An honest look at Sakura Haruno.

I felt like committing weeboo treason today…

Nah, kidding.

This is just an anime fan post, so I don’t expect that many people to read it, but there is one thing I’d like to discuss that applies in real life to everybody.

Sakura, if you don’t know, is one of the Main Characters of Naruto. She has the privilege of being one of the most hated characters in popular anime that I know of.

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I’m here to look at the question honestly: Does Sakura really deserve it?

I’m going to make the case that Sakura as a character does indeed deserve to be hated, but it’s for a reason almost no one talks about, and it’s not the reason she gets dumped on by the fans the most for.

The charges leveled against Sakura are as follows:

  1. She never does anything.
  2. She never does anything and is useless
  3. She never does anything and is annoying
  4. She never does anything but smack Naruto around
  5. …..Uh…what other character traits does she have?
  6. Oh, yeah, being obsessed with Sasuke. The hands-down worst person on the show.

You get the idea.

According to my sister, the author himself was puzzled by the fan-hate toward Sakura after the initial seasons of the show were released, and decided to give her more things to do. Allegedly.

But his idea of fixing the problem was having Sakura begin hating on herself for being helpless, making a couple attempts to defend herself that ultimately ended in her still needing to be rescued; become a medical ninja, but still staying out of any plot relevant battles until the final season; and going from hating Naruto to loving but still treating him unfairly.

Sakura annoyed me and I usually try to like female leads. The females tend to bring more skills I can relate to to the table, like book knowledge, science, or emotional intelligence.

When Sakura was pitched to the audience, via the teachers, as a smarter character, I was down for that. I don’t think all team members need to be boss fighters to be cool. S

However, Sakura is not very helpful in the intelligence department. She has a few moments here and there, but I can’t say she ever came up with a plan, or did more than give a few helpful tips.

So, the tech support role was out for her. (She might have done better in a show with more technology based battles.)

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The next option is usually emotional intelligence. The character who keeps everyone at peace and sane.

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The show pitched Sakura as this also, but she has a short temper and is not paitent, so the role never really took hold.

It felt like Kishimoto was trying to figure out what the heck to do with her, and kept trying one plan after another

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Finally, he had as stroke of genius–at least he clearly thought so–why not the healer? Everyone loves the healer characters!

Give Sakura some cool life-saving moments through medical science, and people will finally quite hating on her, right?

Wrong.

As a professed fan and analyst of sorts, I recognize what my sister refers to as “illogical salt” when I see it.

I have to say, I never liked Sakura except briefly in Shippunden between major plot point, but dang it, if I’m going to bear with her for the whole show, I’m not gonna hate on every little thing she does.

Since I’m taking a honest look at he character, it’s only fair to say she doesn’t deserve a lot of the hate she gets for the reasons I mentioned above.

An all fairness, Sakura is not useless. That charge is the biggest one, and one I said myself without even knowing it was what everyone else said, back in season 1 of the OG show. (Yeah, I’m not one of those people who states things other fans have said as if it’s my original idea, I just pick up on patterns really quickly.)

Sakura was useless a lot, but I don’t discount small contributions. Since I tend to like characters who get less screen time anyway, I’ve learned to appreciate little gestures, and my guess is Sakura’s supporters (there are a surprising amount) are the same kind of fans. There’s traits that come with characters who don’t get attention as much, and if you prefer those, you’ll prefer those characters, it’s just how it works.

One such fan commented under one of the episodes a lengthy defense of Sakura, I shortened it for this post and took out some rude jabs at the haters:

“.. have you forgotten she’s also a part of team 7 or team kakashi? have you forgotten that she stood up to those sound village ninjas when naruto and sasuke were passed tf out? have you forgotten that she herself dislikes how useless she’s been and therefore trained hard to be a medical ninja so that she can also be of use and not just stand in the way? have you forgotten that sasuke also considered her as a friend which is why he said “thank you” to her as a parting gift? have you forgotten that she’s long grown since hating on naruto and finding him annoying to actually admiring and caring for him?… like she isn’t supposed to represent a more casual ninja without all the sad and tragic backstory and dead parents, seriously what did you expect of her? girlie has hardly experienced any pain and yet she’s trained and worked hard to better herself.”

All this is fair, and what the show claimed it was doing with her. Some fans choose to accept the clumsy execution of these ideas.

I am annoyed that they never did it well, but I appreciate the attempt.

However, it would have been wiser to have her grow out of the traits that people hated the most. And that is where I think the author simply did not care enough to really give Sakura the kind of attention she needed to grow.

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While characters complain about Sakura’s flaws, they never challenge her on them. In fact her teammates and teachers are always telling her to sit a fight out, and keeping her in the background. When challenged, she rises to the occasion, but you can count the times she’s challenged on one hand, and it’s never by her friends. Except Ino…yeah…that’s almost more painful. (I do like their friendship okay, but their fights are a joke.)

She’s never held accountable for her short temper so that she might have to learn to control it.

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And unfortunately, that’s not even her biggest problem.

All this would render her annoying, but likable, if passes off the right way. There were a few arcs they succeeded in making her dynamic with the others work. One of the better ones is Guren and Yuukimaru.

I could forgive Sakura a lot, if she was a good person I could admire.

But I don’t think tenacity itself is admirable without a reason behind it, and that makes me a tough anime fan to please, if you’re intent on using willpower itself as a good thing.

To will is to do, but not necessarily to do right. You will to do evil too.

Sakura’s tenacity falls all on the side of not giving up on trying to get better, but never on learning more about people and life in general.

To be blunt: She begins the series as a fool, and she ends the series as a fool…and she continues into the next series as a fool.

Sakura may be brave, she has visitations of kindness and compassion, she’s not useless…but she lacks wisdom.

I said before that a show needs wisdom in order to be good. So does a character.

Sakura is not a bad character if you take bad to mean unrealistic, she’s very real.

She exemplifies real problems many women have.

She’s obsessed with someone who abuses her.

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WHYYYY?

Sakura supposedly loves Sasuke because she can’t help it. She is like Nancy from Oliver Twist. Nancy recognizes she’s with a bad man, but tells her friend that she cannot leave him anyway, she supposes its a judgement on her for being a prostitute. In the end, Sikes kills Nancy in a cruel way, Charles Dickens loved his tragic deaths for female (and male) characters. It’ll make you cry, really.

Well, Sakura doesn’t die, obviously. But Sasuke does attempt to kill her, on record, at least twice, could be more times, and puts her under a genjutsu that looks like it will kill her at first.

Sakura, surprisingly shakes this off in a matter of hours, and goes back to daydreaming about Sasuke.

Well…I really blame bad writing for that.

Sakura also has a counterpart, Karin, who likes Sasuke and displays the same traits, but she admits that they are abusive, in a sense, she can’t seem to help herself. However, Karin initially liked Sasuke because he saved her life when he didn’t have to. She admitted later that he was different, and appeared to be over him, but she wasn’t allowed to be because the author just hated to let any girl not be hot for Sasuke.

Anyway, Sakura later acknowledges her love for Sasuke makes little sense, but she just can’t help it.

What does not happen, however, is an acknowledgement that this is abusive. I found fans who said it was, but not that many.

And this is my real complaint against Sakura as a character.

(SPOILER ALERT):

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She later marries Sasuke, and they have a kid. Sasuke is not around much for either of them, due to some dumb reason like guilt.

The message sent by this is that it’s okay to marry someone who neglects you, has always treated you like dirt, and has tried to harm you multiple times.

Sakura and Sasuke are never equals, as she can never make him listen to her, or do anything she says. There’s no give and take in their relationship, even early on before it was abusive.

Sasuke never encouraged Sakura during most of the show, so it was more of her doing it to herself, but at the end he eventually does, and it’s played off as romantic.

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But it really is Sasuke treating her like a convenience who has to wait on his whim if he should happen to want attention. Whether the defense can be made that he feels this is better for her over all or not, I don’t really care, because neither option is a good relationship.

Perhaps is was never meant to be an example, but given that it’s one of the two main ships on the show, and given a lot of attention, far more than Hinata and Naruto’s is, and not called out for the issues it does have, it’s kind of like saying that’s okay.

And that’s a terrible message to little girls. I’m concerned about all the people who like the ship.

And believe me, I get it, emotional abuse is a real pain.

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Having experienced emotional and physical abuse myself, in different levels, I understand how it gets into your brain.

You just can’t believe a person close to you would do such a thing, and you try to come up with a reason.

Sakura does this when she says she made Sasuke hate her initially, and that she is always too weak to stop him.

And you try to believe they are better than that. That they have to care about you more than that, maybe they could snap out of it. Maybe they would stop if you met their demands.

The demands are always impossible to meet.

Sakura does this when she offers to go with Sasuke on his revenge quest. To join an evil maniac’s organization, if it means she can be with Sasuke. Sasuke is quite reasonable to turn down this offer, as he never wanted it anyway.

At this point, he really wasn’t abusive on purpose, as I said. But he was a jerk to her.

You try to forget each incident after it passes and focus on what you like about them, or, if they are complete jerks, you make stuff up.

Sakura does this a lot, she even calls Sasuke a kind person at one point…this is the guy who dumped her on a street, tried to kill his best friend, intends to wipe out her village, and can’t be bothered to even show remorse for any of this. To name some of what he’s done.

Sasuke is not kind. He’s barely human by the middle of Shippuden…and not really human by the end, he and Naruto both become demigods.

Finally, in abuse, you feel helpless, that’s why you pretend it’s not real. You don’t tell anyone about it. You don’t let anyone question the person you’re with.

Check and check for Sakura.

Abuse also comes with an obsession. You can’t stop living around the person.

Sakura’s whole life is trying to get to Sasuke. She and Naruto even discuss how they cannot stop thinking of him, hoping it’ll work. One of the myriad of times she fed Naruto’s own unhealthy obsession.

All this, and Sasuke didn’t even want it, and when he does finally go along with it, we’re supposed to be happy.

Ugh, gag me with the script.

Naruto, the anime that tells kids abusive relationships are true loyalty…yay!

All this is the real reason to dislike Sakura. Her personality doesn’t matter in the least, if her whole purpose in the show is deeply skewed, and it’s lying to the audience to tell them she should be admired for loving Sasuke.

Eventually, they attempt to make her seem less abused, because she tries to stop Sasuke in order to stop him from making himself worse.

However, as she fails before even making a move, and never tries to again, and doesn’t bother to make him pay any sort of price for it.

In the end, Sakura doesn’t change, just like the other two, she is stagnant.

Some might argue that doesn’t make her dislikable, and perhaps for them, it doesn’t. I won’t even say that’s wrong. But it is wrong to support such an example of toxicity.

That’s my honest look at Sakura, or Hot Take, as I think they call it now. She’s an ordinary girl, who shouldn’t be hailed as any kind of role model, but shouldn’t be hated as especially bad. She just is.

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Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

 

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