really know so much about her. About her past. About who she is, in essence. We just know by virtue of the plot that she is part of team 7.
But who is Sakura Haruno as a character?
We don’t really find that out until a certain moment. That of the Forest of Death. I’ve talked more extensively about that moment. In my Haruno Sakura: the character, the meaning, the hate part 12 series. There I talk more about other aspects of her character.
However, it’s clear from that part of the story, that the one who makes the introduction is none other than Ino.
And that none other than her, is the main flower of this story.
We follow her path from her childhood early days. When she is just a bud, as Ino so dearly tells her.
Throughout the manga, Sakura’s blooming path is touched upon. From her early bud days, through her full blooming days. But that’s something to cover-up later on.
2.3 The master
Now, the story makes all kinds of references to flowers and their life. Through Sakura’s character, this is done more prominently. Especially in the context of the shinobi world, the story’s setting.
However, Sakura and Ino, are mere young flowers. They merely start to walk the path of a shinobi life, compared to Konan. That’s why, in this context, let’s call her the master.
And it’s not just me who calls her like that. Her character’s journey does so, in that respect.
As we remember, Konan is one of the three Amegakure orphans. For her, life wasn’t a field of flowers, but more like fields of sorrow. For a majority of her life, Konan had to go through a lot of experiences. The experience she gains from all those events makes her the master of the subject that she is.
We must recall a simple thing. She was Nagato’s right hand in Akatsuki and she is the only one who hurts Tobi, enough to bring him to death’s door. And this is the event I want to touch upon. Her speech to Tobi, when she decides to be a bridge for Naruto’s dream of world peace.
This is practically the basis of NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: flowers in light & darkness. To be more specific, this exact panel.
In her last speech of the chapter, Konan tells Tobi that he’s darkness. And that darkness is a world without light, where flowers only whiter and die.
Now, how does this apply to the NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: flowers in light & darkness? Let me take you further.
3. NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: the flower between darkness & light
Now, as we established, the flower of the story is none other than Sakura. How does she come into play with all of this, and how does this support the NaruSaku symbolism? Well, allow me to explain how all this comes into play and ties in.
As we all know, via visual symbolism, and through thematic symbolism Naruto and Sasuke have been representing light and darkness, respectively.
Sakura has always been between them. When does this start? Back in chapter 3, when she is introduced by none other than the protagonist himself. The light. He is the one who likes her.
However, the story’s setting quickly puts her between the two – a protagonist that likes her, and an antagonist she likes.
This is when this setting first presents itself. However, at that time is quite subtle. However, quite clear from the visual perspective, as when they make the presentations, Sakura is seated right between the boys.
But later on? It becomes slowly and surely, more clear.
And we get this through visual symbolism at some point, really ‘loud and clear’, so to speak. When? The right moment when Sasuke decides to walk the path of darkness, all throughout the end.
How does this translate in the grand scheme of things? Well, in actually quite a simple manner: through Sakura’s emotional state in conjunction to each of the boys. That is, in terms of plot development.
On the visual side, Kishimoto actually made it clear back in part 1. When? At this very time.
4. A comparison: real world flower/plant behavior
Before I dwell further on this aspect, I want to make a parallel/mirroring here. Since Kishi oh so loved this literary mechanism. And to an extent, have to admit it made me love it. Too bad he didn’t hold up to it.
But alas, I digress, that’s not the point here.
I don’t know how many of you remember of a certain experiment Ikea conducted back in 2018. For those of you who don’t remember, I’ll leave the video down below.
The subject of this experiment was to see two plants’ reactions to compliments vs. negative remarks. The main idea was that, like humans, plants have feelings. So, what happens when you feed one with compliments and another with negative remarks? Well, I guess you can see it from the video.
Now, how does this translate in terms of NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: flowers in light & darkness? Quite simple, actually.
It is done subtly through Sakura’s emotional response in connection to both Naruto – the light, and Sasuke – the darkness.
Let’s take it on turns.
5. Sakura in the darkness – the SasuSaku pairing; Sasuke (the darkness)
Before becoming a fan of NaruSaku, I was actually a fan of SasuSaku and NaruHina. How could I not be, since I was an anime fan first, manga second? There, the dynamics of the series were totally changed compared to the original source material.
However, later on, as the story progresses, the anime stays behind and I’m left with no choice than to read the manga, to see where the story heads.
For my own curiosity, I started to read it from the first chapter to the last (at that time). I found a really huge difference in dynamics, and so, with time, as the story evolved and progressed, so did I. And I found myself changing camps, so to speak. I jumped the NaruSaku bandwagon. For more reasons than one. But mainly, a simple one: the manga, as in the source material, presented us a totally different dynamic in the SasuSaku equation.
One absolutely different than what the anime portrayed. One whose message I could not stand by.
Now, visually, mechanically and thematically, Sasuke is set to represent the darkness in the story. It slowly builds up from the chuunin exams and it culminates with his defection from Konoha.
It’s a theme underlined by many factors. One of the most important one being another character who’s represented darkness himself at some point. None other than Neji Hyuga.
How does this translate in terms of SasuSaku? Let’s take it and address it by turns.
5.1 Sasuke’s treatment of Sakura
How is it that Sasuke treats Sakura? Has he been always a terrible person to her? Well, the answer is no and yes, at the same time. It all depends where we look at his path in the story. However, its setting slowly places Sasuke as following the path of darkness, and at some point becoming darkness itself.
Back in chapter 3 we have an exchange of what you’d call rough communication. But in this case, Sasuke was right. Sakura was being mean to Naruto. It all goes on those good grounds further in the story, up to the chuunin exams arc when he compliments her talent for genjutsu. Likewise, later after that, when the Gaara fight entails. I would even call him in that particular scene quite gentle.
However, sadly that’s where it all ends. And where Sasuke’s descent to darkness starts, thus the story sets him to symbolically represent the darkness.
From thereon, he takes that path and so becomes the darkness itself symbolically, all throughout the story’s end.
But that’s not the only time where he does that. We are slowly being introduced exactly through Sakura’s character, to Sasuke’s dark path. Remember the way he treats her back in Part 1, in the Chuunin exams, after he gets the cursed seal from Orochimaru? When all Sakura did was worry for his wellbeing?
Those were the first indicators that were building up to Sasuke’s descent to darkness.
5.2 Sakura’s reception of Sasuke’s treatment
How did Sakura take all of Sasuke’s treatment? Well, besides the time when he bluntly told her to train more and he was right, her representation in that dynamic isn’t doing her a favor.
Back then, that respective scene is played out for a mix between comedic relief and as well as a reality check. Sasuke was indeed right. If she had time for going out on dates, she had time to train, too. However, what about afterwards?
Well, in critical moments when their very essences as characters clash, Sakura’s emotional state like presented above, is one like of a flower – withering.
Besides the scene when he grabs her gently to take her to a safe place in the Gaara fight, their very dynamics and essence as characters contradict. All throughout the manga.
And for the record, let’s go through some of their major moments of interaction:
5.2.1. Chuunin Exams Preliminaries
As we can see, Sakura expresses her concern for Sasuke’s safety, after being witness to Orochimaru’s curse seal implantation onto Sasuke.
His response to her concern is however, a quite cruel one. Once again, the story sets Sasuke as the dark character. And in the context of such setting, the flower of the story – Sakura, responds only as a flower could in such darkness. She ‘wilts’. Fear engulfs her and Sasuke’s response to that fear isn’t one that would put her emotional state in a good place.
On the contrary. He pushes her away. Silences her. Manipulates her to not say anything about the mark. He’s dismissive of the care Sakura shows for his well being.
5.2.2. Sasuke’s hospitalization time
Another display of Sasuke’s darkness and how it affects Sakura’s emotional well being is displayed right after he gets hospitalized after the preliminaries match. And after Kakashi puts a seal on Sasuke’s one from Orochimaru.
Sakura stays next to him and cares for his well being. Again. The scene shows her peeling and cutting fresh apples for him. But another example of Sasuke’s descent into darkness is portrayed. His own feelings of inferiority make him respond to Sakura in a rather harsh way.
Again, we see how this affects Sakura’s emotional state, as she is reduced to silence by his behavior, with her head to her ground.
Again, a quite clear visual symbolism.
And I don’t know how many of you have noticed a flower’s behavior in the natural world. When darkness falls, flowers close and their heads tilt to the ground. When morning comes and the sun shines, they rise to the sky and open their petals to receive the light.
But about the light symbolism later on, in part 2.
5.2.3. Sasuke’s defection from Konoha/Sakura’s confession
Now, this is a scene that has many implications and aspects. I am not going to discuss them all here. I am just going to discuss those that fit in the context of NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: flowers in light & darkness.
Sakura is a very empathic, intuitive and analytical person. No wonder Sasuke compliments her on her genjutsu abilities back in the beginning of the series. And it is those very qualities who make her guess his next move.
But here, the focus is another one. Besides her confession, what we must take into consideration is the emphasis of dynamics she lays out. In her very confession, Sakura describes how this dynamic works. Certain lines in her monologue highlight this. And her emotional response to those highlights (Sasuke’s treatment, the darkness) indicate how this affects her (the flower).
On Sakura’s end, her perception of his treatment is clear. She gets the silent treatment. He doesn’t open up, she feels pushed away. She feels hated. Her existence borderline ignored, if it isn’t for the hate. He treats her coldly. Ironically, in this very night, he leaves her out on the bench in the cold. Let’s hope it was summertime.
On Sasuke’s end, well, he doesn’t do too much to change that perception. On the contrary. He indeed pushes her away consciously. He tells her he’s not going to be like her and Naruto ever. You could make a case that internally there’s something else that happens. However, that’s not what he makes Sakura perceive. He doesn’t try to change her perception of him and his treatment in one bit.
He makes the conscious choice to go on the path of darkness, which later turns him into darkness itself. The visual symbolism also entails that at the end of the confession.
5.2.4. The aftermath of Sasuke’s defection from Konoha/Sakura’s confession
It is an interesting fact to observe here as well. When Sakura goes to ask Naruto for help, she does so on a straight stance. She feels secure enough to be herself. But as soon as the connection to Sasuke’s situation commences – her plea, we see the ‘wilting’ again. She starts crying. Bows her head to the ground. She’s overall closing down, again, as she reconnects to the emotional state brought by him.
5.2.5. Reunion with Sasuke, part 2
Once again, Sakura’s emotional state when Sasuke is brought into the discussion is affected. Likewise, when they meet soon after, Sakura displays the same body language as before.
She withdraws. She fears him. His presence clearly makes her uneasy. While the others stand tall and straight, facing Sasuke, Sakura once again withdraws.
5.2.6. Rebuilding Konoha – Tazuna & Inari reunion
Soon after Konoha’s destruction, Tazuna and Inari from back in Zabuza & Haku arc come back. Happy that they meet the members of the Team 7, they ask about Sasuke, noticing his absence.
Once again, Sakura is displayed in her normal ‘withering’ behavior. A mere question, that reminds her about Sasuke and his path, puts her back into this withdrawn, closed state.
5.2.7. Kumogakure ninja target Sasuke
One of the best displays of how Sakura cannot deal with the darkness Sasuke is displayed when Kumo ninjas start targeting him. They head to Konoha to try and find out all they can on him, given he is a Konha ninja.
This is yet another telling example of how when faced with Sasuke’s darkness, Sakura just withers. She tries to tackle a bit on the problem, at first. But when faced with the reality of the facts, she just can’t handle it. She gets blocked. She is unable to do more than just cry.
Of course, in terms of character development, this doesn’t look good at all. I’ll give you that. But I think in terms of symbolism, it goes pretty well with what the narrative is trying to show us here.
A flower has no power in the dark. No life. It withdraws and stays silent. And, in time, if it’s exposed too much to said darkness, it dies. But let’s continue.
5.2.8. Five Kage Summit Arc
This is maybe one of the best examples of how when faced with the darkness itself, Sakura just can’t bloom.
And why do I say bloom in a situation like this? Well, as we all know, Sakura’s blooming symbolism was mainly related to her status as a ninja. Not just on a personal level, but on a professional one as well.
Sadly, Sakura yet again takes a step back in this situation as well.
Now, I have to give it to you. At this point, we cannot say if it was done on purpose to fit the symbolism, or it was done just because. At this point in the story, Naruto as a series already started to fall from grace.
However, in the context of this symbolism I’m talking about, it fits greatly.
In the 5 kage summit arc we see the epitome of the darkness that kills the flower. And at this point, it’s not only metaphorical and symbolical. It’s downright physical. It’s not just symbolism, but reality as well.
*A small observation before continuing
There are some people out there that might say that what I’m talking about here is something with no basis. It’s their right to have that belief.
However, it doesn’t make me less wrong. Because later on, the visual symbolism proves that I am not that far from the truth. What do I mean?
Well, remember, the basis of NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: flowers in the light & darkness starts from this very panel.
But am I right to base my analysis on this panel? It’s a question some might ask themselves, of course. Well, let me show you a very interesting mirroring/parallelism. Because Kishimoto oh so loved these!
I find it interesting how the visual representation of the two moments is almost identical in execution.
Sakura – the flower, is being attacked by the darkness – Sasuke. The same way that Konan – the master, is attacked by another darkness of this series – Obito.
Both being Uchihas, nonetheless.
But on how Uchihas represent the darkness of Naruto world on another time. Let’s get to our next point in the NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: flowers in light & darkness.
5.2.9. The War arc
If one could say that Sasuke’s behavior from the 5 kage summit arc is due to various reasons like suffering and finding the truth about Itachi. Or that he was blinded by rage and whatnot. I know, all those excuses you might think of.
Well, the war however makes it pretty clear in this respect. From the last time he has taken another path. Another wind. He has gone and searched for answers to his moral dilemma. And he has made a choice. Now, how does this choice impact Sakura’s emotional response?
How does the flower respond after she’s bloomed on the battlefield, when yet again she meets the darkness? Well, let’s see.
220.127.116.11. Fighting the Juubi
When Sasuke first arrives on the battlefield, Sakura’s reaction is total shock. Followed by pure distrust hidden behind a fake smile.
Yes, we get the nostalgic moment between team 7 when Sakura finally blooms on the battlefield. We get to see her fighting back to back for a short amount of time with the boys. And for a moment, nostalgia hits the reader the way it hits the cast itself.
However, after the brief nostalgic moment, reality hits. The boys are wary of each other, and Sakura downright plays her false smile card again. Which, as we know from Sai, it’s her way to hide what she really feels inside.
Which in this case, was pretty obvious – distrust. Why does he want to become Hokage, why does he want to help them? She wonders why now? Why the alliance since he wanted to destroy Konoha? Why, why and why. But, let’s move on.
18.104.22.168. Team 7 taking on Madara
After Madara gets back from Obito’s dimension, Sakura creates a diversion for the boys to take on him.
Of course, she gets wounded and Naruto rapidly jumps to her saving. But what about Sasuke?
As she herself comments, Sasuke doesn’t really care. A thing she doesn’t really take well within her heart. I will explain in a future post why this emotional state of hers is connected with her status as a ninja. But now’s not the time.
Now we’re looking at the story from another context. Anyway, moving forward.
22.214.171.124. Infinite Tsukuyomi installment & return of Kaguya
When Team 7 faces Kaguya, we have another display of the dynamics between Sakura and Sasuke. Yet again, Sakura’s emotional response to his remarks is shown.
Sasuke, once again acts cold towards her. Downright dismissive, actually. Sadly, Sakura’s emotional response is displayed visually via her body language.
Yet again, she is closing in, gets down on herself. Her head is always facing the ground and doesn’t even have the courage to look Sasuke in his eyes.
Overall, Sasuke’s remarks to her make her feel absolutely useless. Which is ironic, you know, given her character reception. That is why, to this day I won’t ever understand the people that ship SasuSaku in canon.
I’m not judging you. I’m just saying I don’t understand you. There’s a difference. In fanon? Oh booy, I could write stories about them myself. But canon? Nah, never. Sorry.
But anyway, we’re not here to discuss about that. Such subject is for another time.
126.96.36.199. Declaration of Revolution
And we’re finally down to the culmination of this very symbolistic theme. A flower’s life in the darkness.
The epitome of the epitome, if you ask me.
Now, where to begin with this? The manga panels speak for themselves and I think that I’ve already made my point up until now. From every point of view. Setting of the story. Themes. Symbolism.
Basically this here is the coronation of everything that I said up until now. Sasuke’s darkness affects Sakura so much, that she never grows past it. And it’s no wonder that symbolically, Sasuke puts her through a genjutsu that shows him stabbing her.
He attacks the very core of who she is. Destroys that very core.
And we see that it’s destroyed because she can’t even stand up for herself and neither for her master. You know, one of the Gokages whom Sasuke announced he’s going to kill. One of the people who didn’t put a target on his back.
It is to this level that Sasuke’s darkness brings Sakura. Sadly, that is.
NaruSaku symbolism 3.1: conclusions
Now, I don’t think this is the route Kishi wanted to take, honestly. Even within the story of Naruto, he represented the love for Sasuke as a negative love. Through none other than Ino, the gardener. Sakura’s best friend.
But that’s a thing to discuss on another post. In more detail. Here, I just wanted to make a slight mention of it. One that falls also under the darkness/negative part Sasuke’s character represents in this story.
For now, I’m going to end this part of the symbolism here. We’ve covered the darkness.
Given that, like i said, it’s going to be a long post, the light part is going to be covered in part 2 of this series.
So stay tooned for NaruSaku symbolism 3.2: flowers in light & darkness where we’ll be looking at the other side of the spectrum! We’ll be facing the light!
Thank you for reading!