Analyzing the Criticized: Sakura Haruno (Naruto) Part 3 – Chapters 201-300 – Starting to Blossom

See Part One Here

See Part Two Here

Chapters 201-220 (Kiba and Shikamaru’s Battles + Kimimaro Appears + The Sand Siblings Arrive + Naruto and Sasuke’s Battle Starts + The Beginning of the Full Story of Sasuke’s Past)

I can’t believe we’re starting off on such a blasé note, but I have nothing really to discuss here since Sakura is in a grand total of zero chapters in this section. She appears very rarely and very briefly in flashbacks of Naruto’s to remind him of his promise to her and she’s just there in a lot of his flashbacks of Sasuke in general, but present-time Sakura is not shown at all. Ever. Not once.

But you know who does come back and even fights? Rock friggin’ Lee.

Not only did he accept an insanely dangerous surgery with a high mortality rate, not only did he survive it like a damn boss, but the same day as the surgery he’s rushing out to help with the mission to retrieve Sasuke because Rock. Lee. Is. Awesome.

And even though he still needs assistance from Gaara (always loved this brief but poignant team up) he was able to hold his ground fairly well against one of Orochimaru’s strongest, in terms of powers anyway, associates. (Kimimaro’s story is sad, but his powers freak me out)

Let me repeat that. Rock Lee, who was essentially crippled when Naruto and the others left for their mission just that morning, had surgery to fix his body, survived it and was out helping with that same mission almost immediately after the surgery was over.

Meanwhile, Sakura is literally nowhere to be found.

Maybe she’s practicing her apple peeling skills.

I’m not blaming her for not also rushing out the door to help behind everyone’s backs because she understands that she’d be more of a liability than an asset in this circumstance, but we can at least get a brief scene with her doing…something. ANYTHING.

I will note something funny, though. The entirety of the second chapter cluster, a whole 100 chapters, not a one had a chapter title card pic including Sakura even though she was at least in a decent amount of those chapters. In this section alone, she’s in two chapter title cards. Granted, one of them shows her from very far away, but she’s at least there. Yes, in the 20 chapter section where she’s in all of, being generous, ten panels, and that’s only in flashback, she’s in two chapter title cards. *shrug*

Maybe they want to remind us that she exists. I mean, even Tenten got one and we haven’t seen her in so long I’m starting to think she was a figment of my imagination.

But hey, Shikamaru gets his sexist ass saved and then some by Temari, who completely dominates the battle.

Kiba’s battle was a little boring, to be honest. I never really connected with Kiba that much, outside of his relationship with Akamaru (and that’s probably born of my love of animals, particularly dogs) Kiba’s always been kinda obnoxious to me, nor is he very interesting as a character (He’s basically a more abrasive and possibly less mature Naruto with little in terms of decent backstory and motivations. The fact that Naruto has a lot of fox traits while Kiba has a lot of wolf/dog traits doesn’t help this comparison) and he’s just not all that impressive in this battle. It was badass of him to stab himself to hurt Ukon, who had merged with his body, but that’s about it.

Shikamaru’s fights are always entertaining simply because of the incredibly clever ways he manages to defeat his enemies. Even though he needed Temari to finish off Tayuya, the match as a whole was very entertaining.

Chapters 221-240 (Sasuke’s Full Backstory – Naruto and Sasuke’s Fight – The Aftermath and Naruto’s Departure – Start of Kakashi Chronicles)

This is a pretty inappropriate chapter title card for the chapter where Sasuke’s family and clan get slaughtered…..I’m not making a joke. This is the title card they used for this part. What the hell?

Obviously, almost none of this section involves Sakura since so much of it is taken up by Sasuke’s backstory and Naruto and Sasuke’s battle. Surprisingly, she’s not even brought up much, if at all, in the emotional pleas and flashbacks the two have. She’s barely present in the background.

Sakura finally appears when Naruto and the other Genin who were on the mission get brought back home to the hospital for medical care. At first, she believes Sasuke has been brought back, but she soon learns about the group’s failure in returning Sasuke after she overhears Shikamaru and Naruto talking through the hospital room door. Sakura initially puts on a smile and tries to push through her disappointment and despair, but Naruto asserts that he will keep his promise, as his ninja way states, and he’ll bring Sasuke back home no matter what.

Driven by Naruto’s resolve, Sakura decides to FINALLY take some initiative in her ninja training and asks Tsunade if she’ll take her on as her apprentice, which she accepts.

After a three month time skip to allow everyone ample time to recover and get their ducks in a row for their futures while Naruto’s off training, we see Sakura has a talent for medical jutsu. She healed a fish!

I’m not making a jab at her – fish need care too. Have a heart, guys.

Tsunade even points out that she hasn’t seen someone with such talent and promise in medical jutsu since Shizune.

……Also, let me just get this off my chest – it does bug me that most prominent medical-nin are girls – or, more to the point, that most girls are medical-nin. Tsunade did make the very good suggestion to have at least one medical-nin included in squads or brought along with squads when they have missions, but that pretty much makes it seem like if there’s a girl in the squad, she’s the healer. And considering I can’t think of any squads that have more than one girl in it…..yeah. The girl=support thing has always been a pet peeve of mine.

I’m not badmouthing medical jutsu, it allows you to do some pretty fantastic things as we’ll see soon enough, nor am I ignoring that male medical-nin exist (Kabuto was the first medical-nin we ever met) but considering the relatively poor treatment of women in this series as it is, it only serves to irk me more that the new role of most of the girls will be medical related.

Sakura becomes the healer of Team 7. Ino becomes the healer of her squad. Rin was the healer in her squad. Karin is the healer in her team. Tsunade was the healer in her squad. And even though she’s not specifically a healer, Hinata will also learn some medical jutsu, which she is able to learn rather quickly due to Hyuga techniques requiring such precise chakra control.

The only prominent Konoha girl who never develops skills in medical jutsu is Tenten, and that’s not for lack of trying. She idolized Tsunade and wanted to be a medical-nin, she just never had talent for it. Poor Tenten. So overlooked and mishandled that you even fail at becoming an annoying stereotype.

I’m not saying this is a hard and fast rule. There are several female characters who also don’t utilize medical jutsu like Temari, Kurenai, Anko and even Kushina, but it is a trend and it is still annoying.

And that’s the end of Part One of Naruto. There is more to this section, but it goes into the backstory of Kakashi. I’ll save any notes about that for the next section.

Chapters 241-260 (The Rest of the Kakashi Chronicles + The Start of Part Two + Reprise of the Bell Test + Gaara’s Battle with Deidara and Capture + The Start of the Mission to Save Gaara)

Alright, so since Sakura isn’t in the Kakashi Chronicle chapters, obviously, I thought I’d try to draw some parallels between Team 7 and Team Minato. Parallels have already been made as a whole by others, but I’ll try to focus on Sakura’s parallel specifically.

First of all, even though the other two look very different from Naruto and Sasuke, Rin looks strikingly similar to Sakura, in my opinion. Maybe it’s just the haircut and the fact that we can’t see her hair color in this black and white manga, but she looks very similar to Sakura.

Rin is much more useful to her team even in these handful of chapters than Sakura probably ever has so far, and I’m pretty sure they’re the same age here. She’s a skilled medical-nin who patches up her teammates, Kakashi and Obito, when they get hurt, which was a few times in this side story (Am I going to get in trouble for calling this a side story when it’s so important to future events?) She also performs a rather complex eye transplant right in the middle of the battlefield on two people who stay completely conscious through the whole thing and neither seems to experience pain during the procedure…..Wow.

However, she doesn’t seem to have really any battle prowess, and, guess what? She ends up getting kidnapped and needs saving.

The main reason I even decided to start drawing comparisons between Team 7 and Team Minato is because of the love triangle….angle. Obito is a screw up who is in love with Rin, but Rin is in love with dark and stern Kakashi, who has never given her the time of day. Sound familiar?

To her credit, Rin is nowhere near as Kakashi-crazy as Sakura is Sasuke-crazy, in fact until she outright blurts out her love confession to Kakashi near the end, you can barely tell she has a thing for him, but still.

What annoys me a bit more in Rin’s particular situation is how her love confession is handled. After Obito dies slowly and horribly right in front of both of them, half his body crushed by a boulder, sacrificing his life to save his friends, giving his sharingan to Kakashi, telling Kakashi specifically to take care of Rin for him, Kakashi tells Rin that Obito loved her (since he could never admit it before his death and probably to treasure her life enough to honor his wishes and leave before they get slammed by a group of enemy ninja.) Rin basically doesn’t even react to this information and stubbornly tries to stay with Kakashi and basically die with him because she loves Kakashi.

Yeah, Rin basically spit on Obito’s dying wish and love for her so she could needlessly die with Kakashi. The way the whole scene was structured was just terrible, at least in regards to the light it puts Rin in. It was basically “Let me protect you because Obito loved you and his dying wish was for me to protect you!” “Yeah, well, I love you so I’m staying and dying! Nyehh!”

Onto the Part Two of the main story – Sakura’s a Chunin now, yay!

Our first sighting of Sakura is more or less her reacting to how much Naruto has grown. It actually kinda seems like Sakura’s smitten for a few pages because she blushes several times and even makes flirty expressions. This is reverted back to same old, same old when Naruto breaks his new maturity for a minute to attempt to show off a newer, sexier version of the Sexy no Jutsu to Konohamaru.

I really love that our first venture into Part Two is a revisiting of the bell test. As you’ll recall, I criticized Sakura quite a bit for her role in the first bell test. She pretty much fretted about Sasuke, tried to impress Sasuke to no avail and then ended up fainting from a Genjutsu that made it seem like Sasuke was severely wounded.

Sakura’s performance in that test was almost laughably bad. To be fair, Naruto’s was similarly terrible, but at least he was making honest efforts. I can’t even remember a moment when Sakura made a play for the bells.

This time, Sakura’s visibly impressed with Naruto’s initial strikes, but when she realizes Kakashi’s coming for her next, she quickly assesses her surroundings and correctly surmises that he’s dug down below her. Which means we get our first glimpse into Sakura’s new abilities. That of which being Hulk-Smashing the ever-loving hell out of everything.

A single punch from Sakura can now cause massive craters, something Kakashi experiences firsthand as he cowers under a pile of rocks after barely evading her strike. I really love that Sakura’s new abilities manifest themselves into both massive explosions of raw power like this and extremely precise abilities that she’ll display later on with medical jutsu. They took a really awesome route with her power and it fits perfectly with her specific talent being chakra control.

Kakashi mentions Sakura’s affinity for Genjutsu again, whatever, and thinks to himself that she certainly shows potential to be even more skilled than Tsunade.

But Sakura’s growth reflection in the bell test doesn’t end there. In the bell test two and a half years ago, none of the trio were working together. They were all trying to gun for the bells on their own. Sakura would try to work with Sasuke, but her focus was more on gushing over him or trying to impress him. Sasuke saw Sakura as a liability and Naruto was too bullheaded to do anything but rush out on his own without thinking. Sakura basically wished for Naruto’s failure in the test or, at the very least, enjoyed watching him screw up.

Here, Sakura and Naruto are sticking together and working alongside each other. Not only that, but Naruto comes up with a final plan that actually sounds really silly, but Sakura doesn’t think to mock him about it for a second. Instead, she thinks it through, and realizes that, even if it’s silly, it could very well work – and it does. There’s a method to Naruto’s goofiness sometimes, even if he’s still a doofus on occasion, and Sakura realizes that. She respects Naruto as a teammate much more now than she did back then. Likewise, Naruto earns this respect by showing that he’s more mature, serious and focused, even if he’s still Naruto at heart.

Later on, after the battle with Deidara and Gaara’s kidnapping, as Sakura and the others are traveling to Sunagakure, Sakura reveals that she’s been snooping around and secretly reading private reports in Tsunade’s office for the past two and a half years. She explains that she now knows everything Naruto and Kakashi know about their current situation, which absolutely floored me.

This confirms that Sakura did not, in fact, know the details that Naruto and Kakashi knew about Sasuke’s situation with Orochimaru, Itachi and the Akatsuki, and, apparently, no one thought to ever actually clue her in all this time. She had to sneak around and read private reports instead when there is absolutely 100% no reason to keep this information from her considering how involved she is with Sasuke and Naruto, how much she already knows about the situation and her drive to return Sasuke to Konoha.

Do they really have such little trust in Sakura’s resolve as a ninja, even now that she’s clearly more mature and focused, that no one ever thought to explain this shit to her? Not even right before they sent her on a mission against other Akatsuki members?! That is ludicrous!

At least Sakura ends the chapter proclaiming that she’ll be the one to protect Sasuke and Naruto this time – but her mileage may vary.

For now, she’ll settle on saving Kankuro’s life.

Once we get to Sunagakure, Sakura quickly saves Kankuro’s life by removing poison from his system with her own chakra, which is pretty baller. She can’t get all of it and he’ll need additional treatment, but her medical skills were well beyond that of Chiyo, a very experienced medical-nin, and it’s clear that both she and Naruto are impressed with Sakura.

Later on, she even expertly crafts a medicine to help combat the effects of the residual poison.

Our first look at Sakura’s actual battle prowess is a bit…..disappointing, though I suppose it’s understandable. Itachi confronts the group, and while Naruto and Kakashi try to fight off Itachi, he actually knocks both Sakura and Chiyo to the ground so quickly that Naruto and Kakashi don’t even notice until they look behind them.

Yup, Sakura didn’t even get to throw a punch before she’s flat on her face.

Now, I’m giving Sakura a good deal of leeway for this for two reasons; 1) It’s Itachi. No one would ever expect, no matter how much Sakura has improved, that Sakura would be able to successfully fend off Itachi. 2) Naruto and Kakashi are both having trouble simply trying to keep up with him, so it’s understandable for him to get off a cheap shot.

Later, Sakura breaks Naruto free of a Genjutsu that Itachi had trapped him in, and he was unable to release it himself because he wasn’t skilled enough to break it. Chiyo did help her, but I’m giving Sakura the points here.

Chapters 261 – 280 (The Battle Against Sasori + Pursuing/Battling Deidara)

Sakura cries again, but I’m giving her another pass because she’s just learned that any jinchuriki that has its biju taken out of them will surely die, meaning Naruto will be killed if he’s captured by the Akatsuki.

Sakura uses her Hulk smash to break the giant boulder in front of the entryway to the room where Gaara’s being held.

Before we start the battle with Sasori, can I just say that it’s very nonsensical to split up the group and take your only two medical-nin and pit them against an extremely powerful enemy? Especially when you’re pursuing a near-dead or fully dead Kazekage who would need immediate medical attention?

In her battle against Sasori, Sakura pulls off some really impressive evasive maneuvers and breaks through Hiruko’s hard shell with her hulk smash. Then she does more impressive evasive maneuvers and barely escapes harm time and again …..buuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttttttttttttttt.

I can’t give her credit for most of this because Chiyo was controlling her body like a puppet. Even though Sakura was likely the one doing the Hulk smashing, I still have to take points off here.

She finally starts taking the initiative for herself when she’s trapped in a cloud of poison gas. She’s able to trigger a paper bomb on her belt, allowing her to dissipate the poison and allow her to break away. While this was kinda badass, it was also, as Chiyo pointed out, very reckless. I can’t really ding her too much here because it was either take a chance with the bomb or get poisoned to death.

Sakura then makes a big tough declaration that is supposed to be intimidating and show how much she’s grown, but all it really does for me is show how immature she still is. A true, mature, shinobi doesn’t bother with such grandstanding…especially when her role in the battle so far has been mostly playing Pinocchio and blowing herself up. She’s yelling at the top of her lungs, she’s making rather vicious threats to him (because she was triggered by him mentioning Orochimaru, which made her think back to Sasuke) and she’s obviously puffing out her chest more than she’s earned so far.

This little speech is made even more laughable when Sasori basically ignores her and throws a ton of kunai at her, which she needs to be saved from by Chiyo and her puppets because Sakura’s an idiot who would rather blather on about how much she’s going to kick Sasori’s ass than pay attention in battle.

Later, she’s targeted by Sasori again and Chiyo needs to use her puppets to save her….again…

Then they’re attacked again, and Chiyo uses her puppet to save Sakura…..again…..*cough*

But then, hip hip hooray, when Chiyo is out of puppets and down an arm, it seems like Sakura finally has to step up and take Sasori on by herself……Well…Kinda.

Sakura does step up. She refuses to leave even when Chiyo, again, tells her to flee since Sasori is too powerful and dangerous. However, instead of defending Chiyo and fighting on her own two feet, she tells Chiyo to use her as a puppet again….

This time, it’s not quite the same. Since Chiyo’s arm is gone, she can’t control all of Sakura’s body like she did before, but, still, a majority is still being puppeteered. Sakura pretty much just has full control over one of her arms, meaning yet again Sakura stands there like an idiot as something is about to hit her so Chiyo can yank her strings and pull her away and Sakura can Hulk-smash another projectile.

I really don’t understand why Sakura is having such difficulty evading shit in this battle on her own. Logically, it makes even less sense than when she was younger. She should have much more battle experience by now that would allow her be better at evading.

Not only that, but her training in honing her chakra at specific points in her body should also make her insanely good at evasion since all she’d have to do is focus it into her feet and either launch herself up or zoom off in literally any other direction. Remember, she was skilled at honing her chakra evenly into her feet near the start of Part One before she ever met Tsunade. Remember? One of literally two times where she proved to be more skilled at least in some area above both Sasuke and Naruto, for like a second? Climbing the tree?

Note that they still show the strings, implying that Sakura is being controlled here as the projectile misses her.

I was about to say that maybe she’s just standing there gawking at whatever attacks are about to hit her because of Chiyo’s chakra strings making her unable to move but:

1) There have been numerous instances of her gawking and nearly getting killed without the strings on her.

2) She has been shown to be able to move with the strings on her. See: Hulk -smash

Chiyo is impressed with Sakura’s next attack to break one of Sasori’s projectiles, claiming she’s quickly been able to predict Sasori’s offensive patterns. She also goes so far as to say she ‘never dreamed she’d be so good.’…Okie dokie, Granny. Dial it back a little.

We get a flashback to Sakura’s training with Tsunade. She asks Sakura why medics should never have their first focus be offense. Sakura immediately, and somewhat obnoxiously, explains in a textbook-like manner that medic ninja are meant to be support. They’re always meant to be providing aid, not fighting.

Tsunade declares that answer to be incorrect. Medical-nin are meant to treat the wounded, yes. But the reason they should never focus on combat first is because it puts their lives in danger. If they die, there’s no one to treat the wounded.

Now this is all well and good, but Tsunade mentions something else – something that directly contradicts everything I’ve been writing for this section.

Tsunade says one of the most important skills for a medical-nin to focus on…..is evasion.

……..I don’t get it. Sakura has been a deer in headlights for most of this fight, needing Chiyo to pull her away from danger or her block her from it numerous times. The one time she actually got away from danger herself, she didn’t evade it, she Hulk-smashed it away.

Not to mention that Sakura’s also completely disregarding that entire lesson from the ground up with her declarations that she’s going to make Sasori scream and she’ll kick his ass and yadda yadda.

But enough criticizing Sakura for the moment because her next move is indeed all hers and is very intelligent. Sakura is poisoned by the iron sand and topples over. Sasori’s about to finish them both off, but Sakura gets up and saves Chiyo. She had secretly made two and a half doses of antidote when she treated Kankuro. She gave one to him and saved the other two for the mission in case they faced off against Sasori. She kept it hidden from Sasori because she wanted him to use his trump cards before revealing that she had something to combat the poison. Why she kept it secret from Chiyo, I have no idea.

The catch is the antidote isn’t so much an antidote as it is a temporary treatment. It will null the effects for two and a half minutes, but after that the poison will start affecting her system again.

She heals Chiyo’s wounded hand, but at this point Sakura’s already at her limit. (Chiyo also mentions that Sakura’s been using chakra to dodge, but, again, that doesn’t really match what we’ve been seeing.) With what little chakra she has left, Sakura heals the worst of her wounds and prepares to take on Sasori. He’s impressed that she was able to make any sort of medicine that can combat his poison since even he needs to consult ratio charts to make suitable antidotes for it.

Sasori, wanting to end the battle quickly, uses some giant mass of needles to attack Sakura once more. Even with Chiyo helping, Sakura’s unable to evade all of the needles – the poisoned needles, and she ends up with a bunch of deep cuts all over her.

Another assault from Sasori delivers a stomach wound to Sakura, but his real target is Chiyo. Sakura manages to grab a reel of some kind of cord coming out of his stomach to pull him away and Hulk smash him to pieces.

However, he’s a puppet so he just pieces himself back together again.

Unbelievable – she literally hit him about two and a half inches away from his clearly marked weak spot….

Chiyo kinda takes the spotlight now since Sakura’s reached her time limit with the antidote and Chiyo is now breaking out an army of puppets, as is Sasori. To Sakura’s credit, though, she’s still not backing down.

Sakura, in conjunction with a sealing puppet-esque tool Chiyo gives her, ‘seals’ Sasori so he can’t move his puppets, but she throws it at an empty puppet. The real Sasori attacks Chiyo with a sword, but Sakura jumps in the way and takes the hit to her stomach. She’s able to heal the wound a bit even with the sword inside her, which is impressive, and her gripping the sword allows Chiyo to have the opening to hit Sasori’s weak spot. The totally well-hidden not completely obvious weak spot under that giant-ass insignia panel on his chest that completely stands out and has no purpose other than to be a beacon that says ‘THIS IS MY WEAK SPOT’ to his enemies.

Chiyo also saves Sakura’s life by injecting her with the last vial of antidote, which is a problem because Chiyo was also poisoned in that battle. That’s not really good enough, however, because Sakura falls and starts to die because of her wounds from the sword, which is weird because she was specifically healing the wound around the sword, but maybe the wound was too dire. Chiyo saves her life by healing her while also pulling out the sword.

However, even THAT’S not good enough, so Chiyo uses a jutsu she invented – a life-transferrence technique that is so powerful it can bring the dead back to life, but only if the user sacrifices their life. Since Sakura wasn’t actually dead when she did the technique, Chiyo doesn’t die. Sakura gets up and pointlessly punches Sasori in the face….It’s pointless because he’s basically already dead anyway and he’s a puppet so he doesn’t feel pain. It’s not like she crushed his head with a Hulk-smash, she just regularly punched him in the face.

Even Sasori points out how pointless and wasteful of her energy it was to do that…and…well..yeah. Chiyo’s nearly on death’s door trying to revive you, Sakura. Why would you waste any energy to slap a puppet and lecture him? Your mission doesn’t end with Sasori’s death. Chiyo needs your help. And what if Naruto or Kakashi need you for medical aid later? Gaara certainly will. Save your energy, you dingleberry.

My issue with this battle has always been that it feels like Sakura’s merely an assistant here. That is way better than her being useless and watching from the sidelines, but it’s still frustrating. This is her first actual battle since the time skip – this is our first chance to really test out her skills in the field after actually training and working her ass off to improve and she’s mostly just following Chiyo’s lead and being foolish.

Between her irrational behavior here and Naruto continuously losing his temper throughout this whole mission, to the point where he’s frequently acquiring Kyuubi features on his face, I feel like backwards character development has actually occurred over the past two and a half years.

Not to mention that Sasori and Chiyo have their own storyline going on, which obviously makes this battle more about them and less about her. It always seems like Sasori is more focused on Chiyo as his main enemy than Sakura.

Granted, both Chiyo and Sasori take the time out to point out how impressive Sakura is being (in inner monologue) but usually it feels like they’re being too impressed. Usually. Sometimes, there are moments when the awe is called for, like realizing Sakura could make a medicine to treat the effects of Sasori’s poison without having any of his charts or knowing the exact makeup of it. Most of the other instances of this, however, felt really exaggerated.

It’s just disappointing, because this is the one Sakura battle that actually sticks out in my mind in Part Two and they didn’t even let her have the full spotlight….they gave her a flashlight with cheap batteries.

I will, of course, give credit where credit is due here. This is certainly the most impressive Sakura has been in the entire series. She’s getting to actually fight, she’s making some really smart decisions and she saved Chiyo’s life a couple of times…..but…I feel like Sakura wasn’t really needed here that much.

If Sakura just gave Chiyo the antidote vials and let her fight the battle, Chiyo probably would’ve been fine on her own. The only part of the battle Chiyo most likely couldn’t have done on her own is destroy Hiruko’s shell. That’s about it. Sakura was otherwise a good meat shield to get Sasori to use up his energy. There were also numerous points where her presence was actually a little detrimental, such as Chiyo getting injured, losing her arm and using more chakra than was necessary in order to help Sakura.

Again, I’m not saying she was useless in this battle – of course she wasn’t. She did much more than she ever did in any battle in Part One, but, as a whole, it’s disappointing as Sakura’s premiere battle in Part Two. There was never a point where she really wowed me. And nearly any time where she was very impressive is offset by instances of her making poor decisions or being rash.

I almost feel like this battle originally was written for just Chiyo and Sasori but they realized they didn’t want such a massive section of the start of Part Two to focus on two characters we barely know. So they hastily wrote a role for Sakura to play here – and a good chunk of it was literally Sakura being a puppet for Chiyo.

I also don’t appreciate the fact that not only was Sakura saved numerous times over the course of this section, even if Chiyo acts like she wasn’t (??) but in the end, she nearly died and had to be saved again, technically twice since Chiyo gave over her antidote when she needed it, and this time it was nearly at the cost of Chiyo’s life.

In addition, in my opinion, this self-sacrifice was pretty needless. Why didn’t she just Hulk-smash Sasori to pieces to stop the attack instead of acting as a human shield? It wouldn’t have killed Sasori, unless she knew to hit his giant weak spot button, but it would’ve halted his attack.

Why did we need to see Chiyo’s life-transferrence technique at this stage anyway? It didn’t actually kill her and she’s just going to do it again in a chapter or two. It would have been more badass if Sakura removed the sword herself and completed her own healing, which she was already in the process of doing.

Sakura deserves all the credit in the world for not leaving when prompted, several times, and standing her ground to help Chiyo and succeed in their mission. She had her moments here, but I’m just disappointed that our first venture with her on a mission after the time skip is a two on one battle where she gets a few cool moments peppered throughout a lot of the same old Sakura stuff.

Later, when Sakura and Chiyo meet back up with Naruto and Kakashi, Sakura can’t heal Gaara – his condition is either too grave or he’s already dead. I’m not blaming Sakura for being unable to do this as I doubt any medical-nin, probably even Tsunade, would be able to treat him at this point. Plus, she’s very drained of chakra. Chiyo offers her life to save his instead.

In a surprising moment, she actually tells Sakura that, in the future, she shouldn’t risk her life to help a dying granny like her. Which…yeah, I guess I agree a little – as I said there were better options than jumping in front of that sword – but if she hadn’t saved Chiyo, Gaara would be dead for good. So, save those old grannies, Sakura. Just be a bit more careful about it next time. Chiyo praises her abilities and her spirit and tells her that she definitely has it in her to surpass her master.

Can I just take the time out to say it continues to baffle me how hypocritical people are in the Naruto universe? Two and a half years ago, Gaara was treated as nothing but a monster – someone everyone, even his father, wanted dead. It was understandable for him to become Kazekage in that time, even if that is a stretch, but for everyone in the village to be so fangirly/boy-y about him…it’s just….a little irritating.

For contrast and fairness, they did have one of the government officials act like Gaara wasn’t worth saving because he was just a monster, but still.

It’s more understandable when Naruto’s drowning in fans later on, considering he becomes a war hero, but the fact that most people don’t apologize for how they treated either Gaara or Naruto really bothers me. Because it’s like Naruto and Gaara were required to work their asses off to earn the respect of their peers when all they did to not have it at the start was exist.

Chapters 281-300 (Returning to Konoha + Introducing Yamato and Sai to Team 7 + A New Mission – Deceiving Orochimaru and Kabuto + Naruto Going Insane in Four-Tails Mode)

Gonna point out how adorable it is that Gaara nudged Naruto’s hand for a handshake by manipulating some sand around it. Seriously, I had to stop reading for a second – that was so sweet.

Sakura is put on the same level as Shizune in regards to them being the two people Tsunade trusts most explicitly.

Anyone else feel really bad for Shino when Naruto recognizes Kiba, Choji and Hinata but not him?

I find it very…interesting that Naruto seems way more offended and threatened by Sai’s inclusion on the team as Sasuke’s replacement than Sakura is. It’s strange. Naruto is literally yelling out how much cooler Sasuke is than Sai and I feel like, if the panels didn’t show the characters, I’d be mistakenly attributing his dialogue to Sakura. Meanwhile, Sakura is teasing Naruto about it, trying to cheer him up on the situation.

After Sai insults Sasuke with some….err…well…truth (He IS a traitor who turned his back on everything to pursue power.) I was about to give Sakura heaping mounds of props because it seemed like they were going to have Sakura be the most mature and level-headed one here. Considering Sai’s insulting Sasuke right now and tensions are high with Sai seemingly taking Sasuke’s place, I was looking to the sky to see if the heavens had opened and bestowed upon me a wonderful moment of proof that Sakura’s a mature ninja who can put aside such personal feelings and keep her team focused on the mission – reflecting those two and a half years of hard work and change.

PBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB…..No.

Sakura does step between Naruto and Sai when it seems like Naruto might actually start a fight with Sai. She calmly apologizes for Naruto’s behavior and explains that, even though Naruto doesn’t know Sai very well yet, it’s no excuse to judge him so harshly.

………..Then she punches Sai square in the face, knocking him several feet backward and with a scary face she says ‘I don’t care if you forgive me.’ Blah blah blah you don’t know Sasuke blah blah I won’t hold back next time blah.

Seriously, what the hell is up with the wishy washy maturity levels Sakura and Naruto are displaying since we entered Part Two? Is it understandable that Naruto doesn’t trust Sai? Sure. He’s an identity-less wack-a-doo who attacked Naruto before they even met. Is it understandable that Naruto’s uncomfortable with someone taking Sasuke’s place, even temporarily? Definitely.

Is it understandable that Naruto’s yelling out at that top of his lungs that they don’t need another member since the fourth member of their squad is Sasuke and this “loser” will never be Sasuke or anything close to him? No.

It’s especially stupid that Sakura’s like ‘Naruto barely knows you, but that’s not an excuse for him to to judge you.’ and then immediately follows that up with judging Sai herself, even though she barely knows him either. It’s like they’re trying to be badass by covering up immaturity by even worse immaturity and that’s just dumb.

“But, Twix, they’re just teenagers! You can’t expect them to be emotionally stable!” Agreed. Leeway where leeway is appropriate, BUT, like I’ve mentioned before, there’s only so much leeway I can give in that regard given the world they live in.

Children in the Naruto universe, particularly when they’re ninjas, are expected to grow up faster than children in our world would. Children as young as twelve, sometimes younger like with Kakashi and Itachi, are sent on life-threatening missions all the time. They are treated as if they’re still students, and they are, but they’re also full-fledged ninja and are, technically, comrades in arms with Chunin and Jonin, who commonly aren’t even that much older than they are.

For example, Shikamaru is now a Chunin (and so is Sakura) who is proctoring the Chunin exams and taking squads out on missions as team leader – and he has been doing that since he was 12. Temari is a Jonin who is basically acting as an ambassador between Suna and Konoha. And lest we forget that Gaara is the flippin’ Kazekage whose maturity and emotional stability has grown so much in just two and a half years that you almost wouldn’t recognize him.

Sakura and Naruto have both been given special attention and direct individual training by two of the Sannin for the past two and a half years and, if anything, it’s like they reverted in maturity half of the time.

Now Naruto is badmouthing Sai’s art for no reason. I think we’ve reached a point where I can comfortably say Naruto can go fuck himself. What’s the matter? The series can’t reach its angst and attitude quota without Sasuke so now Naruto has to pick up the slack? At least Sakura is being nice about it now and showing a legitimate interest in his art and life (when she discovers the picture of Sai’s brother.)

By the by, I’m not defending Sai’s behavior. He may be emotionless, but he’s been a dick so far.

Sakura does show more restraint after Naruto says he’ll team up with Sai if it helps them bring Sasuke back. She’s about to punch Sai again after he showed more insensitivity towards their relationship with Sasuke, but she acknowledges that he can’t help them to the best of his abilities if he’s injured via Hulk-smash.

Aaaannnnnnddddd…..Sakura’s knocked out by hitting her head on the bridge right as the battle between them and Orochimaru and Kabuto starts. *sigh*

Not only that, but Naruto’s loss of control over the Kyuubi causes the bridge they’re on to collapse and Sakura’s unconscious body falls off of it. She’s saved by Yamato, though.

After Sakura wakes up, the next thing she does, after some conversation with Yamato, is confirm to Kabuto Sasori’s fate….because why not give the enemy more intel for no reason? (Seriously, if they thought Sasori was still alive, Konoha might have been able to use that to their advantage somehow. It’s not much, but think before you speak, Sakura.)

Then she gets pulled away from an attack by Naruto from Yamato.

Realizing Naruto’s current condition, Sakura rushes towards him and tells him she’ll save Sasuke so he doesn’t have to keep suffering in the Kyuubi form…which, while noble….is also really, really, REALLY dumb. It’s been made clear that Naruto has no control over himself right now – as evidenced by the massive amounts of destruction and nearly turning Sakura and Yamato into shish kabobs – but she still decides to rush right towards him. Of course, Yamato needs to save her from Naruto’s wrath and, of course, she gets wounded anyway.

Again, you’re perfectly utilizing Tsunade’s training advice of trying not to get wounded or killed as much as humanly possible because the team needs their medic, Sakura. Just perfect.

To her credit, she does ask Yamato if he can teach her the jutsu used to pacify Naruto. She’s seemingly biologically unable to do so so, however, since he has the First Hokage’s cells inside of him and they’re the only ones that can utilize the jutsu. Due to her wounds, she also suffers from pain while trying to heal Naruto, but does her duty anyway.

This exchange was sweet but also a little irritating.

Sakura: “The only things I can ever do for Naruto…are these little things.” I really thought the point of the last two and a half years was to allow you to grow outside of that box, so nice to see you’re still in it. /sarcasm

Again, It’s good that she at least acknowledges that she has these shortcomings but we’re only a little bit into Part Two and we’re right back to ‘I can’t do much to help.’ Giving her some big credit, though, she is healing Naruto pretty quickly from the wounds he received from his four-tailed state, and from what Jiraiya said about the first time he transformed that far, his wounds must have been pretty severe. Considering they really need Naruto on this mission, getting him back on his feet is no easy…well….feat.

It’s just a bit disheartening knowing that her biggest obstacle as a character is trying to keep up with Naruto and Sasuke and she really just…can’t and never will. She takes two steps forward and they take an airplane to the next country.

Yamato: “It doesn’t matter whether the things you do for him are large or small…what matters is how much you care about Naruto.” Realistically, he’s right. From a narrative standpoint….eeehhhhh.

Someone’s ship teasing the NaruSaku fans…

Sakura lies to Naruto about the damage caused by him since he doesn’t remember doing it. I don’t really feel strongly either way about this. It’s understandable that she’d lie since he’d probably feel like garbage about what he did, especially considering Sakura got wounded by him, and there’s no real benefit to telling him, at least not now.

Because Sakura’s wound was caused by the Kyuubi’s chakra, Sakura is unable to heal it fully and it basically acts like an acid or poison, so she’s a wounded duck for now and they need to stop their pursuit to let her rest.

No big note to end this entry on besides Sakura reading Sai’s picture book and getting a sneak peak at Sasuke.

————————————–

A lot of stuff happened in this entry, and it was quite the roller coaster of progress in Sakura’s character.

On the other hand….

As I pointed out, Sakura does show a lot of growth after the time skip. She’s more mature, she’s developed many useful skills, and she’s become a medical-nin with abilities that have already surpassed much more experienced shinobi in her field. I may have my qualms with the battle itself and her role in it, but Sakura also faced down an Akatsuki member when, last we saw of her in battle, she couldn’t even take on the Genin-level Sound-nin or even friggin’ Ino without being laid out at the end.

She’s Hulk-smashing shit, she’s eager to learn and even though she still does cry numerous times throughout this entry, she’s not bawling at the drop of a hat or simply staying on the sidelines anymore. She’s also grown as a ninja in regards to her teamwork with Naruto. As shown in the bell test with Kakashi, she gives his ideas, even seemingly goofy ones, more credit than she would have in the past and she’s working with him not against him. She’s no longer snickering at his failures or hoping for his downfall.

That being said, the improvement is not as sharp as I’d like.

She’s being very impulsive and illogical, especially where Sasuke is concerned. She’s screaming threats at her enemies, she’s punching her comrades, and she’s ignoring Tsunade’s guidance to stay reserved and defensive in order to stay alive and well to treat her teammates if need be. I can’t count how many times she suddenly flung herself into danger unnecessarily.

Her position as a medical-nin also basically means she’s now solidified as being the one teammate who will always need to be protected and never put on the front lines unless absolutely necessary, and that’s a little irritating – made all the more irritating considering there were already many times where Sakura needed to be rescued or otherwise protected by her teammates.

I know it seems like I’m being contradictory for dinging her on rushing into danger while also dinging her for needing to be saved just as much as she used to back in Part One, but the thing is a good medical ninja – or just a good ninja in general – needs to find a balance between being effective in offense, defense and evasion.

The one time where it seemed like she did find this balance, kinda anyway, was when Sasori stabbed her. She healed herself while she was being stabbed and kept him in place that way, but 1) She shouldn’t have allowed herself to get stabbed in the first place, there were better options, and 2) this technically didn’t matter as she ended up on the brink of death afterwards anyway. Maybe this did give Chiyo the opening to cut through his weak point, but I think Hulk-smashing him in the right spot would’ve have achieved the same aim.

Speaking of the battle with Sasori, that was a really confusing and lackluster battle debut of time skipped Sakura. She was used as a puppet for a good chunk of it, which is disappointing, but Sasori and Chiyo seem really impressed with what she was doing. Chiyo praises her for having good evasion when I thought for certain Sakura was being pulled by Chiyo most of the time. They always made a point to draw the chakra strings, so I’m doubly confused.

She definitely Hulk-smashed on her own, which was good. She also had the forethought to make three antidotes and bring two with her in case they ran into Sasori, which was very smart. She had the skills and knowledge to save Kankuro from the poison when no one in Suna could, including Chiyo, which is really impressive.

Later on, she also healed Naruto from a fairly terrible state after he reverted back from four-tails, which was impressive, even if Yamato wants to leave him behind after being mostly healed (He’s still very weak and falling over.)

This entry really has been a massive mixed bag for Sakura, but the highs were higher and the lows weren’t quite as low. I’m certainly thankful for the development Sakura has gotten, but I can’t help but feel they’re still holding back on making her really astound me. Plus, even though Sasuke is not present for most of this chapter cluster to outshine her, Naruto still is. Hell, Gaara still is, for that matter. It’s hard to be truly floored by Sakura’s Hulk-smashes and medical prowess when Gaara’s guarding an entire village with his sand while fighting an Akatsuki member by himself and Naruto is leveling a 1000 foot radius with his Kyuubi powers and nearly killing Kabuto and Orochimaru without thinking.

Speaking of Sasuke, this was the first cluster where we were completely free of Sasuke, barring a bit at the end. Meaning, we finally get to see Sakura fully without Sasuke’s direct influence. I can’t help but wonder where Sakura would be right now had Sasuke not left the village. She still had a drive to better herself, but she wasn’t doing anything with it. She was doting on Sasuke and stagnating like a puddle in an alleyway.

With Sasuke gone, she’s become an apprentice to a Sannin, she’s become an incredible medical-nin on her way to surpassing Tsunade, she’s….kinda matured….And the only reason I say ‘Kinda’ there is because, even though she has shown a lot of mental and emotional growth, she’s at her worst, maturity-wise, in Part Two when Sasuke is involved. Sakura’s making rash decisions and calling out a frickin’ Akatsuki member with loud threats? Happened because he mentioned Orochimaru, which implied Sasuke. Sakura socks her teammate so hard he flies several feet backward? Happened because he badmouthed Sasuke.

Then again, while Sasuke’s influence was hindering her, he is technically responsible for her growth, in a way, too. Afterall, she’s mainly doing all of this so she can bring Sasuke back home. And once Sasuke’s back, I’m not sure she continues improving beyond what she had already achieved. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

I’m actually pretty bummed we’re moving out of this chapter cluster because Sasuke is definitely returning in the next one, and I’m very worried it will result in more backwards development for Sakura. I’m not saying she’d gush over him like she used to, I’m almost certain she wouldn’t, but I do fear that she’d be paralyzed with pre-time-skip-Sakura uselessness if she came into contact with him. I’m pretty sure she never throws a punch in his direction over the entirety of the manga, so, whenever he’ll be the enemy, she’ll most certainly be a passive party. I definitely know some very questionable things will happen in this regard, but let’s save that for next time.

Speaking of next time, there’s a whole lot going on in the next cluster, but how much Sakura actually has to do over the following 100 chapters, considering the very wide focus, is up in the air. Hopefully, we have some great things to look forward to with her, though. If she’s not still not wowing me, maybe she can at least get some spotlight and growth.


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Why I “Quit” Watching Dragon Ball Super

The Dragon Ball franchise is a big part of my life as an anime fan. I’ve been following it since the original Dragon Ball first aired on Toonami. Dragon Ball was endearing and a lot of fun. It had memorable characters, interesting storylines and plenty of cool action that only got better as time went on. I instantly fell in love with it.

Then we moved on to Dragon Ball Z – the cultural phenomenon that caught everyone’s eyes with its intense action and epic fight scenes, as well as the continued development of old characters from Dragon Ball (To varying degrees of success, obviously) and new characters added to the mix all the time. Old enemies became friends, romance blossomed, families were created, new terrifying villains arrived and the earth was put in danger several times yet saved time and again by Goku and sometimes helped by not-Goku people.

But all good things must come to an end, and once Majin Buu was taken down for good, the series concluded.

In comes Dragon Ball GT – the “Let’s not talk about that” of the Dragon Ball franchise before Dragon Ball Evolution was released. Your mileage with this series probably varies quite a bit. I’ve definitely said my piece on the show a few times already, but at the end of the day, most people agree that even though the show brought some interesting ideas to the table, GT was ultimately an extremely disappointing followup to Z that once again ended with Goku ‘see ya’-ing his family – this time forever.

Luckily, considering Akira Toriyama’s very limited involvement with GT, most don’t take it as canon. Toriyama himself even treated the series as a non-canon side-story.

Then we got Dragon Ball Kai, (Or DBZKai if you need that unnecessary Z, everywhere else but Japan) and it was fine. Kai was just a remastered recut of the original Z series to basically update it, correct some things and remove all sorts of filler. Didn’t really make too grand of an impact, but it wasn’t meant to.

It’s all quiet on the DB front for a long time until 2013 when Akira Toriyama finally wants to do more Dragon Ball stuff again, starting with a new movie, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods, which I always meant to watch but never got around to, and then Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ which I never really intended on seeing just because I kinda got sick of seeing Frieza, and his golden form was ugly to me. Kinda lazy, too, quite honestly. Frieza has so many forms, he manages another and it’s just a gold-plated version of his final form?

When Dragon Ball Super came to town, I got a little interested, putting it on the backburner of the stove of shows I’ll catch in passing, which I did, quite slowly mind you. However, the more I heard about it, the less I wanted to keep going.

The fact that they retcon some stuff while not retconning others made me a little uneasy. Then we go to ridiculous Super Saiyan levels like blue, god, rose, rage, white, ultra instinct, mastered ultra instinct on top of all of the Super Saiyan forms that already existed when we, as a society, agreed it was already at comical levels merely with SSJ1-3….I just got put off. (Not to mention that all of these forms are just recolors of the same SS form. Give GT credit – SSJ4 was very unique and cool-looking, reintegrating the ape theme back into their designs in an awesome way.)

I know full well that when it comes to shows like this, tournament fighters/shounen fighting anime etc. you’re required to keep upping the ante so your audience stays interested. Many shounen shows don’t have too much problem with raising the bar over and over again, but they also have very emotional and interesting storylines as well as plenty of character development to keep it fresh. Dragon Ball doesn’t do this nearly as often as more modern shounen shows.

We have the deeply impacting moments like Frieza killing Krillin and Vegeta sacrificing himself for his family and humanity, enriched tragic storylines like Future Trunks’ timeline, drastic character development like Piccolo and Vegeta, but those are placed very far apart amidst a never-ending punch and yelling fest.

In addition, other shounen shows tend to have a lot of various powers and techniques that add some spice to the mix. Dragon Ball just tends to have a lot of the same attack with different set dressing. Like one attack will be purple, another will be a big ball, one will have more lightning, one will require different hand movements to use, the other will look more glowy – at the end of the day most of the attacks are energy beams/balls, and it mostly amounts to who has the biggest beams or….balls….

It’s the same old song over and over. Some strong baddies are coming to earth, let’s train to beat them, nearly everyone dies, somehow manage to beat the enemy, wish back everyone who died. Very rarely are there lasting consequences when people die in the DB universe. Even if they die for good, you will likely see them all the time with the only real difference being them having a halo over their heads. I would say there’s also the restriction of them not being able to return to the physical realm, but not even that seems to be a hard rule.

DBZ did this to the point of overuse. They had a whole arc in GT that only happened because they used the Dragon Balls too much. It practically became a joke. Yes, they did put limits on it like only being able to be wished back twice, but even that had a lot of loopholes (You’ve been wished back twice with THESE Dragon Balls, but we can go to another planet and use different Dragon Balls! Or the other Dragon Balls have different rules etc.)

I’m getting off track here. The point is that the DB franchise has a really cut and dry formula that they use over and over with even the highest of stakes (Even putting whole planets or, as we’ll see, universes at risk) seeming like they don’t matter much. While the action and characters can still be a lot of fun and really cool to watch, it’s empty calories after a certain point.

And there’s only so far they can go with such empty action. Logical power scaling eventually gets broken beyond repair if you go too far. Goku is already constantly at the top of any ‘strongest character ever’ list, and they START this series fighting GODS and then get literal god mode. How much further can you go after that?

What’s even worse is, I was looking at the episode list and I was shocked to see Goku already achieved Super Saiyan God status at episode NINE?! What the shit?! Goku was getting his ass gift wrapped for him in episode five, barely about a day has gone by and he’s already got his god mode and is facing off against Beerus for several episodes?! Just….WHAT!? No wonder they can go through so many new Super Saiyan modes if he’s already become a god before the episode number hits double digits.

I hope I’m not giving off an air like I’m above frivolous fun or empty action, because I’m not. I’ve always been very much of the mind that as long as entertainment is entertaining, it’s fine. I will still talk about the problems, but I just want to have fun.

That’s actually one of the things I liked as I started watching Super. Unlike GT, which pretty much failed in trying to meld the fun and adventure of the original Dragon Ball with the more intense action of DBZ, I think Super is doing a good job bringing a more laid back and humorous feel to the series, at least in the first handful of episodes. Even Beerus, the God of Destruction, is a fun enemy. I like that he’s so goofy about food and actually pretty respectful of people, to a point, while also being very intimidating at the same time.

I also liked how the first seven episodes brought most of the characters together and put some spotlight on Vegeta’s family. He’s still a grump, but he’s a family-oriented grump.

I didn’t much care for Goku ditching his family again, but at least they showed him having a job to support his family. Even though they just throw that away because Hercule gives him a bunch of cash out of the blue. Not to say Goku didn’t earn that money, especially coming from Hercule, but still.

Vegeta freaking right the hell out when Beerus slapped Bulma so hard it knocked her several dozen feet backward was something I was waiting for. I saw a gif of that a long time ago, and I was itching to see it in true action. As a fan of their relationship, having Vegeta flip his shit at Beerus, a being that he was previous kissing the ass of and trembling in fear of for the past couple of hours, for slapping his wife and then him yelling out ‘My Bulma!’ as he slams on Super Saiyan mode was just beautiful.

And that was the same episode in which I finally decided to stop watching it.

Why?

Well, in addition to the problems I already mentioned, episode seven was pretty much a trial of my patience. Outside of that one awesome scene, it was seriously nothing but a back and forth of the group getting their asses easily handed to them by Beerus and characters going on for WAY too long just looking on in shock and making weird straining noises because of all the shock. I nearly shut the episode off before I got to Vegeta’s big scene, even though I knew it was coming, because it was that obnoxious.

I’m fully used to the typical long stretches of screaming associated with this show. I’ve gotten pretty numb to it by now and there’s usually something intense happening while they’re screaming. Or, at the very least, we know for certain the screaming is building up to something epic. But this is just boring constantly straining noises and shock faces. It really got to a point where I finally connected with those people who make fun of anime by making shocked faces, yelling and completely overreacting for too long.

And, as someone who has watched Speed Racer and not really gotten that weird stereotype, that’s a very bad thing.

Not to mention how Vegeta has been really annoying this whole time with the aforementioned ass-kissing and how he’s just spending most of his time in complete shock and terror, before Beerus has even done anything, either.

I don’t know which was more irritating – Vegeta acting like a scared puppy with no plans to do anything about Beerus besides keep him fed and happy or Goku who seems to give zero shits about the threat this being is posing to everything he’s ever loved and is purely focused on the cool challenge before him.

….Probably Goku in hindsight because, while Vegeta is being more annoying on an audio and visual level, Goku is being way more annoying through his illogical behavior. At least Vegeta is scared out of his mind because he’s concerned about the well-being of his home and family. Goku’s just an idiot who, again, feels like he doesn’t take threats seriously until it’s far too late.

Do I even need to bring up how bad this series looks? Has it been run into the ground too hard? ….Eh, probably, but just for good measure – Do you guys at Toei maybe wanna pull a few more dollars from your ass or give your animators more time to work? Because so many shots, and I definitely don’t just mean tweens, look terrible and the animation as a whole is very uninspired. Say what you will about how dated or cheap the older DB titles look sometimes, at least the direction is interesting and the animation is done in such a way that you’re never bored. Super, however, is.

And, no, like Sailor Moon Crystal, I don’t really care that they went back and redid the animation to look better for the Blu-Ray and DVD versions, especially since I’m working from the streaming Funimation copy. They should know how to do that out the gate now. It really seems like Toei cheaps out on the animation until they know the show is a hit and then they decide to spend a few more bucks to make it look good because then they deem it worth it.

I’ve heard that way down the line the animation gets better from the ground up, without needing to be redone, and is more consistent, but I don’t think I have the patience to wade through so much bad just to get to ‘A bit better.’

In addition, this may seem petty, but the designs of most of the antagonists for the series seem very lackluster so far. Most of the enemies in the DB series have been very memorable and striking, even when they have several forms. Even the more minor enemies had very unique designs. The creativity certainly tapered in GT to the point where they weren’t really making new villains as they were just making redesigns of old ones. Baby is probably the most notable design there, and even then he’s not much to write home about.

In Super, however, other than Beerus, I feel like most of the antagonists I’ve seen have been kinda boring in regards to design, very similarly to GT in that half of them just seem boring and the other half are basically redesigns of old characters. This isn’t a comment on their personalities as I haven’t watched far enough to explore their personalities – I’m simply making a note of their designs.

You might think I’m being really unreasonable to drop the series on those grounds, and maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m just being petty or an old grump yearning for the good ol’ days, but I think everyone knows when their time has come to drop a show and this was my time.

Outside of seeing the first female Super Saiyan, which, despite me complaining about the lack of one in GT, I felt was too little far too late, and besides seeing my boy 17 (He’s my favorite character) back and actually given a chance to shine on the good side, I don’t think there’s much for me to look forward to, really. I felt like episode seven was a warning signal that those things wouldn’t be worth my time in the end.

DBS has 131 episodes, and I just can’t find it in myself to watch all of that when I know the formula inside and out – when I feel like there’s absolutely no tension whatsoever because death and the destruction of the universe are basically par for the course for this show. It gets to the point where even the mindless action gets boring.

Also, I feel like these arcs will be very drawn out. As far as I’ve read, the first 13 episodes of the series are meant to cover the events from the first new movie, Gods of Destruction, while the second season covers the second movie Resurrection ‘F’. 13 episodes each to cover two 90 minute movies? I’ll admit that I very well could be wrong about this part as I haven’t watched enough to really know, but considering how padded episode seven felt, I can’t help but think this is probably right.

I know the other arcs aren’t meant to cover movies, but still, DB was never known for its great pacing.

Outside of a few amusing moments and some nostalgia, I just felt like I wasn’t getting much enjoyment out of the series and didn’t really think I’d get much out of anything else that came my way. Even with all of the stuff I’ve read online about future plot developments, I couldn’t really care enough to want to continue, let alone continue for over 120 episodes.

Beerus and Whis are really fun new additions, but they’re not enough to make me want to stay, especially since Beerus is also an asshole who blows up planets for fun and tries to kill people over pudding.

Let me end this by saying that if you’re enjoying or have enjoyed DBS and are looking forward for more continuations, more power to you. I don’t blame you at all for liking it, because I can see things in this series that are very enjoyable. I just think that, for the moment anyway, Dragon Ball titles have ceased being my cup of tea. I feel like there are other things I’d much rather be watching. The characters and relationships and the world they created will always be precious to me, but I’m just having trouble getting into the latest ventures and don’t have the drive to keep waiting for it to wow me.

I’m sure I’ll read some cool developments online in the future about these beloved characters (as I’m writing this, supposedly Yamcha got a time to shine in the latest manga venture) maybe I’ll grab one of the newer movies if I feel in the mood, maybe I’ll even read the manga (I am reading the manga, technically, but I’m way the way way back in classic Dragon Ball) but for now, Dragon Ball Super, I think it’s time we parted ways.


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I’ve Been Nominated for a Real Neat Blog Award!

I’ve been nominated for a Real Neat Blog Award by the awesometastic Blamesaiki! Thank you very much for the nomination, BlameSaiki! 🙂 Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, but I hope I’ve come up with some decent answers to your questions.

If you haven’t already, check out their blog – There are a lot of really great anime and manga reviews waiting for you! We each reviewed the latest Yami Shibai series episode by episode back around Halloween, and it was a ton of fun to bounce back and forth and get different (and similar) views on the episodes as we went on. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it again this fall, but for now it’s question time!

So, what are the rules?

  • Display the logo.
  • Thank the blogger for the award.
  • Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
  • Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
  • Ask them 7 questions.

Questions!

So, you’ve been hit by the infamous truck-kun. You are now in a different world! (Didn’t see that coming, did ya?). You’re now forced to make some choices prior to starting your journey. But, be warned, once chosen, they cannot be undone. Play at your own risk.

1) What Class/Role Would You Choose?

I’ve answered this question a couple of ways in the past, but this time I feel more like answering with: A machinist/engineer.

I absolutely love any game that has a machinist/engineer or the like in it. The usually steampunk-esque vibe is always cool, and it’s so much fun and so interesting to set up turrets, traps, healing locations etc. whether by yourself or in a team (though, admittedly, it’s usually more fun when you’re in a team.) Plus, I love tech, mecha and robots, so I think I’d have just as much fun being this class in a real scenario.

2) What Ability or Weapon Would Be Your Go-To?

I love the power to bring drawings to life. I love art, I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and this ability literally yields endless opportunities, as long as I’d have something to draw with and on.

3) Pick Two Companions to Have with You from Any Form of Entertainment.

Deadpool. Hands down. He’d be an endless source of entertainment, and he’d be able to take down any threats we encounter.

The second pick is a little tougher….Maybe Appa from Avatar the Last Airbender? He’d be an awesome companion, and he’d be able to fly us around to get a lay of the area and transport us anywhere quickly.

4) What is an Unexpected Talent You Have That’ll Help You in Your Journey?

Uhhhh…..I don’t really think I have any? I’m a pretty talentless schmo.

5) What Character Would You Choose as Your Mentor/Sensei?

Vash the Stampede. He’s funny, but wise. He’s gentle, but kickass. He’s a great friend, serious, focused when need be, and his philosophies are noble. Plus, he’d be able to teach me how to shoot damn near perfectly.

Special shoutout to Rock Lee and Might Guy, though. I really considered both of them for this but I remembered that Might’s not all that great of a sensei to Tenten and Neji. He may be great for Rock Lee, but he’s pretty much never training Neji and Tenten. You could argue Neji doesn’t ‘need’ it, but Tenten needs all the help she can get.

As for Rock Lee, I would’ve chosen him in a heartbeat if I didn’t think his training regimen would kill me lol

6) What Stat Would You Considering to be Your Highest (Strength, Intelligence, Stamina/Endurance, Luck, Charisma, etc.) and What One Is Your Weakest?

Charisma for weakest, most definitely. I have the social skills and grace of a sack of hammers.

Highest is….tricky….I have been told I’m pretty strong, though, in my opinion, I’m not really significantly as such. I’d probably say intelligence just because I really like learning. Retaining knowledge, however, is iffy. My memory is garbage.

7) And Finally, What’s Your Ultimate Goal/Mission in this World?

What else would it be?

WORLD DOMINATION!!

Err…I mean….I’d help…people…Make the world a better place. Yup.

My Questions

I don’t have a cool story setup for people, I’m kinda bad at that, so let’s have a game theme here!

1) What’s Your Favorite Board Game/Tabletop RPG?

2) You’ve Just Acquired the BEST Co-op Video Game Ever. What Anime/Manga Character Would you Choose to Play with You?

3) What is Your Least Favorite Class/Role in Video/Tabletop Games?

4) What is Your Favorite Anime/Manga Based on a Video Game or Video Game Based on an Anime/Manga?

5) You Can Play One Sport of Your Choosing with One Anime/Manga Character. What Sport and Character Would You Choose?

6) You Can Choose Any Anime/Manga Character to be the Dungeon Master at Your Next D&D Game – Who is it? (Alternatively, What Character Do You Think Would be Able to Create the Best Story?)

7) You Can Steal the Weapon of Any Anime/Manga Character to Use in an Action Video Game. Whose Weapon Do You Steal?

Nominees (Sorry if I nom anyone who has done this already. No pressure to do it either way. :))

012Mashi

9 Tailed Kitsune

Yahari Bento!!

Inskime

Krystallina

Jiraiyan

BiblioNyan

 

My AniManga-ish Thoughts on Alien Nine

A handful of years ago, I watched the OVA series Alien Nine – a show about three girls, Yuri, Kumi and Kasumi, who were tasked with being their school’s alien fighters. In this world, aliens landed on earth 14 years ago and dealing with them is pretty much the norm. The aliens seem more like a nuisance than a threat, which is how school alien fighters became a thing. The girls are given Borgs, frog-like alien creatures with wings that establish symbiotic relationships with their hosts, to help them fight the aliens.

Alien fighters are only meant to capture any rogue aliens who are causing problems – killing is a last resort. Despite invading their planet, humans respect the lives of the aliens and do everything in their power to not kill them. Not every alien is as tame as the last, however.

I very much enjoyed the OVA. My only two real gripes about it were 1) It ended on a massive cliffhanger, making the entire series one of those shows where it basically requires you to read the manga to get a full story (I recently learned that they intended on completing the OVA, but they didn’t have the funding. The creators said they were in the process of getting the funding, but it’s assumed that the series fell into development hell and was quietly canceled) and 2) Yuri.

Yuri really damaged my ability to enjoy the OVA. She is one of the whiniest most useless anime characters I’ve ever seen. Like I mentioned in my original review, I give her some leeway because she’s just a 12 year old kid thrown into a dangerous and scary job that she didn’t want or ask for. It’s just treated like another chore at school, but it’s still risky and violent.

However, I only have so much slack in that department. Yuri does….nothing. She cries, she whines, she complains, and the only times she’s actually doing something against the aliens, it’s her Borg going into instant kill mode because Yuri’s so scared that she believes her life is in danger. She’s never not being rescued by someone else. If her Borg isn’t going rogue to protect her, Kumi or Kasumi is rushing in to save her.

Kumi does, rightfully, chew her out for this once. She, as the most responsible one in the group, is fed up with having to clean up other people’s messes, and Yuri is basically a human mess. At home, Kumi has had to fend for herself since she was four since her father died, and her mother is constantly working – she even has to help her mom with her work. Meanwhile, she frequently gets tasked with jobs at school and is usually made class president. While she does all of these jobs without complaining, she thought the one job where she wouldn’t have people so reliant on her with be an alien fighter job, and then she gets Yuri as a teammate.

I really wanted Yuri to get better by the end of the anime, even just a little, but she doesn’t. She leaves her friend in danger because she’s too scared to do anything and the only reason she even does a slight bit near the end is because Kumi came in, saved her ass again and literally held her hand through the ordeal.

Sorry to say, but she doesn’t get any better by the end of the manga either. In fact, she pretty much gets worse. Not only does she maintain her whiny crybaby nature throughout the rest of the manga (I swear she must dehydrate herself on a regular basis as a result of all the tears she has pour from her face), but she keeps making problems for the other girls while contributing nothing to help them.

She wanders into the Forest of Spaceships, a place loaded with aliens and noted by the school as being dangerous and off-limits, just because she was uncomfortable as a result of recent events affecting the team.

That’s really dumb.

She’s a massive crybaby and wimp, why would she do something like go into a dangerous restricted area loaded with aliens, the ones she’s terrified of, just because she’s ‘uncomfortable’? Ms. Hisakawa specifically states the reasoning and says she understands, but it makes no sense at all. Run away, fine, but it really felt like they had her go into the forest just because the plot said so.

Yuri is attacked by aliens and her Borg is separated from her. Realizing Yuri would very likely die, her Borg, being loyal to its partner and wishing to preserve her life in any way it can, stored Yuri’s memories before going into hiding. Yuri, having survived her ordeal, is left in an infantile state for a few chapters as a result.

Yes, Yuri the massive crybaby is a literal baby (mentally) for a while. I honestly can’t tell if that was worse or a bit of a reprieve because she, somehow, didn’t seem like she cried as much in that state.

The girls have to risk their lives and go into the Forest of Spaceships to save her Borg so they can retrieve her memories and bring her back to normal.

Then there’s Yuri causing all sorts of trouble because of her scaredy cat nature prompting her Borg to constantly freak out and kill, even innocent creatures (At one point, as Yuri’s walking away from a freakout incident, her Borg just randomly murders Kasumi and Kumi’s Borgs in cold blood). In addition, the freakouts once get so bad that it causes her Borg to rapidly grow. It couldn’t handle the stress of such a massive freakout and died.

Yes, Yuri killed a Borg with her fear.

At this point, I might say she maybe has anxiety issues or depression, so she may deserve a little more leeway. However, not only is it hard to give such a diagnosis here (Being honest, I don’t really think she displays enough symptoms for a firm diagnosis of either) but the series never mentions or even implies this. I’d have to be forcing my own interpretations onto her character, and I’m not sure how fair that is.

She was at her happiest at summer vacation when her friends basically did everything they could to spend the entire vacation with her doing fun things, but even then she spent a majority of it sporting more of a grimace than an actual smile.

After that, she was a focal point in the Sunflower incident. Sunflower aliens, which are sworn enemies of the alien species most common at the school, the drill clan, of which the Borgs originate, capture Yuri and manipulate her into helping them take over the school. I can’t really pin that much on her in that regard, the Sunflower aliens just targeted her as a host for some reason, but she still acted like a brat during that time – including slicing up Kumi’s body (This will make sense in a bit) and murdering visions of her friends.

You could certainly pin some of her behavior on the Sunflowers, but they never make off like Yuri isn’t Yuri. She’s still conscious, she’s still making decisions on what she does and says, she’s just being influenced by the Sunflowers. In fact, the vision of Kasumi specifically tells Yuri they’re tricking her not controlling her. Their method of manipulating her was giving her encouragement and praise while viewing her friends as picking on her.

I kinda get this, but I also kinda don’t. She’s been given plenty of encouragement and kind words from everyone. They just start faltering on her in response to her stark negativity and, well, personality. It’s not like they’re ragging on her at every turn, they still give her comfort and encouragement all the time, it’s just that there’s only so much they can put up with. It’s difficult to keep giving positivity to someone who responds to most of it with whining and negative comments.

This is the one arc where she actually kinda does something useful of her own volition as she rebels against the Sunflowers’ influence for a minute in order to stop them from taking over Kasumi. She really just plucked the alien off of Kasumi’s head like it was a hat, but she still did something, so that’s good. (For contrast, though, immediately after this, Ms. Hisakawa stops herself from getting taken over by a Sunflower by ripping it apart with her teeth.)

Then, in the sequel Alien Nine Emulators Yuri’s kidnapped by aliens again, needs to be saved again, then she’s targeted AGAIN, and needs to be saved AGAIN.

I understand why she was targeted in the very end, because it was Kumi’s desire not really the aliens, but I don’t get why she’s such a prime target for aliens considering they need hearty hosts. Both the minds and bodies of their hosts need to be strong to properly withstand fusion. Yuri’s body can’t be that strong considering she never actually fights (though I guess she’d be more adapted to alien influence given her time as an alien fighter) and she’s CERTAINLY not mentally strong (Fun fact: One of the chapters has little blurbs from the OVA voice actors on how much they liked the characters they played and how much they enjoyed being on the show. Yuri’s voice actress, Hitomi Tachibana, made a note saying “By the way, I’m not as dumb as Yuri.” I laughed out loud.)

And that’s how the series ends. With Yuri having developed approximately 0%. She started the series as a whiny useless sack of diapers and she ended the series as a whiny useless sack of diapers.

Even her mother stated, out loud, with Yuri right next to her, that she’s always complaining and has never been good at anything. Then she ends the series not being good at anything or even putting forth effort into anything. She never tries to learn how to be an alien fighter, not even for the sake of being better able to protect herself or her friends, she never tries to bond with her Borg or make the best of her situation, she just puts up with it because she’s being forced to do so.

If you’re curious as to why no one will let her quit, I still have no clue. The point of the alien fighters is both to protect the school and train girls for the sake of finding suitable fusion candidates, but Yuri’s very obviously not a good fusion candidate and she’s a massive liability and hazard in battle.

This bothers me a lot because, if you want a character to be whiny, fine. If you want them to cry all the time, fine. Hell, you want them to be useless? Go for it. But 1) The character that is being given these traits should not be THE main character and 2) These traits should not make matters worse for everyone else.

Every time she was faced with even the slightest challenge, she’d just shrivel up like an old banana on a hot rooftop and wait for the Borg or her friends to save her. Even when she has to simply do menial chores, like feeding the captured aliens, she’s crying, whining and complaining.

The only reason Kumi and Kasumi stop getting irritated by her behavior is because, due to their connections to the Borgs, they suffer from empathy whenever one of them is experiencing intense emotions. Since there are obviously numerous times when Yuri is terrified beyond belief, they experience this terror and vow to protect her. Ya know, perpetuating the problem.

What’s even worse is that she never self-evaluates and criticizes herself for how she acts, which is the first step to actually bettering herself. She just blames the world, basically. Stupid classmates for making her an alien fighter. Stupid aliens for existing. Stupid Borgs for being gross, even though they’re literally creatures meant to protect her at all costs and make her happy. There are even some points where she seems to direct her irritation towards Kumi and Kasumi for either things that were completely beyond their control or for seemingly treating her poorly when they either weren’t or they were, but it was only because she was being ungodly irritating and unhelpful in life-threatening situations.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, they decided to make Kumi and Yuri romantically interested in each other, I guess. Yes, Kumi, the girl who was sick to death of protecting this useless blob of jello, and Yuri, aforementioned useless blob of jello, get so close that they’re legit romantic interests by the end, even kissing twice. They don’t focus on the romantic angle much, but it is there in black and white.

And…I don’t…understand.

I specifically don’t understand why Kumi’s feelings seem the strongest. Yuri is obviously dependent on Kumi to a pathetic degree, but there’s no question that Kumi’s feelings for Yuri are given more focus. In fact, it really seems like it’s a one-sided affair because I can’t think of any instance where they frame a scene or dialogue like Yuri sees Kumi as anything more than a big sister/parent/guardian/friend.

Again, she doesn’t develop at all over the course of the series. The same girl that Kumi screamed at for being useless to a point of endangerment is the same girl she’s developing a crush on. You can’t really control who you develop feelings for, I suppose, but this seems like a harmful co-dependent relationship.

Yuri has literally zero likable traits. Like most useless crybaby characters, you can say she’s nice but that’s about it, and, surprisingly, even that’s not all that strong. There are numerous times where she’s being grumpy or copping an attitude at someone or just being an overall downer on everything. Then there are the moments where she’s abandoning her friends in dangerous situations because she’s just too scared to do anything.

Kumi and Kasumi are more interesting as characters, and it’s really disappointing that they weren’t given the main focus. I think Kasumi in particular would have been a better focal main character because she was very interesting before the incident with the Yellow Knife and got even more interesting after the fact. I liked how, after the incident, you never truly knew if she was always acting in the best interests of her team. She nearly bounced back and forth between friend and foe.

Kumi wasn’t as interesting as Kasumi, but she would still be a better choice than Yuri, and she suffered from a very fascinating yet tragic plight after her murder…..No, I’m not kidding.

*sigh* But enough about Yuri – what of the rest of the story?

Sadly, that was also a little disappointing.

Again, they just left me wanting more, but in a different way from the cliffhanger of the OVA.

The pacing and structure of this series are out of whack. They will omit or skim through interesting parts of their universe. For example, what are the aliens, and what do they want? How has the government and society as a whole been dealing with this on a wider scale? Why are they training these kids in secret? I feel like doing such a thing is incredibly unethical and should be illegal. Why are those who are fused, such as Ms. Hisakawa, seemingly keeping their alien nature a secret from the students at the start but it just seems like something people know about and accept later on? Why is it important for humanity to give the Borg aliens what they want but also refuse other aliens the same thing?

Not only that but major events will go by way too quickly as well. It makes it difficult to really care about dark or tragic turns in the plot when they go by in a flash. I believe the OVA, while also having the same issue of not really explaining deeper details of the world much, which is really the fault of the manga, did the pacing and structure much better. Makes me all the more disappointed that the OVA series never got to continue.

You want a perfect example of how screwed up the pacing and structure are in the manga? The final two pages are literally the entire resolution to the final big conflict and then most of the main characters leaving for America and Yuri going ‘Thanks a lot.’ That’s just….it. It ends.

I figured the plot would really take off once I reached the point where the OVA left off, which was Kumi seemingly murdered and Kasumi looking like she was possessed by the Yellow Knife that attacked the school and tried to fuse with her.

It did take off, but it never really soared, ya know? There are consequences that are felt throughout the entirety of the manga, but it’s pretty much the same thing over and over. An alien attacks, wants to fuse with everyone, most likely targets Yuri in some way, save Yuri, defeat alien.

Some cool and interesting things happen, usually regarding Kumi, Kasumi or even Ms. Hisakawa, but it is the same formula over and over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you do enough with the formula, but I don’t think it really did.

The most interesting arc was the Yellow Knife incident, which was covered in the OVA. The Yellow Knives have sonic powers that allow them to knock people out, communicate and even create hallucinations. That combined with Kasumi’s plight of being trapped within the Yellow Knife and really not wanting to leave made the story very compelling and interesting. Compared to the Sunflowers, which were kinda boring, and the Gladiuses, which were really just a different form of Borgs with the same drill-cable powers, it feels like they used their best card first.

I suppose that’s why the finale brings back the Yellow Knives in spades, but it almost entirely focuses on Kumi and Yuri with the Yellow Knives being more of a backdrop or tool.

Picking up from where the OVA left off, Kumi did legitimately die. Her stomach and some of her other organs were consumed by the alien that attacked her. However, she’s basically brought back to life because they have some sort of special cell gel that regenerates their bodies, which….I thought was a bit of a bad choice. Kumi’s ‘death’ was extremely shocking in the OVA and I was itching to find out how they’d deal with such a blow, but she’s barely ‘dead’ a full chapter before she’s brought back.

Introducing an item that has such incredible regenerative powers that it can bring people back to life easily (with a Borg’s help in restoring the memories anyway) and even restore limbs puts death nearly off the table and lowers the tension significantly. They don’t even care much when their Borgs die. They just grow new ones.

The most prominent conflict that arises is the topic of fusing with the aliens. Ms. Hisakawa, who herself is a fused being, is basically training the girls to become strong enough to fuse with the aliens for…I suppose the aliens’ sake for some reason. The aliens do need humans, but it’s never made clear why the humans care about what the aliens need. The only information we get is that humans ‘have no other choice’ but to do so. However, they never explain why we don’t have a choice.

Fusing is a big commitment, obviously. You’re literally sharing your body and mind with an alien being. If you’re not strong enough, mentally and physically, many problems will arise that may result in the death of the host.

You do get some benefits from the deal. You’re never lonely, you can send the alien out to do things for you, you’re always protected by it and you might even get some cool powers of your own. For example, those fused with Borgs get cool drill-cable hair and those fused with Yellow Knives get sonic waves.

Kumi is basically forced to fuse with a Borg after she ‘dies’ but her case is much, much worse than Ms. Hisakawa’s. While the only real alien part of Ms. Hisakawa is her hair, practically all of Kumi below her neck is a Borg, or, more to the point, it’s a series of drill-cables. When she’s restored with the cell gel, it’s really creating a skin-like structure around drill-cables that are making up her body. She struggles accepting the fact that she’s not only now fused with an alien but now has such a monstrous body.

While they didn’t handle this plot point poorly, I think they’ve could have approached it a lot better. She never breaks down or really has a full-on struggle with this even though anyone else would be devastated beyond belief if they lost pretty much their entire body and had them replaced with alien drill-cables and fake skin.

She lashes out about her eaten stomach once by kicking a garbage can full of aliens, and she sadly laments that she’ll never get a husband with a body like that now, but that’s about it.

This is the main reason why Kumi would have been such a great choice as a main character. The opportunity of exploring such a struggle is unique and incredibly interesting, but it’s pretty much wasted.

It can be argued that her psychological trauma involving her physical changes manifested itself in a much stronger desire to protect Yuri from the same fate, which is indeed brought up and would explain the sudden romantic feelings for Yuri. She’s not internalizing her pain or really vocalizing how terrible she feels about it – she’s channeling it into a drive to be overprotective towards the last full human in their group.

And because she’s now a fused being, she feels a strong desire to fuse, like all of the aliens do. I suppose her fixation on fusing with Yuri and only Yuri could be a result of her intense desire to protect her. It’s not just to sate the deep feelings of loneliness she gets as a fused being now (It should be noted that even though she’s fused, Kumi doesn’t have an alien to talk to, she’s more of an alien by herself.), but also to better protect Yuri and always keep an eye on her………

…..I have no idea why I usually find myself getting analytical in a psychological manner at 3AM and after I’ve already written contradicting viewpoints on the third draft. Stupid brain.

I’ll fully accept that explanation and eat some crow on some of my earlier related complaints, but I still think it would’ve been very beneficial to see her react more strongly to the state of her body. Also, the fact that she frickin’ died is something that you’d think would be something to see a therapist about, but I guess not.

It’s a little more understandable with Kasumi because she’s more mentally influenced by the Yellow Knife with which she’s fused. Plus, her personality beforehand was perfect for fusion. She was always jazzed about alien stuff and was their most enthusiastic fighter. I can totally see her being down with fusion. My problem with Kasumi in this regard is that she’s the first of the girls to fuse – somewhat drawn to the Yellow Knife due to her loneliness since her brother is studying overseas. She seemingly fuses willingly, if not happily, because she doesn’t want to be lonely anymore, but we never meet her brother or explore their relationship in the slightest. We don’t even know his name.

Loneliness is a big topic in this series. The aliens all need relationships in order to live and thrive. They get very affected by feelings of loneliness, to the point where they can die from it, and they strongly desire connections and fusions. Kasumi’s loneliness is the crux for her fusion, but it seems wasted to not really give proper due to the reasons behind her loneliness.

Even the grand finale of Emulators centers on loneliness. Kumi is essentially dying from loneliness because she refuses to fuse with Yuri and, I guess, she feels like she might be losing Yuri because she’s “growing up” and talked to a boy for five minutes. I’m going to assume that’s just the influence of the alien blood making her too possessive. However, Kasumi can’t take Kumi’s pain and suffering anymore so she tries to guilt Yuri into fusing with Kumi.

Kasumi has Kumi and Yuri both eaten by a Yellow Knife in order to forcibly fuse them together, but Kumi doesn’t want that and begs Monami (a new alien fighter at their junior high who has fused with her Borg. Strangely, she doesn’t have drill-cable hair, she has whip-like tentacle hair) to kill her to stop the fusion. They’re able to extract Yuri and save Kumi in the nick of time, but she’s in bad shape. And by ‘bad shape’ I mean she’s basically just a head being kept alive by a Borg.

Ms. Hisakawa and Kasumi head to California to help Kumi recover…..why she needs to go all the way California for that, I don’t know. They did mention that was where the first ‘Alien party’ was founded, but they never explain what that means. Yuri can barely eek out a ‘thank you’ to Kasumi and Kumi before they leave, which is nice for all the shit they went through for her.

I suppose this ending might be symbolic, like she’s letting them go and be away from her and vice versa in Kumi’s case so they won’t be so reliant on each other, but it’s not permanent, and it’s very possible Yuri will just rely on Monami from this point on, so….I dunno. It’s not clear.

The end.

Keep in mind, that was the ending of Emulators not the main manga. The main manga ended shortly after the Sunflower incident with an implication that Yuri was turning into a Borg since her hair was stubbornly turning into spirals, but Emulators never does anything with it. She just has a few curls in her hair as a result of the Sunflower incident or her Borg trying to fuse with her, I suppose.

There was another continuation called Alien Nine Next, but I debated talking about it because it’s very….weird in relation to the other manga. Not to mention that it seems like the manga was dropped after three chapters, possibly due to financial restraints since it had to be self-published, and left off on a massive cliffhanger. It’s possible there could be continuation some day but not only has there not been an update in nearly five years but the author also hasn’t published anything else in that time span either.

The story of Next takes place 11 years after the events of the original two manga. Yuri is, inexplicably, employed at an alien pest control company run by Monami. Wrap your head around that. The girl who hated every millisecond of her life as an alien fighter, completely sucked at it and wanted nothing more to do with aliens once school was over now has a career as a professional alien fighter. And she was hired by Monami, of all people. The girl who kept criticizing Yuri’s abilities as an alien fighter and her general scatterbrained lazy behavior hired her to be an alien fighter. Is it just because they’re friends and she took pity on her because she didn’t have the ability to do any other job?

By the way, the spiraling hair I mentioned a little bit ago? It’s completely gone in Next, so I have no clue what that was even supposed to be about. If she was an alien fighter all through school and is now a professional alien fighter, one would think she’s had so much exposure to Borgs that she’d be nearly if not entirely fused with one by now.

Kumi is being sent into space on the first ever joint mission between the Borgs and the Yellow Knives to do…..Pbbbbttttt something. It’s never really made clear what the mission is. There’s some seed on the ship that’s super important, but we’re never told what it is or what it does. Joining Kumi are Borgs containing the memories and personalities of Kasumi, Ms. Hisakawa and Yuri because….again, I really don’t know. I guess just for company? Or to always have her friends with her? Maybe for extra protection, but there’s really no need for them to have their personalities if that’s the reason.

By a mere moment, Yuri misses bidding farewell to Kumi on this mission that might take decades or centuries to complete and might yield death before she even starts it (Kumi no longer ages, by the way. Looking back, that might be the reason why Kumi was so concerned when she noted Yuri was ‘growing up’ but I don’t believe so. That would imply that she realizes Yuri’s mortal in an aging sense while Kumi’s not and would one day die and leave her alone. The dialogue didn’t imply anything nearly that heavy, so I’m going to stick with the idea that she was “growing up” in a manner of becoming an adult, finding someone else to love and leaving her one day. The fact that that line was coupled with the very brief shot of Yuri befriending a guy supports that idea.) Kumi stews in the ship saying this is the one thing Yuri could have made proper effort to do right, and yeah…she’s got a point.

Granted, the reason she didn’t get there in time was because she was prepping the Borg with her memories, but considering they had to have known Kumi was planning to do this for probably months if not years, she had plenty of time to get that done beforehand. Ms. Hisakawa and Kasumi prepped their Borgs and got them in well ahead of time with no problem.

Just as a cherry on top, later, Yuri is shown being angry with Kumi because she sent her an email about her leaving instead of coming to talk with her personally. Monami argues that talking with her in person is pointless and when asked why she says ‘Occam’s Razor.’ Which….I guess she’s arguing that talking to Yuri in person wasn’t necessary because it’s adding needless complication and jibber jabber to a situation Yuri is too simple to really grasp anyway? I really don’t get how Occam’s Razor applies here otherwise. I would say it would be adding needless emotional complication, but this is the same girl who barely said ‘Thanks a lot’ before Kumi left the country for god knows how long in the original manga, so I don’t think that’s an issue.

Am I just being dumb or something? What does she mean?

Meanwhile, Kasumi is now queen of the Yellow Knives. Why? I have no goddamn clue. Yellow Knives are now littering the city just sitting on buildings willy-nilly (Keep in mind, they’re massive. About the size of a house) Kasumi is helping out with Kumi’s mission back on earth, using the Yellow Knives’ power to help communicate with her and keep tabs on what’s going on.

Something that always bothered me about this overall concept, even though I really like it, is that it feels like there should be way more people involved with this stuff, but it’s always these young girls (though they’re women in Next) and one adult. The aliens obviously pose a threat to public safety – why is there no special military, task force or scientists etc. helping with alien activity, especially in regards to fusing and sending people into space acting as ambassadors to other alien species?

Kumi lands on the Borg homeworld and, because science, Yuri’s Borg, and only Yuri’s Borg, births a body, allowing Yuri herself, a clone of her anyway, to be present with Kumi, which Kumi doesn’t appreciate. She freaks out because now she has to worry about protecting Yuri in addition to doing her mission. As she looks for supplies for Yuri, I get deja vu because Kumi complains that the first thing she has to do is take care of Yuri, as usual.

Before I continue, let me give credit where credit is due. Even though Yuri still has that Charlie Brown-esque grumpy expression plastered on her face all the time, even though she still complains and whines, even though she still needs protection at all times, she does more and shows more growth in this three chapter sequel than she ever did in the entirety the original manga.

In the first chapter, she shows a bit of determination to persevere when she’s trying to reach Kumi’s ship in time and gets knocked down by a bolt of electricity. In the second chapter, her clone recovers and protects the seed, though, admittedly, she complains while she does it and states that she’s only doing it so Kumi won’t yell at her. In the third chapter, she (her clone anyway) FINALLY actively does something of her own accord and sets off to save Kumi, but because the manga ends here we don’t get to see her actually do anything.

Their ship is attacked by Borgs and they capture Kumi. Clone!Yuri avoids capture by being in some weird very deep tank in order to retrieve the seed and protect it. By the time she surfaces, Kumi’s gone. Kasumi’s Borg merges with Yuri’s Borg to send a transmission to Kasumi about their current situation, which causes their old school’s principal, another fused being, to lose her mind, babbling about the original Borgs. She murders Kasumi on site, but that’s okay because the Yellow Knives just birth a whole slue of new Kasumis. They really don’t want death to matter in this series, do they?

The last we see of our heroes, Kumi was being held captive by the original Borgs, a newborn Kasumi clone is excited about meeting the original Borgs, clone!Yuri is floating in the expanse of space not knowing what to do and Yuri and Monami are approached by some creepy guy saying he has a job for them.

The end.

Considering the end slate for the third chapter has ‘To be continued’ written on it like the other chapters, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that the speculation is correct and this series was probably just shelved because of financial issues.

But what confused me about that is, unlike the other two manga which were very simple in their art and were published in black and white, this one is not only fully colored and more detailed, but it also has quite a bit of 3D CGI. If you were self-published and struggling financially with your publication, why would choose one of the most expensive and time-consuming methods of doing your art?

In the end, if you read Next then you’re pretty much going to be left off with the same unfulfilled feeling that the OVA leaves you with. Maybe a little less so because you have much more of the story under your belt, but still.

It’s a shame, too, because Alien Nine, in its entirety, has a lot of really cool ideas that I’d love to see explored more thoroughly. The main concept alone really drew me in. Who wouldn’t want a job at their school where you get a cool, cute and kickass Borg pal that sits on your head and fight aliens while you’re patrolling the school in rollerblades and using a lacrosse stick as a weapon? That’s AWESOME!

While I had a lot to complain about here, I still enjoyed the series for what it was worth, even if we ultimately looped back around to Cliffhanger Town in Next. If you choose to ignore Next, then the series ended in a fairly decent spot. Emulators has a better end than the first manga, but that’s only because the continuation is so seamless that I feel like Emulators isn’t even a different manga.

However, even Next, despite its drastically different feel and setting, introduced some interesting ideas and concepts that I would have liked to explore. And I am definitely into the idea of seeing Yuri be more proactive and brave. I don’t need to see her going action hero on me, but just knowing she was at least starting to head in the right direction in Next was enough to spur my interest. Then again, if it took Yuri 11 frickin’ years just to get to this point, they’d probably need to write 50 more volumes to make her enjoyable to watch.

I’m still interested to know how the world they live in works side-by-side with the aliens, the intricacies of fusion, what other types of aliens are in their world and what kinds of powers they have. There are endless possibilities and opportunities here, but I feel like it really is a case of great ideas with problematic execution.

The final aspect I’ll go over before I close out is the art. This series is praised for its cutesy shoujo style being coupled with an otherwise dark manga. The characters all have very large and round faces with giant eyes, as I mentioned in the OVA review. At least you can see the noses in the manga much better than you could in the anime. The OVA did a very good job emulating the art style otherwise. I love the designs of the Borgs. I really want a Borg hat with all my heart and soul.

The art as a whole, as I mentioned earlier, is still very simplistic and hardly ever detailed very much. It’s not much of a problem, in my opinion. I have more issues with the structure of the scenes, the pacing and flow of the story than I do with the way the art presents the scenes.

In Next, it seems Tomizawa realized his eye problem and toned it down a tad, but I can’t shake the feeling that the characters feel more artificial in Next than they do in the original manga. I don’t know if it has something to do with the CGI aspect or he changed other parts of the art besides coloring it, but it feels off. The characters tend to feel more like dolls than real people.

Bottomline: Alien Nine, OVA and manga, are far from perfect but they are very enjoyable, present many intriguing ideas and create unique worlds that are just itching to be explored. I was engaged in the story the whole way through, even if there was some repetition and a lack of truly deep impacts. The main problems lie in the messy structure, the fact that tension is greatly reduced by nearly nullifying injuries and death entirely, outside of killing aliens, the lack of thorough world-building and, of course, focusing so much on such an irritating character as the main lead.

At the very least, Yuri should have had SOME degree of character development over the course of the manga, but she really doesn’t. Not even slightly. It takes her 11 years before she even shows signs of trying not to be such a massive crybaby, and of course that’s the entry that gets shelved….

The OVA did a fantastic job adapting what they could, especially considering they fix certain issues I had with the manga. I am bummed that they never got to continue. Since we’re living in reboot city, maybe the possibility of continuing on in anime is more plausible than finishing the manga.

If you caught onto the manga after feeling a yearn for resolution from the OVA, you’ll find your closure here, at least if you don’t read Next. In my opinion, you really need to read Emulators to get proper closure as the original just kinda stops, but you will find closure. I think you should still read Next, if you ever have the opportunity, because it’s also interesting in its own right and even improves the pacing and structure issues I had with the original manga.

I do hope that the manga series continues on in the future. I’m not holding my breath, especially considering the author hasn’t written anything since the cancellation of Next, but it seems like such a waste to leave it where it is.


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Analyzing the Criticized: Sakura Haruno (Naruto) Part 2 – Chapters 101-200: Deeper Problems Starting to Bloom

See Part One Here

Chapters 101-120 (Chunin Exam Finals and the Start of the Attack of Konoha)

Sakura Analysis Part 2 1

Sakura’s not very active during this period because so much of it is the Chunin exam finals, and Sakura’s role is to merely observe (And wait for Sasuke to arrive for ten of these chapters…Just to get this off my chest – I fully agree with Shikamaru. Sasuke and Kakashi’s big overly dramatic arrival is a little irritating when they had everyone waiting. I kinda wanted them to follow that up with “Oh sorry, Sasuke, you got disqualified for making us wait about an hour. Nice pizzazz, though.”)

However, there are some points of note.

Sakura again feels a pang of jealousy when Naruto shows how powerful he is and how much he’s grown when he defeats Neji.

I especially like her saying that watching him makes her want to work even harder. She’s not only showing that she has definitely come to respect Naruto, but he is also actively inspiring her. It’s a nice circle too, considering Naruto got as far as he did in his fight with Neji by remembering the people who have inspired him, like Hinata and Rock Lee, who were inspired by him as well.

….However, as you’ll note, not a damn person was inspired by Sakura’s fight. *cough*

The second annual Naruto character popularity poll is listed in these chapters, and I didn’t think to note the first one back then because I didn’t find it relevant, but considering the topic at hand and the fact that I don’t have much to write about yet, I feel I should point this one out.

In the first popularity poll, Sakura ranked fifth.

In the second popularity poll…….she ranked 14th…..

Ouch is an understatement. Allow me to point out some notable characters who beat her as further evidence of the disdain towards Sakura starting to show up. Gamabunta, the frog who appeared in all of one chapter so far – Jiraiya who, at this point really hasn’t done much but train Naruto for a while and perv on girls – Hayate Gekko, the drowsy-looking proctor of the prelims who didn’t do much else but get murdered – and the fifth Hokage who has barely shown his non-mountain face in this manga at all and has yet to get a speaking role.

She’s not even the highest ranking kunoichi – Hinata takes that spot at #6.

Granted, she never falls this far again, but she never meets or surpasses her first ranking in the future. In fact, she struggles to stay in the top ten. The last popularity poll, taken in 2011, leaves her at 12th place.

Since we’re still not getting much in the realm of Sakura right now, let me babble for a while. The endless Sasuke praise and adoration is irritating enough, especially considering he is literally being given preferential treatment because he’s the special Uchiha kid everyone wants to see fight so no disqualification for him being late, but then he has to come in being a literal copy of Rock Lee.

I get it, Sharingan user means he can copy whatever he’s seen, but this specific instance really bugs me. Rock Lee worked his ass off day in and day out for a few years to get to the levels of speed and taijutsu skill at which he has peaked to this point. Sasuke trains all of a month and he’s matched Lee’s physical abilities – his top speed, his hand-to-hand combat, his jutsus – all of it.

Sure, he can’t open the chakra gates (or maybe he can, he did see that happen too) and these abilities still take their toll, but it breaks my heart to see Rock Lee hobbling around on crutches after a near-death experience against Gaara using everything he had as he watches Sasuke implement his own moves against Gaara and drive him into a state of desperation he couldn’t get him into even by sacrificing his body to achieve that goal. And Sasuke’s barely even tired or injured at this point.

Do you see what I mean when I say I hate ‘geniuses’ and ‘prodigies’?

I’m not saying the Sharingan is cheating – as ninja, which are basically soldiers, they’re perfectly allowed to use whatever powers and bloodline abilities they have to come out on top, even if they’re overpowered or cheap. I take this more as being a massive shortcut. It’s things like this that make feats of certain characters seem less impressive to me.

People can look at this and go ‘Wow, Sasuke’s such an impressive badass.’ but I feel underwhelmed.

Rock Lee is so impressive because he reached this insane level of skill and power at his age with a handicap, not with any born advantages like many ninja have. His main powers are determination and self-discipline. On sheer willpower, he managed to match top dog ninjas time and again, even if the series commonly doesn’t let him have the limelight. Neji’s natural genius, bloodline powers and talent were a perfect foil for him. Neji may be cool, but he’ll never be as cool as Rock Lee to me, nor will Sasuke.

And hey, just to loop around back to Sakura, that IS a point on her side of the scoreboard. Even Ino and Hinata have bloodline traits that give them an edge, but Sakura doesn’t. We don’t know much about her home life besides barely seeing her parents once and that was anime-exclusive. She doesn’t come from some special clan, she has no kekki genkai, she has no curse mark or demons inside of her – she’s just Sakura.

However, the reason that she’s nowhere near as impressive as Rock Lee is because her work ethic up until this point seems mostly relegated to the basics – book learnin’ and basic skills. Like many have pointed out, she has spent a majority of her time being preoccupied with flirting and impressing Sasuke. She gets really good grades, but she doesn’t go beyond that. She’s one of the top kunouchi in her class, but she doesn’t strive to learn any powerful jutsu or focus on a particular area of strength.

I don’t want to chalk that up to laziness, because she doesn’t seem like she’s lazy. I want to say she’s lost.

She doesn’t have an identity as a ninja yet. Even in regards to the writing, she’s in a very confusing state. She’s super smart, but not as smart as Sasuke, Neji or Shikamaru. She’s skilled with chakra control, but they don’t do anything with that. She’s supposedly good with Genjutsu, but we already know how contradictory that statement has been. She’s one of the top kunoichi in her class, but in battle she ties with Ino, who is supposedly in the middle or back of the pack.

I think one of the reasons she was jealous of Naruto wasn’t just realizing yet again that he’s on a completely different level than her – it was knowing Naruto knew exactly who he was and wanted to be as a ninja. As the character descriptions state time and again in each volume, Sakura’s main goal is to ‘win Sasuke’s heart.’ Meanwhile Naruto’s is to become hokage and Sasuke’s is to get vengeance for his clan. One of these things is not like the others.

Sakura has finally realized how far she truly falls short as a ninja, but she has no direction on what she wants to be as a ninja or, realistically, a person. Winning the heart of an edgelord is not a goal of a ninja nor is it really a viable goal as a person as we’ll delve into soon enough. And it’s not until Tsunade starts training her that she actually has direction, purpose and a goal as a ninja…….even if that goal is heavily centered around Sasuke, but, again, we’ll get to that later.

That’s likely one of the reasons why Sakura is seen as so much better once the time skip rolls around. She’s not only more skilled, serious and powerful with her own fairly unique set of skills (being fair, all of the main characters adopted and adapted most of their techniques from their elders), but she also has direction.

Once the attack is launched on the Chunin exam and most people fall under the Genjutsu, one of the enemies points out that realizing the Genjutsu and being able to use a jutsu to release it is to be expected of Konoha’s elite. Immediately after he says this, we see Sakura releasing the Genjutsu on herself as well.

FINALLY an actual implication that she’s good at catching Genjutsu and can easily escape it. Too bad there’s so much more evidence to the contrary that this actually seems weird. I almost feel like she was just taking a beat from Kakashi and Gai, seeing them do it before her.

While worrying about Sasuke, given the attack from Orochimaru, Sakura gets attacked by two enemy ninja. Kakashi rushes in to save her…..This attack has absolutely no point besides to show Sakura getting saved again.

Kakashi points out that she has a natural talent for Genjutsu again, which is par for the course at this point, roll your eyes and move on, but he also said something that made me raise an eyebrow. He said he’s glad he trained her in Genjutsu during ninja survival training….Uhm….when did this happen?…And why are you lying?

Kakashi never gave Sakura any specific training, and any training she did with Naruto and Sasuke never involved Genjutsu, that we saw anyway. The only instance I can think of was the bell test where Kakashi placed a Genjutsu on her to make her think Sasuke was mortally wounded – and that made her faint!

Sakura is recruited to break the Genjutsu on Naruto and Shikamaru to take on an A-rank mission. She’s very clearly nervous and apprehensive, but, to her credit, she doesn’t panic. Shikamaru recognized and broke free from the Genjutsu (he pretended to be asleep) so she doesn’t get to break him free.

Chapter 118 does not put any good light on Sakura at all.

There’s a fairly decent opportunity for Sakura’s character growth here. One of the aforementioned overlooked aspects of her character is in the fact that she’s supposedly very smart. Since she was shown to be quite nervous a moment ago, Kakashi might have relied on Sakura’s knowledge to help command a squad to carry out his mission. Sakura could bungle it up a bit at first, her fear getting in the way, especially since Kakashi brought up the Hidden Mist mission, of which Sakura holds bad memories, but ultimately she could come through and manage to effectively lead the squad for at least a while.

This would also give her a better moment of glory than whatever the hell happened in the Chunin exam prelims.

However, Kakashi ordered her to recruit Shikamaru, who was recently proven to be a tactical genius with an IQ over 200. And since he was also touted to be the one who would be most fitting as a Chunin out of that year’s group, it’s a no-brainer that he’d basically be leader and brains of their temporary squad.

But he went a bit overboard.

He made Sakura look about as stupid as Naruto with her suggestions, and even described her as ‘A kunoichi with no particular talent.’ I’ve stated that it’s a bit annoying when they press Sakura’s ‘she’s really smart’ button when trying to give her props when she’s in a team with Sasuke the genius, but this moment made me really glad they didn’t opt to put her in a team with Shikamaru – especially considering his outward sexism.

Sakura Analysis Part 2 2

Secondly, Sakura immediately believes Shikamaru probably ran away when he goes off to basically sacrifice himself to be a decoy to the nine pursuing ninja. Not only is that insulting and a poor testament to Sakura’s faith in her comrade, but that doesn’t even make any sense. If Shikamaru wanted to save his ass and run, he’d just do it. He wouldn’t come up with an elaborate plan, pretend to be the décoy in said plan and then run off.

Chapters 121-140 (Conclusion of the attack on Konoha + Battle against Gaara)

Sakura’s not present in half of these chapters because there’s other stuff going on that has nothing to do with her, namely the Third Hokage’s battle against Orochimaru, Shino’s battle against Kankuro and Sasuke’s battle against Gaara.

However, I will note something. When Naruto finally arrives on the scene, he makes a dramatic entrance by kicking Gaara in the face (Does that mean now Naruto’s too fast for Gaara’s protective sand? Come on.) as he’s about to attack Sasuke.

Sakura’s entrance is rushing to Sasuke’s side and fretting over him. Granted, he is out of chakra and the curse mark is taking over again, but still. Contrast.

Also, there’s a weird spot, shown above, where Sakura seems like she’s not even paying attention to what’s going on around her, gets pissed off when Naruto tries to ask her about their enemy, literally goes ‘grrr’ when she looks at Gaara and explains…. “That’s the guy who knocked Sasuke down.” I don’t know if the translation is just weirdly worded, but that sounds like a little kid getting angry at a bully.

And let me remind everyone, Sasuke chased after Gaara so they could have this fight, yet Sakura’s acting like Gaara sought him out.

To her credit, Sakura does jump in the way of Gaara as he tries to attack Sasuke (Though her stance is kinda weird if you ask me. Really limits your attacks if you hold your kunai down that low, doesn’t it?)

But, of course, she can’t do a damn thing and just gets slammed against the tree. Her willing to put her life at risk to protect someone precious to her creates an additional instance of emotional turmoil for Gaara, for what that’s worth.

Sakura spends a good chunk of the rest of this section being pinned to a tree and being a damsel in distress. Gaara has separated some of his sand from his body to keep her pinned to the tree and it’s slowly constricting her. Unless Naruto beats Gaara, she’ll be crushed to death.

So glad she was able to break free from that Genjutsu just so she could do literally nothing useful and become a damsel in distress. Bravo.

I love how when Naruto’s thinking about examples of people acknowledging him, Sakura’s segment is asking him about Sasuke and him desperately trying to get her to pay attention to him….

Sakura Analysis Part 2 3

Hey, now. Sasuke showing concern for Sakura. Sasuke tells Naruto to save Sakura no matter what and to run away with her while he makes a distraction. He also includes her as one of his ‘precious comrades.’

Tell you the truth, though, all of the dialogue in play, this is just as much a NaruSasu moment as it is a SasuSaku moment.

Gamakichi refers to Sakura as Naruto’s girl….That probably irritated me more than it should.

Some people like to also give flak to Gaara for becoming Kazekage later and being a good friend to Konoha and Naruto when he’s basically a reformed serial killer. Many people don’t give him too much leeway just because of his sordid past (“Cool motive, still murder.”), but considering he also suffered from endless insomnia possibly since birth and had his sanity chewed on by a demon whenever he did get some semblance of rest, it makes more sense to pardon his actions and believe his development when he gets a better grasp on Shukaku and comes to change his views on love and affection. His sanity is slowly repairing itself, somewhat symbolically, through the love he witnesses and eventually obtains from his friends and family.

I’ll probably bring this back up way later down the line when we get to some more questionable reformations, but since we’re focusing on Gaara right now, I thought that’d be the best time to discuss that…..Sakura’s still stuck to a tree afterall.

Sakura Analysis Part 2 4

Sakura got unstuck from the tree. Caught by Sasuke, showing a tiny bit more caring for her.

Chapters 141 – 160 (The Aftermath of the Attack on Konoha + Finding Tsunade)

In a flashback, Sakura initially doesn’t believe that Naruto was responsible for defeating Gaara, saving her from the Sand Gauntlet. She’d rather gush over Sasuke and believe he was responsible and that he’s just being modest. Sasuke, however, does convince her, and even though she’s not seen thanking Naruto, she does smile and seemingly respect what he did.

Sakura’s only other appearance in this section is briefly being seen sitting at Sasuke’s hospital bed side saying “Sasuke….”

Yup, 20 chapters and those are Sakura’s only appearances. Granted, the story as of now doesn’t really call for her – Naruto’s been away for most of it, but still. If you were just casually reading this, you’d be seriously questioning whether Sakura’s actually a main character or not.

Chapters 161 – 180 (Tsunade’s Decision + The Battle Between the Sannin + Coming Home with the Fifth Hokage)

Sakura’s still not in a good portion of this part, but….Alright, since I didn’t really have much else to say, I wanted to make an observation. I am in no way slamming Tsunade, but I couldn’t help but make this parallel. Even though Tsunade was holding her own, she was still very evenly matched and nearly losing to Kabuto, whom Orochimaru stated earlier was only on level ground with Kakashi. No sleight to Kakashi either, but he’s not a Sannin. I’m just saying……is Tsunade basically the Sakura of her team?

I’m not saying the skill and power difference is as great as Sakura’s with Sasuke and Naruto, but she really doesn’t seem to be on the same level as Orochimaru or Jiraiya. During this battle she needed to be saved twice. And the first time she was facing Kabuto only.

So the first instance we see of Sakura in this chunk of the story is a brief image of her and Ino looking all crazy as Shikamaru goes off bad-mouthing all woman-kind.

And the first shot we actually see of her…..is…..At Sasuke’s bedside….And Tsunade notes that she seems to have been going there every single day. Wow.

Look, I get that this is kinda sweet, but from all I can tell she has literally done nothing with the time Naruto has been gone, which is a couple weeks I think, besides sit on her ass and mope about Sasuke. While Naruto was off working his ass off to learn the most powerful move he’s ever mastered, one that will become his signature attack technique throughout his lifetime, she’s been doing nothing. Even Rock Lee was training while actually being a PATIENT in this hospital after getting his body viciously mangled, but Sakura’s just been sitting there like a lump on a log….

What happened to the Sakura who was sick of people getting hurt protecting her and being gung-ho about proving herself? You don’t only do that in the field, Sakura. You have to actually be active when you don’t have missions. You have to learn new jutsu or make up your own. Kakashi might be out of commission for the moment, but surely there are other instructors who can take over for a while, if she absolutely needs someone to help her, even if there is a shortage of people in the village lately.

However, we clearly see most of the other teams are training in their off-time, whether it be as a hobby or not, even without an instructor nearby. Sakura has no excuse to be doing nothing.

And for the record, Sakura spends the rest of the first chapter she’s really been seen in for ages crying and hugging Sasuke…..

Meanwhile, in the next chapter, Sakura is peeling an apple for Sasuke and cutting it up into itty bitty pieces for him to eat more easily…..Sakura, sweetie, he’s just tired – he’s not a three year old.

Wow, I missed this the first time around. You’re internally cheering that you peeled…an…apple. Sakura, I know people like to joke that you’re useless, but when you’re starting to pat yourself on the back for successfully peeling fruit, I think it’s time to take a good hard look at yourself.

When Sakura presents the apples to him, he’s gotten himself so pissed off thinking of how Naruto is pulling ahead of him in skill and power that he growls at her and smacks the plate out of her hands. Then he just glowers out the window without a single thought of remorse or apology.

The girls really aren’t getting a lot of love in these few chapters anyway. Tenten’s just there, Hinata is shown being jealous that Kiba and Shino have hobbies and Ino keeps ragging on Choji for eating too much and being fat. She states that she would never get Sasuke if she ever put on weight, and tells Choji to stop eating too much or else he’ll never a girl. What a bitch.

I find this dialogue to be really weird too, because she should know very well that a large portion of Choji’s skill as a ninja comes from his weight.

The apple thing gets even worse when, gasp, Sasuke steps on one of the apple pieces on the floor. Dammit, Sasuke, you might as well be stepping on her heart!

During the match between Naruto and Sasuke, all she does is stand there looking on with concern and nearly kills herself trying to stop them from fighting (Can’t help but wonder how the series would have gone had they killed her. Not as a jab at Sakura, but something like their rivalry killing their teammate and friend would have seriously messed Naruto and Sasuke up for life.)

And once Kakashi stops them and saves Sakura, she just cries….And then Kakashi tries to cheer her up instead of talking to her like an adult….Seriously, “Don’t worry, things will be the way they used to be.”? You don’t know that. Don’t promise that, especially with Sasuke clearly going off the deep end. He did something similar when they returned for the Chunin exams when he told her the curse mark was nothing to worry about when it clearly is.

Just a moment ago, Iruka was talking to Naruto like a fellow shinobi about how he needs to help the village out and take missions whenever asked. And here Kakashi is basically ‘Santa is real’ing Sakura….

Later, Naruto tells Sakura to not get in his way. Oh goodie, even Naruto’s giving her shit now.

When Naruto, of all people, is subtly saying you just did something stupid and reckless, again, it’s probably time to take a good hard look at yourself.

Sakura does make the decision to go against Sasuke’s wishes and tell Naruto about the curse mark and Orochimaru, and he tells her it’s okay because Sasuke’s too strong to be tempted by Orochimaru. This is basically the same thing Kakashi’s doing, but at least here Naruto probably believes it himself.

Sakura’s also remembering all this while lazing about in the window. Ya know, times like these might prompt some characters to think they should’ve been stronger to stop their friends from fighting and maybe become more determined to train harder and get stronger so they won’t be ‘in the way’…….Some characters.

You might argue that there’s not enough time to give Sakura a lot of focus or develop her much right here, but Shikamaru, Choji and Rock Lee are all getting mounds of development in this section and none of the main plot involves them at all right now.

Meanwhile, Rock Lee’s story never fails to make me want to sob. Please give him all of the good things in the world forever.

Chapters 181-200 (Sasuke’s Departure – Battle Against the Sound Four for Sasuke: Choji and Neji’s battles)

 

The start of this section is one of the biggest moments for Sakura and SasuSaku in the entire series.

Sakura is keeping watch over the only path out of the village because she’s concerned Sasuke will leave, which he does. She starts off kinda funny because she tries to remind him of the time when he yelled at her for acting like Naruto had it made…..Ya know….being an orphan.

And he told her she made him sick.

She brought that up as the start of them being a team…..but it really wasn’t. The start of them being a team and opening up to each other a little was probably during the bell test.

Him yelling at her over what she said is definitely the first time he even slightly shared anything about himself to her, but he never said anything in regards to his own situation. He was just pointing out what a shitty thing it is to say that an ORPHAN has it good because their parents don’t nag them. Anyone would say that.

She goes on to talk about how fun it was being a team together, that she understands his loneliness and, even with her friends and family around her that, if Sasuke leaves, she’ll be very lonely too. This is kinda sweet, but sounds kinda shitty when it immediately follows her saying she understands Sasuke’s loneliness. Again, Sakura, no you don’t. You don’t understand loneliness. You definitely don’t understand the loneliness either Naruto or Sasuke has felt before.

Sakura Analysis Part 2 5

And I swear to god if someone brings up her being bullied for her forehead I will lose it.

It still doesn’t work. Sasuke affirms that they’re just all going on different paths. His is of revenge. Hers is…wherever.

Then she starts sobbing (though she’s been crying this entire time) and yells out that she’s so in love with Sasuke that she can’t stand it. She’ll do anything if he stays in Konoha. She’ll do whatever she can to make him happy – even help him exact revenge. Because swearing a blood oath over a crush…..that’s healthy.

Then….she does something I’ve always kinda hated Sakura for……she offers to go with him to Orochimaru.

……………..And then what, Sakura? And. Then. What? You’ll sit by cutting up apples for Sasuke as Voldemort trains him in the dark arts? You’ll join in? Have to hope their team has room for someone whose skills amount to high chakra control, pretend Genjutsu talent and cutting her hair.

I know it probably seems like I’m being too pissed at this, but I have justification. It’s not just that going with Sasuke to Orochimaru is dumb, it’s that she’s willing to BETRAY HER VILLAGE to stay with a guy who has only barely ever given her the time of day before because she can’t stop writing ‘Sakura Uchiha’ in her ninja textbooks.

You can shout your love for him all you want, Sakura. It’s not real. The fact that your most seemingly cherished moment with Sasuke is when he yelled at you and said you made him sick is telling enough.

The fact that you think you understand Sasuke’s feelings in the slightest, after acknowledging that you know what happened to his clan, just because you’ll be sad your eye candy won’t be around anymore is more than enough.

But the fact that you’re willing to either kiss his ass to make him stay or follow him, betraying your village as well as all of your friends and family, to someone who MURDERED THE THIRD HOKAGE and god knows how many other people – the guy who cursed Sasuke and caused him untold amounts of pain, is the frosting on the cake, the cherry on top and the little umbrella in the drink.

I can understand she has good intentions, really I do, but this confrontation paints her in such a bad and immature light. She’s twelve, so I guess I can’t hate on her too much for acting like this, even though you’d think she’d be much smarter and more mature by now, especially considering the maturity levels of a lot of her peers, but it doesn’t make it any less obnoxious.

Sasuke smirks and tells her she’ll never change, which I never really understood if that was meant to be a compliment or an insult. She threatens to scream if he leaves, which causes him to fwoosh behind her, thank her, which is kinda nice (How is Sasuke the non-annoying one in this situation?) and then knocks her out and leaves her on a bench.

The next day, Sakura tells Tsunade’s associates of what happened, which sends her into a bit of a panic because now Orochimaru has Sasuke in his clutches and can achieve his ends. Which just brings another stupid thing to light – Sakura, if you were so concerned Sasuke would leave the village soon to the point where you were seemingly pulling all-nighters watching the one path out of the village, why did you not tell Kakashi, Tsunade or any other authority figure? Why did you not have have some method of alerting them if Sasuke was attempting to leave? Maybe a clone or something or some sort of signal.

Even if she didn’t know exactly why Orochimaru wanted Sasuke, she knew he wanted him anyway. She knew the biggest enemy of Konoha at present, one who just pulled off a terrorist attack on Konoha and assassinated its leader, wanted Sasuke. Yet she didn’t think to maybe give a heads up to Kakashi? Leave a note on Tsunade’s desk?

Also, if she truly doesn’t know of Orochimaru’s intentions with Sasuke, that’s the fault of everyone continuing to treat her like a child and choosing to not share vital information like that with her. Not telling everyone, sure, but she’s his damned teammate. Naruto knows, doesn’t he? There’s no excuse.

You can argue that Sasuke would have found some way to leave no matter what they did, but if they really felt he was a danger to Konoha due to his willingness to walk into Orochimaru’s open embrace….lock the kid up. Throw his ass in prison. Use some sort of jutsu to keep him in the village. That’s kinda harsh, yeah, but it’s better than Orochimaru getting what he wants and needs to end Konoha entirely, killing untold amounts of people, and letting one of their most powerful and talented young ninja become another human dynamo with dark powers who intends on mowing down anyone in his way.

After Tsunade enlists Shikamaru to the task of retrieving Sasuke, given that all of the Chu and Jonin as well as some Genin are out on missions, and Shikamaru enlists his team of Genin, Sakura shows up and does what she does best.

Cry.

Shikamaru explains that they can’t bring Sakura along with them because she failed to persuade Sasuke to stay, and even though he doesn’t directly say it, she’d most certainly be a hindrance to them anyway given her lack of notable skills and power and her clear bias towards Sasuke, meaning she’d never be able to bring him back through force. So Sakura instead starts crying and begging Naruto to grant her ‘wish of a lifetime’ to bring Sasuke back.

Naruto obviously agrees, pointing out how much Sakura truly cares about Sasuke, which prompts Sakura to remember a time when she was talking to Naruto as a Sasuke doppleganger telling him how Naruto ruins everything, doesn’t understand her at all, if he had his way, supposedly, she’d never find love or happiness, and she can’t stand to have him anywhere near her. I’m not sure if this is her coming to the realization that that was Naruto or just that she’s reflecting on what a bitch she was then, but either way she realizes that she was wrong about Naruto and that he really does understand her and care.

Before I continue, can I point out that Konoha is very clearly hard up for help on missions, even Iruka told Naruto that he’d probably be called for missions to help out, Iruka himself has been pulled away from the academy to do missions, yet Sakura’s been in Konoha this whole time sitting on her ass and as far as I can tell no one’s asked her to do shit? Is this just convenient, like she hasn’t been picked through some random selection, or does no one….ya know….want her on the team? Or think she’d be useful? I can’t help but think the latter is very possible.

Where is Ino, by the way? I know she’d be nearly as bad as Sakura in the fogged focus area because of Sasuke, but where is she? Tenten’s nowhere to be found either, or Hinata. They explain Shino’s away on a mission with his father – where are all the girls at? Nearly all of the boys in Konoha, barring Rock Lee for obvious reasons, are going on this mission. Why isn’t at least Hinata, the one girl in all of Konoha whose heart doesn’t go pitter patter at the mere thought of Sasuke, being asked to go along? I know Shikamaru is sexist but at least explain where the girls are or why none of them were considered for this mission.

The end of the chapter has a picture of Sakura looking at the reader with a frown. Yeah, I’m not happy either, Sakura.

Sakura’s obviously not a part of a vast majority of these chapters after this point either. So….let’s continue to explore more reasons why practically every other character in this series is more interesting than Team 7 – Today’s excerpt: Neji and Choji….but mostly Choji.

I’m really enjoying that Neji has chilled out so much. He’s still a bit of a superior air around him, but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. Naruto and Kiba are being much more obnoxious in looking down on others, namely Choji and, for a minute, Shikamaru, in this part of the story, so it’s nice to see such a talented and skilled ninja actually be chill and helpful instead of snotty or emo.

As for Choji, his is another arc that never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Choji may be a bit on the annoying side when it comes to him outside of battles and missions, mostly because his shtick pretty much just amounts to ‘Haha, he’s fat. Haha he eats a lot.’ but when he’s set on something, he’s serious, he’s smart, he’s skilled and he’s incredibly determined to prove himself and defend his best friend, Shikamaru.

This is one of the best moments of badassery in the entire series, and it’s pulled off by the fat comic relief guy whose final form is a butterfly.

And not only that, but this plotline is actually relevant to our main topic.

Choji was ostracized from the other kids because he was overweight, yeah, but people also tend to think Choji’s stupid and useless on top of that, even though Shikamaru goes on record saying he is, by far, the strongest Genin in their group. Thanks to the support of Shikamaru, he has been able to keep his head up, continue moving forward and become a great ninja, no matter what others, including Ino and Asuma, who should know better, think of him. He’s able to take down one of the Sound Four, willfully giving his life to do so.

And, no lie, when I first saw this part of the story in the anime I legitimately thought Choji had died. And I cried. This storyline made me cry over the only person in the Chunin exams who had a more pitiful performance than Sakura – and that’s counting Tenten, because at least in the anime her fight was a little entertaining.

Especially when he reached the trees and saw the arrow carvings, knowing Shikamaru put them there, realizing Shikamaru had enough trust in Choji’s abilities to do as he claimed he would, beat the enemy and catch up.

We keep getting similar characters who are put down for being useless, talentless burdens on their teams like Choji and Rock Lee, and when it comes to their times to shine they get these grand, amazing storylines that pluck every heartstring you have. But when Sakura, a main friggin’ character with this same problem, is given a shot at proving herself she ends up with either a haircut or a double KO against people like Ino. Choji just beat one of Orochimaru’s bodyguards, who has a curse mark, who triggered his final form with this mark, and Sakura….couldn’t beat….Ino.

Also, I really like the dynamic the five of them have. I mean, yeah, Kiba and Naruto are generally being irritating brats, but they work really well together. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses that work in tandem with the others, and, given a bit more time, they’d probably be a powerhouse of a ninja squad…….still salty there’s not a single girl here, though.

Neji’s fight is not as interesting, in my opinion. It’s more tense seeing him actually struggle with someone and not constantly blather on about destiny and fate and whatnot (He does bring it up at the end, though), but I think it drags on a bit long. Just a little bit. Also, I can’t get as emotionally charged from Neji’s story when his crescendo is that so many people don’t see him as a failure, but as a genius and he can’t let those people down. They try to do the same death fakeout that Choji got, but, again, it’s not tugging my heartstrings as much.

————————————

Overall, this cluster of chapters really doesn’t reflect well on Sakura, which is shame because the first part of this analysis series actually gave me quite a bit more respect for her and now it’s fading pretty fast. There are so many more moments where she frustrated the hell out of me and much fewer moments where she was actually redeeming herself. And, sadly, none where she was really impressive.

I’m debating how much of that is her fault because she’s simply not a part of most of the storylines that are happening in this section. She’s just not given anything to do. Chapters 1-100 focused almost exclusively on Team 7. The Hidden Mist arc, the first few sections of the Chunin exam – all of them had the team together and gave focus to them as a team, usually. But the start of this cluster is where the team starts falling apart, which I guess means Sakura just gets less focus by default.

I can easily say that a majority of that isn’t her fault, but when you think about it, it really is.

She’s shaking too? Have some dignity, Sakura.

She’s not really part of the Chunin exam arc after the prelims. That’s kinda her fault because she hasn’t been doing enough training to beat Ino, of all people.

She’s not being given special training for the main event of the Chunin exams because she’s not in them because see above.

She has little to no use in the attack on Konoha because she hasn’t bothered trying to train and improve herself during the Chunin exam off time anyway – despite her drive being to get stronger and more skilled so she won’t be useless and cause people more pain and grief.

She’s not of any use in the battle against Gaara, and is, depressingly, reduced to a literal damsel in distress.

She’s not involved in the part with retrieving Tsunade, which is the first instance where the fault was entirely out of her hands. However, the entire time this was going on, she was literally doing nothing but doting on comatose Sasuke every day instead of training. They could have easily brought her along, especially considering she’ll be Tsunade’s student later. That could have made for a great baseline of Team 7 connecting with their Sannin counterparts to seek out mentors. But nope.

When Naruto returns, she’s somehow 10x worse in the whiny useless crybaby department to the point where even Kakashi seemingly babies her now. She cuts up an apple for Sasuke like he’s a preschooler and does nothing but cry and nearly force Naruto and Sasuke to murder her as she pulls an Ash in Pokemon The First Movie.

She makes a 10% heartwarming 90% stupid plea, while sobbing, to make Sasuke stay, not properly planning this out at all and nearly betraying her village to stay with him. Then she cries some more to Naruto, not allowed on the mission to get Sasuke back because she’s too useless and Sasuke crazy, and begs him to bring her back.

End of chapter cluster.

It’s a shame, too, because most of what we’ve been getting with the development of side characters, such as Shikamaru, Choji, Rock Lee and even Neji, has been pretty damn great. Why is one of the main characters falling behind so much? Why is Sakura seemingly not even making an effort to do what she keeps saying she wants to do? I mentioned that I thought Sakura was lost, which I still think she is, but she can at least make efforts to improve in the meantime. Her screentime shouldn’t constantly rely on either Naruto or Sasuke.

I probably come off as a bit harsh on her through this part, but I was really starting to lose my patience with her. We go these long gaps without seeing her at all and whenever we do see her, nine times out of ten, she’s reinforcing all of the negative things people have been saying about her for years.

But fear not, reader. We still have a long way to go…whether that’s good or bad is up in the air, but considering Part 3 will be chapters 201-300, which means we’re finally dipping our toes into the time skip chapters, I’d say we have at least a little to look forward to.


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Analyzing the Criticized: Sakura Haruno (Naruto) Part 1 – Chapters 1-100: The Buds of Problems and Promises

Sakura Analysis 1

When it comes to hated female anime characters, few get as much flak as Sakura Haruno of Naruto. The most common complaints about her character include – she’s useless, she’s whiny, she’s obsessed with Sasuke and she’s one of many ‘typical female leads’ where their role is defined by the men in their lives (Either Sasuke or Naruto)

I watched Naruto and a good chunk of Shippuden many moons ago and my opinions were the same. Heck, I slammed her quite a bit over the years and even included her in my entry for ‘Least Favorite Female Sidekick’ in the Salty Anime Challenge.

Everyone agrees that she becomes much better during Shippuden and….I’ll have my time with Boruto later, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a LOT of talking points regarding her usefulness and simply how she’s portrayed. But it’s been so long and I need another perspective. I need to dive into the details of the criticisms throughout time.

I’m hitting the nostalgia button. I’ve decided to go back and read the Naruto manga, which I’ve never done, to focus firmly on Sakura’s role. Why? To give Sakura a fair shake. To break her down as objectively as possible and try to see how much of the criticism was really warranted while also giving her proper credit when due. If this analysis goes well, I may do similar evaluations to other criticized characters such as Kagome from Inuyasha, Eren from Attack on Titan and Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi. I might even do this for characters I like, though that’s more of a traditional character study than what I’m doing here. We’ll see.

Quick Disclaimer: I am going to be discussing my opinions on certain shippings in this series. I kinda can’t avoid it, honestly, because so much of Sakura’s character is entwined with her relationship to Sasuke, and it’s no secret that I have a lot of criticism for the pairing. HOWEVER, note that I am very much against anti-shipping. I may post heavy criticisms about ships, but at the end of the day I am very respectful of people’s opinions on the matter and never sling hate their way for them. Ship anything you want, it’s fine. No matter if it’s canon or not, like what you like. Have fun.

I, personally, ship Rock Lee and Sakura and Hinata and Naruto (And Temari and Shikamaru, but I doubt that’ll ever come up, really) for a variety of reasons, but I most certainly won’t harp on that. I may bring it up if it has to do with Sakura’s development or if there’s a particularly good comparison to be drawn from it, but otherwise, this series will definitely not be championing any shipping and no shipping hate will be tolerated, that includes the comments.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll be breaking up this series into 100 chapter marks and 20 chapter sections.

Chapters 1-20 (Covering basic training and part of the Hidden Mist Arc)

Even 20 chapters in and there’s already a lot of commonly discussed issues that are brought to the forefront.

Sakura treats Naruto badly. True. However, she’s a 12 year old girl and Naruto is the egotistical class clown who has a crush on her and hates Sasuke, her crush. Even though those facts don’t justify her behavior, it’s somewhat understandable.

What’s not understandable is her comments about how he behaves poorly because he has no parents and that he’s lucky to not have them, in a way, because he doesn’t have his parents hounding him.

When I got to this scene in the manga, I looked up responses online and some people justified this by saying she was explaining his behavior, not mocking him, but I don’t think so. From what we’ve seen of Sakura to this point, she never says anything kind or in defense of Naruto unless someone chews her out or Sasuke acts as an example for her. Both of which happen after the scene in which she makes the aforementioned comment.

Not to mention how unbelievable it is that she didn’t realize she was saying these things to Sasuke of all people. I can’t imagine she didn’t know about the Uchiha family massacre and didn’t connect the dots that, maybe, saying stuff like Naruto acts poorly because he has no parents and is lucky to not have them isn’t the best thing to do in front of a fellow orphan.

Then there’s the moment where they’re practicing climbing trees with their chakra and she actually seems like she’s looking forward to Naruto getting frustrated and quitting.

Sakura Analysis 2

Sakura is obsessed with Sasuke. This is also very true. Nearly every line she gets, either internal or external, somehow involves Sasuke to some extent. If not, she’s merely providing commentary on what she’s watching.

When she has moments of character development, at this point anyway, like rethinking her views on Naruto or giving Naruto some of her lunch during the bell test, she only does so because of Sasuke. He scolds her for her comments on Naruto’s lack of parents – she rethinks her views on Naruto for about ten seconds. Sasuke gives some of his lunch to Naruto first – Sakura follows suit.

Even during a moment where she actually has a time to shine brighter than the boys, a rarity to say the least, her focus is on Sasuke. She climbs the tree easily with her chakra but is upset that Sasuke isn’t impressed with her.

Speaking of chakra control, Kakashi does praise her for this, but it doesn’t come into play as an actual strength of hers until way down the line after the time skip where she uses it for medical purposes and feats of massive physical strength, particularly in punching and kicking. As of right now, her chakra control is only as useful as the ability to climb trees without her hands, and even that won’t be impressive in about one chapter as Naruto and Sasuke learn the ability.

Kakashi also mentions in passing that, despite her great chakra control, her potential power is ‘nothing’ compared to Naruto and Sasuke. While I understand that to a degree, considering she doesn’t have a massively powerful demon living in her and isn’t part of an incredibly powerful bloodline, it’s still a bit irritating to not only have confirmation that she’s the weakest in her team by far, but also that she doesn’t even have the potential to match her comrades’ power.

Also, I could’ve sworn another of Sakura’s strengths was in her being smart. I thought she was at the top of the class, but she’s not. Sasuke has the best grades in class according to Iruka. So she doesn’t even have that going for her.

That also brings about a question of the balance in their teams. Sasuke and Naruto supposedly got paired because the best in the class is balanced by the worst in the class, but where does Sakura fit into this equation?

She’s supposedly the most talented kunoichi of her class but….come on….that’s not really something to brag about. There’s all of five or six girls in her class, only three of which get names.

To her credit, she does attempt to do something brave on her own without even thinking of Sasuke. She jumps in front of Tazuna, the old bridge builder they’re meant to protect, as two enemy ninja attack him. However, the moment is still overshadowed by Sasuke because he suddenly jumps in front of Sakura to protect her. Either this was a brief fleeting moment where Sasuke actually shows concern and caring for Sakura or he knew she wouldn’t be able to do anything to protect Tazuna and was more concerned with the mission. Maybe a little of both.

Chapters 21-40 (The rest of the Hidden Mist Arc and the first part of the Chunin exams)

As you can probably expect, Sakura doesn’t do much in the rest of the Hidden Mist arc. She’s relegated to babysitting Tazuna on the sidelines for the entire fight. Sasuke and Naruto fight Haku, and Kakashi fights Zabuza.

To her credit, she is shown to be very determined to both help her friends and protect Tazuna with all her might. However, the one time Zabuza does break off to attack Tazuna, Kakashi steps in the way.

Granted, it’s not like she can do much now, as I stated before.

This is one of many times where Sakura is massively eclipsed by Naruto and Sasuke off the bat. This arc is where Sasuke awakens his Sharingan and Naruto starts tapping into his nine-tailed fox powers. Obviously, Sakura has nothing grand to show off that even comes close to these abilities, so she’s mostly relegated to being a bodyguard and she doesn’t even really get to do that.

Kakashi also mentions that Sakura’s the brightest mind on the team, which is odd because not only is there the earlier mention of Sasuke getting the best grades, but in almost the same breath as him saying that, he mentions that Sasuke is a genius. It’s hard to be impressed by her intellect if you immediately follow that up with ‘but she’s not as smart as the other main character.’

There’s a slight bit of character development here in that Sakura, without prompt, kinda compliments Naruto. She says Sasuke will never lose to someone like Haku, then she adds that Naruto wouldn’t either.

The only other thing Sakura does during this arc is cry over Sasuke’s body, believing him to be dead then her hugging him and crying more when it’s revealed that he’s alive.

Some people complain about this scene, mostly in regards to, of course, the girl is relegated to crying being one of her only notable actions during the entire arc, but these complaints are easily countered.

1) She just watched her sensei kill a kid her age in a horrible manner mere moments before she found out about Sasuke. She’s already on uneasy ground, emotionally.

2) She doesn’t go to Sasuke until Tazuna offers to go with her in order to properly perform her ninja duties.

3) Before she cries, she explains that part of the shinobi way is to never show your feelings on the battlefield no matter what, like she’s trying to apologize beforehand for breaking this rule.

4) Her comrade, teammate, crush and kinda friend is laying dead on the battlefield. I’m pretty sure anyone would get a pass for crying in that moment.

5) She’s not the only one who cries in this arc. Haku cries, Naruto nearly starts bawling and even Zabuza sheds some tears. You can’t ding the trope of girl tears if several guys are also crying.

Sakura Analysis 3

After the Hidden Mist arc, we get to the Chunin exams where Sakura starts reevaluating her standing in the team after Sasuke chews her out for being more focused on flirting than training and being ‘just as bad as Naruto.’ Trouble is, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to her struggle with this, even named ‘Sakura’s Depression’ but it doesn’t amount to anything.

Sasuke compliments her strategic skills, which haven’t really been displayed yet, and her ability to identify Genjutsu, which also hasn’t really been mentioned up til now. The only experience she’s had in Genjutsu, really, is when Kakashi tried to trick her into thinking Sasuke was terribly wounded, and she didn’t see through that one. She freaked out and fainted….

That is the first instance of Sasuke seemingly being nice to Sakura genuinely, though. I don’t know if he felt guilty for what he said or if he knew she felt useless compared to the two of them, but it was a rare moment of niceness.

Sakura did catch Sasuke after being thrown by Rock Lee, so chalk one up for her.

Chalk up more character development for her too because she believes Naruto is shaking in fear or about to cry in the face of the Chunin exam and she goes to comfort him.

She’s also being very analytical during the first portion of the exam.

Chapters 41-60 (Chunin Examsthe rest of the intel test and part of the Forest of Death)

Sakura’s actually impressive in the first part of the Chunin exam, even if Sasuke figures out the main goal of the test before she does (Actually, it’s a bit unclear whether she figures out the main goal of the test. The furthest she seems to get is that the test almost seems designed to force the participants into cheating.) She’s the only one of the main characters to legitimately answer all of the questions on the exam instead of trying to cheat…..which is the main point of the exercise….which….may mean she actually didn’t do well in this part? Hinata may have also answered the questions herself, but considering she has her Byakugan, that’s questionable. Even Sasuke the ‘genius’ and Neji the ‘genius’ needed to cheat.

She was also willing to take the hit in quitting the exam for the sake of protecting Naruto’s future as a ninja, knowing he’d be too proud to do so himself – completely disregarding that quitting would mean Sasuke would also be forced to fail the exam.

I find it funny that Sakura does this to spare Naruto from being a Genin for the rest of his life, when he stays a Genin for the rest of his life anyway. Not kidding – he never officially advances beyond the point of Genin the entire series until he earns the role of Hokage.

Sakura punches Naruto for trying to take a leak in front of her, which is kinda justified, but the little inner Sakura above her head implies that she’d be fine with Sasuke doing it in front of her…..So either Sakura has a urine kink or she’d love to see Sasuke’s doodad while he’s doing one of the most unsexy things with it. O…kay….Sakura….

Sakura didn’t notice the fake Naruto when she’s supposed to be the smartest one…kinda…Sasuke the genius realizes it immediately. She also does absolutely nothing against the enemy ninja that tries to pull this stunt.

Sakura AGAIN doesn’t detect the fake Naruto in front of her and doesn’t find it odd that he remembered Sasuke’s long complicated password with no issue. Sasuke the genius, again, realizes it immediately.

Also not a big fan of Sasuke needing to put his hand over Sakura’s mouth to keep her quiet. Nor am I a fan of the fact that chapter 47 ends with a page focusing purely on Sakura being paralyzed with fear….

Sakura spends the rest of this fight doing fuck all. In fact, when Naruto is grabbed by Orochimaru, she just stands there yelling “Sasuke, Naruto needs you!” The one thing she does do is stop Naruto from falling.

I do kinda like how she implied that Sasuke was acting cowardly because he was seemingly giving up and submitting to Orochimaru when Naruto was giving it his all. It’s a slight implication, but it is there. And I will admit that her words are what drive Sasuke to getting back in the fight.

They kept saying Sakura has an affinity for Genjutsu, but this is yet another instance of someone using a Genjutsu on her (The death vision) where she couldn’t identify it or break it without help yet Sasuke was able to recognize it, keep moving and break it entirely by hurting himself while Sakura was frozen in fear.

We’re at Sakura’s first big solo moment here, and it’s one I and many other people have slammed pretty hard in the past – her haircut.

But there’s more to it than that.

……But I’m still pissed about.

Let’s break this down. Sasuke and Naruto are both unconscious after their battle with Orochimaru and Sakura is the only one left behind to both care for them and protect them – big responsibility. Big opportunity for growth.

To Sakura’s credit, she does several things here that are worthy of praise. She carefully watches and tends to Sasuke and Naruto all through the night, driving herself to the point of paranoia and exhaustion. She sets booby traps around their camp to help catch intruders, and despite being very visibly afraid, she stands her ground and confidently confronts the other sound-nin when they show up, even name-dropping Orochimaru.

Rock Lee kinda comes in and ruins it A LITTLE. I love that little bushy browed bowlcut, and he’s being sweet here, though on a similarly misguided infatuation level as Sakura is with Sasuke, but I think this confrontation would have been better without his initial interference, mostly because it derails the story into more of a Rock Lee moment than a Sakura one for a bit.

Granted, the fact that Lee fails in his attempt to protect Sakura compounds her guilt that people are always coming to her rescue, getting hurt in the process, and she doesn’t like that.

She does try to combat the sound-nin with some throwing stars, but they’re about as effective as you’d think.

Then comes the moment of truth. One of the sound-nin, Kin, has Sakura by the hair…..Yup. She doesn’t restrain her hands to prevent her from pulling a weapon or making hand signs or just…to not use her hands, she just grabs her by the hair and expects that to be good enough.

Sakura actually pulls out a kunai and Kin, like an idiot, just doesn’t do anything, even though it’s in plain sight and she even acknowledges it. And then, after much buildup, she frees herself by cutting her hair very dramatically.

Everyone looks at her like she just cut her damn arm off.

Now, considering Sakura had been dinged a few times now for being more concerned about her looks and flirting than she was about being serious in her ninja duties, this could be seen as her growing out of that and proving her ninja prowess. Considering that she actually does have a slight moment of badassery after this, that much is certain….but 1) There’s still the glaring part about this also being a big thing because Sakura and Ino both grew their hair long because they had heard a rumor that Sasuke liked girls with long hair. They focus on this aspect, but we all know it doesn’t really matter in this respect because Sakura’s obsession with Sasuke never ends.

2) It’s still just hair, it grows back. Granted, she never does grow her hair back, whether symbolically or because she realized she looks a lot better that way, but still. It’s hair.

3) She has about four pages of badassery in her before she just resorts to biting Zaku and not letting go like an untrained puppy. I give her props for taking that beating, but it was unnecessary. Why didn’t Kin or Dosu do anything to stop it?

4)….In the end, she still gets saved by other people, which is what was she was trying to prove she DIDN’T NEED.

I know, she’s against three people and she’s already exhausted. There’s no way she’d be able to pull something uber powerful out of her butt and defeat them all. I would never expect her to. Considering they just whupped Lee’s ass, it’s completely unrealistic. It’s unrealistic even if Lee never appeared. Even Naruto and Sasuke would have great difficulty taking on three skilled ninja, BUT I have a constructive criticism on how this entire scene could’ve been made eons better.

First of all, maybe restrain Sakura in some way where there would be no way for her to escape without harming herself. It would badass, a definite show of courage and seriousness, and the scar left behind would be proof that she cares more about her stance as a ninja than her looks. Maybe even go the extra mile and put the wound on her face somehow. You don’t need to pull a Berserk, but shed some blood.

Second of all, keep the scene with Sakura fighting the sound-nin alone, but after the biting scene have her get thrown by Zaku then have him try to look for her to finish her off. He can’t find her and, after some time, the other sound-nin realize they’re in a loop (This is inspired by later events). They reveal that Sakura had bitten Zaku as a distraction. While he was focused on her head, she was making necessary hand signs to pull off a Genjutsu.

The Genjutsu in question would be making the sound-nin think everyone’s still there when they aren’t and put them into a loop of trying to find Sakura. The Genjutsu was so good even the Genjutsu-savvy sound-nin didn’t realize it until she had grabbed the boys and taken them far away. She doesn’t need to defeat the other ninja, she just needs to get out of this dire situation. She needs to ensure their survival. That in itself is a big enough moment.

Finally, Ino, Shikamaru and Choji would all witness this and just quietly give Sakura a moment of respect for how much she’s grown as a ninja.

My version isn’t perfect but it would be much higher tier than what we got, which just pales in comparison to the big moments of Sasuke and Naruto up until this point. Plus, it would actually show that she has a true affinity for Genjutsu instead of people telling us that without any evidence. How can I really give this moment much credit when it comes after Sasuke very nearly dying for a mission (twice now) and Naruto kicking ass while using his nine-tailed fox powers (Twice now)?

Another big-ish moment for Sakura, especially where SasuSaku is concerned is him reverting back from his cursed form when Sakura hugs him and begs him to stop. This moment is a bit up in the air for me considering it’s another moment where Sakura’s crying and doing more observing than anything, but I think I’ll give it to the pairing support at least. Sasuke really could’ve just pushed her away and staked his true claim as a power-hungry ‘avenger’ by taking out the last sound-nin, but instead he listened to her pleas and calmed down.

Considering this, you’d think, later, Orochimaru would have mentioned her influence being a problem for Sasuke’s dedication to being an ‘avenger’ instead of just mentioning Naruto and making him a target because of it.

Even though I give Sakura props for lying to Naruto about the reasons behind cutting her hair, the fact that they focus on Sasuke and Ino pausing as she says this, like it’s some dark secret, is a bit goofy.

Sakura Analysis 4

It’s very interesting how Tenten points out that Lee could have easily taken the sound-nin in battle if he wasn’t preoccupied with Sakura. Does that mean I have to ding her here for being the reason Lee lost?

I appreciate Sakura defending Lee so fiercely but punching the hell out of Naruto for making a comment like ‘unibrow’ is way too far. I’m also starting to get sick of the old ‘female love interest is allowed to punch the protagonist for little to no reason and haha it’s funny even though it would be clearly seen as abuse if the genders were reversed’ trope….

Chapters 61-80 (The rest of the Forest of Death and most of the tournament prelims)

Sakura is the first to get so tired she collapses when they get caught in the enemy loop Genjutsu, which is silly because Naruto and Sasuke were both exhausted from battles that left them both unconscious for several hours, but I guess Sakura did also fight for a bit and they got to rest that night while she didn’t.

Hey, speaking of Genjutsu, Sakura didn’t notice another damn Genjutsu when she’s supposed to have a talent for this shit.

Another instance of a different Genjutsu that Sakura neither notices or can dispel. She also needs to be kinda convinced that it’s a Genjutsu at all.

When they finish the second exam, there’s an interesting bit involving the scroll on the wall. It was a little interesting back then, but it’s much more interesting now given hindsight. Iruka points out that the scroll is talking about traits you should work on in order to be a good Chunin. It’s necessary to have the properties of heaven and earth with heaven signifying wisdom and knowledge and earth signifying strength and physical prowess.

He notes that Naruto’s weak point is the trait of heaven – he needs to study hard and develop himself mentally to become a good Chunin. Then he notes that Sakura’s weak point is her physicality – earth. She’s physically weak and doesn’t have much battle prowess, so she needs to work on that. (He doesn’t state it, but the framing implies Sasuke has both properties, so he’d be most fitting as a Chunin in Team 7)

The reason I found this more interesting in hindsight is because Sakura does become incredibly physically strong later after learning to channel her chakra in very specific points such as her fists and feet. Problem is, this doesn’t happen until way down the line after the time skip.

She vehemently tries to get Sasuke to withdraw from the exams due to his curse mark to the point where she starts crying and threatening to tattle on him if he doesn’t leave. I’m debating how much of a pass, if any, I’ll give her here because she has already seen Sasuke ‘die’ once before and she’s pretty much starving and sleep-deprived right now. However, I will ding her a little because I’m having a hard time thinking she’d fight as strongly if Naruto was the one who was cursed and she’s back to crying some more.

This has nothing to do with Sakura, but can we please stop referring to Sasuke as an avenger? This complaint has nothing to do with anything Marvel related – it’s just a cringey thing to say, especially when you’re proclaiming it about yourself. It’s so emo or forcibly dark and edgy. Putting the Marvel spin on it, it’s a team name so it doesn’t have that spin. It’s not like something you’d say before flapping a black cape in front of you and walking off dramatically to go reapply your black mascara.

Oh shit, son, are we at chapter 71? It’s time for the main event!

SAKURA

VS.

INO

Let me give you my initial views on this battle from when I watched the anime version: This is one of those Sakura-centric plot points that I’ve heavily criticized in the past. One of the few times Sakura actually gets to battle on her own, no one interfering at all, and it’s kinda boring and ends in a silly tie. Ino, in a seeming act of defiance to Sakura cutting her own hair, cuts her own hair, which, unlike Sakura, she doesn’t keep for too long, in fact she has much longer hair when the first time skip happens and even longer in the Boruto age. It’s also slightly symbolic in that, again, the long hair was grown in an attempt to impress Sasuke.

I think this battle would’ve been more interesting if they both got past their insane love of Sasuke afterwards, but of course that didn’t happen.

We just got one of the dumbest friendship breakup baskstories in existence.

(Trying to keep this as an aside: Another common complaint regarding Sakura even in Shippuden and Boruto is that Sakura never gets to actually finish her battles, even when she’s winning. She always either has someone else come in and take over or she has someone save her. My question will be answered in time as I do this series….but does Sakura ever actually win any battles on her own? Legitimate question. Does she actually WIN, as in completely finish by herself, any battles? I’ll even take movie references as proof, even if those aren’t considered canon. I’ll become so much sadder doing this series if I find out she’s never won once…..)

So, since this is basically the first actual major Sakura event….and uh…..pretty much…..the only one until we get to Shippuden, let’s break this down a little more than we normally would.

Ino and Sakura are paired to fight in the prelims of the third round of the Chunin exams because why wouldn’t they? And we get the absolute best vote of confidence that this fight is going to be boring by Ino’s teacher, Asuma. He says in inner monologue that Ino may look fierce, but, and I quote “among the kunoichi rookies, she’s far from the top of the pack.”

Let me remind everyone that the only rookie kunoichis in konoha that aren’t nameless nobodies to fill up classroom space are Sakura, Hinata and Tenten………And I’m going to give top spot in skill to Hinata and knowledge to Sakura…..If Ino is ‘far from the top of the pack’ in konoha kunoichis and we’re ranking Sakura as one of the top dogs….this match is going to be depressingly uninteresting before the bell even rings.

Let’s be even more fair and include the non-konoha konoichis there, which consist of Temari, who is skilled probably on the same level as Hinata, at this point anyway, and Kin, the sound-nin, who is basically Tenten if she focused more on Genjutsu, and whose sole role to this point has been ineffectively restraining Sakura. Admittedly, Ino did take over her mind once, but she was defeated by Kin’s teammate there, so make of that what you will.

Asuma expounds upon this even more by wondering if Ino can even give Sakura a good workout…..He either drastically overestimates Sakura, maybe based on her grades, or he underestimates Ino, which is a bit sad because he’s her teacher. I feel like, if the rules didn’t say whole squads had to participate or none of the individual members could, Asuma never would have submitted Ino has an entrant.

And, considering this match ends in a tie, I’d say he did both massive under and overestimating on both sides here. They’re both disappointing, but to different levels.

Since this is the first time we’ve really focused on literally the only ‘tragic backstory’ Sakura has (or really the only backstory she has at all) we have to sideline the battle a few times to go over her past with her previous best friend Ino.

The flashback starts off with a female ninja leading a class specifically meant for young aspiring female ninja, teaching them feminine practices for the sake of blending into a village easily and being a covert spy. One of those important traits is flower arranging…….sure it is. And we see that Sakura’s even useless at picking flowers as she trips and falls on her face. And if you think I’m being too harsh on her, even Sakura says she’s no good at this stuff.

Ino teaches her to arrange flowers, and she’s being kinda passive aggressive about it. First she says it’s pathetic that Sakura is not being able to arrange flowers when her name is based off of cherry blossoms. Then she says blossoms should never be in the competition for the main focus of the arrangement, very clearly making a metaphor in regards to Sakura. She then compares herself to the center flower, the cosmos, and says she’s even prettier than that flower. So, if we’re completing Ino’s little metaphor, Sakura should always be kept to the background as an ‘accessory’ and Ino’s the beautiful star of the show.

This is the foundation for this beautiful friendship torn asunder. Go grab some Kleenex before it’s too late.

Three girls walk up harassing Sakura about her ‘big forehead’ but before I go off about that, what the hell is up with the designs of these girls? They’re meant to be like 8 or 10 years old yet one of them is dressed like a punk rocker, the middle one is like a female Orochimaru and the one on the right……pbbbbtttt what is the girl on the right? She looks like the love child of Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo and Wobbuffet.

Sakura Analysis 5

Back to the ‘big forehead’ thing – I never once understood this. I get that kids are little pricks and will make fun of anything they think can be a viable target, but this has followed her into her Genin years. In fact, while Sakura’s go-to insult with Ino is calling her variation of a pig (because her name is Ino, which means ‘pig’) Ino’s is to constantly poke fun at Sakura’s forehead. Sakura’s forehead looks ridiculously normal. It looks no bigger than Ino’s.

They’re bullying her outside of the forehead stuff anyway, and Ino pulls a pretty badass move and uses flowers as ninja stars, throwing them in the mouth of one of the bullies and claiming they’re poisonous, which causes them to run off.

Sakura then continues with the metaphor from earlier, saying Ino’s so smart and cool, and if she’s the cosmos, Sakura must be a purple trousers (one of the accessory flowers) Ino then says she’s not even a bud yet. Sakura then asks why Ino gave her the ribbon she wears on her head to hold her hair back from her forehead. Ino replies that she felt it was a shame to see a bud like her dying on the vine. She gave her the ribbon to help her bloom into something even prettier than a cosmos.

Admittedly, this part, even in light of the passive-aggressiveness from earlier, was sweet. She helped build up Sakura’s confidence in herself and it strengthened their bond.

HOWEVER, any sweet sentiment involving their backstory or current situation is instantly completely destroyed all because of their stupid fight over Sasuke. It literally went ‘Hey I heard you like Sasuke. Guess we’re rivals now.’ *end friendship* It’s like they didn’t realize they can be friends and rivals at the same time or didn’t bother trying that route.

Some deep and caring friendship you two had if your competition over a guy who has never even shown a passing interest in girls can completely destroy it to the point where all you two do when you see each other is make fun of the other. I also find it particular stupid that the ribbon that Ino gave Sakura for the sake of keeping her hair back and owning her ‘big’ forehead as opposed to hiding it and giving the people who made fun of her power over her is even a thing because once they stop being friends, as I mentioned, she resorts to making fun of Sakura’s forehead too.

I won’t comment on their future friendship status yet because I don’t remember enough about it. I’m pretty sure they don’t reach a point of even really being casual friends again until either mid to late Shippuden, which is probably around when Ino started letting go of Sasuke and liking Sai, which, if that really is the lynchpin, is even more disappointing. At least it shows that Ino can get over her petty obsession….Unlike some people.

Back with more flashbacks, soon after their graduation I assume, Sakura proclaims that Ino doesn’t have much of a chance with Sasuke now since she and Sasuke are on the same team, but Ino won’t let up. Sakura returns her ribbon to Ino and proclaims she’ll use her leaf headband as a hair band until the day she feels she can face her in battle as a true kunoichi – then she’ll wear it on her forehead properly.

Ino takes the ribbon back and agrees to do the same (well, she wears hers as a belt).

Back in present day, Sakura shows she’s ALL BIDNESS by taking off her konoha headband with a flourish. Then, to prove this isn’t some silly stereotypical catfight, she announces that she’s never letting Ino anywhere near Sasuke………………….Kakashi points out that she’s riling her up so she won’t go easy on her, but still….that is one of the points they’re fighting for. Their friendship wouldn’t have ended over it if it wasn’t.

Ino realizes what’s going on, and she removes hers as well. They replace them both on their foreheads, signifying that they’re ready to prove themselves to the other.

The match starts and it’s pretty much just physical blows for a while. I love how even the other characters are cognizant of how boring this match is because, even with all of the aforementioned factors already making this match kinda boring, they point out that Sakura and Ino are too well-matched at this point in time so they’re just stalemating for over ten minutes.

The only way Sakura ups the ante is by basically calling Ino too vain and pointing out her long flowy hair, which prompts Ino to cut her hair too. However, I must have forgotten this point, Ino’s main point in cutting her hair wasn’t to prove herself to not be vain to Sakura, she was actually setting up a living hair jutsu trap, which is kinda ingenious. I still believe literally throwing her cutting her hair in Sakura’s face was part of it, though.

I’ve always loved how this moment, in a way, just highlights how silly it was for Sakura’s big moment to be cutting her hair. Like “You think you’re hot stuff because you cut your hair?! Look, I can do it too! It ain’t hard, there, Supercuts!”

And just to follow up an ingenious mark with a stupid one for Sakura – she’s top of her class in grades, Ino’s back of the pack, and even she was able to outfox Sakura in battle.

Technically, Sakura should’ve lost because she clearly said the full phrase ‘I, Sakura Haruno, wish to withdraw from the match.’ and she had her hand up most of the way. I have no way of knowing the volume at which she said that, but the text wasn’t small or implying a whisper, so, by all means, Sakura should’ve lost.

I always thought it was kinda dumb that they actually acknowledge inner Sakura is a legitimate other being – Ino refers to it as a second psyche. And Ino develops one later too, it’s weird.

Sakura manages to use her inner Sakura to literally fight off Ino internally long enough to use a release jutsu and force Ino out of her mind, with the help of some egging by Naruto. When all is said and done, they tie with one final punch, but the tie is negative – they both lose and neither moves on to the next round.

Alright, so even though I still found this fight to definitely be boring, most certainly the worst match of the Chunin exams (well…..maybe not as bad as Choji vs. Dosu. That’s pathetically short and I didn’t even remember it) it was more entertaining than I remember….but that’s really because of Ino.

She was the one thinking on her feet and coming up with clever strategies. She was the one with cool jutsu, even when Shikamaru claimed she needed to use her mind control technique with him because he restrains them first. She proved she knew that weakness and could overcome it on her own. Ino technically managed to win, but I guess the ref just didn’t hear her or something.

All Sakura did was have decent physical strikes due to good chakra manipulation, even though she didn’t seem to be hitting harder than Ino, and she had the weird inner Sakura willpower to fight off an already weakened Ino’s mind manipulation.

If this battle was meant to highlight Sakura’s growth as a ninja, it didn’t do much. I was much more impressed by her in the Forest of Death, to be honest. Yes, I was more impressed by her haircut moment than her big battle with Ino that was meant to prove herself. There, she was putting her life on the line and proving her vanity wasn’t more important than her duty as a ninja and a friend. She fought literally tooth and nail back there. The haircut was lame, but at least they painted some badass aspects over the lame.

Here, she’s not really impressive. In fact, she’s disappointing. Sakura’s so smart and skilled with chakra manipulation yet, in all this time, she never tried to learn some specialties, find a niche, or maybe make her own moves? Her strategy was just full on punching and kicking with one instances of making clones. How does that prove you’re the better ninja? It only proves one or the other is a better kickboxer. Ino, despite being more vain than Sakura and seemingly much lower in class, not only mastered her own clan technique, but she mastered an ability that fixes a major issue with its implementation.

Sakura didn’t even really come back on her own – Naruto had to pump her back up to push Ino out.

I do appreciate the sentiment behind this battle more than I did in the past. I viewed it more as a bitchy penultimate catfight over Sasuke when, at it’s core, it was more about their rivalry as ninja – Sakura proving that she’s just as good as the girl she once idolized and Ino proving her own worth. However, it pretty much failed on Sakura’s end in that regard. What a wasted opportunity for some much needed Sakura shine.

At least the very end of the confrontation has a sweet moment between the two, though I still wish they’d move past their dumb obsessions with Sasuke.

But, hey, let’s be fair to all the girls who get shafted up in here – the anime was a lot more generous to Tenten than the manga was in regards to her match. They just straight-up cut from the start of the match to Tenten bent over Temari’s fan in defeat after a brief conversation with Ino and Sakura in-between. In the anime, the match was completely one-sided, but we still got to, ya know, see it.

After Sakura wakes up, she cheers on Naruto to not lose to the sand-nin….but the framing is weird? She’s not looking at Naruto when she says this and Rock Lee’s the one who challenged Temari in defense of Tenten. Considering Gaara’s the only sand-nin left to challenge, it’s strange that she would assume that Naruto will get paired with him anyway. Oh well, at least she’s being supportive.

She goes further by basically giving him a speech similar to the one he gave her during her match and thanking him for helping to give her the willpower to break free. That was nice….I mean, Naruto had to ruin it by saying he saved her butt, but still.

When Naruto is in his match with Kiba, Sakura is cheering him on quite spiritedly. She and Kakashi also share a knowing look when everyone thinks Naruto’s down for the count, but they clearly know better. Show’s a bit of growth in her respect for him.

Hm, I had forgotten how clever Naruto was in his match with Kiba. He was pulling some really good moves and even utilized his prank-y nature to get the better of him…..The fart was still stupid, but at least it had an actual point.

And Sakura didn’t even really ding him for it, which is pretty impressive because that is definitely ripe for both mocking and yelling.

When Naruto asks what a keirakukei is, Sakura says “Here we go again. The insightful questions of an idiot!” Really, Sakura? Come on. I’ve been praising you all this time and then you go and call Naruto an idiot for not knowing what is essentially chakra physiology?

Also, Sakura punched Naruto in the back of the head for seemingly making a jab at Rock Lee’s haircut, yelling that he should be respectful since Lee outranks them…But Sakura has been really disrespectful of Lee a couple of times at this point.

I always get chills when I watch Hinata’s match with Neji. Yes, you could apply some of the same criticisms I throw Sakura’s way when it comes to Hinata, that her focus is heavily on a guy she likes when she does stuff, but her focus is less on how cool Naruto is or how attractive she finds him and it’s more about how he inspires her to be better. She admires him for being the underdog who always gives up, never backs down and is always trying to prove himself and be better.

She wants to be like him more than she wants him. She does express a desire for Naruto to watch her and acknowledge her here, but it’s more to show him that she’s improving too. She’s bettering herself, putting her life on the line and never giving up because she wants to be better and he inspired her to do that. Even Kurenai points out how much Hinata has improved over her time as a Genin, and she’s had very little contact with Naruto since graduation.

Sakura, however, is different. Her focus is on impressing Sasuke through her looks, charms and whatever skills she can muster in her ninja training (such as climbing the tree) She also feels a desire to prove herself as a ninja, to not be useless in her ninja team, and she has made strides in improving herself, but when it comes to Sasuke’s influence, he doesn’t inspire her. He doesn’t prompt her to be better – at best, she just gets sick of him and Naruto getting hurt trying to protect her. On the occasions that she is prompted to make changes for the better because of him, she moreso copies him seemingly because she thinks it will make Sasuke happy. And her rivalry with Ino is heavily based on fighting over Sasuke and who will ‘get him’ in the end.

But it’s superfluous to both of them because neither really care to know him and fall in love with him as a person, like Hinata has with Naruto. They love him because he’s dark, brooding and hot. Even today, I’d be hard-pressed to say Sakura really knows Sasuke deep down and loves him for who he is as a person, especially considering all of the crap he does later on, but I’ll refrain from making a firm statement until I’m further along in this analysis.

Chapters 81-100 (The end of the Chunin exam prelims and the entirety of training for the finals)

Sakura is cheering on Rock Lee and is clearly showing a lot of concern for him through his match. She also has a very grave look on her face as she tries to go to Lee after the match is over and Kakashi stops her, because he knows seeing her will cause him more pain at this point.

Though, goddamn, can we take the time to appreciate the Rock Lee vs. Gaara match again? This has been one of my absolute favorite matches in all of shounen for quite some time, and the manga was just as good. It’s telling how two of my favorite matches in Naruto are ones where the character I’m rooting for loses.

Gaara’s insanely powerful and scary, yet even he’s amazed and nearly defeated by Rock Lee. It’s full of tender, sweet moments with Lee’s backstory and it’s got some of the best action you can find in shounen fighting manga/anime. It’s just awesome.

Even though Sakura really doesn’t have much to do in the following chapters considering she lost her bout and thus doesn’t have to train for the finals, Ebisu does elaborate more on Sakura’s good use of chakra production and specifies why she has a slight edge over Naruto and Sasuke in that regard.

No matter what jutsu Sakura is using, she is able to precisely convert her stamina reserves into the proper level of chakra. If she needs 30% of her stamina to create the proper level of chakra, that is exactly how much she will use. Her skills with hand signs also allow her to control her chakra properly, making for a clean and efficient jutsu to be created.

Sasuke’s chakra production isn’t quite as good. For the sake of a 30% chakra move, he’ll use 40% of his stamina, causing him to waste 10%. However, his skill with hand signs is just as good as Sakura’s so he still makes a clean jutsu, he just needlessly wastes a little energy.

Naruto, however, is the worst of the lot because he’ll convert 50% of his stamina for the same 30% move and his skills with hand signs are sloppy, which makes his control over his chakra poor, creating bad jutsus sometimes.

However, even though I will definitely give Sakura this, it’s never really much of an issue. Sasuke never seems like he’s noticeably using too much chakra, and Naruto has such immense stamina due to the nine-tailed fox that his wasted chakra is also not very noticeable. Even though his knowledge and skills with hand signs needs work, he doesn’t seem to be bound by the crap jutsus he used to make, so even that note doesn’t seem to be too relevant. (Not to mention that Jiraiya notes that Naruto’s chakra control and production problems were further expounded by the five-pronged seal he had put on him, but he released it so his control is much better now.)

Sakura is the most efficient ninja of Team 7, there’s no doubt about that, but it doesn’t count for much if both of her teammates have massive chakra reserves and seem to be insanely fast learners. Sakura was desperately in need of powerful and useful skills that focused on these strengths early on, but they waited a depressingly long time to give her any.

Also, given this situation, you’d think Sakura never would have tied with Ino. I mean, if chakra efficiency Sakura’s forte and she went the longest match with Ino, and she didn’t even use many jutsu, it only makes sense. If Ino’s far from the top of the class, I’d imagine she has chakra production and control issues too, but maybe not considering she later also becomes a medical-nin.

Other than that, we have Sakura and Ino trying to get some flowers to Sasuke, who is still hospitalized, but become saddened when they find that he’s not there. Sakura does show great sympathy for Lee, who is also hospitalized, but continues to try to train despite doctors claiming he’s so badly injured he’ll never be able to be a ninja again. She even picks out a flower for him and gives it to him secretly, which was really nice. (Note: She didn’t get him a flower after she saw him try to train. She got him one while she was shopping for one for Sasuke.)

The last bit with her before we reach the end of this part is her asking Ino why boys always push themselves too far. Ino says she doesn’t know either because she’s a girl. I feel that’s an unnecessarily sexist statement that makes no sense for Sakura to ask let alone not know the answer to.

—————————————

Overall, I feel I have a little more respect for Sakura as a character, at least right now. The moments that I saw initially as being ridiculously stupid or annoying don’t seem to bother me as much upon experiencing them through a more balanced lens. At this point, I’m more annoyed at her being wasted so many times and her moments to shine being poorly executed than anything else.

Sakura does obsess over Sasuke, she does treat Naruto badly numerous times and she is pretty useless and unimpressive at this point. I get frustrated at there being so many moments when she realizes that she’s so far behind Naruto and Sasuke and can’t do much on her own, but she doesn’t respond to this by training, coming up with a plan of jutsu or areas she can specialize in, or trying to perfect the use of some tool or weapon or something – she just mopes and gets encouragement from others which spurs her to get off her ass. At least she does manage to get off her ass, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.

Here’s looking forward to chapters 101-200!


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The Salty Anime Challenge FINALE Day 23: How Did you Find This Challenge, and What is One Last Thing You’d Like to Be Salty About?

Wow, the challenge is over already? Time flies when you’re salty, apparently.

I really enjoyed this challenge, and it was a nice changeup from the regular challenges. As someone who appreciates a good rant, this challenge gave me all sorts of opportunities to get some stuff off of my chest and have some fun slamming old anime adversaries.

Oddly, it even got me to appreciate some shows and characters more. The discussions I’ve had during these 23 days have given me some great new perspectives, and I think my bond with the anime community has gotten even stronger. We may not agree with everything, but not a single person gave me any sort of flak for my opinions. The mutual respect is so refreshing and greatly appreciated.

Plus, I’ve been really enjoying the responses from FuelS and Jiraiyan. Check out their challenges, if you haven’t already, and thanks to FuelS for making this challenge!

If there’s one thing I’m salty about…..it’s YOU.

Yes, you, reader! I got some salt to…pick with you! Why haven’t YOU been doing this challenge?!

Are you a chicken!?

Are you a fraidy cat?

Are you watching your sodium intake?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIKE A WUSS?!

Do The Salty Anime Challenge! If you do, share your responses with me! I’d love to read them, non-wuss!

The Salty Anime Challenge Day 22: An Anime Everyone Hates And/Or Has a Low Score, But You Love

I really struggled with this one. Outside of the typical ‘kids’ shows like shounen gaming anime, I don’t really know of many shows that I like that others hate on or that have particularly bad scores. Two shows came to mind, though, one of which is an aforementioned shounen gaming anime, but it’s for a different reason than the usual.

If you’ve followed me for the past few Halloweens, you probably know that I’m a Yami Shibai: Japanese Ghost Stories fan.

For those who have never seen it, Yami Shibai is a horror anthology series presented as a kamishibai show. I absolutely adore horror anthologies and the style of this show really appealed to me. The stories vary widely in quality in nearly every way from story to characters to art style (especially in later seasons) but, as a whole, I love the entirety of the franchise, and I’m excited about Yami Shibai 6 coming out this July.

However, the series receives a lot of flak, and it seems to get worse every season. The first season was held in pretty high regard, but every subsequent season keeps getting worse and worse responses.

The scores for the various series aren’t really that low. They range between 7.5 and 5.5.

Even so, the discussions I saw about these series on various anime sites were just terrible. It seems like they get the worst of it right when it’s in the middle of airing, but it gets pretty badly slammed. They either say the story was stupid or it’s just not scary at all, and the one comment that never goes away is ‘This series hasn’t been good/scary since the first season.’

I will admit, Yami Shibai has some major duds in their collection. Every anthology is bound to have at least a few stinkers, and the seasons aren’t terribly consistent with quality. People were pretty relentless about this series, though.

The aforementioned shounen gaming anime I chose was Duel Masters.

That random tagline’s not gonna help my case. Damn you Google images and your lack of…images!

I loved Duel Masters for the handful of months they showed it on TV. It was a pretty funny show with a cool card game being the focus. I even bought some of the cards and the GBA game for it. I had a blast playing it.

Like all shounen gaming anime, it shares many of the same criticisms like being poorly animated, having a bad story, having stereotypical leads and, of course, it carries the pall all shounen gaming anime carry – it’s just a half hour long commercial. It’s a show designed to sell toys. If it’s just those things, why does Duel Masters tend to get the pointy end of the review stick?

Thing is, Duel Masters couldn’t have come at a worse time. It debuted right at Yugioh’s peak, so it obviously gained a firm reputation as being a Yugioh ripoff, even if, besides playing card games being part of the plot, it had nothing to do with it…..Mostly.

People pretty much wrote off the show before they ever even saw it, if they ever saw it at all. It’s understandable, I suppose. But I think it’s undeserved.

One thing you have to know about Duel Masters is, from everything I’ve been able to gather, the dubbed version is almost entirely a different show in regards to dialogue and tone than the original. I doubt many people who have watched the dub have seen the original, but I feel the need to speak its piece in that department.

The dub tends to focus a lot on comedy. They break the fourth wall all the time, have meta humor and constantly make jokes. They even change up the editing in order to include more jokes. There’s still a ton of shounen children’s-card-gaming action, but there’s much more comedy to the dub than the original.

The original version, which I’ve never been able to find, supposedly plays all of this straight, and from what I’ve read of the plot and story of the original manga and what I saw of the dialogue in the game, I’m obliged to believe this is true.

The story, from what I can tell, doesn’t change all that much, it’s just that the dialogue, tone and editing are mostly altered to make jokes.

I will admit, I don’t remember much of the story besides these are kids who like playing Duel Masters, they enter a tournament and, of course, there are a bunch of evil people who play the game that they have to defeat because, if not, they’ll, say it with me now, take over the world!

The original does appear to be a Yugioh rip-off, to the bare bones anyway. I have yet to see any Egyptian imagery or Kaiba clones. At the very least, they’re trying to ride its coattails. However, I don’t believe the dub should share the original version’s negative marks on copycatting because 1) The game itself is a lot different from Yugioh. Not every card game involving monsters is a Yugioh rip-off, guys. 2) The dub’s really funny sometimes. Even if the story falls flat, they did enough with the dialogue in the dub to make it very entertaining.

Even today, Duel Masters maintains its horrible rep. If anything, it’s gotten worse. Reviews of the show aren’t plentiful, but what’s there is usually extremely negative. Check out this gem for example.

I particularly enjoy this section.

“CHARACTER SECTION: 2/10

There is a nerdy bunch of kids who care more about a card game, than, let’s say, finding a job or getting laid, and a bunch of costumed weirdos who control the world with cards.” Yes, ten-year-old children, go out and get a job and get laid instead of playing that children’s card game.

I will give them some leeway because they call it a Magic the Gathering rip-off instead of a Yugioh one, which is more accurate. Yeah the tapping and mana thing carry over, but MtG is far more complex and Duel Masters still does enough to differentiate itself.

I don’t even think the ‘action’ is bad. Generic? Yeah. Poorly animated? Indeed. But I have plenty of fun with it.

When they keep the serious tones, it’s actually somewhat funnier because you can clearly tell the voice actors aren’t taking the serious stuff….seriously. It’s almost like they’re purposely either phoning it in ultra hard or overacting to the max just to make the serious stuff look silly.

Maybe a part of it is my nostalgia goggles. Maybe I’m mentally filtering things. But I rewatched some clips of the show to do this entry, and I still think it stands up perfectly fine…..I did not remember the insanely poor sound production, though. I don’t know what happened in the BGM and sound effect department, but it’s sloppy as hell. I won’t defend that.

And now for your earworm pleasure, the theme song!

 

The Salty Anime Challenge Day 21: An Anime You Thought You’d Hate (Due to Genre/Tropes) But Actually Love

What has become a bit of a theme for me during this challenge?

‘You don’t like harems or fanservice?’

Mmm…I’m definitely not a fan of harems, and I can tune out fanservice. I can’t be a hypocrite and say I hate fanservice, because I, admittedly, like the fanservice meant for women.

I don’t tend to like crass humor, and humor based on fanservice or sex is not a far cry from that.

That being said – I love B Gata H Kei and 30 Sai no Hoken Taiiku.

Yamada’s First Time: B Gata H Kei is a show about a high school girl named Yamada. She has a goal of having sex with 100 guys. Problem is, she’s a virgin, and her inexperience makes her very uneasy when trying to initiate even slight romantic contact.

As a way of easing herself into the world of sex, she decides to have her first time be with a guy who is also clearly a timid virgin – a boy named Kosuda. They start a relationship, Kosuda forever unaware of Yamada’s goals and intentions, and they each go through the various trials and tribulations of trying to reach their first times.

Sounds like a stupid show, right? While I’ll admit the premise is crass and Yamada’s goal is misguided to say the least, this show is actually hilarious. The fanservice isn’t really that high in this show, which is surprising (most of what there would be is censored heavily), and while there’s obviously a lot of sexual situations, they never go that far with it. They only even get to the actual attempt of sex at the very ending, and even that is as tastefully done as a sex comedy can get.

Yamada is just so driven to achieve this goal, and it frustrates her that she can’t even get out of the gate. Poor (or lucky?) Kosuda is along for the ride (bad choice of words) and they play off of each other really well. She’s super hyped about making her journey to non-virgin-ville while he’s just confused and aroused most of the time. It’s not even like Yamada’s a pervert or anything – she gets very flustered when it comes to facing the sexual aspects of a guy. She damn near had a heart attack when she realized she gave Kosuda an erection once.

Kosuda’s not a pervert either – he gets equally freaked out, if not worse, when faced with Yamada’s body. They’re both cute little dorks, and I really liked that their relationship actually developed out of this whole ridiculous situation (at a reasonable pace, even) instead of Yamada just using him as a stepping stone to orgy city.

And don’t worry, Yamada never achieves her goal in this series, I think she even gave it up in the end, and she appears to be knowledgeable on safe sex.

30 Sai No Hoken Taiiku is a similar beast, but on a goofier level.

The show is based on a novel titled Health and Physical Education for 30 Year Olds, which sounds boring, but more to the point, the show itself is about a 30 year old virgin named Imagawa. Being a virgin at 30 is deemed unacceptable by the gods (no, I’m not kidding), so the sex gods Daigorou and Macaron devote themselves to helping Imagawa pop his cherry.

On the female side, another 30 year old virgin named Andou is put in the same situation by the sex goddesses, Kuu and Pii. They lead the virgins to each other in hopes of killing two birds with one romp in the sheets.

I thought I would deplore this series when I first watched it. Like B Gata H Kei, this premise also sounds stupid and misguided, but the show itself is actually pretty damn crazy and funny while simultaneously providing us with a fairly realistic and likable romance. Even the relationships between the gods and the humans was heartwarming and nice to watch.

Like B Gata H Kei, it’s also a sex-based comedy where nearly all of the even slightly sexual stuff is censored – even French kissing…that is being depicted on fake faces.

There’s still plenty of fanservice, sexual discussions and some crass humor but they do it in a surprisingly tame manner…most of the time….One time, they parody DBZ and make the Spirit Bomb a Virgin Bomb that only draws energy from virgins and the bomb itself takes the shape of a giant sperm…..Yup.

It can be stupid and a tiny bit offensive sometimes, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.