Thursday, August 9, 2012

Awesome Characters: Naruto and Sasuke

I decided my blog was too boring with just random status updates about how my writing is going, so I'm going to try to implement some other segments to spice it up. One of those segments is Awesome Characters, where I will discuss, well, characters who I think are awesome. :)

Today's characters will be: Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke. (That's surnames first, for those not into Japanese) from the anime Naruto. A google image search will show you plenty of examples of what they look like. Note that the series has a time skip, so there's a kid version and a teen version of both.

I don't know how I could possibly talk about them without including some spoilers (no ending spoilers however--it's not over!), so if you've decided you want to check it out without knowing anything more about it, leave now.

Ok then. Naruto is the main character of the show which is about ninjas. He starts out as a little brat who staves off his loneliness by pranking the village by doing things like painting goofy doodles onto the Mount Rushmore-like carvings that hang above the village. Really, he's just a lonely kid who's not that great in ninja school and for reasons he doesn't understand yet, he's an orphan and no one in the village wants anything to do with him. Even his homeroom teacher initially treats him with coldness. However, the reason for this is because on the day that Naruto was born, the Nine-tailed Fox was unleashed on the village and the people suffered great losses, including Naruto's teacher, who lost his parents that day. The Nine-tailed Fox was sealed up inside of Naruto, so he is what's known as a jinchuriki, a carrier of a tailed beast. This is basically like being a walking weapon of mass destruction, so the villagers are forbidden to talk about it, so they end up just giving Naruto the cold shoulder constantly and he has no idea why.

However, his homeroom teacher sees that Naruto has a good heart and is really just an ordinary kid, and warms to him. This sets Naruto on a happier path, he still deals with feelings of resentment toward the villagers who treated him so badly, but he channels his feelings into a positive goal: he's going to become Hokage (leader of the village) one day, and make all of the villagers recognize him as a great person. Little does he know at first, but his father was actually Hokage, and his parents sacrificed their lives to save him and the village on that fateful day, his mother was the Nine-tails jinchuriki before him, and they sealed the Nine-tails inside of him not as a curse but because they had faith that he'd be able to handle it, and they are right. Throughout the series, Naruto matures from being a brat to a real hero. His personality is so complex and real that sometimes I get this odd feeling like I KNOW him, like he's a real friend of mine somewhere out there. Like, his personality doesn't shift unbelievably far, he continues to be something of an airhead in some ways, but his heart and spirit just grow stronger and he strives for peace in situations where anyone else would not be able to resist taking revenge.

Speaking of revenge: enter Sasuke. Naruto and Sasuke are paired up in a three-man-cell along with a girl named Sakura after they graduate from the ninja school. Sasuke is the opposite of Naruto, he has excellent grades and a cold personality. He was created to be Naruto's foil and rival. Naruto is blond, Sasuke has black hair, Naruto wears orange, Sasuke wears blue. Naruto is energetic and loud, Sasuke is aloof and laconic. There's one thing they have in common: they both lost their parents. The difference is, Sasuke wasn't an infant, he was a child who remembers having a family, and they didn't die defending the village, his brother slaughtered his entire clan and left Sasuke alive, claiming that he "wasn't worth killing" and that Sasuke should "hate him and come and find him if he wants revenge." Sasuke latches onto revenge so hard that it consumes him. Instead of something like Naruto's dream to become Hokage, Sasuke's only intention in his ninja training is to become strong enough to kill his brother.

The thing that makes Sasuke's story so tragic (up until now at least, like I said, the series isn't over, I don't know his ultimate ending) is that he almost finds happiness with his team. The pivotal episode comes when they are confronted with his brother too early, Sasuke's still just a kid, and yet his complete and utter failure when he attacks his brother shatters his happiness. That, combined with his jealousy when he sees Naruto is starting to become stronger than him, convinces him that he'll never achieve his goal if he stays with them, and when another enemy presents him with an opportunity to desert his village and become powerful, he takes it.

Even then, Sasuke isn't completely evil. We see him on team evil, but he doesn't kill his enemies, he just incapacitates them. He claims it's because his brother is the only person he wants to kill. However, he descends into real evil territory after he makes a shocking discovery. His clan had been planning a coup against their village, and his brother was given the choice to slaughter his entire clan (with some help from someone you meet later) for the good of the village and he took it. Peace at any cost. Sasuke is enraged at the village for forcing such a choice onto his brother, and once his fury is redirected at his home village, he loses the mercy he had been holding onto, and starts killing (or at least trying to kill) even people he considered his closest friends.

Meanwhile, Naruto is the opposite. His compassion for Sasuke is absolute, even after Sasuke tries twice to kill Sakura (their third team mate) Naruto is still convinced he's going to save his friend, or at the very least, die with him and be friends with him in the after life, because Naruto so easily could have gone the way Sasuke did if he hadn't had positive influences in his life.

I'm unsure where the author is going with them, and a lot of my feelings still hang in the balance, wondering how he's going to resolve things. (Are they really both going to die at the end??) But the fact that I care so intensely about the outcome just shows how well crafted they both are.

Did you read my little talk about Naruto and Sasuke? Was it interesting? Leave me a comment and I'll write about more awesome characters that I love. :)


  1. I like this segment, and would like to see more of it! Naruto is a fascinating series; it is ostensibly made for children (and sometimes it feels like it), but then it turns around and seems to appeal to an entirely different and considerably older audience. There is an underlying theme in it of generations, of the old watching over the young and having to eventually pass the torch; of the young being left with the wreckage from the mistakes of their elders; of people struggling against their own pasts, or coming to terms with them; of people trying to build a legacy for those who will come after them.

    Naruto and Sasuke are both fascinating character studies, however the one that I wish would get more screen time is Sakura. For all that she has been developed over the years, it still feels as though she hasn't gotten her fair share of time in the spotlight. Even if she's the third wheel of the old Team Kakashi, she was and is a very important figure in the relationship between Naruto and Sasuke; Sasuke may have decided that she deserves to die like everyone else, but like most things Sasuke does I doubt it is actually that simple.

    1. You're definitely right about those deep themes of the young struggling with the mistakes of the old etc.

      I wish I could say Sakura was on my Awesome Characters list, but she's not, not as written. I just don't like what Kishimoto does with her a lot of the time. I have my head-canon Sakura of course, which is a whole other story. :)

    2. Yeah, it's more accurate to say that I wish Sakura were on the Awesome Characters list, since she had the potential for it, and that Kishimoto had bothered to develop her. I don't like what he does with her either... all that potential, wasted. It's not quite a "Sorry, your princess is in another castle" thing, but it feels close. Trained by Tsunade, Fifth Hokage, one of the former Legendary Three, and one of the most formidable fighters in the world of Naruto (man or woman), and she still can't hold her own. Rage.

      I suspect our head-canon Sakuras overlap with one another; in fact, I'm pretty sure mine derives a lot from yours, lol.

  2. I love this! Even your summary of the characters and the backstory brings them to life, and I can't wait to hear about more of your favourite characters. These are 2 I never would have heard of otherwise :)

    1. Thanks! :D It was a lot of fun writing it up and there's plenty where that came from so looks like the idea is a go.