Love in Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto
Love is often associated with warm feelings and butterflies rising in one’s stomach because he or she is nervous about being around the person that he or she likes. However, love can be defined in different ways across different cultures. For example, in Japan, it is customary for a love confession to take place before going out with someone. Also, it is customary for Japanese people to say “I really like you” when confessing their love, as opposed to saying “I love you,” since the phrase for “I love you” is reserved for married couples and is rarely used even among that demographic (Mami,“Japan’s ‘Love Confessing’ Culture”).
One could infer with these facts, then, that love in Japanese culture is more than just a collection of fuzzy feelings that two people feel between each other for a few months before the sensations wear away. A manga deals with the portrayal of love in an intriguing way. The manga is none other than Kishimoto’s Naruto. The premise of the manga revolves around a orphaned boy, living in a world made up of ninja tribes, who has a nine-tailed demon fox inside of him. This boy is known as Naruto, and he is the Leaf Village’s outcast, because the fox residing in him attempted to destroy the village. Naruto has one dream throughout his ninja training. He wishes to become his village’s leader, who is granted the title of Hokage, because, if he had the title of Hokage, people would have no choice but to respect and accept him.
Naruto embodies many aspects of love, including the feeling we get when we have a crush on someone for the first time, which we see in the beginning of the manga with Sakura’s feelings toward her classmate Sasuke, and Naruto’s feelings toward his classmate Sakura. Naruto, while sitting in class, sees Sakura, becomes nervous and thinks, “Could it be…She wants to…sit next to me?” He later gives the description of “Haruno Sakura: A cute girl I’m kind of interested in,” (Kishimoto, Ch. 3, 5). Naruto, of course, has his hopes dashed when Sakura yells at him to move so that she can sit next to Sasuke. The girl Naruto is kind of interested in barely notices his existence, and then yells at him and treats him like he’s a mere annoyance to her for getting in between her and Sasuke.
Sakura, when asked what her likes, dreams, and dislikes are, becomes preoccupied with staring at Sasuke and says, “‘…the thing I like is…Well…the person I like is…’” Sakura eventually becomes too flustered to speak, and instantly spits out, “‘The thing I dislike…is Naruto.’,” (Kishimoto, Ch. 4, 8). Sakura strives to be acknowledged and accepted by Sasuke, but she is rejected by him multiple times. In one instance, Sasuke calls Sakura annoying, which is no different than how she has treated Naruto.
Other than the feeling of puppy love, there are the themes of parental love, sacrificial love, and the love that comes from dedication. The parental love is seen in various ways. The first instance we get of such love is from Iruka-sensei toward Naruto in regards to his Genin exam re-test, which will make Naruto an official ninja. Ikura notices the pain that Naruto must be feeling because of being an outcast who does not know love of any kind. Ikura takes up the role of encouraging Naruto when he needs it most–the night before the re-test.
In a rage from his failure to pass the exam earlier that day, Naruto steals a sacred scroll and is attacked by a ninja who wants the scroll for himself. In this instance, Naruto learns of the demon fox living in him. Ikura jumps into the fight and protects Naruto. He treats Naruto to ramen after the incident, but scolds Naruto for pulling all the pranks that he does for attention. Ikura decides to ask what his student’s dream is, and upon hearing that Naruto wants to become Hokage to be accepted, encourages Naruto to follow that dream seriously (Kishimoto, Ch. 1, 43-47). Ikura is an important figure to Naruto’s development. He teaches Naruto the value of being disciplined. Ikura shows Naruto kindness and forgiveness when he doesn’t deserve it. Most importantly, Ikura accepts Naruto for who he is.
The next instance of parental love comes from Kakashi-sensei when Naruto trains with Team 7, though Kakashi is seen training Sasuke closer than Naruto, evidenced here, “‘The reason I trained Sasuke is…because he is…the same type as me.’,” (Kishimoto, Ch. 113, 7-8). Kakashi, in a strange way, relates to Sasuke and his personality. He tries to teach Sasuke the power of pushing oneself to his or her limits. He even attempts to show Sasuke that there is more to life than just hatred and a need for vengeance. Unfortunately, these tactics fail, and cause Sasuke to scorn his teacher and his teammates.
The third example of parental love comes from Jiraiya, who takes Naruto under his wing and trains him in a way similar manner to Kakashi’s training of Sasuke and teaches him to avoid the three shinobi vices, which are financial irresponsibility, chasing multiple women, and drinking (Kishimoto, Ch. 150, 4-5, 17-19). Jiraiya, unlike Ikura, serves the purpose of showing Naruto what the world is like. More often than not, Jiraiya shows Naruto the trouble of the three shinobi vices by getting ensnared by them. This helps Naruto understand what a mature person influenced by such vices looks like, and this realization causes Naruto to avoid getting involved in his sensei’s pass times.
Jiraiya introduces ideas of understanding one another in a genuine way. He wants Naruto to realize that respect is earned, but acceptance is something that is given and is not based on what a person has done. Acceptance is based on who a person is on the inside. Jiraiya believes that such understanding and acceptance will lead the world to peace. Jiraiya helps Naruto quell the Kyuubi’s hatred against humans and also helps him become a more mature, well-rounded individual. Through Jiraiya’s guidance, Naruto learns to think through situations for himself, and he learns to make his own path to his goals. In this way, Jiraiya acts as the father that Naruto never had because he has taught Naruto what it means to be a grown man and an exceptional ninja.
Because Naruto takes Jiraiya’s teachings to heart, he is crushed by Jiraiya’s death and swears that he will find the answer that Jiraiya sought throughout his life. This is clearly evidenced when Naruto faces off against Pein, the person who took Jiraiya’s life. Naruto is questioned about his idea on what peace means, and he responds, “‘He said he wanted me to find the answer…but I was just glad to have his approval.’,” (Kishimoto Ch. 444, 8). We see Naruto opening up to his sensei’s killer. He asks Pein about his life, and later gives Pein this answer, “‘I understand you. But I still can’t forgive you…I still hate you. But…that Pervy Sage believed in me…so I…will believe in what he believed in. That’s my answer.’,” (Kishimoto, Ch. 447, 16-17). From his answer, we see that Naruto appreciates all that Jiraiya has done for him and is willing to follow in his teacher’s ideals and make them a reality.
The final example of parental love comes from Naruto’s parents themselves. Naruto spent much of his life as an orphan and as an outcast because his body is home to a demon fox, known as the Kyuubi, that tried to destroy the village of Konoha. People feared the boy and his tremendous powers, so when Naruto met Kushina, his mother, it was a climactic moment for him, as it is evidenced here,
“‘I had a hard time growing up as a Jinchuuriki, but I never blamed either of you…I live because my mom and dad gave their lives for me. You filled me with love before you put the nine-tails in me! So here I am happy and healthy! I’m glad I ended up being your son!’,” (Kishimoto, Ch. 504, 14-15).
Naruto’s parents sacrificed their lives to save not only Naruto, but also the village of Konoha where they reside, which suggests that Naruto’s parents saw the village as part of their family as well, which makes sense, because Naruto’s father, Minato is the village’s Fourth Hokage. This great act of parental love shows Naruto that the idea of family extends even to those under village leaders, like the Hokage. Parental love also allows Naruto to keep surviving through the dark times in his life, because he is determined to show everyone that his existence is not in vain. Because of Ikura, Jaraiya, and his parents, Naruto begins to feel the acceptance that he has wanted so long. He begins to understand through their guidance that the love of a teacher or a parent accepts a person for who he or she is, no matter what the child or student may have done to upset the parent or teacher. Naruto begins to see that this kind of guiding, instructional love builds him up for success, even when others assume and taunt him with the possibility of failure.
Sacrificial love can be seen in within the Hyuuga clan’s story in regards to Neji Hyuuga and his father. Neji’s father sacrificed his life to protect the Main Branch of the Hyuuga family, causing Neji to have some resentment for his cousin, Hinata (Kishimoto, Ch. 102). Neji blames destiny for his father’s death and his placement in the Lesser Branch while Hinata is allowed to be the Hyuuga heir. This resentment of Neji’s is unleashed upon Hinata during their fight in the Chuunin Exam. Later, Neji releases his resentment and begins to train at the Main Branch’s house. Neji helps train Hinata and, this in turn, allows Hinata to see the value of never giving up on a goal or a dream.
Hinata is a shy girl who keeps to herself most of the time. She lacks self-confidence and a drive to succeed. Hinata is romantically attracted to Naruto’s confidence and desire to succeed. She receives encouragement from Naruto during her fight against Neji to not back down (Kishimoto, Ch. 78, 17-Ch. 79, 1-4). This encouragement helps fuel Hinata on to start training seriously. This development in and of itself is a huge one, because Hinata has always been put down by her father and by her cousin Neji for not being strong enough physically, and for not having enough confidence to become the Hyuuga clan’s Main Branch’s heir.
Hinata’s training pays off in Shippuuden, because Hinata risks her life for Naruto while confessing her love for him. In this way, she risks her life for the one she loves, and in response to her actions, Naruto rages against the person who hurt her (Kishimoto, Ch. 437, 13-16). Because of Naruto’s outburst, we can tell that Naruto has come to accept Hinata, and that her confession was genuinely felt.
Neji also later risks his life for both Naruto and Hinata by taking a wound for them that would have killed them. Upon passing, Neji states that Naruto does not have only his own life to live, as Hinata is willing to die for Naruto. Also, Neji comments that his life was apparently also one of Naruto’s lives. (Kishimoto, Ch. 614, 13-15). This sacrifice makes it possible for Naruto and Hinata to bolster troops’ morale, and it lets Naruto know that sacrificial love comes with an enormous burden. The sacrifice that is given out of love makes the ones that benefit from the sacrifice responsible for the lives of others. Through Hinata and Neji, Naruto realizes that love and sacrifice are not actions that should be taken for granted.
Sacrifical love is also shown through Itachi Uchiha and his actions concerning the Uchiha massacre. He is responsible for the massacre, but he sacrifices his reputation and life to protect Konoha. He keeps his younger brother Sasuke alive, in part because he loves his brother, and in part so that Sasuke can find redemption for his clan. This causes Sasuke to sacrifice his life and future to track down and kill his brother, and once this goal is accomplished, he wishes to become Hokage so that he can shoulder all the hate that comes with that position. Sasuke leaves the village without permission to track down Itachi by being trained by Orochimaru to become stronger. His path becomes enveloped in hatred and darkness (Kishimoto, Ch. 225, 16). He becomes fueled solely by this hatred, and he loses sight of what it means to have been loved and accepted by others.
Sasuke leaving causes Naruto to sacrifice his future and part of his life to find Sasuke, because he promises a distraught Sakura that he will bring Sasuke back, no matter what it takes (Kishimoto, Ch. 183, 13-14). He faces off with Sasuke two major times and refuses to give up on bringing him back. At the end of the manga, we see Sasuke’s acceptance of Naruto, which infers that love in a sacrificial form can change hate and despair into hope and acceptance (Kishimoto, Ch.698, 20).
Dedication is most clearly seen in the characters of Naruto, Hinata, and Sakura, though many, if not all of the other characters are dedicated to some form of goal or dream. Naruto, as we already discussed, is dedicated to keeping his promises and never giving up. He is also dedicated to keeping the village he comes from and his friends together and alive in the end of the manga.
Hinata, as we have said, likes Naruto early off in the manga, and this admiration causes her to dedicate her life to not giving up, and in turn, she dedicates herself to Naruto and helping him achieve his dream. Her dedication causes her to disregard much of what is said about Naruto behind his back and about the Kyuubi residing in him. This dedication means that Hinata is able to accept Naruto and his literal demon for who he is. Later on in the manga, when she confesses her love to Naruto, despite her previous failed attempts, she does so in a fight that proves nearly fatal for her. She says,
“‘I’m just being selfish…I used to always cry and give up. I nearly went the wrong way…but you…you showed me the right way. I was always chasing you…wanting to overtake you. I just wanted to walk with you. I wanted to be with you…you changed me! Your smile saved me! So I’m not afraid to die protecting you!! Because I—Love you…’,” (Kishimoto, Ch. 437, 11-12).
This quote proves that Hinata is dedicating herself to Naruto, because she has lead by example. She made herself stronger throughout the manga because she would not take Naruto and his encouragement lightly. She accepted Neji’s training and encouragement through his rigorous training methods. Hinata has grown from a shy girl who was afraid she would never measure up to other people’s expectations into a confident, caring woman who will protect the ones she loves, even if it means laying down her life for those people.
Sakura, likewise, proves her dedication to both Naruto and Sasuke on multiple occasions. At first, she is seen as an air head who only has a crush on Sasuke and despises Naruto. She chases after Sasuke meaninglessly, until after the Chunin exams, when she stops Naruto and Sasuke from fighting. During her time in the Forest of Death, she nurses both Sasuke and Naruto back to health when they are incapacitated (Kishimoto, Ch. 51, 2-5). When Sasuke leaves the village to train with Orochimaru, Sakura attempts to stop him and/or leave with him, so that she can keep him happy. Sasuke yet again rejects her, but Sakura does not give in to the feelings of despair that come from that rejection. Instead, she spends the time between Naruto and Shippuuden training under the Fifth Hokage, Tsunade, as a medical ninja, but she never stopped thinking about Sasuke, as it’s evident from her reaction upon seeing him again for the first time in years.
Out of consideration for Naruto’s honor, Sakura tells Naruto that she has stopped liking Sasuke and has fallen in love with him, saying, “‘So, Naruto…you can just forget about that promise we made. Why don’t you stop chasing after Sasuke-kun as well, okay?’,” (Kishimoto, Ch. 469, 12). She tracks down Sasuke and tricks him so that she can get close enough to take his life, but she fails. Despite all of the rejection Sasuke has given her, Sakura sets aside her hurt and anger and cannot bring herself to kill him.
In reality, Sakura never stopped loving Sasuke, even after he committed his crimes against Konoha and became enveloped in hatred and darkness, as we can see,
“‘…I still loved you! I never thought you’d turn out this way!! I couldn’t be there for you when you needed help…or even stop you from going down that path. All I could do was sit here and cry. It’s disgraceful, really!’,” (Kishimoto, Ch. 693, 6).
Sasuke replies to this heartfelt quote with yet more rejection, but Sakura still sees through his veil of hatred and darkness. She remains dedicated to Sasuke through all the pain he caused her, and is willing to forgive him for his wrongs when he apologizes to her,
Throughout all of her trials, we watch Sakura bloom from a girl with a crush into a woman who would never abandon her comrades. This is another kind of growth and dedication, as Sakura had to learn to accept Naruto as a team member by overlooking his annoying traits, and she was forced to let go of her idea of who Sasuke was and accept his true nature. Sakura’s dedication allows her to overcome her weaknesses and mistakes.
Through the complex natures of the characters that inhabit the Naruto universe, we see that love is not something to be taken lightly. Love embodies the ideas of acceptance, teamwork, tranquility and peace among people, dedication, and above all, self-sacrifice. Naruto’s fears are comforted by Hinata’s confidence in him and by her steadfast loyalty. Sakura is Sasuke’s redemption. Minato and Kushina gave their lives for the future of their son, Naruto, as well as for the hope of the next generation of Leaf Village shinobi. All of these portraits of different facets of love give readers of Naruto a picture of what love is on a more detailed level. The facets combine to show us that love casts out fears, brings hope, forgives faults, and stands by a person in their time of triumph as well as in their time of need.
Mami. “Japan’s ‘Love Confessing’ Culture.” Tofugu. Tofugu, LLC., 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
Kishimoto, Masashi. Naruto. Tokyo: Shueisha, 1999-2014. NarutoBase. 2007-2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Sakura’s feelings for Sasuke always frustrated me strictly because Sasuke does not have any redeeming qualities in my eyes. Sure, before Shippuden he was fine, but the fact that she was so devoted to someone he had not seen for years, who (if I remember correctly) also harmed her, I just could not accept that kind of love. That being said, I am satisfied with Naruto’s relationship with Hinata.
I am curious as to Jiraiya’s fate though, it is a bit saddening that they brought EVERYONE but Jiraiya back with the Edo Tensei :(.
He’s avenging his clan. You find more “redeeming” qualities in characters like Sakura, straight up fascist state supporters? I’d never understand Naruto fandom and its out and out fanboyism to states run, supported, and backed by war-criminal. Laughable.
Would love to read an article by you breaking it all down, that sounds like a fantastic take on the series!
Nicely put. In a manga series that has little to do with romantic love, I think you dealt with all aspects of live very well, especially the role of parental love which is perhaps the most prominent in the story.
Naruto will end up with sakura.
Naruto ends up with Hinata.
Sakura ends up with Sasuke.
The NaruSaku shippers have been in denial about this fact and made their own ending, but the ending the writer wanted is what’s legit.
Which is exactly what DID happen.
I wouldn’t be very disappointed with Hinata if Naruto displayed a wide range of emotions, motivations and relationships for women at the first place but it didn’t. Of all the female characters it was Hinata who was the most interesting to me, I love her and she’ll always be a darling, too bad Kishimoto had no interest in giving the women the same treatment as he gave to men.
Hinata is one of my first anime girl crushes and is a very, very important inspirational figure to me back to my early teenage years.
When you look back at all these moments, you can see they all share something in common which is they are all positive.
Hinata’s feelings for Naruto would have been dropped long ago or not emphasized at all anymore (like Lee’s for Sakura, and Ino’s for Sasuke) if she was just going to be rejected in the end.
Lee was shown to care for Sakura during the war. Ino had a flashback of Sasuke when love was brought up by her father AS HE WAS DYING and it was a thought they shared.
Setting the filler issues aside, Naruto is a great manga.
I enjoy the characters and plot. Itachi Uchiha all day everday
naruto is just getting worse and worse im not a hater its just that im not going to be a fanboy and say its good when it is simply dropping in quality.
Haven’t watched for a year, but, one of the biggest problems I have about Naruto is the fact that Kishimoto never really explained some of the Jinchuuriki. Like they were supposed to be these ninja with basically these badass monsters inside of them, but most of them were killed off without even an explanation. Other than Gaara, Utakata, Bee, and Naruto we basically haven’t seen shit about the other 5. They were killed off in the blink of an eye. IMO instead of random fillers (Allied Mom Force) he should of threw in some
In my opinion, it hasn’t been good since the Pain arc. The War arc started off ok but than it went down hill some parts.
Naruto’s recent series conclusion is something that is definitely hard to cope with, given that it was my very first Anime and Manga that I was truly invested in. I certainly agree with you that the theme of love is a powerful one throughout the series. However, the “love” that Sakura feels towards Sasuke became one that was rather concerning to me. Sasuke emotionally abuses Sakura throughout the series, and her constant obsession with him, even though he completely dismisses her numerous times and fails to reciprocate these feelings, tends to diminish the quality of her characterization. Sakura had such high potential as a successor of Tsunade, but the series, in my opinion, does not allow her to foster any of these strong abilities.
I do agree that Sasuke and Sakura’s love is somewhat concerning on the side of the abusive aspect of things, because, abuse is not right in any relationship, and while I do believe that Sakura’s attributes were not utilized all that well, the end of Sakura’s journey seems to be what she wanted, to make and keep a stable family in a world surrounded by chaos. I also believe that Sakura had to forgive Sasuke, otherwise, he would not have realized what redemption was.
Wow, I super-intensive article. It’s really great how you talked about basically every aspect of love in Naruto. I know Naruto just ended, but I’m so sad about it; it’s nice to see that it can still be relevant. Amazing manga that has touched so many people and great article!
honestly, i’m only following the series right now to know how it ends and how it will lead to the end. my interest is almost gone, since the characters that made me like the series haven’t done ANYTHING useful since the original…
After reading one piece, im starting to think naruto is a bad manga.
I started watching fan-subbed Naruto anime in 2004 when I was 19. Have never read the manga.
I really like Naruto Simply because I find it interesting, I do enjoy watching it as well as reading its Manga!
Over the time the Plot just gets repetitive.
Itachi Uchiha all day everday
Incredible article, thanks, I love Naruto!
Jiraiya’s training of Naruto certainly stands out as an example of parental love but I think it’s complicated by the introduction of Nagato, Konan,and Yahiko. Like Naruto, these three are shinobi orphans and are taken under Jiraiya’s wing when they need it most. Jiraiya taught them ninjutsu so that they could defend themselves and so, when he heard that the three had formed the ruthlessly effective group Akatsuki, he felt responsible, as though he had failed in raising them because they had begun to use his teachings selfishly (It turns out Nagato, as Pein, was trying to follow Jiraiya’s way of peace but in his own way). His later love for and training of Naruto then represents a compulsive return to his earlier parental role. He recreates the situation in the hopes that he can get it right this time. Moreover, Jiraiya’s training of the three war orphans is reminiscent of his own childhood experience training alongside the other sannin, Orochimaru and Tsunade, under the instruction of the Third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi. The reading of Jiraiya’s training of Naruto as an act of love is potentially threatened by an interpretation of this cycle of training as rooted in compulsion. Jiraiya’s tutelage of Naruto is then a fruitless attempt to reconnect with his own childhood and reclaim the love he received from Sarutobi by recreating the condition under which it was given.
Most people like the show b/c of the fights between the young ones, but not me. I cry when someone gets hurt and isnt the whole point of the show to get you to try and STOP the bloodshed?
Personally, I never was a big Naruto fan simply because the love triangle in the beginning with Sasuke, Naruto, and Sakura frustrated me. However, I found it interesting you didn’t just state romantic love but parental, sacrificial and familial love as major points in the story in order for the main characters to accomplished their goals. The one thing I could recommend improvement on is transitioning these ideas to flow nicely as I felt we jumped from one form of love in four paragraphs to another in the next two. Otherwise nice job!
I have taken your comment about smoother transitions to heart and will work on making better transitions next time. Thank you!
The article is amazing, I wanted to cry in certain sections because I felt like if I was reading and seeing the manga/anime all over again. Great job!
Wow, I almost only look at the love triangle between: naruto, sakura, and sasuke. This article goes more in depth with the dynamic ways in which love comes across in the series, just amazing.
These works make their fans better people. Thanks for this piece.
The concept of love in Naruto is difficult to digest for Kishimoto’s readers because it is rarely reciprocated. Love seems to be a one-way street for many characters in the manga, and the reception/acknowledgement of love is only ever seen in Naruto’s character.
There is so much I have to say about this, but one thing is that Hinata and Neji are not the only ones there to protect Naruto. The entire shinobi world was fighting and dying for him. How is Neji and Hinata any different?
What about the Love Sasuke had for his brother? The way he was mentally scarred by his brother killing everyone in his clan, parents included, and told he only pretended to be caring to measure his abilities and how he was worthless? Sorry Bethany, but there could be an even bigger essay on abuse with love in Naruto. The only reason people are focused on love in Naruto now is because it was the theme of Naruto’s The Last, a movie that was in the works for two years before the ending. With romance, it was written so Naruto could end up with either Hinata or Sakura and it would make sense. There was so much abuse in Naruto that was overlooked with scenarios around them taking attention away. Gaara, Neji, Hizashi, Hinata, Naruto, Sasuke, Itachi, the entire Uchiha clan actually, the entire Yuki clan, the entire Uzumaki clan, the entire Kaguya clan (especially Kimmimaru), Juugo, Karin, Suigetsu, Sakura, Kabuto, all the Jinchurikis all were abused by a family member, their clans, their governments, or people who they trusted who betrayed them.
Naruto is not a good example of “love” within the entire series. In the end, Naruto seems to have discarded working together with everyone, favoring the company of rich and powerful leaders around him instead. He let Sasuke go only after he claimed him a loyalist (as Sasuke was not allowed to leave in part 1 only because he was changing allegiances) and nothing was done about Konoha’s abuse towards lesser clans like the Uchiha clan that actually helped found the village of Konoha.
You raised an interesting point that I would love to see expanded upon: how Konoha treats other clans. The Hyuga clan seems to be left up to their own devices, though it is implied the leader is a powerful figure in the community. The Uchihas are eradicated as a potential threat to non-Uchiha people, but that hardly is a reason for destruction on that scale. Konoha seems to have semi-friendly relations with other clans, specifically the Sand Village after Gaara becomes kazekage, but even when the five kage summit occurs there is distrust and hostility towards Danzo, a poor example of a Kohona citizen, but he was chosen to be kage, after all. Konoha seems to be pretty hateful and anti-love towards most everyone else, from what I’ve read anyways.
Naruto raised my childhood. I love the Naruto manga and anime, this will stay in my heart forever
Out of all the shonen anime I’ve watched, none tackled such philosophical ideas of love, war, and peace like Naruto did. It started out as a campy action oriented ninja anime and has slowly evolved and developed maturely over time like many of the show’s fans.
I’ve never really seen Kishimoto as a very good romance writer.Honestly, I find the romance quite frustrating sometimes.
I agree, deeply. Because Kishimoto is HORRIBLE at portraying girl/female characters in any meaning way.
I don’t think what Sakura had was love it was something morbid and twisted.
Hosts obj the other hand could say why she lived Naruto. She could almost Mark the day it happened.
Admittedly with the way how the story presented itself, the theme of love can be pretty convoluted as it just goes down to the characters repeating why they’re doing such actions when the audience already knows or predicted what is going on. But articles like this actually helps to make it much more insightful. Great article!
I feel like the only reason the love angle was useful was as a “KRILLIN NOOOO! power up trope”
While this article is overall pretty good, I’d join those who wonder whether the Sakura/Sasuke relationship can truly be classified as “love”. Sasuke is little more than a user and abuser for most of the series, and revelation in both the epilogue and sequel that he has effectively abandoned his family does little to ease that portrayal.
Don’t you think that Sasuke was just as, if not more, abusive towards Naruto? Yet Naruto’s dedication to him never failed.
I really liked the parental love Naruto’s parents showed for Naruto. It was touching, and I replayed the scene a few more times to shed tears.
With all the badass battles and surprising revelations in the entire series, this thorough analysis on the aspect of ‘love’ in Naruto is a good break. Nice article!
Naruto is like the Harry Potter of anime; they’re both for younger viewers, they’ve both got things like love and friendship as dominant themes, they’re both very popular and they both went on for a lot longer than they should have.
Of all the representations of love in Naruto, the ones that strike a cord with me the most is the Uchiha aspect of love. The fact that loss of love is the trigger for the Sharingan really made sense in the context of the world. Interesting read.
Definitely second this!
the love story in naruto was always terrible. sakura pissed everyone off with sasuke and the ignorance of naruto, then naruto is in a forced relationship with hinata when it was literally a one sided love 100% of the time!
The love stories were always…. different. Yes, Sakura was a bit extreme when the topic of Sasuke was brought up, but so was Ino. Although, Sakura wasn’t blindly in love like Ino was. I remember when she got really excited when she saw Sasuke again but everyone else was cautious. The fact that Sakura is cautious around her love interest shows that she knows who she’s in love with, and despite all of that, she is still in love with him. Whether that’s stupid or not really isn’t up to me, it’s up to her.
That also brings us to the topic of the author and characters. Sakura is a fictional character, and no matter how many times writers will say ‘the characters write themselves,’ they really don’t.
I hate to admit it, but I also believe the relationship with Hinata was forced. I haven’t read the manga, but I am a serious watcher and I have seen ‘The Last’ movie. I absolutely hated how Hinata and Naruto were put together. The way Naruto acted didn’t fit his character at all, and I don’t care that he grew up. He’s always a little bit on the slow side when it comes to romance and because they fell into this bubble of whatever it is and her scarf happened to reach Naruto and thus their feelings were shared and mutual…. that’s bull. I’m so sorry, but I really dislike it. Naruto needed to come to like Hinata on his own and throughout the series. Like after Hinata confessed her feelings for him when she was fighting Pain (Pein, however you want to spell it). After that, whenever he saw her, he could be thinking about her, or we (in the anime) could see him looking at her a little longer than necessary. It’s those little things that would make the transition to HinataxNaruto smoother. I have so much to say about this, but I’ll stop for now.
Yeah, I didn’t like how The Last Movie forced Naruto to be with Hinata. It’s not just Sakura/Naruto fans saying that, but neutral parties like me. I just splurged in Naruto episodes recently, having taken a break from the series for many years. I got caught up with everything last month. When I saw the Last Movie I immediately went, ‘What the fuck?’ That ‘Byakugan Princess’ business really annoyed me. ‘Spaceballs’ had a better out-of-this-world love story than this.
No matter how anyone defends it, it really says a lot when Naruto can *only* reciprocate his feelings by use of genjitsu, retcon scenes, and conveniently placed plot devises. Good lord, it was like a bad Naruto/Hinata fanfiction. e_o
I was kind of glad Naruto ended up with hinata .It use to grind my gears so much when naruto would be running after Sakura and she did not pay him no mind.it is just like the real world today guys be running after these females who have no interest in them,but if they open they eyes they could see there was a girl all along try to get your attention .
There are so many flaws in Kishimoto’s portrayal of romantic love, especially since he is awful (and has openly admitted to being awful) at writing female characters. These female characters’ storylines are entirely dedicated to their love interests. Sakura blooms from a young girl with a crush…and ends up being a single mother of a child that may not even be hers. Hinata has no relevance to plot other than her love for Naruto. Neji’s death bolstering Naruto and Hinata’s relationship is an outright insult to Neji’s own unique storyline, that he will refuse to be a child for destiny, that he will not die as a slave for the main branch (Kishimoto basically flips off Neji. It’s awful.).
This article is well thought out, and certainly parental and sacrificial love is highlighted, but the romantic love in Naruto is nothing short of disappointing.
I agree with this, 100%. I am still reading comments because Naruto is disappointing in so many ways, mostly because, as I said before in another comment, Kishimoto does not present or maintain girl/women characters in any meaningful way. They are ALL tied up in unhealthy attachments to boys.
It almost killed me in the anime when Kurenai’s dad told her while standing in a group full of boys to survive and not fight because she is a girl/his daughter and to go have a baby so she could teach it his will of fire. Because that’s all girls are good for, according to Masashi Kishimoto. Having babies to pass on their dad’s sexist ways and for chasing after boys to puff up their egos or make them feel bad so they can “mature” and “grow into men”. And that’s exactly what Kurenai did, she went and had a baby and was apparently never a ninja again with Shikamaru playing her hero and “being a man” because girls are weak, right (the most sexist jerk who somehow married Temari, destroying her potential so shes gets implanted into the patriarchal Nara Clan).
They even say/imply at one point that every three ninja team only has a girl so the boys can fight over her for some dumb reason, regardless of who she is as person. Kunoichi are taught flower-arranging and how to blend in with other women in the lands where they do their ninja missions… because women are exactly the same everywhere you go, right.
There are numerous example of why there is no actual romantic love in Naruto, all of them tying back to Kishimoto not creating truly three-dimensional female characters and better dynamics in their relationships and portrayals. Girls and women are not treated as equal to boys and when there is no equality there can be no love.
Oh and the situation with Neji ticked me off too. Neji had a lot of potential to grow and tell his story and Kishimoto just flicked him aside. It almost didn’t make sense the way it happened too. I bet it would’ve been great to see Neji in a passionate romance…if Masashi Kishimoto was any good at writing girls fairly and evenly, which he isn’t (assuming Neji is interested in girls romantically).
I am really happy for that end ❤
Thank you Kishi
Watched the Last and Boruto already and cried at both of them. People can say what they want about Naruto but Kishimoto knows how to touch a person’s hear with love. Speaking of “love”, the article is brilliant!
Plus even if he did return her feelings it could not actually go anywhere, I feel that all those stories where they fall in love and get married are actually pretty unrealistic (aside from the fact that it happens within the span of five seconds). While the manga does not up and say it, the fact that every Hyuuga looks like every other Hyuuga means that they practice inbreeding (Incest), as heir to the Hyuuga clan Hinata would never be allowed to marry outside of said clan (plus the elders would never allow the Byakugan to belong to another clan she comes from an abusive family so she is most like in an electron the first person who is nice to her anyone is a psychologist can tell you that she confused of her a relationship with love I I quote not at all from the show when I was growing up I hated everyone I never was around I go and people won’t let me play with them so he had never met her up to that point in time and on top of that she had a bodyguard with her at all times after The Hidden Cloud village tried to kidnap her she never ever fall down to anywhere nor did she never give him a red scarf it did not happen they never met until they went to Ninja Academy together that’s when she first saw him Naruto was not allowed to bina of the children because of holding the 9 tail Fox everything happen and novels next generation and all those last movie never happen if you want to say it happened in an alternate universe and that’s all I have to say about that if you don’t believe me go watch all the original episodes of naruto that is not contaminated by Parrot studios on the internet with Naruto and all those last movie don’t believe me go watch the original much of an anime on DVD happy holidays everyone have a Happy New Year
Honestly, in my opinion, I think that IF Naruto was to end up with somebody, it would be Sasuke. Now, I am not being a wacky fangirl, I am merely stating that their bond/relationship was one of the strongest they ever had and have even through adulthood as I know the anime and the manga. They had more character development and in some way they always were connected. However, to be very honest, I just don’t think that the “get married and have a family” ending was just not suitable for Naruto and the others. Why? Why couldn’t they just stay as single men? And women. Plus, after Sakura and Hinata becoming stronger and stronger, why on earth would they give it all up to be the same old fangirl of their meagre crushes? The only thing I like about how things are now are Boruto and Sarada and the relationship between Naruto and Sasuke, because they are… just badass. But seriously though, I know kishimoto never liked the romance but if you know you’re not going to be good at it then for the love of everything holy, just… DON’T!!
Valid points. But I think it was important for Naruto and Sasuke to start families because it was what Naruto essentially never had and what was taken away from Sasuke. Yes, Naruto had many parental figures in his life, but he never had that nuclear structure-like family. And family meant so much to Sasuke and that was prematurely taken away from him. I dunno, just my thoughts 🙂
I wouldn’t call you a wacky fangirl, I’d call you realistic. 🙂 The canon series shows more substance between those two boys than the females they ended up with. For one, Naruto did not require genjitsu, retcon scenes, or conveniently placed plot devises to convince us he cared for Sasuke. And despite Sasuke being a man of few words, he was always expressive, brutally honest when it came to Naruto. Hell, Sakura might as well have been absent from the room whenever Naruto was nearby.
Despite the two guys being married, it’s not hard to imagine them having a ‘Brokeback Mountain’ thing going on. Even in our modern society, there are closet homosexuals who try to live up to social demands while having some naughty fun on the side through Craiglist hookups and whatnot.
Yeah, Naruto and Sasuke got the family and wives. It’s obvious both need those things to thrive in both position and in family clan name. But even with those things, you sense it’s not enough. They remain closer to each other than to their respective families. For Naruto, he would rather spend time at the office and send a clone to his own kid’s birthday than attend it himself (yet, when Sasuke comes along, Naruto drops everything to attend to the matter personally). For Sasuke, he would rather spend his time ‘investigating’ than seeing his family. He’s gone for so long that he doesn’t even recognize his own kid (or give Sakura a kiss on his NEXT parting). Even more, in the time he returns to the village prior to confronting Shin, it doesn’t occur to him to contact his wife. There is no ‘I’m in town, babe. I’ll try to stop on by. How is Sarada?’ Instead, Sasuke is requesting Naruto to meet him at the tower for hot sweaty secret buttsex -cough, sorry, I mean, ‘intel’ exchange. :B If not for the fact Sarada had tagged along, Sasuke wouldn’t have returned to the village. He’d have done his own merry way again to resume ‘research.’
I can address other issues and even point at specific episodes that would support SasuNaru. But meh, this has gone on long enough. The point is, even if the two are with families that’s not to say they aren’t having/developing a relationship outside of it. Even in Japanese ancient times, Samurais developed intimate relationships among themselves. It’s pretty natural. We humans long to connect, especially to those who understand our emotions best.
I really like this article.
It’s well written.
I like how Naruto’s conception about Love changes.
At first he knew nothing about it but then
he learned parental love (Iruka & Jiraiya), Teacher Love (Iruka, Kakashi & Jiraiya), Brother & Friend Love (Sasuke)
Unfortunately, His romantic experience was bad and thus he thought his crush + friend love towards Sakura = Romantic Love
and didn’t understand real romantic love like why Hinata looks away when he looks at her, whey she wanted to help him in the Chuunin Exam, What did she means by (I don’t want you (Naruto) to disappear), Why did she give him the ointment and what she really really meant that she gets an intense feeling when she looks at him.
He didn’t also fully understand her Love confession, He didn’t think when he let the Kyubi take control after seeing and thinking that Hinata was killed by Pain, He didn’t notice or fully realize that they both read each others eyes.
Yeah, Hinata loved Naruto and he loved her without him realizing it until the last naruto the movie when he realizes what love really is and the difference between the love of ramen and real romatic love and notices Hinata’s love for him and realizes his for her.
Oh man, Naruto’s story is AMAZING
Another interesting aspect of love was in the form of admiration that is developed towards Naruto. Naruto as a character evolves from being an outcast, to someone that the village adores, more so after his triumph over Pein. A similar form of admiration is also seen in the way the members of Konoha 11 treat Naruto, right from Naruto, to Naruto the last.
About parental love, a comparison between the love Gaara was shown by his mother, and the love Naruto was shown, and the consequences of both form an interesting binary in the series and the parallels make for a worthy analysis on how important parental love is.
I think it’s just nice that unlike Pokemon, Naruto finally grows up (I’m looking at you Ash Ketchum)
Naruto is a very very very clueless person.
First of all, the Pain Arc was I think one of the best in the whole Naruto series. It was definitely a freaking emotional rollercoaster though haha! It’s been a while since I’ve watched the early Naruto Shippuden episodes, but I still remember the scene where Hinata professes her love. When she ran to protect Naruto, I just thought that was so freaking awesome. Is there anything cooler than a character rushing to defend someone they love?
I really like this article’s emphasis on parental/familial love in Naruto, which I’d argue was its strongest feature. Romantic love in Naruto is often too one-sided with sexist undertones in my opinion, but I still appreciate a positive outlook on something that’s often derided by the manga’s critics.
No, the abuse wasn’t the same or worse. Sasuke insulted everybody around him, but the two differences were 1. how Sakura vs. Naruto took it. Sasuke insults Naruto and Naruto fights back. Every single time. He stands up for himself. His entire attitude in the early issues is “You’re a huge jerk to me, but I still consider you a friend. A friend is always worthy of helping out.” which carries into later issues as “You are my most important person.” Sasuke insults Sakura and she sits there and takes it. She cries. She sobs, gets brokenhearted, and has self-esteem issues and still Sasuke insults her every chance he gets. He never just stops, lets up, backs off, feels guilty, shows remorse, apologizes, has any sympathy for her or gives her ANY kindness at all aside from “I don’t want you to die.” Show any canon instance of Sasuke actually CARING about and for Sakura like a friend. Try it, find one. Now try and find any example of Sasuke showing any romantic or sexual attraction towards Sakura. Canon sasusaku is toxic. 2. The other difference is Sasuke slowly grows to respect Naruto and see him as a threat to his quest for power, for example when he states this and is worried when Naruto first fought Gaara and when Naruto protected Sasuke from Orochimaru in the forest. Sasuke has 0 respect for Sakura. He never looks at her as anything but a pest. (And… why is no one mentioning the love Naruto has for Sasuke? This… are you kidding me? When Naruto openly states as he looks at a sunset “Did you feel it? What was in my heart, Sasuke?” When he looks up at the moon and stars as he lies on the grass and thinks “Sasuke…” When Naruto calls Sasuke “My most important/precious person.” and when there is an ending credit theme with Sasuke and Naruto running towards each other, under a starry night, as teenagers, on a beach, and other examples and yet people still deny there was any same-sex attraction, gay-baiting, and any homoerotic themes you KNOW that Kishimoto tapped into the current zeitgeist of ignoring anything remotely romantic or sexual between two guys, “that it is gross and it does not happen because of course they’re not into each other” but people flip their lids if a girl even LOOKS at a guy. You know what’s canon? Kishimoto has no idea how to write girls or women, bigotry bubbles you in from the reality of things around you, and the entire manga and anime had gay-baiting. “Naruto only tried to save Sasuke for Sakura!” It is very clear that stopped being the reason very quickly, but again, this and the fact that most of you aren’t talking about Naruto’s love for Sasuke is a clear show of how bigotry bubbles you in until you see only what you want to see. I hope all you little girls have healthier sexual and romantic relationships in your life than Sakura or Hinata had with their crushes they just happened to land.)
Oh, for anyone wondering why I brought up Hinata, Naruto never paid her any mind at all aside from “She’s a nice girl.” That was it. Hinata told Naruto she loved him and he didn’t say anything at all to her, he doesn’t have to say it back, but he says nothing for literal YEARS. That was his entire opinion of her throughout every chapter until the end when they were put together. You are telling me you love a female character who is shallow enough to think of her crush when that crush is holding her hand as her cousin’s corpse lays in front of her? Neji was dying/dead, Naruto held her hand in comfort, and she starts thinking about her crush. What…. what… what kinds of women did you have in your lives growing up? Oh, and just because I saw this somewhere “Sasuke helped build Sakura up, he helped make her stronger because he cared about her” – Saying this is saying to little girls “When he insults you, it means he likes you. Insults -> humiliation -> outright abuse makes you stronger.” And again this is different to how Sasuke treats Naruto because Naruto makes his displeasure known, stands up for himself, and eventually Sasuke learns to deal with Naruto differently other than just outright insulting him every single time like he does with Sakura. I hate the sexism, I hate the misogyny, I hate the gay-baiting, I hate the bigotry, and I hate that I am spending 20 minutes writing about this years after the main story ended because I am sick of people fawning over being treated like SHIT, I am sick of people denying that something bad is happening and accepting the bad treatment.
I appreciate your commentary. I would like to point out that I wrote this nearly six years ago, and, while you can definitely see the issues with those characters, you’re also disregarding the story arcs that *are* in the story. Regardless, a lot has changed in my own life from when I wrote this six years ago, so my opinion might be different from the person who wrote that initially. Still, thank you for your input.
No, Sasuke and Sakura’s pairing makes no sense. It’s constant sexual harassment of a boy from a girl’s end who wouldn’t take “no!” for an answer. Flip the genders and no one would find it even remotely adorable. She’s repugnant as a character, actually.
Naruto and Hinata are just as pointless. If you have to create a whole movie and a Genjutsu in it to coerce someone to fall in love, it’s enough to justify the argument that the pairing just doesn’t work. Not to mention The Last outright contradicts a lot of canon manga occurrences.
Massive disagreement with the piece. It’s very reaching.
As Masashi Kishimoto once said: “I really dont know how to create a female character”.
Awesome article. I’m a huge fan of Naruto so it was really cool reading about how the series explores the idea of Love. I especially liked what you said about Sakura and Sasuke and how Sakura needed to stop being in love with the idea of Sasuke and instead learn to love the real him.
i really enjoyed how this article focused on different types of love, made me want to rewatch naruto and see it all again with these things in mind
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the read! I’m currently working on new pieces after a fairly long hiatus and have been considering revisiting Naruto/exploring Boruto for further article ideas!