12-24-2008, 07:03 PM
After you guys read this, your thoughts are going to change on Naruhina.
There is every single detail on why it has to be NARUSAKU not Naruhina.
Part 1 "Dont Worry, Im here":
I.1. Enter Naruto, the troublemaker!
When we first see Naruto, the impression of him is Far from that of a main character. Naruto is: loud, obnoxious, and to top all that, a Loser. He isn't even good-looking. Several people I've come across even admitted that at first, they thought Naruto's better-looking, better-skilled, even cooler rival Sasuke to be the main character instead. So we're stuck with an annoying brat.
However, we soon learn that underneath all that sunshine, laid a character who was truly suffering. Unknown to himself, Naruto is actually the container of the legendary youma Kyuubi, who used to bring havoc until the Yondaime Hokage, then new leader of Konoha, sacrificed his life in order to seal this menace. The container was a newborn baby: Naruto. Yondaime wanted Naruto to be seen as a hero for carrying such a heavy burden, yet instead, all chose to view him as a monster.
I.2. A child plagued with a heavy burden, and trying desperately to find acknowledgement.
The adults were not allowed to tell the children, Naruto included. But because of the parents' attitude, even the children rejected Naruto. So he grew up alone, hated by all... without ever knowing the reason why. Underneath the loud exterior laid a lonely child desperate to get acknowledgement, one who suffered so much that he could barely cry anymore. However, one person did reach to him: his teacher, Umino Iruka.
Everything started on the day of graduation. Having failed the exam again, another academy teacher by the name of Mizuki convinced him that he could graduate if he learned from a sacred scroll. Believing his words, Naruto stole the scroll, only to find that he'd been used all along. When his teacher Iruka shows up, Naruto finally learns of the burden he carries. With the pain he feels then, for the first time, he releases part of the power of the Kyuubi! When Mizuki tries to throw a shuriken at him, Iruka however, jumps in front of him.
After so long, finally, Naruto has someone who recognizes his pain, someone who accepts him. In acknowledgement of this newfound precious person, Naruto unleashes his strength for the first time, and defeats Mizuki. Having mastered the high-level jutsu that is Kage Bunshin, Naruto is finally allowed to graduate from the academy. He thus becomes a genin (a lower nin), and is placed in a three-man team, under the guide of the jounin (upper nin) Kakashi. Thus everything begins. Though he still encounters many difficulties, he starts getting the acknowledgement he seeks, one person at a time: Konohamaru, Kiba, Neji, Gaara, Tsunade, ... and the girl he likes: Sakura.
II. Haruno Sakura
II.1. Strong, understanding, perfect... ah who am I kidding. Enter Sakura: shallow, naive and presumptuous. And rather useless.
It is rather interesting to note that Kishimoto stated in an interview once that he intended for Sakura to start off as someone not likeable. And boy did he succeed.
Ouch. Sakura was quite far off from your typical heroine. Though intelligent and smart, she was incredibly dense at times. Sakura held a crush on Naruto's much cooler rival Sasuke, thought that Naruto was just a troublemaker, was more interested in love than in becoming a good shinobi... in short, she was your typical teenage girl, without too much depth (more like, none at all)...
II.2. Sakura, a normal child, who through events far beyond her... was forced to grow up.
So Sakura basically starts out as a normal girl with normal dreams. But soon, she realizes that things aren't quite as easy. Difficulties start mounting: their very first mission turns out to be way above their level, and Sasuke nearly dies because of that. Thinking that Sasuke has died, Sakura recalls the words she had proudly memorized at the academy. Words that ring hollow now.
No matter what situation, a shinobi must keep emotions on the inside. You must make the mission your top priority, and you must possess a heart that never shows tears.
And that was just the beginning. During the chuunin exams, exams that determine if genins are allowed to become the higher-ranked chuunins, an enemy in the form of Orochimaru appears, knocks out Naruto, leaves a curse seal on Sasuke and leaves her alone to protect her teammates. But this time, confronted with despair and loss, Sakura does not give in. Although it is hard, she draws strength from herself and from her teammates, and starts standing up for those around her.
All her faults, she starts shedding them, one by one: her vanity, her childishness, her dependency on others... And slowly, but surely, she comes to acknowledge and understand Naruto. Thus, Sakura starts to grow.
~ Manga part I: You don't have to notice me, but I'm right here ~
I. Naruto to Sakura: From a crush (although not unfounded) to selfless devotion
I.1. The comedic crush! And the very bad start.
When we first meet Sakura, it's at the academy, right after the graduation. Naruto immediately lets it known that he likes her. ... except the reverse is obviously not true.
Instead she shows an interest in Naruto's much better-looking rival: Uchiha Sasuke, who happens to be the most popular guy in the class.
Of course, Naruto, being not too happy with this, jumps on the desk in front of Sasuke to stare him down. Unfortunately for both, someone in front, by getting up, accidentally pushes Naruto and...
And basically it's the birth of the SasuNaru fandom.
But that's another story. In the meantime, Sakura-chan isn't too happy, and makes it well-known to Naruto.
What a start! ^^;; Then with a strange twist of fate, Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke are put into the same 3-man team, under the leadership of the jounin Kakashi. So far, nothing seems out of the ordinary. It seems like your typical teenage crush. But soon we learn that there's more.
I.2. The fairytale, and the realization of why he truly liked her
In order to win over Sakura, Naruto surprises Sasuke and ties him up. Then using the Henge technique (transformation technique), he takes on the appearance of Sasuke and goes to find Sakura.
Sakura is dreaming about her feelings (in short, about Sasuke)... But then Naruto (under the guise of Sasuke) appears before her, looking at her with "warm eyes", and telling her the very words she wants to hear. "You sure have a large charming forehead. Makes me want to kiss it.
Somehow, he knows her That well. As Sakura says herself, it's like a fairytale. Then "Sasuke" asks Sakura her thoughts about Naruto. However, Naruto gets more than he asked for: a reason. There's always been the question of why Naruto likes Sakura. Was it because she's pretty, because she's smart and popular? If it is That simple, why didn't he know before this day?
All I want is for you to acknowledge me.
Today, he gets his answer. Underneath Sakura's bright and confident exterior, Naruto must have seen her real will to get acknowledged, and her real determination to do what it takes. Both of which he could understand.
In some ways, Sakura has also succeeded where he did not, growing from a bud to a flower fully appreciated by her peers, but she's still struggling for true acknowledgement, just like Naruto. In more ways than one, she and Naruto are the same.
It's still a crush, but it had something to start with.
I feel like I finally understand why I like her.
Unfortunately, before they manage to kiss, Naruto gets a stomach-ache from having drunk spoiled milk, so has to leave. By the time he gets back, the real Uchiha Sasuke has already released himself from the ropes and isn't looking too thrilled. Shortly after, they finally meet up with their jounin sensei, who asks them their likes and dislikes, and basically...
The one I dislike... is Naruto.
We're back to square one. Ah well. Poor Naruto.
I.3. Go Sakura! Cheering on the girl he put his faith into.
Over the next months, nothing seems out of the ordinary between Naruto and Sakura. Naruto cheers on Sakura with his own special type of cheering, and slowly, Sakura acknowledges those cheers. While there are difficult moments, Naruto always ends with his head high, and has a this silly but lovable determination to protect Sakura-chan... even though he often ended up on the short side of Sakura's temper.
But as events unfold, Naruto will soon have to be living up to those words. Their teammate, Uchiha Sasuke, has his own dark past: his brother, Uchiha Itachi, massacred his entire clan when Sasuke was young. Blinded by the pain, Sasuke had vowed to live for revenge. In team 7, he had begun to gradually find acceptance, but the sentiment of his own insufficient power catches up to him. Soon, it will lead him to leave the village. In the meantime, war is brewing.
I.4. As the difficulties arise again... Naruto shows his true devotion
Konoha finds itself in a war against two villages. During this battle, Naruto confronts Gaara, a demon container like him. As he faces this person so similar yet so different to himself, we are fully reminded of Naruto's own painful past.
If I was left alone...
Underneath the joyful appearances lies a child who's lived a lifetime of suffering. But he has finally found precious people, who have saved him from the unbearable pain of loneliness. Sakura, even unknown to herself, is one of them. And as Gaara threatens to kill Sakura, Naruto shows how far he is willing to go to protect her.
To save her, even when Gaara's sand was enveloping him, his thoughts were not towards himself, but towards Sakura. With her in mind, he finally manages to summon Gamabunta, while resolutely telling himself: I'll protect Sakura-chan no matter what. He then tells Gamabunta to avoid hurting her, while pressing the urgency of saving her. Even after he's out of chakra, he takes yet another look at Sakura's distant unconscious form, before turning back to Gaara, a resolute look on his face. One last time, he manages to call forth chakra.
As Sasuke later tells Sakura, "To save you, that guy risked death." Naruto defeats Gaara. He's exhausted, and barely able to walk. Yet he crawls towards Gaara for perhaps a final blow, telling him that he'll never let him harm his precious people. The fight ends only when Sasuke informs Naruto that Sakura is safe now. Only then does Naruto, relieved but exhausted, let himself go unconscious, a peaceful smile on his face.
I.5. A glimpse at maturity: selflessness, at the cost of his own happiness...
And this is the beginning of where things seem to change. On the surface, Naruto is still the same boastful kid. Yet ... he never tells Sakura. Even though he has done his best to save her, even though he deserves the recognition, he doesn't say a single word to her. He could have used this as a means to gain more favour from her, even force her, but he doesn't. In the end, it is Sasuke himself who tells her.
In the meantime, Naruto's own dark heritage catches up to him. While he is off training with the Legendary Sannin Jiraiya, Naruto learns that because of his burden, powerful opponents are after him. He can never be at peace. Sasuke too, sees his past catching up to him. One of those after the Kyuubi vessel is non other than his own brother Uchiha Itachi. Having learned of this, Sasuke gives chase, but Itachi shrugs him off and leaves him in a coma. Sasuke is brought back to Konoha, where Sakura watches over him, while Naruto and Jiraiya attempt to find legendary medic and future Hokage, Tsunade of the Legendary Sannin.
They succeed, and Tsunade heals Sasuke. Thanks to Naruto, Sasuke is saved. And yet...
When Sasuke is healed, Sakura, relieved, hugs Sasuke and completely ignores Naruto. And Naruto... does not interfere this time. He lets out a pained smile, but leaves the two alone. This may not seem like much, but then Tsunade herself notes Naruto's real pain: "He's more sensitive than he looks."
This is Naruto we're talking about after all: Naruto the obnoxious brat, Naruto who never hesitates to speak his mind, Naruto who never gives up on any of his goals, and who worked SO HARD just for the few precious bonds he has managed to forge... Yet for the sake of the girl he likes, he chooses to keep it to himself, to let go of one of the bonds he had fought so much for. And I think this silence spoke louder than any words he could have said. Everything he's done for Sakura... did it change nothing at all?
On hindsight, I found this a really sad scene. Although everything seems alright, Naruto looks so lonely again, turning away in order not to face the situation...
Some people have disagreed with me on the depth of Naruto's feelings. How can a kid act as mature? But they seem to forget that Naruto is no ordinary child. For me, Naruto is above all extremely grateful. As he told Gaara, the pain of loneliness was so unbearable that it nearly broke him. And as such, I think that Naruto simply believes that he can't ask any more of them, that he'd never be able to repay what they've done for him. Even though they've done very little, this little means everything for him, and I believe that as a result he is willing to do anything for them: for them, he is willing to sacrifice his life, to later sell his soul to Kyuubi, even feel guilty about having so many friends when some, such as Gaara (in part II), did not. Even let go of a bit of his own happiness.
And the thing is, this is just the beginning. Before everything starts to go wrong, Naruto reassures a concerned Sakura about Sasuke. And when everything starts falling apart, he makes his ultimate vow, his ultimate display of self-sacrifice, to Her: the promise of a lifetime.
Naruto has thus come a long way. He started out with what seemed like a mere childish crush on Sakura, one not completely unfounded, but a light-hearted crush nonetheless. Even as Sakura doesn't completely return his feelings, he cheers her on with his own loud self. But as events moved on, he shows just how far he's willing to go for her, until this crush evolves into something more: selflessness, even at the cost of his own feelings. A glimpse at maturity. And as said, it will all culminate with the promise of a lifetime.
But before we address that, let's look at Sakura's side. For all this devotion, how did Sakura respond?
II. Sakura to Naruto: from rejection based on misunderstanding, to gradual acknowledgement and... trust
II.1. The original misunderstanding, and the shallow start
Our first impression of Sakura is that of a girl with a perfect student attitude. Yet there's another side to Sakura: her inner repressed thoughts, inner Sakura. Inner Sakura is loud and bratty, and has the same mischievious attitude as Naruto. This side of Sakura should get along rather well with Naruto, yet...
Sakura doesn't like Naruto. Instead she fangirls the much cooler Sasuke. While she doesn't hesitate to show this stronger side of hers to Naruto, she usually does so by scolding him and by putting him down (not that it wasn't justified half the time but still...) She'd act as though she's better than him... and at the "henge" scene, we learn just why she doesn't like Naruto.
Interestingly enough, she doesn't seem to hate him for the same reasons most of the others hate him. The adults hate Naruto because he is the Kyuubi container, the children hate him because their parents do. And in all those eyes, all Naruto ever sees is cold... Yet Sakura:
Sakura: He's always getting in the way of my love, and he enjoys seeing me struggle... Naruto doesn't understand anything about me, he's just annoying.
Sakura dislikes him because of his very insistence besides her. She seems overly aggressive as a result, but later, with Ino then Lee, we see that she manifests the same loud aggressive attitude with just about anybody. So while the adults treated Naruto coldly, Sakura treated him nearly... normally (as aggressive as "normal" happens to be for Sakura ^^;).
But she doesn't understand the true reason of Naruto's attitude around her. At the base of her dislike for Naruto lay a shallow misunderstanding of his very feelings for her. This is for me the original misunderstanding, and of all of Sakura's misconceptions about Naruto, this will be the last to be dispelled. Much, much later on, thinking of this very scene, Sakura will realize just how wrong she was. But that's in the future.
In the meantime, things don't get better. After that scene, when the real Sasuke shows up this time, Sakura goes as far as to claim that Naruto is lucky to have no parents. Sasuke though, angered by this, retorts that nothing she can feel can compare to Naruto's pain of loneliness. Then during the infamous bell test, Sakura doesn't help Naruto who is right in front of her, and sets out to find Sasuke instead. Kakashi berates her for this:
Sakura, instead of Naruto, who was right next to you... You were only thinking about Sasuke, who was far away.
Later on, on their first C-rank mission, she still holds reservations when Kakashi compliments Naruto on his growth, and when Naruto cheers her at a tree climbing exercise, the very type she was hoping to get (but from Sasuke), she completely ignores him, and chooses instead to feel disappointed that Sasuke didn't care.
Even later on, when the tragic events of the Wave country mission are but a distant memory, and Naruto's then displays of bravery are replaced by his usual goof-ups, Sakura takes it very harshly when Sasuke compares her to Naruto. And when friends of Naruto's ask out loud of she's his girlfriend, she makes it quite clear that she's not (by beating them up ^^;).
All this seems to spell a very bad start for this pairing. But it is necessary to note them in order to understand just how they develop later on. And as the chuunin exams loom ahead, Sakura is forced to contemplate both herself and her teammates. She then realizes that slowly, but surely, she is falling behind not one, but both of them. And as the past catches up to the other two, Sakura will soon be confronted with this weakness head on.
II.2. From slow acceptance, to acknowledgement of Naruto's spirit
But parallel to what seems like a constant rejection, Sakura does slowly learn to accept Naruto. After Sasuke scolds her for taking the fact that Naruto's an orphan so lightly, for the first time, she wonders if she should be nicer to Naruto.
There's no real follow-up to this thought, as she later shows by declaring Naruto as the one she hates, but the fact that she is willing to consider this at all is a beginning. During the bell test, even though her strategy is to get the second bell after Sasuke, she does cry out to Naruto when he is in danger of being attacked by Kakashi, while Sasuke remains silent. Then later during that test, spurred by Sasuke's example, she offers Naruto some food as well.
... though they all left Naruto tied to the pole after the bell test. Ah well.
It's not much, but it's the start of team 7, and of her own acceptance of Naruto within the team. While she still puts down his constant bratty attitude, slowly, she does come to acknowledge his dreams.
We finally see this during the first test of the chuunin exams. As Naruto faces the risk of being forever banned from graduating, she contemplates his dreams... and this time, instead of mocking them, she thinks that she does not want to see them crushed. For all the times she put him down, she genuinely cares about his emotional well-being. She slowly raises her hand to forfeit for him, despite her own confidence in being able to answer the question. Naruto interrupts them all however and states that he won't back down.
Things start to worsen during the second test. Orochimaru has infiltrated the chuunin exams. Sasuke is about to make a fatal mistake, but Naruto yells at him and blocks the snake that Orochimaru has summoned. Orochimaru knocks Naruto out but this time, Sakura, for the first time, screams out loud Naruto's bravery:
Sakura: Sasuke-kun! It's true that unlike you, Naruto is clumsy and can get in the way but... At least he's not a coward!! Right!!!
Her screams get Sasuke to fight on. It isn't enough however, and Sasuke gets knocked out as well. On his neck, this time, lays a Curse Seal, a lure to power left by Orochimaru, and the seeds of that which would later lead him to leave the village.
Sakura thus suddenly finds herself all alone, no longer able to count on either her teammates nor her teacher. Faced with the vast forest, she is now fully confronted with her own weakness, her own inability to do anything. And she despite her fears, she realizes that this time... she'll have to be the one to protect her teammates.
So finally, Sakura stands up for herself.
When new enemies appear, she confronts them this time. When she seems to have lost the fight, she thinks of those who have fought for Her all this time: Sasuke, Lee... and Naruto, whom she'd lecture, yet whom she was falling behind as well. No more. She cuts off her own hair, up till now the symbol of her own vanity, and she manages to hold the enemies off until reinforcements arrive and Sasuke wakes up.
After this fight, one of the first things Sakura does is punch Naruto for insulting Lee, who had come to help them. Yet Sakura herself has changed. More than a girl, she is now a shinobi. And not just a shinobi, one who protects her friends. And after the moment of introspection triggered by this fight, she has come to acknowledge Naruto as well.
II.3. The beginnings of companionship: this time, cheering each other on
Later in the exams, she finds herself confronting her very rival Ino. And here we learn more about Sakura. Sakura has not always been a confident perfect student: she too, started off as someone misunderstood and rejected, someone not comfortable with her own self. Yet Ino saw her and saved her from that. Ino back then told Sakura that one day she might bloom, and believing those words... Sakura decided back then to set off on her own. She had decided to no longer remain as her friend's shadow. To show that Ino's words had not gone to waste, she'd prove herself by not losing to her. She'd reappear before her as an equal.
It isn't so simple. Despite her own efforts Sakura is tricked into Ino's mind jutsu and nearly forced to forfeit. But just when everything seems lost... Naruto starts loudly cheering her on.
Naruto: Don't!!! Sakura-chan!!! You've come this far. If you lose to that Sasuke idiot... you're not a woman!!!
Sakura: Geez, that Naruto is annoying. But he's right. I can't lose here.
Sakura: Forfeit? Like hell I'll forfeit!!!
Sakura pushes Ino out of her mind, and ties against her rival. Later on, Ino smiles at Sakura, and tells her that she really did manage to bloom. From then on she is witness to Naruto's own victories, and this time, she genuinely cheers along.
When Naruto has his own match against Kiba, this time, Sakura does not hesitate to think just how wrong she'd been wrong about Naruto all along. While all the others are worried, only Sakura and Kakashi grin confidently at each other, fully believing in Naruto. As he fights, she thinks...
Yeah... I used to always make fun of those words. That he was just a big mouthed idiot.
But... I was wrong.
Naruto... tell everyone...
And when Naruto stands up and tells everyone: "Don't underestimate me," this time she loudly cheers him this time as well! Through a stunning combination of skill and uh... luck, Naruto defeats Kiba! Sakura loudly cheers and comments on how great it feels to her as well!
Then when against all odds, Naruto beats the genius Neji in the final rounds of the chuunin exams, she cheers again, and happily notes the cheers that Naruto is finally receiving.
II.4. And gradually... a developing fondness and contemplation
Some people say that NaruSaku simply doesn't have that "spark", that something to make it "romantic." I believe this to be the contrary: I believe that ever since that fateful henge scene, NaruSaku has one of the highest potential for romance in the manga: Naruto, a brat who's only 12, could know exactly what Sakura wished to hear in her heart. It was like a fairytale.
Yet Sakura never found out that it was Naruto back then. But parallel to the growing companionship, we see this spark developing all over again: little by little, Sakura develops a genuine fondness for Naruto's attitude... It starts as early as the Wave country arc. When Naruto risked his life to gain back his hard-earned forehead protector, for the first time, Sakura asks herself what she's feeling.
What's this feeling? This is Naruto.
Of course, this early on, she still had her reservations, but something clicked.
During the first test of the chuunin exams, when Naruto loudly proclaims that he won't back down, instead of scolding him, she actually lets out a bright smile. "Yeah, you're that kind of idiot." The type of idiot she's grown fond and familiar with. Naruto's bratty attitude is growing on her.
Then after her match against Ino, she smiles at him again when he worries about her, and for the first time, thanks him for his cheers. Unfortunately Naruto manages to ruin the moment. Some things never change. Moving on. ^^;;
Finally, when Naruto beats Neji, she expresses more intimate thoughts this time... as she contemplates Naruto as he loudly cheers and blows kisses, she thinks that she too should do her best. When Ino notes her melancholic expression, she quickly dismisses such thoughts. Thus slowly though... Naruto is becoming one of those dear to her. This is one of the most notable instances where she starts contemplating Naruto from afar. Later, on two occasions, she'd think back on Naruto while looking out the window. The first time would be with a melancholic expression. The second time would leave her smiling.
II.5. As things degrade, the beginning of trust
Sakura did not witness the despair with which Naruto fought to protect her against Gaara. She did not witness his pained yet determined expression as he crawled towards his opponent to make sure that Gaara does not hurt her. She did not hear of Naruto's dark past, nor did she see his relieved expression when he heard that she is safe, before passing out from exhaustion. But while she was unconscious, she doesn't just call out Sasuke's name. This time, she also whispers Naruto's.
Naruto didn't tell her about the battle, but Sasuke does. At first, she does not believe that Naruto saved her, but Sasuke then tells her in the simplest terms:
"Up until now, you haven't really seen him, so you haven't seen his strength either."
Indeed, Sakura had never truly seen Naruto. Even while she was slowly acknowledging him, she never did see him at his best, not when he always put up a cheerful front around her. People blame her for doubting Naruto at this point, but how could Sakura have known?
- she didn't know about Jiraiya
- she didn't know about Kuchiyose
- she likely has never seen the true extent of Naruto's Kage Bunshin
- and the last thing she saw was -Sasuke- in his fight against Gaara, having learned a jutsu from Kakashi that enabled him to be the first to wound a Gaara whom even Lee was powerless against.
And Sasuke was the one she wanted acknowledgement from, the one she looked up to. The one she had a crush on. Yet when Sasuke tells her the truth, Sakura first looks confused, as though realizing something. She looks at Naruto, who is acting like his usual goofy self, and failing miserably at Chidori. Nothing like the hero Sasuke is telling her about. But then instead of seeming disappointed that Sasuke wasn't the one who saved her... again, she lets out a fond smile.
I found this smile somewhat different. More quiet, intimate perhaps. And this time, it lingers. Perhaps she has just realized that Naruto is so much more than meets the eye. That there is much more to him underneath all that hot air. Perhaps, underneath that loud exterior, she is beginning to perceive the real underlying care he has for her, a side he hasn't shown her yet. Whatever it is, slowly, but surely, Naruto and his cheerful attitude is becoming one whom she trusts and knows she can rely on.
And just as she starts gaining this new appreciation of Naruto, team 7 starts crumbling apart.
Sakura did not see Naruto's strength, but Sasuke did. Because of his own dark past, he is unable to accept Naruto's growing power. Shortly after Tsunade healed him from his encounter with Itachi, he challenges Naruto to a fight. Under the eyes of a horrified Sakura, this fight quickly degenerates. In despair, she jumps between the two, hoping to get them to stop, something that would have ended horribly wrong if not for the interference of their teacher Kakashi.
The fight leaves Sakura worried about Sasuke and not knowing what to do. Finally, against Sasuke's wishes, she decides to confide in Naruto. This is the second time she contemplates Naruto while staring out the window, this time over her conversation with him. Naruto had just revealed how powerful Orochimaru is, leaving Sakura saddened. Yet Naruto saw her pained expression, the very pained expression that he'll later recall when facing Sasuke. And surprising Sakura, he gave her a reassuring grin.
Surprised but also relieved, Sakura blushes fondly at this memory. Perhaps she is just smiling because of her newfound hope in Sasuke. But she later shows that she never did believe that Sasuke would stay. Naruto himself, recalling this scene, only noted a pained and forced smile when he mentions Sasuke: she never was reassured. So I think the reason she does smile is actually for Naruto. Because she has just realized that in him, no matter what happens, she has found at least someone she can trust and confide in. He is once again the one to make her smile.
And things indeed do not go as both hope. Shinobi from the Sound are sent to remind Sasuke of the promise of power. Sakura, who has suspected things despite everything, confronts Sasuke on his way out. But despite her most heartfelt pleas for him to stay, Sasuke knocks her out, leaving her with nothing but cryptic words of thanks...
When Sakura comes to, she has no one to turn to anymore, save for the one whom she'd always rejected before, but who was always there for her. The one who, despite all the hardships, was always left standing and smiling, the one whom she'd slowly grown fond of, and whom she's gradually come to acknowledge and trust... Naruto himself.
III. The promise of a lifetime, and the promise to go together!
Recap. So on Sakura's side, we've seen a slow but gradual acknowledgement of Naruto's character. Although she started out completely unnaccepting of him, one by one, her prejudices against him dropped. Instead, we see something else build up. Acknowledgement of his dreams. Companionship. Fondness. And trust. It's slow, but it's there.
But on Naruto's side, we are reminded of just how sensitive this apparently carefree child is. While he started off with just a crush on Sakura (though not completely unfounded), we see just how far he is willing to go. He cheers her on, giving her courage while still acting silly, but when she is truly in danger, he doesn't hesitate to fight with all his might to protect her, at which point we are reminded of his own tragic past. But as Sakura seems to not return any of his feelings, we see yet something else. A glimpse at maturity, as Naruto is now willing to even hide his own pain, and let go of his own happiness, for Sakura. And yet, he still does his best to cheer her up.
Everything will be accelerated by the departure of their teammate, Sasuke.
III. The promise of a lifetime, and the promise to go together!
III.1. The promise of a lifetime
Between Orochimaru's lure to power and his own inability to accept Naruto's growth, Sasuke finally takes the decision to leave. Sakura confronts him on his way out, but despite her most heart-felt pleas for him to stay, he still chooses a solitary avenger's path. Naruto is assigned to the team to bring him back. And before he leaves, Sakura meets up with him.
Bearing the unbearable pain of losing her first love, Sakura finally turns to Naruto. With heartfelt honesty, she cries out that she wasn't able to do Anything. So she begs her last hope. The one she's slowly come to trust. The one who despite his fumblings, came victorious out of the most desperate battles. And the very last one who might be able to reach to their third teammate.
Please, bring back Sasuke.
To someone who has always tried to win Sakura's affections... this must have seemed like the ultimate blow. Naruto finds himself in an ultimate dilemma: Sakura, the girl He likes, has just asked him to bring back his rival in love. And whatever Naruto's sad smile way back at the hospital scene meant, there is no mistaken here. Naruto looks downwards, a look of hurt on his face. When he speaks to her, it is with a sad smile, and a surprisingly quiet voice.
Sakura-chan, you really like Sasuke huh?
Unspoken: It's not me you like, huh.
And yet, instead of voicing his own pain, in a soft whisper, he reaches out to hers.
I know how much pain you're in because of Sasuke.
I can understand.
Even though she never acknowledged his own feelings, Naruto still reaches out to her. Instead of voicing his own pain, he voices hers... He is willing to put her own pain before his, when he's lived a lifetime far harsher than anything she could have imagined. Sakura has been endlessly bashed for this.
But... Sakura does respond. In this time of hardship, she finally begins to perceive this side that Naruto has always hidden from her, that she has never really seen yet. Within the darkness, she finally sees into Naruto's heart, and reflected within, is his real care for Her.
Sakura thinks all the way back to that very scene when she first told "Sasuke" what she thought of Naruto: that he was a troublemaker who enjoyed seeing her suffer, that he didn't understand at all. The original misunderstanding, of his feelings, for her. And although she had been gradually acknowledging him as a teammate, as a comrade, as a friend... it seems she had never consciously rid herself of the belief that he is still just a silly child, who doesn't understand her.
How wrong she was. The last of her prejudices crumbles. So I believe this time, her tears are for Naruto as well. Tears of gratitude for him always being there, tears of the hope she's finally found within him.
Naruto, Thank you. This was all she could say. But I believe this to be one of the most heartfelt thanks in the series. She is thanking him, not just for being willing to bring back Sasuke, but for all these times he has been supporting her in his own way. Although she had never fully acknowledged him, although she had never understood Him, he was always there for her, cheering her through hard times, giving her hope, making her smile.
And that's when Naruto makes his promise, to this very girl he cares so much about. The sort of promise you only make once in your life, and that you vow to pursue no matter what. The promise of a lifetime.
The courage behind that smile simply left me stunned. Behind his usual grin is his own pain of losing a teammate, but also of having his own feelings unrequited. Behind that bright reassurance lay his real care and concern for Sakura, a care based on a genuine understanding of her character. But even greater than that, after that quiet admission that his own feelings are unreturned, by promising to bring back the one that She likes, Naruto is effectively... sacrificing all of his own chances with her. And he doesn't even tell her, he doesn't even expect her to acknowledge his sacrifice.
Yet for Sakura, Naruto is willing to push aside his own pain and darkness. For her, he is willing to find within himself the strength, the hope, for two. To find the strength to smile for two. To give her hope as well. Some have claimed that Naruto has given up on Sakura at this moment. I see the contrary. I see Naruto's true devotion to Sakura's happiness, to Her. And I personally can't think of a greater love than one where you put the feelings of the one you love above your own.
And this time, Sakura finally acknowledges the depth and understanding behind that usual grin.
He always knew. He always helped me.
And all Sakura can do now was watch the back of her retreating teammate.
III.2. Naruto vs Sasuke: a battle between brothers...
After a long chase, Naruto finally catches up to Sasuke. Thinking of Sakura's tears, Naruto yells out at Sasuke. But to Naruto's horror, Sasuke has already lost all traces of humanity. His eye shine in an eerie light, and he chuckles in a way reminiscent of Orochimaru. And when Sasuke attacks him, Naruto thinks of Sakura's sad expression, and of his own broken reassurance that Sasuke would not give in.
But the battle soon turns to more. At that moment, Sasuke remembers words left to him so long ago by Itachi. To gain more power, he'd have to kill his very best friend. Naruto. Sasuke gladly decides to comply. Heartbroken, Naruto watches Sasuke thinking calmly of ways to kill him, and he realizes that he is losing him. So Naruto makes his own confession, admitting his own bonds as one last plea for Sasuke to reconsider.
Those bonds trace back to even before the days of team 7. Somehow, within the loneliness then, the two young boys had found each other. But regrettably, they did not reach to each other... So Naruto lied to himself, and chose to call Sasuke a rival.
Yet, to Naruto, it was one of his first precious bonds, his first ties to a humanity that had shunned him. As such, underneath the loud facade, Naruto considered Sasuke... as his very own brother. You expected me to say lover? This is the NaruSaku manifesto, not the NaruSasu manifesto. Shoo!
I think this is one of the saddest confessions in the manga. All this time Naruto cared so strongly about Sasuke, but he always stubbornly pretended otherwise. Now, as he stares at a brother that is even willing to kill him, it might already be all too late...
In the end, despite his desperate attempts, Naruto still loses. Sasuke still chooses the avenger path.
But Naruto manages to knock away a bit of darkness from his heart: in the end, Sasuke refuses to kill him, refuses this particular path to power. Opening up a possibility to redemption. Naruto hasn't completely failed his promise yet. But this comes at a heavy price. In the coming years, the pain of losing Sasuke will slowly start to cripple Naruto from within, until he too, will come dangerously close to losing himself.
III.3. The promise to go together
Naruto has failed his mission, and returns half dead. The sad cover shows Sakura, looking elsewhere, but smiling. Somehow, I believe this to be Naruto's point of view: Sakura is not looking at him, but he is content with her smile. And now... he has failed that smile.
I stayed away from sadness and pain... I wanted to protect that smiling face.
The promise that I could not keep.
At the hospital, Naruto stares at the forehead protector that Sasuke has left behind, and thinks of Sasuke, Sakura, and his own broken promise. Sakura in the meantime, upon hearing of the return of the rescue team, decides to visit Naruto first. Before she enters though, she overhears the verdict.
Sasuke got away.
She doesn't even cry this time. Her arm falls limply to her side. I think that at that moment, she must have also somehow realized that Sasuke is responsible for all this. For perhaps... nearly getting Naruto, and the others killed. Naruto would have done no less than go all out. For his promise to Her, as well. So Sakura doesn't even gather the courage to enter, until Tsunade shows up. When she enters the room however, Naruto looks surprised for a while, but then finds himself unable to look into Sakura's eyes.
I'm sorry... Sakura-chan...
But Sakura is even more unable to look into his eyes. So she puts on a fake smile. She makes a lame attempt at a joke, she pretends to not hear when Naruto says "I'm sorry... I..." again. Except this time Naruto finds the strength to say out loud, with what I found to be a nearly desperate look on his face.
Sakura-chan I... I'll definitely keep my promise! I said that it was... a lifetime promise!
Who is he trying to convince?
Sakura seems to have lost all hope however. Instead of confronting Naruto, she simply looks out the window, letting her thoughts wander into the distance, instead of facing the harsh realities in the hospital room. The next moment will force Sakura however to confront the situation. Naruto has found the strength to grin again. "I won't go back on my word! Because that's my ninja way!"
He was uncertain a moment ago as well. But looking at Sakura's sad expression, he has somehow found in himself the strength to smile again. The title of the cover comes into mind. "I stayed away from sadness and pain... I wanted to protect that smiling face." For her sake as well, to make her smile, somehow, he has found the strength to smile, to hope, for both of them again. For her.
And forced to face that so familiar grin, but also knowing all the pain underneath it and the strength it took to force out that smile, Sakura nearly lets out the tears that she was unable to cry a moment ago.
But then she stops. The next is a moment of introspection.
Faced with his determination, she clearly remembers her own tears, as she admitted to having been unable to do anything. Faced with the memories of how she begged Naruto, she now clearly sees the consequences: an injured teammate, and the scratched headband of the one who was responsible. ...
There was actually a mistranslation this part. I first found out after reading a Chinese translation, and confirmed besides njt ^_^
All I did was depend on you....
I could only cling to and rely on you
She is confronted with her own dependence on that trust. What has she done up until now? ... nothing. What has she accomplished, but add to Naruto's own burdens, taken his smile for granted? For his promise to her, he was nearly killed. Yet here he is, grinning to cheer her up, despite his own pains. In short she has realized what Sakura-bashers keep bashing her about. Her next thoughts are as a whisper...
I... couldn't do anything.
But despite this bitter realization, this time, she does not give in. Somehow, she has managed to find strength in Naruto's determination as well. And she returns his grin with a smile of her own. An emotionally charged smile, but no longer a fake one. When she turns around to apologize to Naruto, it is not for her own uselessness, or for making him keep that promise.
Instead, she apologizes for having to make him wait.
I'm sorry, Naruto. I had to make you wait a while but... Next time, we'll do it together!
So she appears before none other than the last of the Legendary Sannin, the Godaime Hokage herself. Armed with nothing but a troubled heart that does not go unnoticed by Tsunade ("You're also troubled, aren't you") and the determination to make a difference, The difference, she asks her to train her.
Please, make me your apprentice.
Actually, the Chinese translation states "You are also doing your best, aren't you." instead of noting a troubled heart. I haven't checked the Japanese for this one. Ah well. Whatever the case, the text in the manga is telling.
People fight for those they love. With the new strength she gained through her losses, Sakura begins her new battle.
Sakura never had a dark past, but team 7 has become her dark past. The task ahead is daunting: her adversaries includes the likes of no less than Orochimaru himself. But for the sake of their common lost teammate... but also, now, for the grinning boy who would never lose hope, whom she had never really seen before but who despite that, was always there for her and would not let her lose hope either, Sakura too, would face the challenges ahead. The databook says this:
Totally unreliable and full of baseless confidence is Naruto. But this Naruto becomes to Sakura someone she can rely on the most. The moment she acknowledges this, one can say her true development began.
"Sakura, I’ll keep my promise. Because this is a once in a life time promise."
Naruto’s words are always filled with hope. Sakura always finds hope in his words and moves ahead.
Hence the title of the manifesto: "Because I'm here." Naruto was always there for Sakura. By finally acknowledging this, Sakura finds the strength to move onto the next step.
Naruto, alone again in his hospital bed, thinks of words of thanks to Sakura, but believes that there is no time.
Sakura-chan... thank you... But... I'm sorry. There's no time to wait.
Soon he would receive hopeful news however: they have time. They have 3 years. And Jiraiya will train him during this time.
Naruto and Sakura thus part ways, to train separately for the next 2.5 years. They depart, with a silent promise, to meet up again, stronger than before. Thus concludes part 1.
~ Conclusion of part 1 ~
I've once read a few interesting posts (in Chinese though) on the concept of "first love": the first love is the one people most cherish, because when you fall in love for the first time, you have no experience, no prejudices, so you throw yourself into it with everything you've got. Every relationship you will be in after that will bear the scars of that first failed relationship, and people will forever remember that lost innocence. The value of first love lies in the memories it creates, so you will forever be kind to that person you first fell in love with. But it is also said that when you fall in love for the first time, you don't really know what true love is.
Sasuke was Sakura's first love. I believe Sakura was Naruto's.
Still, first or not, I couldn't help but admire just how mature Naruto was in facing this relationship. He sure gave his all for her:
When she was fighting, he loudly cheered for her.
When she was in danger, he fought with all his might to save her, only letting himself faint after her learned that she is safe.
When she was feeling depressed, he put on his brightest face to reassure her, even though it was to reassure her of his rival in love.
And finally, for her happiness, he was willing to let go of his own.
It is ironic that this very selfless attitude of his, his very ability to put up a smiling face for Her sake, is what makes many people say that Naruto does not care that much for Sakura. I think however, that when you truly love someone, That's when you're willing to make that many sacrifices for them without ever asking anything in return.
In the end, that was it though. Naruto could very well have moved on: frankly I don't believe that any two people absolutely Have to be paired up by the age of 13. I don't believe that a person's happiness or eternal sadness for the next 60+ years of their lives is so easily determined, especially by people you've actually only known for a few years. It may take 2, 8, 15 or 30 years, but the world is vast after all. The people you've met in your lives will forever be dear to your heart, but it doesn't mean you can't move on.
Also, some NaruSaku supporters say that Naruto never gives up on anything. But specifically in the case of Sakura, I actually disagree with them: I find Naruto's attitude with Sakura admirable Precisely because of how he is willing to set aside his own goals for her. Yes, Naruto has always given it his all to obtain the goals he's after.
Yet for everything he did for Sakura, he never asked anything in return. Even though he sought her affections, he never put any sort of pressure on her. He could have told her that he saved her from Gaara, thus "guilting" her into returning some sort of feelings, but he didn't. When Sakura was upset about Sasuke, he could have used this as an opportunity to gain an upper hand, instead he chose to reassure her about his rival. And when Sasuke did leave, instead of voicing his own pain of unrequited feelings, he reached out to hers.
He treated Sakura not as a goal, but as a human being with her own feelings, feelings he respected and cared about above his own. And for her happiness, he was willing to set aside his own. Yet he would always remain there for her, bound by a lifetime promise.
But Naruto's care did not go to waste. Instead, I believe it laid the foundations for potentially more to come. I think that Sakura has indeed been unconsciously growing closer to Naruto, as his every strength and quirks have been growing on her. But I think she rejected him as a more intimate partner, not because their characters weren't compatible, but because she still believed that Naruto was just a brat who didn't understand her, and as such could not envision a closer relationship with him.
But now she has finally understood that there was more to his childish facade. And while she took the longest to understand him, having no dark past of her own to predispose her, I think that now, she's among the few who understands him the most: his strengths, but also his limits and his insecurities. So in part 2, it's her turn to help Him.
In the meantime, Naruto might have decided to give up on Sakura, but I believe the potential for romance is still there, because it was inherent to Naruto and Sakura's characters: how Naruto appreciates Sakura for the will he's perceived in her since chapter 3, how he knows her most romantic fantasies, and how Sakura begins to appreciate the doofus that is Naruto.
So Sakura presents herself to Naruto again in part II, as a brand new person: stronger, brighter, and this time free of the prejudices that she held against him in part I. This time, Sakura will show what She's made of. And on the foundations of care, understanding, trust and appreciation that they have now, they can now build something new, and perhaps, fall in love all over again.
Part 2 "Im here too, lets become stronger together"
~ Part 2: Free of prejudices, now it all begins! ~
~ A new understanding, but also new difficulties ~
I. NaruSaku in times of peace: Underneath the fireworks, a "shining young girl's heart"!
2.5 years have past, and Naruto finally returns. Though he faces challenges ahead, in the end, when he finally comes back, he just feels relief.
When Tsunade tells Sakura that Naruto has returned, Sakura is looking out the window, her expression hidden. Personally I think that she must have thought of a thousand ways to how to greet Naruto when he comes back. But when they do meet again, she ends up just being herself. It's nearly as though they have never left each other. As Sakura watches the new Naruto, she smiles. Then, with a blush on her face and her hand over her chest, she contemplates how much he's grown, still smiling, but a bit sorry that Naruto has grown without her.
All these lovely thoughts get interrupted though as... Naruto brags of the existence of a brand-new perverted ninjutsu.
Interestingly enough, all three commonly accepted best translators (Hisshouburaiken, njt and Nihongaeri) have translated this passage differently from Inane. I first took note when Hisshouburaiken translated the passage Very differently. Unfortunately I can't find back his translation. :( Instead, just to be sure, I've asked both njt and Nihongaeri for clarification. You can find their answers here:
Two things interesting to note:
- both Hisshouburaiken and njt have used "lonely" instead of "sad."
- キラキラ乙乙女心 (which had been translated by Inane as "wonderful feelings of respect") translates literally "shining girl's heart."
Nihongaeri adds that while they refer to "romantic" feelings, they don't necessarily refer to romantic feelings of love, just a sort of idealization. Yet I still think all these show two things:
- the first is that Sakura had indeed grown fond of this batty attitude of Naruto, to the point of feeling a bit "lonely" at the thought that he could have matured.
- the second is that she's now comfortable enough with Naruto to associate Any idealized feelings with him at all. Remember the Wave country arc? Back then, she stated "What are these feelings? This is Naruto...", and unmistakable sense of reservation faced with someone she thought would never amount to much.
Yet here she is, basically admitting out loud that she's be having idealized thoughts of Naruto. To be honest, I think her violent reaction is due at least in part to how she's so shamelessly allowed herself to think up such wonderful thoughts of Naruto, only to... well...
But hey! Don't worry Sakura! At least this "bratty" Naruto is here to stay, and prevent you from being too lonely! =D
Still, let's start with the fireworks shall we?
I.1. Let's start with the fireworks! "Monster strength" vs "You bastard! You still don't understand a woman's feelings!"
What a start! They haven't met each other for 2.5 years, but on the surface, nothing has changed. In fact, things seem to have worsened!
Inner Sakura seems to have fused with Sakura! No longer does Sakura repress this more authoritative side of hers (that she never did repress against Naruto though). Unless, of course, she's facing her scary sensei Tsunade. But Sakura has bloomed into a strong, confident, assertive woman. Her attitude towards Naruto has not changed though, except her punch hurts much more now (though she Does go easy on him. As Sakura later showed, she can pack a Much stronger punch than the shinobi-equivalent of that jab to the shoulder, heh).
And Naruto? He does learn to fear that strength! Yamato has even successfully used this strength as means to threaten him against peeping into the girl's hot springs section. It seems that Sakura's strength is keeping the pervertedness of this student of Jiraiya's well in check (a good thing actually)! Yet for all that supposed fear, he keeps bringing up that "monstrous strength", incurring Sakura's wrath several times over!
In the end, it seems that nothing has changed. Even Naruto and Sakura state so:
Naruto: You look fine! You haven't changed at all.
Sakura (to Shikamaru): Nooo, he hasn't changed at all.
So Naruto is still acting like a clown in front of Sakura, and Sakura is still beating him up for it. Yet underneath all of it, everything has changed.
I.2. Underneath the fireworks: genuine comraderie!
As soon as Kakashi brings up the second bell test, Naruto and Sakura cease their antics, and now we have our first glimpse of just how much things have changed between them.
For all their squabbles, when they face a common adversary, we see how truly they've synched up. And I found it really amazing!!
- it's the same look of anticipation when Kakashi tells them about the bell test.
- it's the same sadness when Kakashi mentions Sasuke, their lost teammate...
- it's the same "bring it on!" expression when Kakashi tells them to begin
- it's the same excited look on their face when Naruto tells Sakura about his plan to defeat Kakashi
- it's the same look of determination as they charge at Kakashi
- it's the same grinning victorious attitude when they get the bells
- it's the same "Ramen! Ramen!" anticipated after the test
- and they both ignore Kakashi the same way as they talk about food, while Kakashi is left feeling sorry for himself for being ignored.
- and as someone pointed out to me, the look Naruto gave Sakura when she showed off her super-strength, was the same look Sakura gave him back in chapter 245!
Of course, some people might probably find this creepy more than anything else. For me it was the opposite though, for me this definitely sealed me as a NaruSaku fan! As I've said, studies point to the fact that similars attract. I will mention this in more detail in the third part of this manifesto though, so don't worry about it.
A friend of mine who's studied anthropology has confirmed as much. Also, in nature, lovebirds and species of parrots mimic their partner's exact movements (okay, so this is getting off-topic...). In any case, what I saw here was dazzling teamwork between close equals and friends who see eye to eye and who despite their surface antics, face the challenges as one! They are proud of each other's growth, yet are confident of their own, and still manage to surprise each other. I can only compare to when Sakura took harshly Sasuke's retort that she was no better than Naruto, and when she felt no enthusiasm whatsoever at the thought of training with Naruto. Now, truly, they stand side by side.
That said, when Naruto asks Sakura on a date, she agrees, but on the condition that he pays. Poor Naruto. In both senses of the expression. But hey, at least she isn't beating him up at the suggestion, like she did when he and Konohamaru first suggested that she was his girlfriend so long ago!
I.3. Underneath the underneath: genuine fondness for one another.
This part may seem like little things, and they're not the result of dramatics. But the fact that they're rooted in times of "peace" is that much more significant to me: at the end of the day, when the difficulties are over, this is all they're left with: each other. But they have both learned to treasure this.
Naruto, as said, has taken to comment on Sakura's monstrous strength at multiple occasions. But really, this isn't about fear.
I should stop playing around in front of Sakura. She could kill me...!
Yet the expression and the words don't match. As Naruto speaks these words, there's a smile on his face, and a genuine light in his eyes. Unless I'm mistaken, it's the first time he's ever shown such an expression. It's different from his usual grins. More inner peace perhaps.
I'll admit: before the timeskip, even though Naruto has shown his devotion to Sakura and has given reasons as to why he likes her, I wasn't quite sure if that initial crush had grown into more. I was somewhat skeptical as to whether he truly developed more affection for Her, for her character, and not just for the fact that she happened to be one of the first to save him from the pain of loneliness.
But thinking back to when he found out why he liked her, so long ago, I can't help but feel that what he saw in Sakura back then, he confirms it here. Back then, underneath her bright and confident surface, he saw her genuine need to get acknowledged, but also the real drive that pushed her ahead. That girl who faced the challenges face high, a confident smile on her face, he finds her again here, even brighter than before, having achieved a strength that only a drive such as hers could have allowed. So I believe that if Naruto is truly still in love with her, then this must be the moment where he fell in love all over again. -If- he truly is still in love with her, of course!
And why does he bring up this strength of hers several times when he knows that he'd just get into trouble for it? I think he does it on purpose: he doesn't hesitate to bring up her strength because even though he knows it isn't a joke, he is comfortable with it. This strong Sakura is the one he's become fond of. He tells Sakura that she hasn't changed at all, because indeed, she's still the girl he's always liked.
Of course, I've seen many people complain that Sakura hitting Naruto proves that the two don't get along. As Marsala once pointed out though, the girl slapping around the guy is actually a Very common theme in anime: Ranma/Akane, Keitaro/Naru, Ed/Winry, even Chichi/Goku.
And since I'm half-Asian myself, I'll tell you that this sort of behavior is very common in even movies and TV series (in much less strong, of course). It is actually often used as a sign of intimacy and familiarity: compare to how siblings act all out around each other, or how men slap each other on the shoulder. Well, this is the Asian girlfriend/boyfriend equivalent. It's all done in good humor. ^^;
Besides, it's pretty obvious that Naruto doesn't take it to heart. He recovers the next minute and never lessens his opinion of "Sakura-chan." In fact, sometimes I get the feeling that he's sometimes purposely seeking to get slapped. Perhaps to lighten up the mood? Dumb or not, he's still a shinobi. If he truly minded, he'd avoid the attacks, not smile dumbly at her monstrous strength. =)
And Sakura, she complains about Naruto's ongoing brain-deadness (is that a word?). However, there's more to it too. When they compare Sasuke and Sai though, and Naruto makes a clumsy compliment of Sasuke instead...
She smiles that intimate smile again, the one she's only ever dedicated to Naruto. But why now? Basically, Naruto is being loud, bratty, maybe somewhat in denial where Sasuke is concerned. In short, Naruto is showing that despite everything, despite all the difficulties, he hasn't changed. So I believe that Sakura smiles that first smile because she realizes this: that Naruto was still the same Naruto. And she smiles that second, intimate smile, because she wouldn't have it any other way.
Then later, as Sai observes the interactions between Naruto and Sakura, he notes Sakura's lack of the usage of a suffix, a lack that might denote disrespect, as was surely the way in the beginning. But there's no mistaken it here: Sakura thus addresses Naruto now because of how close they are. (Note that -chan and -kun are not strict equivalents by the way: -kun actually denotes a certain amount of politeness: Sai addresses Naruto as Naruto-kun but Sakura as Sakura-san, not Sakura-chan. -chan is pure affectionate). Also, even as Sakura keeps commenting on how dumb Naruto is, she no longer says it with malice, but a touch of affection and familiarity: the usage of nicknames between people close to each other.
In the end, they say that you like someone for their strengths, but love them for their faults. All these quirks and human imperfections (or just scariness) are part of who Naruto and Sakura are. Yet they're comfortable with them. In fact, they seem to cherish them. Say what you want about them not getting along, but for all the brief displays they show, the smiles on their faces tell a different story.
Notice by the way that again, Sakura doesn't outright reject Naruto's mention of a date. Nor does she bash him on the head for suggesting that. Instead, she points to the fact that he should be training, though she says this with a smirk on her face. I say, this is just the attitude I'd expect out of a future Hokage's wife! Especially one that is scared of books! To those who complain about her "insult": hey, it's true! Naruto Is rather dumb, no sense denying it. Proposing a solution for it? Even better!
I.4. And maybe a bit of tenderness
Shikamaru once asked his father why he married such a "bossy lady." Shikaku's own databook profile even states that he "fears his wife." And yet... Shikaku left him with these words to ponder: "Even the roughest woman can be tender to the man she loves." Shikamaru thought that his father was insane, and yet...
As Sakura smiles those smiles to Naruto, I can only see them as tender moments. For a moment, Sakura drops her fierce facade, and simply contemplates and cares for Naruto. But there's a sadness to it all when Naruto is hurt.
That particular sadness didn't last long though. As soon as Naruto sees Sakura's relieved expression, he ruins the moment again by well... acting like a clown (ah well, some things really don't change). But stopping to think for a moment, I can't help but notice that just like that, at least for a while, Naruto has managed to dispel all her worries. Still, even the clueless Sai perceives, under that rough facade, the real tenderness she holds for Naruto.
Sakura-san, it's times like this that...Hmm... how to put it... You're very nice to Naruto. Where those feelings come from is something I don't understand. But in a book it said this...
Sai gets interrupted, but he's said enough for us to know this: while Sakura seems rough to Naruto most of the time, it's during the times of difficulties that we truly see how much she cares about him, and how gentle she can be with him.
Interestingly enough, the words used in a Chinese translation I've come across is 溫柔, which means kind, yes, but in the "gentle and soft," "tender" way. I've checked the Japanese and the word used is 優しい, which apparently has the following definition: "tender, kind, gentle, graceful, affectionate, amiable, suave". According to a dictionary of mine, there's another word for kind that is 親切な. But only 優しい is preceded by (tender). So it does seem that Sai used a word that carries "tender" connotations. Besides, it's the same word that was used by Shikamaru's dad. =D
So Naruto manages to bring out all these sides of Sakura: the strong, confident, outgoing Sakura, but also the more tender and contemplative Sakura. Sakura has come a long way. I doubt anybody would have qualified Sakura as "tender" to Naruto in part one, but with the fondness she's started developing for Naruto in part 1 and her gradual acceptance of his personality, she has grown to even show this softer side of hers to Naruto.
I.5. Mutual admiration and respect: Heaven and Earth! A relationship between equals!
And finally, you could say that this here, is the reason I "respect" this couple. Well, respect is a bit too formal, but I can't help but feel dazzled by this aspect and feel proud about it.
Even in shounen mangas it is hard as hell to truly find equality in the couple. The male is always stronger than the female, who might have her bursts of hidden strength (more "special hidden abilities" than real talent) but that's it, the girl is usually behind. But Naruto and Sakura do manage to pull it off. Equals.
First off, "Heaven and Earth"? We'll have to go back some, to the end of the second test of the Chuunin exams. As Iruka appears before team 7, he explains: Heaven is the mind, the intelligence. This is Sakura's strength, but also Naruto's weakness. Earth is the body, physical strength. Naruto's strong point, but also Sakura's weak point. Now I won't start exclaiming "they're complementary!" just because of their skills. Rather, their differences in strengths and weaknesses is what allows them to stand as proudly together as equals. They thus find in each other a mutual source of admiration and inspiration. And maybe something to learn from each other.
For Sakura, it's always been Naruto's strength that she's looked up to since part 1. Or rather, his spirit that allows him to come victorious out of the most desperate battles. In this strength she finds strength as well.
For Naruto, it's Sakura's mind. He watches in awe as she displays her incredible medical skills to extract Kankurou's poison. Sakura-chan... you're cool. She too, isn't about to lose to Naruto.
Yet at the same time, they still manage to surprise each other. Naruto surprises Sakura with his newfound maturity, as he faces Sai but does not punch him. As for Sakura... well Sakura's display of strength as she pulverizes the ground was the shock of his life.
So at the end of the day, neither overshadows the other. On the contrary, both stand proudly by each other, strong in their own rights, and recognizing and admiring that strength in the other. And surprising each other from time to time.
So we find that Naruto and Sakura haven't changed, but they've grown: in mind, in spirit, but also in their relationship to each other. The entire development that we've seen built up in part 1 now lay before us in part II: acknowledgement, companionship, fondness, even a bit of tenderness. In many ways, part II is a mere epilogue. But as they seek their common lost teammate, they are forced more than ever to find strength in each other. So in many ways, part II is also the mere beginning.
II. The difficulties begin... NaruSaku in times of need: finding in each other the will to move forward
Unfortunately, the happiness of reunion is short-lived... both Naruto and Sakura are haunted by the absence of their third teammate. They have been training 2.5 years, now they'll have to face the new challenges ahead.
Team 7, the 3-man team...
II.1. Sakura lives up to her end of the relationship: this time, I'll be the one to protect them!
In all of part 1 Sakura was a mere burden. For all her good will, all she did was stay behind and cry. But with Naruto's support, she had decided to change this. For 2.5 years she has trained under the Legendary Sannin Tsunade, to save her lost teammate, while reducing the burdens of her other teammate.
Yet as though her task isn't great enough, she now learns of the burdens of her other teammate. Naruto's.
Sealed inside me, is the nine tails demon fox.
It is interesting that even though she knows, Sakura still acted normally around Naruto. Whatever the reasons for this, I think Naruto appreciates it. Once upon a time, Naruto was desperately seeking for acknowledgement. And even when he got it, he still remembered the pain of loneliness, the fear of being rejected. Yet he shows no doubts nor fear when he announces to Sakura: "You already know too... Right Sakura? Perhaps because she acted normally around him, he's realized that she already accepts this part of him, and won't reject him because of it.
All this doesn't make Sakura's tasks easier however. Her first teammate is about to be possessed by the snake sannin, and is dedicated solely to revenge. Her second teammate has carried the burden of being the Kyuubi container since young, and now has a terrible organization after his very life.
All this time, Sakura had come to learn and accept of Naruto's strengths. Yet now she also learns of his pains and limits. Underneath the bright exterior, there's a human being who's hurting and who needs someone to reach to him as well. All this time, he's been offering her support. Yet his own pain far surpassed anything she could have ever felt. And Sakura does not back down.
Way, way back in part 1, during that first bell test, Kakashi had scolded Sakura for going after Sasuke, when Naruto was "right there," needing her help as well.
Sakura, instead of Naruto, who was right next to you... You were only thinking about Sasuke, who was far away.
All the time that Sakura has been relying on Naruto, when Naruto had far greater burdens of his own. And Sakura didn't even know. But Sakura does not forget Naruto this time. As she thinks of Naruto's difficulties, and later as she confronts the inhuman opponent Sasori, she promises herself:
This time, I'm going to save them both!
II.2. Care for each other's feelings... but also fear of hurting the other.
However, the rising difficulties take their emotional toll on both of them.
Faced with the difficulties, Naruto seems to grow more distant to Sakura. frodolass has once made this interesting analysis of the genjutsu nightmare that Itachi put Naruto through: http://frodolass.livejournal.com/6803.html
The next to emerge is Sakura. Her head protrudes from Naruto's abdomen, the part of the body that represents one's repressed emotions, or something that one has difficulties accepting. Since Sakura speaks to Naruto of broken trust, this could mean to show that Naruto cannot handle the fact that he failed to recover Sasuke the first time and his underlying fear that he might fail yet again. He also can't stomach the fact that he had somehow broken his promise to Sakura (and to himself). Furthermore, Sakura seems to be coming out of his abdomen and poking through between an opening in his jacket rather than straight through the cloth. The exposed stomach expresses trust and vulnerability, which is exactly what Sakura is scolding him for breaking. This fear is what makes him most vulnerable.
So it seems one of Naruto's major demons is the fear of breaking Sakura's trust. She is one of his most important people, so he's afraid to disappoint or hurt her. After the genjutsu, he is left in a daze, until a worried Sakura pats him on the cheek to get him to snap out of it.
As a result of this fear though, gradually, he becomes even unable to face her with his problems. So he starts isolating himself. When it is revealed that Naruto can never get rid of Kyuubi without dying, Sakura sheds tears for him, something that does not go unnoticed by him. Faced with this, Naruto chooses to smile, and diverts the topic to Gaara.
Some people say that Naruto is simply so stupid that he doesn't understand that Sakura is worried about Him. I disagree. Naruto may be dense, but when it comes to Sakura, he's proven himself to be incredibly observant and empathic at times. Honestly, he's not That stupid.
His smiles are often more a means of masking his own pain, or a means of reassurance, than a sign of genuine happiness. Long ago, at the hospital, when Sakura hugged a just recovered Sasuke, Naruto let out a sad smile. And later, before he's made his promise to Sakura, he also put up a smile, right after a look of hurt and deject.
And here, we see Naruto specifically interrupting Sakura the moment she wants to cry out that it's him she's worried about. I think he cuts the topic short to not dwell on it. But the look on his face as he turns away speaks louder than his fake grin. The depiction of a solitary figure hurrying to leave, his face downcast, and unable to face the others, is an unmistakable sign of pain... and attempt at isolation, at avoiding others. So I think Naruto knows perfectly well. But he likely doesn't want to burden Sakura with his own problems.
You're always being made to cry, Sakura-chan. Don't worry...
He doesn't want to be the one to make her cry. So I believe his grin is to reassure her, like he has done so many times in the past. He doesn't want her to feel sad for him, to hurt more because of him. So instead he attempts to pretend that everything is alright with him. Then he quickly leaves to mask his real pain, a pain that despite his best intentions, is very badly hidden. And Sakura can just look helplessly as he attempts to shoulder his problems alone.
But Sakura Is there, noting his sadness as he is unable to face the harsh reality of never being able to rid himself of Kyuubi, noting his pain at the memories of losing a teammate and a brother. Standing up for Naruto when Kabuto insults him, then finally, noting Naruto's despair as he finally faces Orochimaru, facing a pain so deep that he is even willing to sell his soul to Kyuubi, in order to find back his lost brother....
I think this last scene truly broke her heart. As she stares at this both so inhuman and so human Naruto, she can't help but think back at the grinning boy who was determined to rescue his teammate, and who also made Her a lifetime promise. Where is that grinning boy now?
So heedless of the danger, she runs to him. She was reckless, yes. She acted on impulse and there really isn't anything else she could have thought of: Sai is nowhere to be seen, and she still does not know of Yamato's abilities.
Yet I couldn't be prouder of the answer she gives. Of all the solutions she could have thought up against his pain, the most obvious would have been to set him free from the promise of a lifetime. But all this time, she's witnessed to how important Sasuke is to Naruto as well. She's even told Sai that Naruto considers Sasuke his very own brother. For her to ask Naruto to give up now would have been not only useless, it would have likely been insulting to his character, and insinuating that he can't live up to his promise. That he'd have to give up one of his most precious bonds, as well.
So she cries out the ultimate compromise.
Naruto! This... that's enough! I'll be the one to save Sasuke!
Some translators translate this last sentence as "I'll save Sasuke for you!" They have explained that while the "for you" isn't explicitly mentioned, there is a heavy emphasis on the "I" that suggests this, backed by context. So instead of letting Naruto suffer this much, she is willing to take on the burden for two, even though her chances of ever saving Sasuke would have been that much reduced... And at the same time, she shows just how much she understands his feelings.
But later, afraid of hurting Naruto's feelings even more, she hides the true cause of the injury the mini-Kyuubi has given her. Instead she also puts up a smile and pretends that everything is alright. She doesn't blame him, and doesn't want to put blame on him, not when he suffers so much already...
All these increasing isolations seem to be a step back for their relationship...
II.3. To overcome these times of difficulties: drawing strength from each other.
But even in these times of difficulties, we see their relationship growing or rather... we see it deepening. Indeed, the cause of their increasing isolation is not because of lessening feelings, but on the contrary because of how Much they care for each other. And herein lies the solution: reaffirming their understanding of each other.
After the tragic events of the Kyuubi 4-tails transformation, a heartbroken Sakura also ponders what she can do for Naruto. 2.5 years of training, and all she can do is witness, witness, witness...
Same as always...
I can only do the dumbest of things for Naruto.
Yet Yamato sees something more important within her, so after a little smile, he tells her:
It's not what you do for Naruto that's important... It's how strongly you feel about him that counts. Hmph... Sakura, I can tell just by looking at you... the truth is you...
Within her feelings for Naruto, she will find the strength to make a difference as well. She's not the strongest, she can't control Kyuubi, nor heal Naruto of his biggest pains. But while Naruto is isolating himself, she'll be the touch of humanity to care for him and to remind him of what's important.
And while Sakura's words might not have gotten through to a Kyuubified Naruto, her actions leave ripples that finally did succeed in reaching Naruto's heart. Although Sakura is afraid of hurting Naruto, Yamato has no such personal qualms. So he's the one who tells Naruto, and it in doing so, reminds him of the importance of bonds.
I've recently rewatched Samurai X (the OAV version of Rurouni X, focusing mainly on his relationship with his first love, Tomoe). And I've realized that "I will protect you," when said from a male to a female, actually carries subtle romantic connotations.
In Samurai X, Kenshin never tells Tomoe "I love you." Instead, it's when Kenshin reaches out to her, and tells her in a grave tone, "I will protect you," that Tomoe truly realizes how much they're in love. And those words accelerate the events, leading to Tomoe's tragic demise.
I've checked other animes, and indeed, this "protect" theme is present to various degrees in other shounen and shoujo such as Utena (the anime in any case), Ayashi no Ceres, Ranma, Inu Yasha, and others. Sometimes "I will protect you" is uttered right after a confession of love. Sometimes it is just uttered on its own, and the love is felt from just that.
I've read somewhere else that declarations of love tend to be rare in Japan, that people tend to prefer proving their love with actions. Having the male randomly make declarations of love might be viewed as inappropriate Instead, by making this declaration of protection, they are stating a lifetime devotion, perhaps as strong a proof of love as any.
This type of wording is actually reflected in Naruto as well. The first thing Lee tells Sakura is actually "Let's go out together! I'll protect you till I die!" (unfortunately Sakura couldn't stand his eyebrows back then). Kakashi was unable to return Rin's feelings, but in memory of Obito, in memory of the love He held for Rin, Kakashi told told Rin that he'd protect her. He'd fulfill the intentions that Obito was unable to fulfill. And when a puzzled Gamabunta asked Naruto who "Sakura-chan" is, Gamakichi offered the explanation that she is Naruto's girlfriend, as though its explains Naruto's dedication.
Back then, Naruto fought with his life to protect Sakura. Then, to protect her feelings, he made her a promise of a lifetime. And even now, Yamato himself states: "If you truly want to protect Sakura." It is not absolute proof of romantic love... but it shows the extent of Naruto's dedication to Sakura.
So in the end, Sakura's care was not in vain. Naruto has finally learned that giving in to Kyuubi might help him save Sasuke more quickly, but the price is too high. To see his brother again, with his own eyes, but also to protect the girl he cares so much about, Naruto will learn to rely on his own eyes. So when Naruto finally does meet up with Sasuke, he learns to say "No" to Kyuubi.
Unfortunately, they fail yet again to bring back their teammate. Naruto is once again overcome with a sense of uselessness and grief. Sakura is crying too this time. But she is also strong for Naruto.
So again, despite their difficulties we see their bonds strengthening.
The next step, and the conclusion of part 2: out of the cyclical, into the mutual
It is to note that the care Naruto and Sakura have for each other has never been "mutual": heart to heart and simultaneous, but "cyclical." In part 1, it was Naruto who supported Sakura, who gave her hope and inspiration in her times of difficulties. But as Naruto becomes consumed by his own demons, this time Sakura is the one reaching to him, even as both of them hold back because they are afraid to hurt each other.
But their care does not go to waste: thanks to Yamato, they have managed to reach to each other. So I believe that the next step is for them to draw directly from each other, without a third party, and while facing each other with their own feelings.
I think Naruto needs to realize that no matter what happens, even if he fails his promise, that he won't be breaking Sakura's trust, that she'll still unconditionally accept him and stay by his side. He needs to realize that he's not alone, and that it's okay to share his burden. Only then can yet another of the stones on his heart be lifted, as he reaches towards his long-lost brother.
Sakura does not need to romantically love him for this, but I think this sort of full acceptance would only do him good. She is after all one of those who understand his pains and weaknesses the most, and one of his most precious people with whom he has spent some of the best moments of his life. Knowing that she'll never let go of him, that she'd always accept him, flaws and failures and everything, would at least alleviate one burden on his heart, before he gathers courage again and say "Thanks Sakura-chan, but I'm not giving up" with that usual grin of his.
And as for Sakura, I think she needs to realize that she's not just a burden. Even if she isn't the strongest fighter, by simply being there for Naruto, she might be making all the difference. In her, Naruto needs not only the support fighter and the medic-nin who might help heal his worse injuries, but also the friend, the companion, the touch of humanity who accepts and understands him and will support him in his goals.
For the title of this manifesto, I had tried to come up with all sorts of fancy variations of "Because I'm here": "Even if you're not watching, I'm here for you", "I'll be here for your happiness", "It's okay, don't be sad, because I'm here for you." Blablabla. You get the idea. But in the end, I couldn't think of anything that describes the whole relationship. The more I tried to stuff into the title, the more uh... I wanted to add on top of it. In the end, it's just about them being there for each other.
Naruto being there for Sakura in part 1. To cheer for her when she's fighting, to protect her when she's in danger, to reassure her when she's sad, to dedicate his life to her happiness. All the while, never asking anything back.
Sakura being there for Naruto in part 2. To accept him for his strengths. To accept him for his faults. To accept him for his demons. To be kind to him in his pain, to cry for him when he despairs, and to be the touch of humanity to prevent him from losing himself. To be there to protect him as well.
They're there for each other. Growing up together, living victories and failures together, but also pulling each other up again. Feeling happy when the other is happy, feeling sad when the other is in pain, feeling the need to grow stronger while witnessing the other's strength, feeling the need to grow even stronger when the other falters.
I'm still here. We'll become stronger together.
For both of them, these bonds would only make them stronger.
And thus they move forward, simply being there for each other. Together.
~ Foreword to the pairing study: does Naruto "Deserve" Sakura? ~
Many NaruSaku fans say that Naruto "deserves" Sakura. NaruSaku opponents reply by saying that love can't be earned, that a person's feelings isn't a trophy. That they must be freely given.
In the case of NaruSaku, I've always found two things fishy with this last statement.
The first is: how can Naruto be forcing someone to love him, when Sakura is actually the one person for whom he Is willing to set aside his own interests, his own feelings? Naruto Never forced Sakura to love him back. In part 1, he pursued her company, but in such a way that Sakura misunderstood his intentions until the end of part 1 (even then, she might not have understood them in full). And for the few instances where he Could have forced his hand: after he saved her from Gaara, after the hospital rooftop fight when Sakura decided to confide in him, after Sasuke left, he not only did not force his hand, he reassured her about his rival in love, and even promised to bring said rival back.
And all the while, he has never even told her about his feelings. He has never expected her to take his feelings into consideration. Naruto simply gave. He never asked anything in return.
So under such circumstances, if Sakura does return his feelings, how can this love be anything but freely given? When Naruto doesn't even let it known that he'd like her to turn to him, how can anything be forced?
The second is "if Sakura falls in love with Naruto Now, it'd not be because she loves Him but because he's done a lot for her." First of all, I disagree with this because although the Naruto and Sakura interaction has been accelerated by events, I believe it has its foundations firmly rooted in "peace." More than Naruto's strength, it is Naruto's Faults that in my opinion grew on Sakura: his "silly" dream, his "clumsy" but so brave self, his stubborn little attitude that hasn't grown up, so much so that she'd feel "lonely" if he ever grew out of those. And all of this started well before she's realized how much Naruto has done for her.
But the second thing I found really fishy about this is the following: it states that apparently, being nice and doing things for someone you like is a Bad thing. ...okay. Wait, since when is kindness and commitment a Bad thing to a relationship? So a partner isn't a trophy, but an obstacle course instead? And the value of a relationship lies in how... little you gain from it?
This honestly left me scratching my head. No matter how I looked at it, there was still something I felt wrong about it. After more thinking, I think it comes down to this: the difference between Starting a romance, and maintaining a long-term relationship.
You can't force anybody to acquire romantic feelings for you, no matter what you do. And indeed, Naruto has never forced Sakura. But I think those who believe in love at first sight (or something like that) or believe that just falling in love would result in a lifetime of natural, trouble-free, 50+ years happy relationship are rather naive. Sure, that's how movies and romance novels always write it, so much so that it gets tiring at times. In fact, I've even read articles on how people complain that such movies have wrecked their relationship because they believed that real love is list that.
As far as I'm concerned, real relationships aren't as easy.
For one thing, as far as I'm concerned, relationships usually do need to be built up. I don't see why two people have to be in love from the Very Start, when they barely know each other (I don't believe in love at first sight), or just very early on when they Still don't know each other well. You do need to spend time with that person before getting to the next step. For this, I think friendship is important for a relationship (not sufficient, but much more of a good thing than a bad thing). To this day I still don't get why people think total strangers make the best partners...
And just having a temporary infatuation won't guarantee a completely smooth ride ahead either. After the initial high (that unfortunately Does pass), you need mutual commitment, mutual dedication, mutual trust, and paying attention each other's emotional needs to maintain the relationship. As ew_younerd once put it, the most important part of a relationship is giving yourself to your partner (time, attention, everything). Being there for your partner. And it has to be mutual, or else the partner giving will be neglected. It's hard to find couples nowadays willing to make that sort of dedication.
You also better be at ease with the person or at least feel natural around that person, or you're up for a lifetime of friction that may pose problems when the initial chemistry impulse has worn off. Some people I've come across seem to think that the worse off a relationship, the better it is because of the amount of work you have to put into it (huh?). In my opinion, a good relationship is being fully committed to maintain and cultivate a relationship that Does work. Am I asking for too much? Enough marriages end in divorce as is...
And this is what fascinates me so much about NaruSaku. Maybe I haven't read enough mangas, but for the first time, I see a couple who isn't just glitz and passion (or just "they're together because I say so!"), but actually builds up the foundation for a more happy and stable relationship. The build-up is in my opinion rather realistic too: Sakura learned about Naruto little by little until he's started to grow on her. It's certainly more refreshing for me than Naruto's one-hit (or one-shout) conversions (that I am seriously getting fed-up with. I mean, what the hell was that Sai conversion about?). And yes, I find this rare. Show me one such healthy relationship Built-up in a fictional work, and I'll show you ten based on nothing but angst.
So NaruSaku certainly isn't the most "pretty" couple. It certainly isn't the most "dramatic", "passionate", "deepest" or whatever. Maybe it's because I'm more oriented towards mathematics and engineer, but I'm personally a Lot more interested in the stability of the foundation over the appearance of the decoration. I believe the potential for "romance" is there since Naruto has shown how much he could reach to Sakura's emotions since chapter 3, but things went in a very slow and steady manner from there. And that's a good thing. They were 13 after all, and just 15 now, shinobi or not they still have time before serious romance and marriage considerations. :S
Instead, we're left with a big hole in part 1, from which, however, we see foundations being set down: trust, mutual dedication, care for each other's feelings and fondness for each other's personalities, all of which are necessary for a relationship, but are all too often lacking in fictional work. All these took time to form: rock by rock, dribble by dribble, but I think that with time they have indeed penetrated the depths.
So it's not about "deserve". It's more about showing that they have what it takes to tend to their partner's needs, to nurture a good relationship. Angst is easy, but it's happiness that's the real rare jewel to unearth and to keep.
But let's see take this one step at a time, shall we?
Part 3: Why Narusaku? Narusaku: Couple analysis
I. NaruSaku, and their influence on each other: always aiming higher
I.1. Matching strength with strength: doing the best for each other!
Naruto's influence on Sakura was often overshadowed by his relations with the other characters... yet they were undeniably there.
Naruto's direct cheers made her fight harder. Interestingly enough, she ignored him at first. But when she finally acknowledged those cheers against Ino, she found the strength to even push Ino out of her mind. Naruto's cheer acted as trigger to awaken that. [...] That's not even it. Sakura is the same as Naruto. Her inability to accept defeat is beyond the average person. Naruto triggered that stubborness, a stubborness so like his own.
Naruto's courage became an inspiration to her. When Sasuke hesitated against Orochimaru, she found the strength to yell back at him: "At least he's not a coward!" And in the forest of Death, Naruto was one of those who inspired her to get up against the Sound nin.
Naruto's victories became ones she feels herself, and his strength motivates her to do her best as well. When Naruto won against Kiba, she loudly exclaimed "Hell yeah! This feels great!" When Neji won, she happily noted the cheers he was receiving, then sighed:
"*sigh* I'm kind of jealous of you. When I watch you fight, I feel like I have to try harder. That's an incredible thing."
And this wasn't the only time she manifested such a desire. After the tragic events leading to Sasuke's departure, a injured but still determined Naruto reaffirmed his decision to uphold his promise. Sakura realized then how useless she's been. But she decided to be strong as well, and to go with him.
So this influence was often quite subtle. It did not have many outbursts, because most of them occured in relatively peaceful times, as opposed to the dramatic scenes where Naruto has changed so many characters. But it was constantly there and grew as Sakura slowly came to understand and acknowledge Naruto, until when Sakura should have been at her weakest, she took example in Naruto's strength and asked Tsunade to make her her apprentice.
It is also interesting that Naruto made Sakura confront her own weaknesses in his own ways, just by being himself. But at the same time, he made her want to do her best.
As for Sakura's influence on Naruto, it's actually not a case of matching strength for strength, but I was too lazy to type another section. *dodges rotten tomatoes* But Naruto always did his best for Sakura. Indirectly, Sakura brought out the best in Naruto, even if it involved no "direct" merit of her own. This was not in vain though, as Sakura finally takes the decision to reach to Naruto as well.
I.2. Matching weakness with strength: the power to never fall into despair!
NaruSaku does not have that element of "despair" that make other couples somewhat "deeper". I think this is why NaruSaku may never gain the support some other couples do. They have difficult times, but they deal with them not by succumbing, but by displaying enough strength to go move ahead.
- before the promise of a lifetime, Naruto could have very well lingered over his own sadness: of losing Sasuke, but also of unrequited feelings. Instead he empathized with Sakura's sufferings, then found the strength to grin and make her a bright promise.
- when Naruto returned without Sasuke, both he and Sakura could have given in. But seeing Sakura's sad face, Naruto decided once again to not give in. This made Sakura realize her own uselessness, and she could have given into those negative feelings as well. But staring at Naruto's cheerful face and pondering her trust of him, she too decided to fight on, to be there by Naruto's side the next time.
- when Naruto revealed that he had the Kyuubi, Sakura looked down in sadness. But instead of losing hope this time, she decided that this time, She will be the one to save both of them.
- when Naruto learned that he couldn't give into the Kyuubi without dying, he was clearly pained, but tried to divert the topic to not worry Sakura. Sakura too was crying. But she didn't linger on this. Instead, when confronting Sasori, she thought of both Sasuke and Naruto, and decided this time to be the one to protect both of them. So she fought fiercely on.
- when Sakura looked sadly at the unconscious Naruto who was possessed by Kyuubi just a while ago, she pondered her own uselessness again. But Yamato told her this: "It doesn't matter whether big or small, what's important is the strength of the feelings you have for him." She will find the strength to make a difference thanks to her feelings for him.
- and she did make that difference. She didn't tell Naruto for fear of hurting him, but Yamato did. At this point, again, Naruto could have felt worse. But Yamato told him this: "If you truly want to meet Sasuke, and if you truly want to protect Sakura..." Instead of sinking into despair, Naruto gained a newfound sense of resolution. The next time, unwavering, he said "no" to Kyuubi.
- finally, when they've failed to bring back Sasuke, Naruto was yet again on the ground, pondering his weakness. Sakura too was crying. But despite this, she was strong for him. "I'm still here. We'll become stronger together." Instead of final defeat, we got a sense of companionship, and the will to hold on no matter what.
So to an observer, the interactions between Naruto and Sakura may look rather static. There is no rollercoaster of emotions, no ups and downs. But I find the result to be far more incredible. Maybe people would take NaruSaku more seriously if Naruto cried at Sakura and made her feel guilty instead of doing his best to cheer her up. Maybe they'd think more highly of it if Sakura cried and wallowed in self-pity as a result.
But I do not believe despair to be what defines a relationship. Angst it easy, crying is easy. Strength is Not giving up, no matter how difficult the situation is. And the ability to be strong For the other, to pull the other back up when he or she is down and just stay afloat above the difficulties, is something I find far more incredible.
I.3. The result of this influence: equals, companions
Sakura certainly isn't the only one to be influenced by Naruto. Naruto certainly isn't the only one to influence Sakura either. But the result of this influence is something I particularly appreciate in NaruSaku: through all their admirations and influences, they somehow manage to stand out as equals.
Iruka once compared Naruto to Earth and Sakura to Heaven. The comparison stands quite appropriately in part 2 as Sakura stands proudly as a medic nin and Naruto as a stronger fighter. But I think this equality manifests itself better in their actions around each other: Naruto and Sakura look up to each other, but they do so with the eyes of equal companions. The bell test in part 2 shows that they are perfectly synchronized, that they can stand side by side instead of one behind the other. At the end of the day, they look eye to eye, proud of each other's accomplishments, but also standing proudly themselves.
And as equals and companions, they don't just rely on each other, whether physically or emotionally. Instead they grow stronger for each other, reaching to the other when the other is down.
So I enjoy Naruto and Sakura's influence on each other. How they always manage to move ahead together, to reach higher instead of succumbing, whether in times of peace or in times of difficulties. And they do so side by side, as equal companions who look up to each other, but are also realistic and know when to reach to the other when the other is down.
II. NaruSaku, the "couple"!
The previous section described their interactions on a rather "grand" level, so to say. This section though, is about their "personal", day-to-day chemistry.
II.1. NaruSaku, the "natural" pair! Natural selves, Natural interactions, and Natural "attraction"
NaruSaku certainly isn't the most dramatic pairing. Some observers may even consider it "bland," but I personally like the chemistry between Naruto and Sakura just fine. Call it "bland" if you want, I call it "natural." Around each other, Naruto and Sakura are simply... themselves. And I can't think of a better thing I'd seek in a couple.
I see 3 levels of "natural" in NaruSaku: (ho, enumerations!)
- natural selves
- natural interactions
- natural "attraction"
I guess you could say that if other pairings are perfume, then I'd consider NaruSaku fresh air. If another pairing is dark chocolate, then NaruSaku is fresh salad. I guess it's a matter of taste, and this is definitely mine.
Naruto and Sakura are most free and themselves around each other. Yes, Naruto gets occasionally set straight when he gets Too overboard (how's that a bad thing though?), but otherwise he finds in Sakura a companion who keeps up with his level of activity.
As for Sakura, my personal theory is that Inner Sakura is Sakura's repressed personality. Yet around Naruto, she is fully able to display this strong and confident side of hers. Later on, she is able to display a calmer, more tender side of hers as well.
teruame once used another word: individuality.
I thought that it was worthwhile mentioning how important it is for the individuals in a couple (fictional or realistic) to encourage each other to be themselves and mature into who they truly want to be. Fulfilling one's individuality is what I consider the epitome of contentment and happiness for every individual, and I believe that having a relationship should, if not promote this factor, at least maintain it. Every person or character has their own individuality, and it is one major disappointment for me if their pairings limit that trait of theirs. Unfortunately, I haven't seen a lot of pairings that consider this factor.
Yet I think Naruto and Sakura are fully able to manifest this individuality around each other.
A consequence of the above! Around each other, Naruto and Sakura simply act all out! In the beginning, when Sakura still didn't accept Naruto, this interaction mostly just consisted of Sakura hitting Naruto... But as she came to accept Naruto, we find them able to share more all-out moments together. I find their looks of complicity to be adorable!
Their similar personalities just allows them to coordinate so well. They are completely themselves around each other. They look up to each other but without compromising on themselves. I think it's wonderful. It's like a breath of fresh air.
ew_younerd once said this:
Any or all of these could be the link, but of course it's not that it's just one trick that has someone staying by your side forever. It's improving yourself and being healthy and happy for them. Studies show that we respond naturally better to more open body language around our partners so uncross those arms, give them more eye contact, and smile at them. Grabbing fresh air together is important too, I've read.
This is why I love this pairing over so many other ones. This "attraction" between Naruto and Sakura isn't necessarily romantic. But I find this attraction to be quite well... natural, because they are not just attracted to each other's strength. Indeed, on the more human level, they are attracted even to each other's faults.
The Naruto that Sakura looks to is not a saviour, a model of inner strength or anything she places above herself. Indeed, the Naruto she smiles at, and that's she's grown fond of, is "that kind of idiot," the one who messes up (but is at least brave), and the stubborn brat who hasn't changed. Yes, Naruto goes overboard at times, yet I think Sakura does appreciate him the way he is, to the point of feeling lonely at the thought that he might have changed.
As for Naruto, I think he was initially attracted to Sakura because he saw in her an inner drive so much like his own, one that I think was confirmed in part 2. But even then, I don't think he's ever had an idealized vision of Sakura. He's seen her at her worst and weakest after all, but she's still the Sakura-chan whose smile he wants to protect. In the meantime, Sakura's newfound strength is something nothing short of monstrous and scary. Yet this scary strength of Sakura's is something he looks fondly upon as well.
So this is why I qualify the attraction as "natural." Yes, they look up to each other. But at the end of the day, it's the faults that make them who they are, and that bring a smile to their faces.
II.2. Naruto and Sakura: they haven't changed, but they've grown!
I've read somewhere "a good couple is one where each makes the other change, yet Naruto and Sakura haven't changed around each other so don't bring anything for each other!" Something like that...
I've personally come accross the contrary, that "change after becoming a couple" is apparently a myth at the origin of many a failed relationship. A person can attempt to change for the sake of a relationship if he truly wants to, but if it's forced then it will result in problems. A person has been with himself longer after all than he has been with his partner. This is why I value the "natural" in a couple so much.
Unless the characters have Real serious character problems, I don't really see the point of "change." Naruto and Sakura haven't changed around each other. But they have grown.
Naruto hasn't changed. He's still our lovable idiot. Yet for Sakura's sake, this stubborn brat has, for the first time perhaps, learned to give, learned to let go of one of his goals. He never pressured Sakura, on the contrary he even reduced his own chances by promising to bring back his rival.
He treated Sakura not as one of his many goals, but as a human being with her own feelings. Feelings he respected and cared for above his own. I believe this to be Naruto's single biggest display of maturity in the series. Of course, people may see this "letting go" as a Bad thing, but I've read this once: 7 laws to a relationship
Don't try to control when time comes to go. Realize that if the person is supposed to be with you longer, they will return on their own. The greatest art of relationships is to know how to let go.
Naruto respects Sakura's happiness above all. But perhaps, one day, she may come to him of her own free will.
Sakura also helps keep him in check when he Does get Too overboard, whether by reasoning on the battlefield, thus preventing him from rushing in; by preventing him from showing Too much disrespect to superiors (lessons in diplomacy for the future Hokage!); by scaring the pervertedness out of him; or by holding him back against those who insult him, like she did against Sai. Yet even as she imposes self-control in necessary situations, around each other they are fully themselves.
Ironically, Sakura didn't hold back herself against Sai. But Naruto then showed an incredible display of maturity by holding himself back against Sai as well, and this time, it was his turn to set an example for Sakura.
Then in part 2, after learning that he hurt Sakura, he has learned self-control. It may make all the difference in the future.
In the meantime, some people have said that Naruto would probably "grow out" of his hyper-activity. Somehow, I kind of doubt this. It's this childish but sincere impulsiveness of his that has affected the lives of so many after all, and that will likely burn at the heart of Konoha when he finally reaches his dream. He'll probably forever remain something of a fool. He told Jiraiya, "If that's what it means to be wise, I'd rather remain a fool!" Besides, look at how energetic Jiraiya remained... And it's fine, really. His wife will just have to appreciate (and handle) him as he is.
In fact, I think Sakura is the only person right now for whom Naruto can willingly restrain himself a bit, but still smile at the fact.
Sakura too hasn't changed. She's still our little Sakura-chan. But has she grown as well? Yes. She's more understanding and accepting now. And Naruto's example has inspired her to go through 2.5 years of gruesome training after which she finally managed to stand on her own two feet.
More interesting perhaps is another kind of growth: in some ways, I feel that somehow, Naruto has helped Sakura "grow" into her own skin, to be more accepting of herself.
Krimson made this very interesting remark once:
Even more irony can be seen in Sakura's reasons for hating Naruto in the beginning. She doesn't realize that she hates him because of the traits that the two of them have in common. Sakura was loud and annoying (seen from her interactions with Ino), she was pathetically weak, and people made fun of her because of her forehead.
The truth is, despite all that's changed, not much of the reasons of why she doesn't like him has dissolved. He's still hotheaded and loud, he's not as popular as Sasuke, he's still an idiot, and he still has that underdog feel going fo him as he's always underestimated; even by the audience who should kno better by now. The only thing that has changed is that now she understands him. She knows that in reality, she was the blinded one as he has always understood her, as she said herself in the promise scene. She knows why he wants attention too. This understanding is what makes her open up to him as much as she has in part 2.
To which Sumoni replied this:
I like to think that Sakura has accepted Naruto's faults like someone in a relationship would. Like, "He may be an idiot. But he's MY idiot." That's one of the problems I had with her in part 1. She had many faults herself, but was unwilling to accept other's as well. She was aiming for her ideal "perfection" *ahem* if you know what I mean. When in fact there was nothing wrong with "imperfection".
As she observed this bratty impulsive boy, I think she's learn to accept those faults in both Naruto and herself. After Naruto won against Neji, she noted how "the loser" was suddenly receiving cheers. Yet it made her want to do her best as well. When Sasuke told her that Naruto was the one who saved her, the Naruto she was staring at was still bratty and puffy (and failing miserably at Chidori on top of that), but when she smiled at that Naruto, I think it was one of the few moments in the series when she looked truly at peace with herself. And finally, when Naruto failed to bring back Sasuke, she was more aware than ever of her own uselessness, of her dependence on this boy that was imperfect as well. But she didn't give in. She decided to fight on.
I think Naruto has made her realize that it's okay to be imperfect, that it's okay to be a little childish and bratty, at least around those close to you, because faults are okay. Weaknesses aren't something to despair over and hide. Instead, they're something to work hard against, like Naruto did. I think this is why when Sakura showed up again in part 2, she seemed to have finally fused with her inner self, grown into her own skin: stronger, outgoing, fierce, but also capable of tenderness.
A few people I've come accross have complained that she has become more "manly" as a result. Personally? When I look at her, I think: "What a woman!"
So really. Naruto and Sakura haven't changed around each other. But I think that's fine: I think Naruto and Sakura appreciate each other as who they are. And I don't think they'd ever need to change. This is who they are, what they truly need is growth, and grow they have.
II.3. Underneath the underneath: a relationship that has grown as well!
I've already brought this up over and over in the manifesto. I just love how the relationship doesn't seem to have changed at all, but just adds layers and layers upon it, while the foundations keep growing. Describing it would take too long, I'll just let you re-read the previous parts of the manifesto if you wish...
I'll just say, yet again, that while on the surface, their interactions haven't changed since part 1, underneath, everything has changed. The loud antics have gained a touch of affection and familiarity. Sakura's initial rejection of Naruto has given into a sense of companionship, complicity, even understanding and trust. And Sakura has shown herself capable now of tenderness around Naruto as well: a bit of care, a bit of fondness, and a rainbow of smiles for everything Naruto. Naruto too, faced with the blooming Sakura, has found more to appreciate in a girl that he thought highly of already, and found at least one genuine smile for her.
It took time, but that's fine. There are still things to be done... and that will be left to the next part.
In the meantime, I leave you with this:
( ^ animated sequence)
So to conclude this part II, I support NaruSaku as a couple because I love the way they are together. They are natural around each other, like a breath of fresh air. Their interactions may not seem to have changed either, but when you look closely, those interactions have deepened, just like their understanding and fondness of each other. I've read in an article that it is possible to fall in love with a person over and over for the same reasons, as you rediscover those reasons over and over, deeper every time. This is the impression I get from NaruSaku. And together, they grow.
III. A walk in the park! An ongoing journey, a mere work in progress
III.1. The gradual development: never huge steps, never intrusive, just slow foundations being built up
For all the progress, for all the "foundations", NaruSaku is not an established couple. It is, at best, a work in progress. And yet this journey is one of the things I appreciate most from NaruSaku as well.
None of the NaruSaku scenes are 100% explicit in terms of romance. And I think it's a good thing: a relationship should be formed, not to just "be" there out of nowhere. But what they form, is a solid foundation for a possible future relationship, if that's what's meant to be.
They don't say "I love you" outright to each other and right now. The moment they do is the moment they are truly finalized as a couple, but it'd be awkward at this point and silly at this age, and the development is still incomplete. If NaruSaku is meant to be then it will happen eventually in the future. If not though, it's not the end of the world either: I don't see it as absolutely impossible for the two of them to find happiness with someone else.
Still, for every uncertainty on romance, we see certainties in their ties developed:
- there is no certainty for future romance after Naruto's realizations in chapter 3. What is certain, is that at least he had something to start on.
- there is no certainty that Naruto had not given up on Sakura at the promise of a lifetime. What is certain, is that he was fully dedicated to her. And it made Sakura acknowledge that Naruto understood her.
- there is no certainty that Sakura at the hospital was in love with him for wanting to go by his side. What is certain, is that she trusts him, but that she also doesn't intend to be a mere burden, which I find to be a good thing.
- there is no certainty that when Sakura mentioned "shining young girl's heart" post-timeskip, she wanted to smex Naruto. What is certain, is that she could view Naruto is such a positive light at all.
- there is no certainty that when Naruto smiled at the fact that Sakura destroyed the ground, that he fell in love with her all over again, as I personally interpret. What is certain, is that this strong aspect (and personality?) of hers is something that brings a genuine smile to his face.
- there is no certainty that when Naruto asks Sakura on a date again, he's still chasing her romantically. In fact I'm he was half-joking. But I think it shows that he still enjoys her company, and besides that, Sakura is no longer pummeling him for the thought like she used to!
- there is no certainty that when Sakura smiles at a stubborn Naruto, that she has fallen in love with him. What is certain, is that she's certainly fond of how he is.
- there is no certainty that Sai was talking about romance. What is certain, is that he highlighted how nice (how much she cared?) she was to Naruto.
- there is no certainty that when Sakura cries for Naruto, that she's in love with Naruto (she cries for lots of people...). But it certainly shows that she's grown to care for him.
- there is no certainty that Yamato was talking about love, either. What is certain, is that according to him, her feelings (of care, or otherwise) are important, and that likely, will play a role in helping Naruto in the future.
- and after they've failed to bring back Sasuke, it is not certaint that by "together", it means romance, far from it. What is certain, is that Sakura will indeed be the one to stand by his side, to offer emotional strength when he needs it, so that both of them can move ahead.
So there are no certainties for romance. We don't see the final shape of the relationship, instead we just see foundations slowly being formed. From then on, everything else can slowly develop, one step at a time, and patiently. The result might not be romance, but it is still undeniably a beautiful bond in forming.
And I personally find this incredibly relaxing. It's slow: NaruSaku is perhaps the least "intrusive" of possible main pairings. But that's okay, because this is a shounen manga not focused on romance, and they're 15 after all. Nothing rushed. Like a walk in the park.
III.2. In the end, a slow, ongoing development, but one I feel is more complete as a result: a build-up without "shortcuts"
In the end, people point out that Sakura's the one who's taken the longest time to "acknowledge" Naruto, and that she's not the only one who's become stronger thanks to him. This is true. The difference though, lies in the results.
Sakura sees every one of his aspects now: his strengths yes, but also his failings. She was slower than anyone to perceive Naruto's strength, having no dark past to understand its depth. But as a result, I think more than most, save perhaps Sasuke and some of the adults, she perceives the more down to earth, limited, human Naruto.
While she trusts and believes in this Naruto above all, she knows that he isn't an invincible idol, and does need someone to reach out to him. Her actions show this: all those who have been touched by Naruto's spirit show unconditional belief in him. But Sakura has trained 2.5 years to walk by his side, because she realizes that he too, needs saving. And no, I don't view this as belittling Naruto. There is nothing wrong in not being blinded by Naruto's strength, especially when he Does need someone to reach to him. Love (romantic or otherwise) should be realistic.
Naruto has changed many people, and in some ways he shares ties deeper with those people than with Sakura. Indeed, Kishimoto (who unfortunately isn't very original sometimes) consistently follows a certain formula: give the person a common tragic background element, have Naruto handle the tragic element "better", have him proceed to "rub it in" (show the other person the "error of his/her ways"), and as a result the person assimilates Naruto's way of thinking as well.
The result is quite dramatic, Kishimoto has maximized the dramatic effect by making the very backgrounds of the character relevent to the shift, after all. But prior to that, those characters had no real interaction with Naruto. No real interaction with the everyday more down-to-earth Naruto.
NaruSaku had no such shortcuts. Sakura did not have the deep background to understand the depth of Naruto's own strength. Yes, there's the Sasuke aspect now, but the bonds between Naruto and Sakura started developing even without all this. I think this is fine. As ew_younerd once said: Your past holds you where you are, it does not propel you where you need to go. Happiness, love, and yes, even laughter does.
So where others gawk at Naruto's amazing strength (inner or otherwise), Sakura has learned to appreciate his very human personality, stubborness and all. And whereas others have learned to admire Naruto, what Sakura has developed for him is a close relationship of trust and companionship. For Sakura, Naruto is not an idol, a saviour, a future Hokage with mysterious powers (tm), a rival (case with Konohamaru ._. ), a person who can overcome any odds, or a benchmark, a goal, a model of strength and moral perfection.
For her, Naruto is:
- Naruto the baka
- Naruto who hasn't changed
- Naruto whom she trusts above all
- but is human after all, and thus needs help as well.
Which is why she's willing to stand by his side through hard times.
So Sakura actually knows -Naruto-, and doesn't just identify to him through some common painful past element (yes, she has that too now. But the thing is, that's not all they have). And instead of being shown up by Naruto, she handles the problems by his side, because for once, Naruto has failed by himself. She still trusts him. But trusting a person's heart and determination alone won't guarantee that he will come back safe.
So this support doesn't act like a mere crutch either, but a motivation to become stronger. It's not "Oh! My saviour! I want to be just like you!" but "Thank you for everything. And now that you're suffering, I'll stand by your side, so that we can face the challenges... together." They walk side by side, supporting each other when they fail, acknowledging both each other's strength and each other's weaknesses, but always, seeing in each other a reason to do better.
So this is a slow development. But one I feel is more complete.
III.3. This is why I enjoy being a NaruSaku fan: watching a relaxing process unfold
Interestingly enough, if someone were to ask me a question such as: is NaruSaku your OTP? I'd say... no. Why? Because strange as it may sound, by declaring it an established couple like that, I'd feel as though I were rushing things.
As a NaruSaku fan, I'm not waiting for the final confession, or even a kiss or a tear. What I'm waiting for, is simply the next time they interact.
On the surface nothing has changed, Naruto's still the loud bratty self and Sakura's still scolding him for it, but underneath, everything has changed. NaruSaku doesn't have loud romantic displays, yet every time they interact, there is something new. New respect for each other. New familiarity with each other. A slap, a smile, maybe something else.
It's this very gradual development of NaruSaku that appeals so much to me. It's not flashy, it's not like fireworks. Instead it's a growing process that I find fascinating in itself. And unlike in most shounen mangas, this process wasn't rushed. Instead we see every single tiny step being formed. There is no huge rupture. Just a slow, gradual process. Like a real relationship. There's still a long ways to go. But they have come a long way already, and I believe their care for each other will pull them through difficult times.
So I actually enjoy the process of being a NaruSaku fan: being able to sit back, relax, and just accept the little things as they come. I don't think I've ever received such an impression from other anime couples before. For me, it's also like a walk in the park. It's a slow, but somewhat relaxing process. And as time passes it's the same park, but you discover that something has grown. The birds are chirping. The leaves are rustling. The flowers have started to bloom, and the roots of the trees are just a bit deeper, the trees just a bit taller.
Nothing is certain right now, just a real, real good start. Will Naruto and Sakura end up together? Maybe they will, maybe they won't. Maybe they'll just end up as friends, who knows? I've once seen love described as friendship that has caught fire. It takes root and grows, one day at a time. Will that be the case of NaruSaku?
Whatever the case, I'll just accept things as they come along. Watching things form one step at a time, be it friendship, or romance. So sit back and enjoy the NaruSaku tea! It's relaxing, and you discover new flavours every time!
IV. The psychology behind NaruSaku!
Now... I'm certaily no expert on love. When observing NaruSaku, I just had a few vague feelings about how it felt Right, but I couldn't clearly explain the concepts behind them. So with just those to get started, I googled.
I know real-life models rarely apply in manga and anime. I also know that simplifying relationships to models is limiting, as there is no unique model and there are exceptions to each. Nonetheless, they sometimes bring insight to a situation, that I'd personally not be able to explain as well, since I'm not the one who spent years studying them.
So I'll be linking and quoting multiple studies. For those of you who feel that following the links disrupts the flow of the reading, I've re-compiled them at the end of this section, so you can always take your time with them later.
IV.1. Because similars attract. And interact. And build happy relationships
The first of the vague notions I had was that the common notion of "opposites attract" never really sat well with me, especially here.
I've always tended to pair up characters with similar personalities facilitating their interaction. I've always felt icky about pairing up characters with Too many differences, because although it may look fun on the surface, I'd have a hard time imagining what they could do on a Day-to-day basis, without driving each other crazy, or without going into seperate corners doing completely separate things. Either that, or they'd be forced to limit their individualities to accomodate the other. This never sat well with me. I personally feel that on the long term, this creates friction.
Especifically with NaruSaku... the moment I fell Hard for it was not during any of the "deeper" scenes at the end of part 1, or even the deeper scenes in part 2, but in the first 3 chapters into the timeskip. And what made me fall for it was exactly what I put into the manifesto, in the section entitled "I.2. Underneath the fireworks: genuine comraderie".
That part that might as well be titled "Birds of a feather."
( ^ animated sequence)
It was: that they were perfectly synchronized. They moved in perfect coordination and harmony, in action and in behaviour. Of course, this is only part of what I like about NaruSaku, but it's a start. So one day, I googled "opposites attract." And this is how, at the very top of the results, I came accross what basically summarizes as "Similars attract, interact, and build happy stable relationships."
We look for similars
The theory that opposites attract is a myth, say a group of U.S. scientists who have found men and women are more likely to choose partners who are similar -- or they believe are similar -- to themselves.
But the new research indicates that an ideal match is more important and marriage between equivalent people has the best chance of success, say the scientists from Cornell University in New York.
Between similar matches there was less chance of breaking apart and therefore more stability to bring up children.
Similars build in general happier relationships
"Once people are in a committed relationship, it is primarily personality similarity that influences marital happiness."
Researchers found newlywed couples were much more similar in terms of attitudes and values than they were different. In addition, the more similar the couples' personalities were, the more likely they were to report being happy and satisfied in their marriage.
However, when researchers looked at marital happiness, they found that people who shared personality characteristics with their spouse were more likely to be happy and satisfied with the marriage. But similarities in attitudes were not associated with marital happiness.
"Once people are in a committed relationship, it is primarily personality similarity that influences marital happiness because being in a committed relationship entails regular interaction and requires extensive coordination in dealing with tasks, issues and problems of daily living," write the researchers. "Whereas personality similarity is likely to facilitate this process, personality differences may result in more friction and conflict in daily life."
I've found the part I've bolded especially significant.
What does all this mean for NaruSaku? Basically, I find NaruSaku to be a wonderful case of "similars interact" (and hopefully attract). Even in part 1, when Sakura had not fully accepted Naruto yet, their personalities still brought them to interact. It's certainly not "impressive" at this point, but it's still much more than many other potential couples, and people will have a hard time convincing me that those couples who don't even talk to each other actually interact better...
But as I've said, the part where this stood out best was in part 2, when Sakura has finally understood Naruto enough to fully embrace him as a companion, and not just "that kid who doesn't understand me." When Naruto and Sakura smiled at each other, when they grinned as they faced the common "adversary" in the form of Kakashi, when they both happily decided to run off to get ramen, I just couldn't help but feel that they get along well, and that this is something durable, because as I've said in previous sections, it's simply so "natural."
Their similarities, I feel, also help them better reach to each other: how Naruto triggered Sakura's stubborness against Ino, how I think he's helped her find her own place by realizing that it's okay to be like that stubborn brat, how Naruto was probably attracted to Sakura's fire as well. Because they're similar, when they look up to the other, they actually bring out their own strengths as well.
And at the same time, they also manage to be complimentary. Those articles said as much: a base of similarities, and a dash of complimentary.
- as ew-younerd once said, although the two are both loud and extroverts around each other, Naruto is more "judgemental", while Sakura tends to be more "perceptive." Sakura's ability to analyze, express, initiate self-change and think is complimented by Naruto's ability to show people his perspective, emote, act, and initiate change around him. Naruto's impulsiveness is cancelled out by Sakura's analyzing, and Sakura's self-doubt is cancelled out by Naruto's unwavering belief in her.
- in dealing with tasks, Naruto has more drive, but Sakura can back him up with intelligence when needed. I see this as source of more interaction and occasion for the two to appreciate each other's strengths.
- Sakura has slightly more sense of protocol. If Naruto were to ever go Too overboard, she'd just smack him back into place. See the "couple" annex for more.
They are fully able to bring out each other's individualities, yet at the same time compensate for the few areas they lack in. They're alike enough to interact and share activities on a daily basis, and different enough to keep things interesting or slightly more balanced. Wee!
Here are some more articles:
- Similars attract, a genetic case?: apparently many people go for partners that might as well be their siblings, though they don't go for a carbon copy of themselves either.
- Partners in a healthy relationship tend to start looking like each other after a while: err... this one was weird and unexpected to say the least... I had always known that people found photos of members of the opposite sex, warped to look more like themselves, to be more attractive, but this... The explanation is interesting though: two people in a healthy relationship would share all their emotional moments together, thus gaining the same facial features. I can't say Naruto and Sakura don't fit the bill... Don't take this as a serious argument though. I'm sharing this just for the weirdness factor, maybe to get a good laugh.
Of course, opposites can build their own happy relationship! It all depends on their willingness to compromise and address differences before they cause too much friction on a relationship. Or they can seek something that in the end is similar between the partners after all. There are a few articles on opposites couples:
- Getting opposite relationships to work: this article stresses on being open and realistic about the differences, and learning to compromise so that they don't drive both partners crazy. ^^
- Finding the similarities: this basically states that in the end, it's the similarities that keep the relationship together. A couple can look deep down though: maybe they aren't so different after all. ^^
But all of the above is another matter.
IV.2. A gradually developing intimacy: not eye to eye yet perhaps, but each feeling for the other
Many people consider intimacy to be sex or physical contact (as did I. It turns out that I was confusing intimacy and passion. *nervous laugh*). Obviously, NaruSaku lacks any sort of sexual tension. Others consider intimacy to be close communication. Naruto and Sakura interact delightfully in my opinion, though on the topic of sharing their burdens, I think this is the biggest area Naruto and Sakura need to work on.
Yet I still felt something that just feels Right about their relationship. Something about their bonds that I felt could lead to more. In their own ways, they are close. Maybe it was because of how similar they were, but there was something more. This was the second vague notion I felt, and I would never have associated the word "intimacy" with it until I once randomly came accross these:
Intimacy, the feeling close and connected to someone (developed through sharing and very good communications over time).
Intimacy is what makes you want to share and offer emotional and material support to each other.
The definition of intimacy
Byer & Shainberg, 6th edition, p.65, state that Sternberg identifies intimacy as containing the following ten elements:
1. Desiring to promote the welfare of the loved one.
2. Experiencing happiness with the loved one.
3. Holding the loved one in high regard.
4. Being able to count on the loved one in times of need.
5. Having mutual understanding with the loved one.
6. Sharing oneself and one's posessions with the loved one.
7. Receiving emotional support from the loved one.
8. Giving emotional support to the loved one.
9. Communicating intimately with the loved one.
10. Valuing the loved one.
Here I was, never associating the word "intimacy" with this couple, and yet, so many points clicked. Naruto and Sakura have very different backgrounds, yet how they are able to share each other's emotions was either heartwarming or heartbreaking.
In times of peace, how they share each other's happiness: (animated sequence)
- when Naruto pulled a prank on Kakashi, Inner Sakura cheered as well.
- when Naruto won against Kiba, Sakura shared in the joy.
- when Naruto won against Neji, Sakura happily noted the acknowledgement that Naruto was getting, before sighing and thinking that she should do her best too.
- When Sakura destroyed the ground, a smirk on her face, Naruto's smile, in my opinion, showed how proud of her he is as well.
- and the beginning of part 2 in general showed that Naruto and Sakura were perfectly coordinated: in response to Kakashi's challenge, when they've found a hole in Kakashi's defense, when they decided to make Kakashi pay for ramen. They stood proudly side by side.
- and of course, the little things: a smile here, a grin there.
In times of difficulties, how they reach to each other's pains: (animated sequence)
- when Sasuke told Sakura to stay out of his business, Naruto noted how Sakura was worried for him and yelled back.
- when Naruto noted how worried Sakura was after she told him about the Curse Seal, he frowned for a while before cheering her up.
- when Sasuke had left, Naruto told Sakura that he "understood" her pain.
- when he came back empty-handed, I think Sakura understood how much pain Naruto was in as well, which is why she decided to do something for him as well.
- in part 2, when they learned that Naruto could not get rid of Kyuubi without dying, she felt bad for him.
- Naruto, upon seeing this, commented how Sakura is often made to cry. I think he feels bad about this, which is why he deflected the topic.
- when Sai asked Sakura why Naruto cares so much about Sasuke, she answered that it was because Naruto viewed Sasuke as a brother, while looking sadly at Naruto.
- when Kabuto insulted Naruto, Sakura yelled back that he didn't know anything about Naruto.
- when Naruto went 4-tails, again, she felt at the amount of pain that Naruto felt, and made a desperate move to attempt to console him: "It's... it's okay!"
- and Sakura was still worried about Naruto later on. Naruto took that to heart as well.
They share pains, yet are strong enough and care enough for each other to reach to the partner instead of succumbing. The power to match weakness with strength.
So Naruto and Sakura don't always "relate" to the same problems (does your past problems really have to define who you end up with?). They don't always communicate those problems either, it's something they will have to work on... but I feel they have an incredible ability to share emotionally. In their joys and victories, but also in their sadness. Sakura observes Naruto's victories as though she shares them herself. When he falters though, when she sees him in pain, her heart clenches as well. Naruto too. He can't help but feel bad whenever he sees Sakura sad, and he goes to great lengths to cheer her up, even at his own expense. And when they see that the other has grown, they let out a smile again. Naruto and Sakura have a communication problem right now, but it's not due to lack of empathy, but on the contrary because of how Much they feel for each other.
I personally wonder how great it'd be to be in a relationship with half the connections they've shown. To have someone care for you above anything else. Someone who wants to become stronger for your sake. Someone able to make you smile on your worst days. But more incredibly, someone who makes you want to do as much, who makes you want to do your best for him as well. So in their own way, I find their relationship to be intimate. It may not seem like much on the surface, but on a deeper level, they are emotionally entertwined.
Well... they don't exactly share possessions though. What can I say, they're young and probably rather poor (Naruto at least). :S
IV.3. NaruSaku, a companionate love
And finally, this last one. In opposition to the usual "passionate" love, there's the more serene "companionate love."
Passionate love is what hollywood movies and romance novels seem to focus most of their time on. And honestly, I've always found it to be rather fishy. Does one night or two of great sex really guarantee 50 years of happy marriage? Passion fades. It's not the crying or the sex that keeps you together. And one day, I've come accross the term "companionate love."
It's not the usual romance, but it's more than mere friendship, or as a site put it, "friendship on fire."
- What is love?
- Triangular theory of love
- Additional thoughts on love
Researchers (Hatfield & Rapson, 1995) have broken up love into two main types:
* Passionate love which involves continuously thinking about the loved one and also involves warm sexual feelings and powerful emotional reactions.
* Companionate love is having trusting and tender feelings for someone who is close to you.
NaruSaku isn't sexual, that's for sure! But they verify the second part. As I've said in the last part of my essay, in their own ways, they're very intimate.
- is a less intense emotion than passionate love.
- is characterized by freindly affection and a deep attachment that is based on extensive familiarity with the loved one.
- involves a thoughful appreciation of one's partner.
- encompasses a tolerance for another's shortcomings along with a desire to overcome difficulties and conflicts in a relationship.
- includes being committted to the ongoing nurturing of a partnership.
- is often enduring, while passionate love is almost always transitory.
NaruSaku is certainly seems less "passionate" than usual romantic pairings. But it is still full of smiles.
( ^ animated sequence)
There aren't as many tensions between them. There is no real physical attraction. They're simply themselves around each other. Yet we do find:
- affection based on extensive familiarity. The exclusive smiles they've shown each other are actually my favourite NaruSaku moments of NaruSaku, even more than "angsty" moments such as the promise of a lifetime.
- they appreciate each other. They both look up to each other so much, and appreciate what they're doing for each other.
- they not only tolerate each other's so called "shortcomings", but they've actually become rather fond of them. Sakura still mocks Naruto's stupidity, but it's friendly teasing based on familiarity. Then Naruto acts like his usual stubborn smile, and Sakura... just smiles. In a similar way, Naruto may be afraid of Sakura's "monstrous strength," but the way he smiled the first time she broke the ground shows that there's more to it.
- and they're dedicated to each other. Not (yet) in a romantic way, but certainly in an emotional way. Naruto has always been attentive to Sakura's emotional sufferings, and helped her get through hard times, something Sakura has acknowledged in part 1. And Sakura wishes to reach more to Naruto as well, so much so that Yamato has stated that what's important is the "strength of the feelings" she has for him. They are willing to see each others through hard times, to be the strong one when the other is weak.
This is what amazes me in NaruSaku: for once, and I find this incredibly rare in any work of fiction, we see the foundations of a healthy relationship, for a "companionate love." People might claim it boring all they want, it's their right, but I find it incredible because of how incredibly HARD it is to find. One night of angsting is Easy. One night of hot sex as well. Staying together, being there for each other, being Happy besides each other every day for over 50 years is the Real challenge. Sprinting is nice and all, but a long-term relationship is a marathon.
So NaruSaku is far from a "passionate" relationship. It may lack the fire and obsession of other relationships (not that they don't have their own elements that could lead to more durable love). But more than many other relationships, I see it as a pairing with fuel to grow into more. For a very long time, Sakura's own belief of Naruto's immaturity in my opinion prevented her from considering Naruto as an actual intimate partner. But she's grown out of that.
At the end of the day, I see NaruSaku as a couple that can actually Last, that can be happy and satisfied with each other even after 50, 60, 80 years of marriage. There might be problems, like with just about any couple, but if I can claim durability with any couple, it'd be with NaruSaku. Because they are natural around each other, fully able to express their individualities and be happy about it. Because they share emotionally, and always find in themselves the strength for the other. Because at the end of the day, they're fond of each other as they are, faults and all. And in the end, this sort of durability is the hardest thing to achieve of them all.
It lacks "passion" for now, though frankly, I'd feel slightly disturbed if a relationship between two 13 years-olds (15 years-olds now) were based on that... I know they're shinobi, so they're forced to mature more quickly on a number of fronts, but on the hormonal level?
Mini-annexe: compilation of outside articles on relationships
- Looking for similars
- Similars in a relationship
- Similars attract, a genetic case?:
- Seeing double
- Opposites can work too
- Finding the similarities
- What is love?
- Triangular theory of love
- Additional thoughts on love
- True love vs Infatuation
- Seven laws to a relationship
- Theories of love
If you have time, I suggest you check them out. I suppose people would kill me if I told them that I can still go on and on NaruSaku and its psychology. *dodges rotten tomatos* Hopefully though, by now you have a small understanding of where I'm coming from and what I'm looking for in NaruSaku. And maybe you can read those articles through the eyes of a NaruSaku fan, and realize why it makes my heart feel sparkles as well.
So there you have it on this extensive view of everything I like about NaruSaku. If I could summarize it in one line, I would. There are just so many independent things that attract me to this couple:
- how they both look up to each other, yet still stand proudly as equals who help each other in times of need
- how they feel for each other emotionally, yet don't give into pain precisely for or thanks to each other
- how they are so natural and lively and similar around each other, and yet complimentary at the same time.
- how they simply smile at each other. Not incredible loud and dramatic smiles, just quiet, peaceful ones.
- how they have the potential to fulfil the definition of "love" not as a noun, but a Verb: to actually commit themselves to action for each other's sake
- how all of this wasn't just dropped onto our heads one day, but developed slowly, and in a way I feel more complete.
- and how everytime I look at it, I find something new.
And how NaruSaku isn't just one of the above. NaruSaku isn't just one aspect I can point out, but the sum of many. And this is what I find incredible about it. It isn't just defined by one dramatic scene or two either. Instead, it is a continuity: a succession of events showing a gradual but sure development. If I could just point out the one thing that I like most about it, or the one scene that defined NaruSaku for me, I would: this manifesto would have been so much easier to write. But I can't. And that's what makes it so wonderful to me.
Of course, NaruSaku is far from an established couple. They still have ways to go, but that process is in itself something I find a joy to watch. They've come such a long way already, built the foundations for more.
So does NaruSaku Have to end up as a romantic relationship? Perhaps not. I don't think it's absolutely impossible for either Naruto or Sakura to find happiness elsewhere. If they end up as just friends, it's not the end of the world either. But I see a potential I've rarely seen in other shounen pairings. So no matter what, I'll be observing their interactions through the eyes of a NaruSaku fan, and enjoying the process all the way.
Before I end this part, I should explain the title I've chosen. "Because being there for each other is the greatest gift of all." In the end, this is what it boils down to: just being there for each other. Being there not passively, but as active dedication. Being there to share each other's sorrows, but more importantly, share each other's smiles. Without the need for masks or dramatics either: just the two of them, at their brightest and most natural.
This concludes this incredibly hard to write manifesto. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. Hopefully you've gained a bit more appreciation of this couple. So if you've managed to make it this far without falling asleep (and without skipping *cough*), congratulations!
You can stop here, and if you want to leave a comment, feel free to do so at the Index section of the manifesto! And if there's anything else you want to know about NaruSaku, I now point you to the annex.
Thank you for reading, and have a nice day!
Everything above is from:
I wasnt able to add the imgs from the actual manifesto, so some things might not make sense.
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