Once again, we have come to the end. After prolonging the manga for another eight months, Naruto’s final panel has been drawn. I was originally intending on writing about Evangelion this week, as the events of the original series begin on the 6th of July 2015, only a day from now. But, with the abrupt announcement less than a week ago that Gaiden was finishing its run on its tenth chapter, that quickly changed.
While Evangelion is definitely an iconic series that is extremely popular across the anime community, Naruto is the series which shaped my love for it. So it makes sense that I would prioritise the ending over anything else.
Gaiden chapter 10 sees the aftermath of the Uchiha clan (and Naruto), facing off against the small army of Shin Uchiha. Sarada has just unleashed an attack which is clearly distinguishable as a combination of both her parents, combining her Sharingan with the taijutsu which Sakura and Tsunade are known for. For a twelve year old who only awakened her kekkai genkai that day, this is extremely impressive and proves that she is a prodigy with the potential for greatness. As Naruto is about to be stabbed for the second time in the space of a few chapters, Kurama makes a reappearance to save his life; offering his chakra to easily catch the blade. Threatened by the presence of the Kyubi, the Shin army surrenders. Sasuke and Naruto discuss what to do with them before agreeing to put them in Konoha’s orphanage under the care of Kabuto. Sakura reveals that she is the real mother of Sarada then the Uchiha family, Naruto and Chouchou head back to Konohagakure. Two thirds of Team Asuma are at the gate when they return and Chouchou finally accepts that Chouji is her real father. Sasuke spends some long-awaited time at home with his family, before leaving to finish his mission. Cut to Konoha Academy, and Sarada is talking to Boruto, telling him that she’d decided on her dream – to be Hokage! Then cut to Orochimaru’s hideout, where Karin is berating Suigetsu for his interference. She confirms what many fans had already suspected – that Sasuke and Sakura were travelling together and circumstances called for Sakura to give birth in one of Orochimaru’s hideouts outside of Konoha. This meant that the umbilical cord used as a DNA sample was Sakura and Sarada’s, making it a perfect match.
The last panel links back to the first chapter, when Sarada realised there was a suspicious lack of family photos. Gaiden finishes with her grinning widely, a photo of the three Uchiha framed pride of place on the cabinet. It’s a perfect page to finalise this spin-off, with the Uchiha family genuinely happy regardless of the duty that Sasuke is burdened with. It’s been a long time coming, but if finally happened.
One criticism I have of this series is that there was a lot of unnecessary drama. As I said ten weeks ago in my first Gaiden review, I understand that a plot had to come from somewhere, but to those who had faith in Sasuke and Sakura, it made no logical sense for Karin to be the mother. I (and many others) believed that the whole thing was absurd and stayed dedicated to the idea that Sakura gave birth to Sarada. I’m sure to neutral or anti-Sakura fans the first half seemed more engaging, but to me the series only really began to shine later, when the whole pretence was dropped and Kishimoto focused on the bonds between Team Seven and Sarada. The fight scenes were very reminiscent of the original series, even more so because Sasuke and Naruto didn’t seem too overpowered. I received a couple of comments on YouTube that said they were disappointed at how much weaker they were, but personally, I prefer them without as many power-ups because it makes them seem more human and gives them the potential to fail.
However, Kishimoto definitely earned his nickname ‘Trollshimoto’ over these last few chapters. In bringing back Karin as a red herring, he was able to dispute many claims that haters had made on social networks such as Twitter. In typical Kishimoto style, he gave them hope and took it away, much like he did with Sakura’s fake confession to Naruto in Chapter 469. He has a history of allowing his characters to speak for him and for both Sakura and Karin to confirm that Sasuke hadn’t cheated on his wife means that those who criticise him have no room for interpretation. For supporters of Sasuke and Sakura, this news is nothing new, but Kishimoto obviously felt the need to make it clear for the SasuKarin fans who were still grasping at straws. As someone involved with the internet fanbase, I’d seen a lot of the theories trying to prove that Karin was the mother before, so it doesn’t seem coincidental at all.
In Chapter 10, it became more meta than ever, with Suigetsu asking if the Sasuke ship had sailed. While it’s debatable whether the SasuKarin ship had even docked in the first place, seeing Karin accept that he loved Sakura already makes her more mature than many members of her fanbase. While I wouldn’t say I like Karin, I definitely appreciate how well her character has developed since the main series. From someone who only cared about her own desires and was willing to assault Sasuke to fulfil them, to an actual decent human being that accepts his feelings and backs off, this was definitely a change that needed to be made. She also realises that women need to cooperate rather than trying to tear each other down, which seems like a subtle message to some of her fans who were willing to wish death upon Sakura and Sarada.
A complaint about Sasuke’s goodbye that I’ve seen quite a lot from Western SasuSaku supporters is that he ‘rejected’ Sakura in refusing to give her kiss goodbye. This is where I believe cultural differences come into play. As a Westerner myself, goodbye kisses between couples are expected in my culture. However, in the Japanese culture, public displays of affection are not as well-received and are largely saved for private. Some couples are reluctant to even hold hands outside of the home, a concept which seems foreign to Westerners. Not to mention, Sasuke himself is a very traditional person with strong family values so is more likely to uphold these rules. Reserving his emotions for private is definitely not out of character for him, so he most likely gave Sakura her goodbye kiss before they’d left. After re-reading the chapter, it seems like Sakura and Sasuke are teasing each other. It’s like she’s saying “I dare you to kiss me now” and Sasuke is thinking “I’m not going to let you tempt me”, as proved by the smirk in the panel of him walking away. But he leaves with a bento from his wife, filled with the love from his family, so that’s enough.
Throughout the series, watching Sasuke interact with Sakura and Sarada has almost been worth the drama. The panel of him having a meal with his family was one of my favourites from this chapter because it shows a softer side that we don’t get to see in combat conditions. It is so obvious that he cares about the two of them, from jumping in front of weapons to looking out for them to believing in their abilities. It’s been proven time and time again that he’s a family man, for example, he sacrificed something that he’d wanted since he was seven years old (having a family) just so they would be safe. There’s no denying that he wants to protect the world in general, but what good would that world be if his daughter couldn’t experience it? He is the embodiment of the Will of Fire, wanting a better life for the next generation. Not only is he concerned about Sarada, but Chouchou and the Shin clones as well. He’s contradicted everyone who has said he was a terrible father, just by staying in character. The Sasuke Uchiha of today is much more suited to the role of Hokage than he was during the Kaguya arc, just as Itachi was a potential candidate before the massacre. But the two Uchiha who were most suited to becoming Hokage chose to sacrifice their own happiness for the good of the village instead. From the founding of the village to today, Konohagakure is long overdue for an Uchiha Hokage. Almost half of the people who have held the title are members of the Senju clan, so someone from the Uchiha clan is an ideal candidate to even the score.
And so we have Sarada.
Not only has she expressed a desire to become Hokage, but she is also half Haruno which balances her Uchiha DNA. She’s proved that she has the potential, mixing her mother’s precise chakra control with her father’s powerful chakra. She is able to create the same level of destruction that Sakura didn’t achieve until she was a few years older. She is a Sharingan user which enhances this, and she has the potential to summon slugs, snakes and hawks. She has connections with the last three Hokage, with Naruto as her parents’ teammate and the closest thing to an uncle she has, Kakashi as her parents’ sensei, and Tsunade as her mother’s shisou and fellow taijutsu user. Sarada may be able to unlock the Byakugou seal later in life, meaning she can rejuvenate her body and be there for her village for longer. Also, if Konohamaru fulfils his dream of succeeding Naruto as the eighth Hokage, this means that the pattern of following their sensei or teacher remains intact. From the Boruto the Movie trailer, it is revealed that Konohamaru is the sensei of the new Team Seven, which is what I was hoping for. As Naruto can be considered a mentor to him, it makes sense that Konohamaru would teach his son. I am also hoping this means that Mirai Sarutobi is the sensei to the new InoShikaChou. Sarada’s connections aside, she is definitely showing promise to be a great ninja which is logical as both of her parents are Neo-Sannin and Kage-level. But a factor which I find especially important is that she was raised with love, which could breathe new life into Konoha and the wider ninja world.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the final chapter, because it finished so quickly there were quite a few unanswered questions, like:
- Why does Sarada wear glasses?
- Who exactly is Mitsuki?
- And who the hell had sex with Rock Lee!?
It may just be that there is no explanation and her eyesight is just naturally bad. I’m unsure why Karin would be the one to give her glasses, given that she was at least a toddler before she needed them and living in Konoha where there would be access to opticians, especially as her mother is a doctor. However, this does explain why the glasses look similar.
Mitsuki’s identity is still a mystery, as we know that he comes from a different village. However, I do have a theory. Similarities to both Toneri and Orochimaru were pointed out when he first appeared in Chapter 700, and Gaiden gave us the information that Orochimaru was developing clones. If there was any Ootsutsuki DNA remaining on the battlefield from Kaguya’s attack, he would be able to use that in order to make vessels which have the genetics of a god. And during the fight between Team Seven and Kaguya, Sakura punched her hard enough to break off one of her horns, which is likely to have been left behind when she was sealed.
I doubt that this will be the case but all will be revealed during Boruto the Movie. As usual, I am wary of the movies, as it’s unclear how much involvement Kishimoto has, but it seems like he has a much more prominent role this time around.
All I ask is that when everything is over and done, Sasuke comes home.