The end of last week’s chapter saw the much-desired meeting of Sasuke Uchiha and his daughter Sarada. But things soon turned sour as the leader of the Uchiha clan drew his sword against his own offspring. After a week of waiting to see the outcome of this incident, we finally got some answers to questions formed back in Chapter 1.
As I’d predicted at the end of Chapter 4, rather than Sasuke having hostile intentions towards his daughter, he merely didn’t recognise her. This makes sense as he hadn’t seen her since she was a lot younger, and she is the last person he’d expect to see out of Konoha. As soon as Sarada repeats that he is her father, he understands, lets go of his weapon and reaches out to her. Naruto interrupts before they can have a proper moment alone, chastising her for running off ahead, and in return, Sasuke chastises him for bringing the children along. After a very predictable comedic moment from Chouchou, Sarada tells her dad that she desperately wanted to meet him, to ask him questions about her parentage. The next panel cuts back to Konohagakure, where Sakura has woken up and been informed about where her daughter has gone.
Cut back to the Mountain Pass Tower and Sarada is shouting at Sasuke, determined to find out something. He tells her it is nothing of her concern and she storms off, followed closely by Naruto. Cue a flashback which states that Sasuke has discovered the potential for an opponent greater than Kaguya herself, and he proposes that he embarks on a mission to prevent the threat before it becomes realised. In the present day, Naruto consoles Sarada, telling her that her father is “a ninja greater than any other”. It doesn’t seem to work as well as he’d hoped, which aligns with Sarada’s opinions on the concept of ninja in Chapter 1. She starts thinking of her mother, and Sakura is shown running to reach her. The antagonist pulls off his cloak, revealing Sharingan implanted all over his body, much like Danzou Shimura. There are several Shin Uchihas shown, and whether they are Kage Bunshin or actual Zetsu-like clones is unknown, but it is more likely to be the latter. They teleport to the Mountain Pass Tower, interrupting a cute moment between Chouchou and Sasuke, and both Sasuke and Naruto prepare to fight and defend the children.
A trademark of Kishimoto’s writing style is the almost excessive inclusion of flashbacks, as a lot of events influencing the main storyline happened before the protagonist was even born. In certain areas of Naruto’s fanbase, this has been affectionately (or not!) called a Flashback no Jutsu, very similar to the Talk no Jutsu when referring to Naruto’s penchant for going into long-winded monologues to convince his opponents to choose the right path. So right when things were at their most ambiguous in Naruto Gaiden, it seemed almost strange that there wasn’t a flashback, despite only being a couple of chapters in. However, after five chapters and six weeks, we finally got our Flashback no Jutsu.
We see Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura at the Five Kage Summit, discussing the new threat to Konohagakure and the rest of the Ninja World. After the chapter was released, I saw many comments questioning why Sakura was there, some claiming it was probably ‘bring your wife to work’ day. However, this completely negates Sakura’s contribution to the war effort, as she not only mass healed armies, she kept Naruto alive, and helped to fight Kaguya herself, even punching her so hard her horn broke off. Whether you like it or not, Sakura Haruno is a member of the Neo-Sannin and a war hero in her own right, independent of her teammates, sensei and even her shisou. Konoha’s new sannin were present at the Five Kage Summit because they had fought Kaguya and knew how much of a threat she was. And given that the summit was called to discuss a threat that could be greater than her, this only makes sense.
However, while this flashback does answer some questions, it also raises some. From the curve of Sakura’s stomach, it appears that she is pregnant. This could place the time frame as just before Sarada was born. However, Naruto is already Hokage, and if we take The Last as canon, he wasn’t awarded the position until Boruto and Sarada were approximately seven years old. Even if you don’t consider The Last as canon, Kakashi implied in Chapter 700 that he had only just resigned recently. You could argue that she may have been pregnant with another child who didn’t survive, or you could argue that the panel was just drawn incorrectly and she isn’t pregnant at all. However, Kishimoto has a reputation for detail so his intentions are somewhat unclear right now.
One thing I noticed about the reception of this chapter, was that a lot of people were misinterpreting Sasuke’s behaviour, saying that his actions towards his daughter were cold. The main instance of this is regarding him saying that his mission was “something that doesn’t concern” her. Looking back at his character across the original series, Sasuke has a history of blocking people out and not telling them things for their own good. A major example of this is just before his final fight with Naruto when he tried to cut off all of his remaining ties in a misguided attempt to shoulder the world’s pain by himself. However, the biggest example that stood out the most for me, was in the Chunin exams, when he told Sakura that his curse seal had “nothing to do” with her. This is echoed in Chapter 699, when Sasuke says his “sins have nothing to do with [Sakura]”. Throughout the series, he has tried to protect his friends by distancing himself and this is especially true of Sakura (see Chapter 693). Because of this, it makes sense that he would do the same to their daughter, especially when he is unwilling for her to find out how much potential danger there is – not just for her, but for the entire ninja world. The Uchihas know love, and if his sacrifice means that she doesn’t have to live through a war like he did, Sasuke would believe it’d be worth it, even if she’s already in pain. To him, her not having a father is an alternative to hundreds, if not thousands of people losing loved ones. Sasuke has matured from being a power-hungry avenger and now he has given up a happy life with his wife and daughter to work towards the good of people worldwide. I am aware that there are still people who believe that Sasuke Uchiha is a bad person, but given his justifications for taking on this burden, I can’t support that assertion.
The connection between the current Uchiha clan is a feature of Gaiden and Chapter 700 that I love. Despite being miles apart, they can still sense each other. The first instance is Sasuke turning around after Sarada’s “Shannaro!” in 700. This is reflected in this chapter as when Sarada starts thinking about her mother, Sakura is shown, like she’s in tune with her daughter’s thoughts. Thinking that anyone but Sakura is Sarada’s mother is almost laughable, when such a strong connection between them is shown. This is the woman who raised her for twelve years, and the love she has for her child is shown through the pure determination of her face as she’s running towards her. This maternal instinct is a side of Sakura that I really appreciate, as one of her best features is how much she cares for others.
Next week has the potential to improve Gaiden even more than this chapter did. With Naruto and Sasuke ready for battle against Shin and the cloaked man, and an imminent Team Seven reunion on the horizon, this is an opportunity for Naruto to get back to its shounen roots and give us some good fight scenes. While Chouchou and Sarada held their own against Shin, it’s time for the Neo-Sannin to make an appearance.