Pride, Prejudice, and anime.

I was reading Pride and Prejudice, like I do usually twice a year, at least, and I started drawing some comparisons between the Regency Period and Anime.

If that sounds like a stretch, you haven’t been familiar with both materials, I’m sure anyone who was would know exactly where I’m going right now.

It’s funny how your background can influence your perception of something so much. Even just what country you are born in. It’s not a new idea to me, but many people don’t even think of their country as influencing their points of view. They think everyone thinks that way, if they are smart or normal people.

For instance, the odd blend of respect and disrespect in Asian cultures toward teacher figures, I’ve found it to be somewhat true. They allow for a lot of teasing and humor about certain things, but you absolutely never question others without severe punishment. Which can be the same here in the West, just usually over different stuff.

Free thinking is rare anywhere, even America, and I’m well aware of that as a citizen.

The difference is America puts more stress on free thinking being a good thing than many countries do.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on the intricacies of other cultures, I will have to go on what I’ve read and watched and heard form people who’ve been there about it, but even so, there’s some interesting things you could note.

My strange fan fic story

While I’ve been working on my now 3000 page long, year’s wroth of effort, fan fiction, I’ve delved into Japanese culture at a very deep level. People who don’t study anime deeply don’t realize how much you can know about a real place from the fiction it produces. I’ve written before about how Anime kills God (Killing God With the Power of Friendship: an anime conundrum. ), and doesn’t fix the problems it raises in its stories (Anime won’t Fix-it!), there have a been a couple exceptions, very rare, that I’ve seen so far. Usually, it doesn’t extend to the whole anime, just one part in it.

When I wrote my Naruto fan fic (I do plan to publish it, if anyone’s interested, I’ll probably link it to this blog eventually) I constructed a narrative about how the country would receive Christianity, all on my own, without doing research into Japan’s history with Christianity, and I didn’t really plan to make any statement on Japan itself, since I didn’t know about it.

But in my history class, we briwfly covered that very topic, and then my sister filled me in more from a documentary she watched, there’s also a movie called “The Silence” that I’m planning to watch.

My narrative was that if someone like Christian Missionaries came to the Naruto world (i. e. basically Japan), they would be feared and hated, and people would try to kick them out. I based this on the Bible and other accounts of missionary work not any history of Japan, I didn’t know about it, as I said.

But to my shock, I learned that my fictional idea was almost exactly what happened. And I had written the motives and reasoning in much the same way without prior knowledge.

Japan has a lot of missionaries at one point, but when new powers rose up, they felt threatened but Christianity’s freer way of thinking and thought it would encourage people not to follow their new ways, so they kicked them out as a while, and to this day, Japan has a very small christian population. And treats religious items and icons as the enemy in most of its anime.

Coincidence? I can’t believe it.

(That joke wan’t planed, but then I saw it and couldn’t pass it up 🙂

I had taken characters of Naruto and explored their reaction to the ideas, just like I do on this blog with media, and I got the same result. Fear of challenging the status quo, fear of a loss of control… it was scary (for more if my ideas on Naruto, check out this series: Naruto: 5 months of frustration-pt 1.)

I got the idea that Japan must be terrified of God after seeing so much anime, and I got some confirmation from a fellow blogger who lives there that this may be closer to the truth than I thought.

I probably sound like I’m bragging here, but I don’t think I figured it out because I’m just smart, in fact, some might still argue that I’m even right, but I do think fiction tells you an immense amount about its culture.

You have to have an eye for it, I’ve had years of training in critical thinking, writing tropes, and artistic style recognition, I spot this stuff very naturally. But most people could if they studied it.

I will say the most helpful advice about reading or watching the ideology of any art from a different background is this: Look for what isn’t there.

Are there things characters never say that you would expect them to say?

Are there events that never happen that seem like they would happen?

Are there events that do happen, but for unexplained reasons that contradict the set up?

In American media this happens quite often too, but anime is almost unilaterally this way. It’s called “anime logic” by the fans.

Other examples:

I notice it in French stuff too, as I’ve watched quite a bit for French class. And, I also notice it in ASL media.

Some things will never be said.

In French stuff, you will never hear that love is unimportant, I would be very surprised to be given a counter example of it. Tragic love is more popular than here, but love in some form is part of pretty much all their stories. They have a reputation for a reason.

In Deaf media, the opinion that Deaf people should try to become part of the hearing world more is not going to b supported by the media, whatever private opinions the actual members of the culture have. It’s not allowed.

If I watched more I’d probably notice other stuff, I could say French media considers feelings more important than logic in writing, but I haven’t seen enough to be sure.

In British writing, which I have read more of, logic and reality are much more central to any story, even a children’s story. The question of what is real will come up in most stories, and logic is far more likely to guide the hero’s actions than passion. If passion does take over, it will be pointed out as unusual, not seen as the most natural thing. The English always seem half ashamed of being ruled by passion, when they are, though that maybe a development more of the last few centuries. Shakespeare doesn’t have the same feel, though logic and wit are the main attractions of his writing too.

All this to say, I do this with everything, and I’ve also become more acquainted with my own countries stories.

We value freedom, independence, and discovery. All our original stories usually focus on that. Growing up, moving on, and become your own person is one of our favorite themes, both form the start of our nation to present day.

Our disregard for the opinions of authority figures is often seen as disrespect and cheek by other countries.

But after studying their media more myself, I have come to be exceedingly grateful that I was born in America, if I had my personality and was born somewhere else, I’d be miserable, probably. Or I’d never have developed my skills to the point I have (I’m aware that there are free thinkers in other countries, but there’s not such a rich support for it as here).

I’m a Xenophile, but I far prefer American idealism to any other.

America sees no reason to treat royalty, nobility, or gentry with any particular deference, we tend to see everyone as equally valuable int heir rights. One an’s opinion may be right or wrong depending on their character, not their station.

To my Western audience, that no doubt sounded obvious.

But, it really isn’t.

Authority in other cultures

In English books you will find great preference given to the opions of anyone higher ranking, whatever their character is known to be. From morality to clothing to food, they are just assumed to know better.

Like in “Fiddler on The Roof” when Rev Tevya says “If you’re rich they think you really know.”

There’s some reason for this, rich people are generally more educated, and therefore might really know more, but as Pride and Prejudice so eloquently shows, that doesn’t guarantee they understand any better than a common beggar the real problems of life, or how to treat people well.

Anime takes a very similar view to the British though, it tends to show that teachers and leaders may not always know best, but must be followed anyway. That rebellion is justified only when unspeakable atrocities have happened and the world is about to end, and even then, it’s 50-50 whether the system will actually be overthrown.

The idea of contradicting a teacher/leader is almost unheard of, I’ve seen a couple exceptions, but notably, even then you rarely criticize the leader themselves, just say they are mistaken.
Oh, the times I’ve longed to see one of those sick tyrants get punched and told “You are a monster with a god complex!”

Instead it usually boils down to “Our feelings just make us not want to be mindless robots, so sorry, but we’ll take you down, but please don’t take it too hard, you’re probably right, people suck, but we like being alive so...”

I’m all for being alive, but after the villains deliver their indictment against humanity, it feels like a hero needs more than “feelings” to come back with (literally every Fairy Tail arc ever.)

These are the good ones though, far worse anime have a compromise with evil that would be truly disgusting if we believed it was real. Like accepting a demon half, or something :-[

But, since they cannot defeat the monster, they befriend it.

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“I’m friends with the monster under my bed…”

This attitude doesn’t surprise me too much if I think of how Asian countries tend to move from one dictatorship to another, some more subtle, others blatant, and even now the same ideas permeate their culture even if the legal system has relaxed in some.

I doubt many people there would even argue that point with me, if I put it to them in different words. What we call limited thinking is usually called tradition and family ties.

I’m not against tradition of family ties either if they are good, but Americans reserve the right to distinguish between good and bad traditions and family responsibility, while many cultures see no difference in duty, whether you have cruel or kind traditions or family. You show respect either way.

America promotes the idea of earning respect, for leaders as well as peers, while you will not find that idea in most countries, leaders get respect based solely on position.

Someone might wonder, though, if I disagree with this, since the Bible teaches it.

My answer is no, I don’t think you get to disrespect a leader just based on not liking them. But I do think that you should not obey them if they are leading you to folly or evil. And that line just seems to disappear in many countries.

Of course, people are diverse, I can’t make blanket statements without knowing I am ignoring the exceptions. So, yes, exceptions exist, whole groups of them no doubt. I am talking about the ideas generally promoted, not what I think every single inhabitant of a foreign country will act like. I feel I shouldn’t need to state that, but I’ve seen enough comment sections and review to know people will not give me credit of taking that into consideration unless I say I am.

Being american also informed my view on my abusive father. I will probably never forget in this life him screaming at me multiple times “You WILL respect me! I am your farther!”

My life coach laughed about it, like “why would I respect you when you don’t act worthy of it?”

The Bible does not say to respect your parents, it says to Honor them.

Honor is not respect. I realizing. You can honor the position they are in, acknowledge it, and be kinder to them because of it, without respecting who they are.

I don’t respect my dad at all. He is, in my opinion, an almost 60 year old child, but he is still my Dad, and I will honor him as far as I safely can, which is not very far, and not as far as he wants.

The man doesn’t know what respect is himself. To him it means blind obedience, never arguing with him, never questioning his words. Even when I pointed out that he was okay with my questioning other authorities, he said “but I’m your dad, that’s different.” How is it different? I wondered.

I think his idea is that if I loved him, I would not question him. I would just do what he says. I would ignore my better judgment.

But, I think being an american, I found it easier interpret the Bible as promoting independence in this case.

The Bible could make the case either for dependence or independence on rulers, it’s all in how you want to read it, the truth of the matter is, the Real Message is telling us to use wisdom and discretion, and follow God first, than figure out how leaders factor into it. Some of the old saints rebelled or stuck out on their own, others did their best to live in peace with authority. You have to seek God for what to do in your situation.

And I am against any ideology that doesn’t allow for that. My complaint against anime isn’t that it promotes respecting leaders, but that it promotes it against all else. And the alternative is your own judgement based on feelings. Never turning to God and asking, what should I do?

Even though in real life, that is what people fall back on, whatever the media says.

There is no standard of morality in anime, unlike in British stories. The similarity to the British empire lies in this: that the British acknowledge God, but ignore the bible in how they treat the poor, lower class with less respect than the upper class, rich. There are most certainly exceptions, Elizabeth is an example of it, but the general attitudes is of that.

(Actually, it’s funny, anime and Korean media both make rich people out to be quire decent human beings, who don’t really care about money or status, at leas if they are a hot love interest, while American’s tend to write all rich people as spoiled snobs. I find both portrayals equally stereotypical.)

The real crux of moral issues in anime is: who is stronger?

It seems like it’s promoting the underdog, don’t shows like MHA do that?

Not really… I wish they did, but anime can’t commit to that message, no matter what.

Fairy Tail bases power off feelings, and morality is based off feelings.

But the logical point to be made is that, everyone has feelings, the bad guys do too, and there’s might be very strong, so how does the power of feelings, or friendship, fix anything?

Anime won’t go so far as to say evil should win, but the reason for good winning is pretty flimsy. What if some day, a villain has stronger feelings that a hero?

Actually, MHA stands out again as an interesting example here. When the hero killer Stain is cornered by the heroes, the strength of his feelings and convictions freezes all of them, and they cannot resist him. Deku recounts it in an awed, scared tone, recognizing he was so intense they couldn’t make a move. Stain then collapses from injuries, and straining himself, not from any of them.

Here is a startling case of a villain truly having more passion than the heroes and the show rather uncomfortably moves on from the subject, but damage is done. Stain’s influence still affects the villains and heroes to the current point in the story. Gran Torino points out only All Might has a passion strong enough to oppose Stain, it can’t be said that Deku is there yet.

If anything, Bakugo is far closer, but not close enough.

Conviction is dangerous in anime but irresistible, they admit. To many people who want to see change. The heroes are not offering them change. One wonders who the real villains of the story are. The villains do evil, and that’s not excusable, but if they didn’t do evil, if they simply held the same view and rebelled in less reprehensible ways, would it change anything? Or would the heroes still look down on them?

When I watched it, I found Stain intimidating, but I didn’t believe I would have backed down there, and I couldn’t understand why the heroes did. Now I do, they lack conviction. I have conviction. Of something else, I believe in more than Stain.

It’s true I don’t know how I would be if my life was truly in danger, but I would attribute that to cowardice, not that I had no alternative perspective. I hope I would be brave.

MHA is truly interesting more for what it dares to acknowledge than anything else, at times. Like Bakugo’s trauma after being kidnapped.

If stronger feelings determine who wins, might still makes right, it’s just a different kind of might. All Might has all the strong feelings, do you see where this is going?

It’s the same on every shonen, and every shoujo. The persistent, strongly emotional person wins, or the highly intelligent one (Dr. Stone, among other examples).

I don’t take issue with strength, just if that’s the only reason. If the villains were stronger than the heroes, they would win, and there would be no moral reason to resist if everyone else was too weak to do so.

It should be first and foremost about what is right.

The idea can be worked in that right is what makes the MC powerful, but it is not focused on enough to ever be certain that that’s the real point, and the answer to all failures is to try harder, work harder, and do better.

Never just that your outlook and approach is wrong.

I am sure I ticked off several weeaboos if they read this, but I don’t really care…

I think I’ll wrap up this post here for now, do you have any other thoughts about this subject? Feel free to comment and discuss, I always read comments.

Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

Accidentally Brilliant?: The InoSai ship.

Ready for a post about a couple not that many people care about? Good.

After watching Naruto, I, like most fans, had my favorite pairings…there were not many I actually liked. ShikaTema was the best, NaruHina was…not what is could have been, but cute…kind of…we try to ignore how disjointed the movie was…

Kishimoto, the author of Naruto, did not give a flip about writing good romance, as two of his MCs are still in an abusive cycle relationship on the current Boruto show. He admitted to not being good at it…however, he was fine at writing good couples moments between Naruto and Sakura to troll the audience with, I call BS.

(As a writer who struggles with romance writing also, let me just say, you have to push through it and be willing to experiment until you get it right, but it’s possible to overcome the difficulty.)

His indifference or straight up meanness to the female characters also did not help, the poor things barely get to be likable half the time, let alone the type of chick any self-respecting guy would date…and I would not date any of the men on Naruto either, so they are not much better.

Seriously, what girl dreams of  guy who will neglect her half the time, and spend the other half not understanding her feelings?

Luckily, the fandom is nicer to the characters than the show is, and has endeavored to fill in the blanks with imagination (and also there’s a video game that does it better than the show, for some reason.)

That is why we somehow have this thing where we like the ships, but hate how they were executed, and there may be no better example of this, for the side characters, than the InoSai ship.

S_i

Yeah, that’s how we felt at first.

I talked about Sai and how much I like him in my review of the show, and he is one of the best boys, and the only one with a real excuse to be bad at relationships.

Ironically, he is not that bad at them. Sai puts so much effort into figuring things out that he usually stumbles his way into finding a right answer. Which is pretty much how he and Ino got together, after Ino developed a crush on him off screen and apparently between the war and the wedding timeline.

At first, I though InoSai was a terrible idea. Sai was introduced as the more foulmouthed substitute for Sasuke when he first came on the show,

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Personally, I say Sai was a step up.

and Ino was always the sloppy seconds when Cotton Candy Hair couldn’t be around to be the annoying twit.

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Sorry Sakura, you’re usually comic relief.

But I did start to like Ino a little bit after the Chunin exam…I liked everyone for a little bit after that…We find out she’s actually not a carbon copy of Sakura with blonde hair.

Ino was, at one point, that one girl all the others girls tend to want to be friends with, the one who know how to do cool feminine stuff, is good at school stuff, and is always wone for girl talk.

She and Sakura initially became friends because Ino felt Sakura needed someone to help her deal with getting teased about her face, and then they ended up having common interests, it was a sweet little friendship.

Then Sakura violated girl code by liking the same guy as Ino, and it all went up in flames.

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To be fair, Ino was part of the reason for that…

However, one gets the vibe that Ino would probably pick up the friendship again if Sakura, the ever toxic example, was not so dead set against it. During their slap fight at the exams, it’s revealed that Ino still thinks of Sakura as a friend who needs her help.

In typical Ninja fashion, instead of encouraging the traits that would save their society from the hatred and preying upon the weak that plague it, the show and Sakura both stomp on this display of Ino’s softer side by telling her it is bad and unnecessary. Ino accepts this…she really has no choice…but is never quite the same girl after the exam. Her confidence seems to be gone.

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Ninjas: Who the frick needs emotional support?

Later she becomes a bit of a sad, rather passionless older teen. One who has accepted she will never surpass Sakura. Whose progress is really do more to having people actually “expect things” of her, rather than any greater talent, initially she had less talent than Ino.

It was nice to see Ino and Sai get together because for once, Ino was able to care about someone and not have them throw it back in her face. She actually seems hesitatant to believe Sai actually does care, which carries into the future when they (SPOILER) get married and have a son.

There is not a lot to go by, but the ship that no one wanted, and no one thought would ever work, ended up becoming one of the best. Even the former haters admit they have a good relationship.

At first I didn’t understand why, it was just discount SasuSaku wasn’t it?

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Oh heck no!

But upon closer inspection, I realized that Ino and Sai are actually a very good match.

It’s one of those very rare cases in media, where the relationship makes more sense if you think it out then it does when you just watch them interact.

Sai and Ino work because their flaws actually compliment each other.

While Temari and Shikamaru function because they make up for each other’s weaknesses, Sai and Ino bring out each other’s weaknesses, but in such a way that it would be a good thing.

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Cloak and Dagger anyone?

Sai is emotionally stunted and unable to read signals. At first glance, the hypersensitive and insecure Ino seems like the worst possible combination with him, and some do hate the ship for that reason.

But if you are like me, and think one of the main things a relationship does is grow you, then it’s actually a good idea.

Sai is ignorant, but he is not at all cruel or neglectful on purpose. When Ino gets worked up, she generally calms down after reaching a certain point where she knows she is being ridiculous (I have fights like that with my sister all the time.) With Sai, one could infer this would happen much sooner, as he cannot really be said to be being a jerk on purpose, as with the other people Ino fights with. Gradually, one could assume, Ino would learn not to have such a short fuse, because it’s clear that Sai is not actually trying to make her mad.

The sad thing is generally Ino is being provoked deliberately when she loses her temper, and seems cooler headed than Sakura when she is around people who do not push her buttons.

On the other hand, Sai is unable to pick up on subtleties, but he wants to change that. His problem is that he cannot guess what is really bothering someone.

In some ways, Ino, who complains more than anyone else usually, is the perfect match for him. She does not take long to start saying what’s annoying her. Sure, usually it’s something stupid, and the real reason does not even come out till later, but eventually it does, and then communication happens…or could happen, if the other person cared to know.

What really galled me about her and Sakura’s friendship was that Sakura realized what was going through Ino’s head, and didn’t show her any mercy. Like it’s the worst thing ever to have someone actually care about you and not want to whale on you for that reason…well, I guess the record shows Sakura doesn’t mind people trying to hurt her.

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This is what we call Vicious Cycle

It is unlikely this situation would ever repeat itself with Sai, because Sai is grateful for people who care about him, and tries to learn about their feelings.

While one could forsee plenty of fighting between them during the first few years, some fans have pointed out that it would likely subside after that, once they got used to each other.

They really have no reason to fight, once that is understood, above the petty argument now and then.

What is even better than that is that the strengths of their personalities actually do compliment each other, along with the weaknesses.

Sai’s devotion to his friends is one of his best point, even if he pulls it off very clumsily, he is not half way about it. Unlike many of the characters on the show.

Ino’s tenancy to take care of people and show them the ropes, while not given much attention, is a rare quality among the negligent shinobi culture of adults who really couldn’t seem to care less about training their students most of the time. (Except you Iruka-sensei, love you.) It would go perfectly with Sai, who gets ignored by the rest of his friends and would probably love it if someone would try to help him learn.

To be sure, the show never demonstrates this happening, as a fan, you have to be willing to look at their personalities as a whole, not as what they are reduced to for convenience/comedy’s sake.

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Back when we thought Ino might actually be relevant, she was interesting, and if you choose to belief that person is still present in her as an adult, it makes for a very cute ship.

More importantly, it makes her different form Sakura, and makes her dynamic with her team make more sense.

Now, what does this half-baked ship that the fans have made valid have to do with real life?

It’s actually a great example of how the perfect person for you does not have to be the one who would cause the least friction in your life. It could be you need someone who would cause plenty of friction, but ultimately would be doing their best to love you, and in the end, it could be worked out.

I guess the lesson here, if you want one, is that Ino and Sai work because they fight together towards a point, and do not fight just because neither of them really wishes to be bothered with the other.

There is a huge difference between fighting with your significant other because you can’t stand them and want to get away form them, and fighting because you value them and want things to be better, for both of you.

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Whether InoSai perfectly represents that or not, there is that germ of an idea in it, and it is rare to find fictional, or real life, examples of it.

It’s hilarious that we all know it was 100% an accident. The ship was the most lazily written ever…but it works.

Well, that is all for today, till next time, stay honest–Natasha.

PS. (If you’re interested in fan fiction about anime, maybe check out my Wattpad page, I have the first few parts of my own work there. If you’re into it. At https://www.wattpad.com/user/worldwalkerdj)

The Restoration Principle.

Hi, Followers, it’s the end of the year. What better time to talk about fixing problems?

Specifically how fiction chooses to do it, and how it just might be a key to real life.

I wrote a post a few months back about The Resurrection Arc, in fiction, and how it works and how it can be used well.  (link here: https://wordpress.com/post/drybonestruth.wordpress.com/16361)

One thing I said in that post was that: “Resurrection means restoration.”

I’ve been thinking since finishing that too-oft-named Anime, Naruto, that Restoration is actually a big part of anime, and other shows too.

Also, it’s not just fiction, G. K. Chesterton said that:

In history there is no Revolution that is not a Restoration... all the men in history who have really done anything with the future have had their eyes fixed upon the past.”

                                         groundhog_day

Restoration, it’s used a lot in Church, many people might just associate the word with what you do to an old building, or an original version of a movie. (My mom wishes they’d restore the original Star Wars movies to the pre-CGI versions.)

Here’s a dictionary.com definition of Restoration:

noun

Renewal, revival, reestablishing.

If you go by what Christianity, and a myriad of other religions, teaches, then anything Mankind does right would have to be a return to its original state.

Deep down, human beings feel this longing to return to former glory, sometimes we call it Nostalgia. A wish to return to innocence. Innocence is glory.

We also feel a desire for new things, but new things tend to be just old things in a different form.

All Revolution calls for a new thing, but an honest look at the past would reveal that the new thing is something people did long ago.

The American Government was supposedly new, but it was based on both Roman and Hebrew systems, one found in the Bible quite clearly. The Biblical Law was one of the earliest known to not have a king or ruler in charge of the people. Until they demanded it later. (A tale as old as the hills, historically speaking.)

Chesterton also had the thought that Human Beings, have grown older than God our Father, we grow tired of doing the same things, and that is why we have to package Goodness into so many new forms. We don’t like to play the same game, hear the same song, over and over again without a new change of pace.

But it is possible God does not get tired of Good Things. And those things are, in the end, what we keep coming back to.

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In the Bible, when someone strays from the path then turns from their wicked ways, it is always called a Return.

Notably, in fiction there’s a common thread that the way to fix things is to go back to a state of being. In Modern Fiction, the Ideal tends to be a normal human society, not a robot, or communist, or barbaric society. While in older fiction, the ideal was more likely to be a heavenly society of some sort, something higher and purer than just ordinary people’s interactions.

We’ve all seen the story-lines where the MC has to return some special item to some spot, and that will restore the land, the proper power, the true heir to the throne, etc. Sometimes the item has to be destroyed to restore because it is cursed.

Whether the answer is destroying or returning, the end result is always a restoration.

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Can you think of happy ending that did not include a Restoration? Go ahead, try, I’ll wait…

Anime is rife with this theme of Restoration. Usually it is through defeating the Big Bad at the end of the arc, and the land will magically heal. I watched the Naruto Movie: The Stone of Gelel today (It had the best boys in it, so I thought why not?), and it had the same thing, the trope where the land is healed all at once.

The Lion King has it too, though its over several months in that one.

I know I have readers from outside America, I may not know them, but you’ve definitely already got stories in mind that end this way. Every culture does.

In fact, it’s been noted that there is really only one basic plot in writing, even in nonfiction writing.

A problem is introduced, and a way to fix it, to restore us back to some ideal.

C. S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress is actually based entirely on the idea that any going forward, morally, is a going back. In it John, the Pilgrim, travels his land in search of an Island that ends up being the back of a mountain by his home. He comes full circle.

That is what the Eastern idea of Cyclical time is really about, that everything returns to its initial state, (we just disagree about what that state is.)

The important thing to understanding what the Restoration was is to keep in mind it can be either a symbolic physical act in the story, or it can be an emotional restoration, even a spiritual one.

Some stories will have a healing, where someone will have a physical problem fixed. Breaking Curses, undoing creepy science experiments, remedying a plague, all that falls under this category.

Other times the restoration will com in the form of finding a family member, finding a homeland, finding a title or position.

It’s more widespread for it to be an emotional restoration. From romances to kids shows, that restoration has to happen. Someone finds true love, remembers what’s important, learns what it is like to be human, learns the power of a certain virtue. And it restores them to who they are meant to be. Often who they once were, at the beginning of the tale, before the bad events took it from them.

Isn’t that what we all want in our lives, some of us want to be able to want it again.

All of us have an idea of a good life that we once had, or could have had, and we feel we missed it.

We’ve been told that the good life is in the present, yet we want to go back still. Be young again, be married again, have kids again, have that job again, like that thing again.

Like constellations imploding in the night; everything is turning, everything is turning, And the shapes that you drew may change beneath a different light, and everything you thought you knew will fall apart, but you’ll be all right“–The OH HELLOS, Constellations.

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Today is the last day of 2019, how often have we thought that this year? Or in previous year’s. Maybe we had a good year, but even in happiness there is often a nostalgic feeling, at least for me. Like “Ah yes, this is how I used to feel.”

But when I was a kid, I wasn’t often happy. The nostalgia is an illusion. I am really wanting to go back even further. To a different time, one before I was even born.

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But those ages had trouble too. I’ve read enough to know they felt the same.

We have to go back further still, before the Fall.

Stories communicate that in their own way, by settling on one disaster that really changed it all for the worse, and must be undone. On Naruto, it was the battle of two friends, and two brothers, that begun the whole freaking mess. Supposedly it is undone by Naruto and Sasuke coming to peace. Rather like Cain and Abel.

In real life, people rarely narrow it down to one thing that’s wrong with the world–or their lives. You could list a half a dozen right now, if I asked.

As Rich Mullins sang “Everybody’s always saying they need just one thing, but what they really mean is they need just one thing more.”

In stories, a value like love, friendship, courage, or honor, tends to be the One Thing we MUST NOT LOSE EVER, AT ALL COSTS.

I’d like more things to be good in the world, and my life, sure. But I’m with Mullins. God is my One Thing.

To wrap this up, I guess my final point is that at the end of the year, the end of the story, the real question is: What is that One thing you need restored to you? Or maybe you need to be restored to it.

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To find a new thing is to find an old thing.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this send-off post, it’s been an interesting year for me, and I wish you the best in 2020. Happy New Year everyone⌚⌛☺–until then, Natasha.

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.

 

The Element of Kindness.

Happy Day-After-Christmas, peeps.

Hope you had a good one, I spent most of mine bingeing The Dragon Prince first 2 1/2 seasons. (Not a recommendation, though it’s okay.) I was with family, my siblings and I had been wanting to watch it.

I was checking my stats today, and I have one post that’s had a total of 130+ views, including my own. (Why do blogs count your own views on your post?)

It’s A Strong Mind and a Soft Heart. (Link here: https://drybonestruth.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/a-strong-mind-and-a-soft-heart/)

I never expected it to be so popular, I based the title on a song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-cVRxhnrY0)

It’s a bit rough, but the post is mainly about kindness and reason being blended together in our actions. The heart and the head not being separated, and how it is bad when they are.

I also said that even someone with a mental handicap might understand this better than a genius, and be wiser.

I still think that its true, in fact, I think it is more true now. Intelligence might be measured by IQ, but thank the Lord, Wisdom is not.

There is something I thought of after writing my Naruto review, it actually hit my before I finished the OG show, I talked about it with my sisters and they agreed. It’s kindness.

If you’ve seen the show, or a similar one, you’d probably agree. The characters themselves begin pointing it out after a certain season.

The Ninja world is highly cruel, and according to my mom, that’s a pretty accurate depiction of what real ninjas were like. In fact, the show’s portrayal is almost too real. One of the things that makes Naruto more than just an average Shonen anime is that it’s based on something that existed. Ninja and Samurai were both tools of the empire in Japan, used differently, and against each other. Ninjas used dark arts; secret ways;  things like that.

Of course it gets ridiculous on the show, but the disturbing element is that some of it, or most of it, isn’t all that much of an exaggeration.

It would be nice if I could say Japan was the only country that was like this (though not to Japan) but I can’t.

Every country is like this. Cruelty, if you look at human history, is not the exception but the rule of human dynasties, small societies, and everything in between.

No matter how you slice it, cruelty is nonsensical. People often speak and write of senseless cruelty, as if there was a cruelty that made sense; but if it makes sense, we’ll always find in the end, it was not cruelty.

It makes sense to use triage in a war or crisis, some people think of this as cruel, but in the end, it can save more lives than trying to treat everyone would. (Triage is a rating system that determines who gets treated first when there’s limited medical supplies and staff, which there always are, even in hospitals.)

It seems cruel to the addict to deny them their substance, but that is kinder than enabling them is.

What’s astonishing about Naruto’s version of it is how blatantly stupid the cruelty was. Yet, there are times and places where even what was shown there would be less than what was really happening in real life in history.

The cruelty shown on anime tends to be either neglect, direct abuse, emotional abuse, molesting (usually implied, not shown or said outright), mass killing, and torture for the fun of it. Also bullying is common, as well as people being ostracized for being different, sometimes in almost non-existant ways.

It’s awful how most of the time that cruelty is directed toward children.

Naruto‘s reached the point of being a sickness with the whole show, and it became a major talking point of all the villains on it, in the end the main villains all wanted to remake the world into their image of a kinder, softer place where everyone would be happy.

I’ve run into that idea countless times, from The Left Behind series to YA dystopian fiction (movies, I don’t read them.) Heck, if it’s not the big finale of whatever super hero/special abilities show or movies series you’re watching… I doubt you’re watching them(*cough Endgame *cough.)

I began to wonder what could have possessed Kishimoto to write such a dark show that aired, I may remind you, on Nickelodeon (I think, or Cartoon Network, or both.)

I always wonder that about these writers, even in more Americanized anime.

Perhaps there’s a hint to their thinking in what Torchwick from RWBY tells Ruby before he gets eaten by a monster “The real world is cold, the real world doesn’t care about spirit.”

Why are ninja so cruel? They are taught to be, because they are taught with the assumption that enemies are everywhere, that no one can be trusted, that even your closest friend may be ordered to kill you if you go against the village, and therefore, it is better to not have many friends.

This is, ostensibly, the idea Naruto himself rebels against and changes, however it does not work, because Sasuke’s crimes were not against a village’s martial law, but against the Laws of Life itself and what is Good in general.

What I hated most about this show was how little it bothered to be honest about human beings. The world was portrayed in the worst possible light, everywhere you turn there’s a massacre, a genocide, a child being abused into being a monster, a friend stabbing another in the back… but nowhere were there ordinary people just living their lives, doing small acts of kindness, camaraderie, and unselfishness. If we got perhaps a minute or two of it, the focus never lasted long enough for it to make a point.

I do not exaggerate when I say the only times the show highlighted people living ordinary, happy lives was right before a disaster so that we’d feel like it meant something, the rest of the time ordinary people were portrayed as jerks to the main characters.

It was so exhausting and unfair. I discovered that besides Wisdom, there is another element a story must be written with in order for it to work properly: Kindness.

Kindness is so basic to older literature and shows, to the point of being overly cheesy, that I took it for granted. I never thought of it as necessary writing element, and you won’t find it in a trope discussion, or writing class. I daresay, next to myself, only fiction writers of the old fashioned happy story brand will even mention it. (Check out J. R. R. Tolkien’s views on the Happy Ending sometime.)

But even if a story is not happy, it needs to have kindness in it somewhere, or it will only depress people. Romeo and Juliet is an infamous tragedy, but it’s built around the kindness of two young people who are able to look past their family’s feud and really see each other. Juliet more so. (I never like Romeo.) Without that element, the tragedy would mean absolutely nothing.

Sadness has this particular quality, it really can only exist where there has been kindness. Who really mourns the death of a tyrant or miser or witch?

I commented to my sisters in the middle of one important Naruto arc that the darkness on the show didn’t really stick with me after watching, because it was innocuous. We wonder why, eventually we concluded it was because there was just so much, and it was just so over the top, that it was impossible to believe it. There’s always the insane cases, but they are not every case, and not nearly as frequent as this show made out.

But even more so, there wasn’t enough kindness to make us regret the destruction of the characters that much. None of the places that got wiped out had good or happy people in them, usually. We never got to see the simplicity of everyday life being played out. Heck, Fairy Tail showed more in its Edolas arc with the talking cat society than this show ever did with human beings.

You may find it morbid of me to say Sadness only exists because of Kindness; but nowhere in the Bible, or in the study of human psychology, does it say that Sadness is a bad emotion. Women make themselves sad on purpose to relieve stress. Depression is bad, but depression and sadness are not the same thing. (Inside Out, anyone?)

Naruto ultimately lessened the impact of its own point about cruelty by never showing any other options in the main plot. By the end of the show no one has the faintest idea how to rebuild the world except the Sand Siblings, Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro, who have spent 3 years working on spreading kinder customs in their own village. Only they seem in the least prepared to take on the revamping of Ninja society. They begin new customs between the villages and hold them accountable to it. Once, Temari purposely reminded the Leaf that they need their allies and they can’t go back to the old ways of mistrust, turning her natural fierceness into a protective thing instead of an intimidating one.

However, the Sand gets zero credit for basically being the only reason the world didn’t end, and it all goes to Naruto, who has no clue what he needs to do. As he himself admits.

In the end the whole point falls flat. The viewer doesn’t really know how they will do it, we are just told to believe they will…even though we have no concrete proof to believe in.

I need to see you be kind if I’m to believe you can make a difference.

It was the simplest thing, a child could have pointed it out, heck, some of them did…yet it was like the show was allergic to it.

But, what scares me is not that Naruto was so bad at it, for that’s just one author, but that it;s not all the a different from at least 90% of the adult and kids shows that air on our TV networks here.

From Soap Operas, to Sitcoms, to whatever the heck the Disney channel and Cartoon Network are, there’s a theme that’s been going on since the 80s at least… no kindness.

I like sarcasm fine, but when that’s all your show is, (and stupidity,) then there’s just not much about the human beings to like.

I remember watching The Cosby Show and thinking it was way different in that way (I know what happened, but the show itself was really cute.)

I was lucky to grow up on The Chronicles of Narnia, and similar stories, which are full of wonder, quirkiness, wisdom…and kindness, it was everywhere, hiding in the corners or out in the open. Kindness that needed no explanation, no motivation, beyond that kindness was natural and right, and it was the people who lack it who are unusual.

I said cruelty is senseless, without exception, and that is because it never benefits anyone to be cruel. C. S. Lewis observes in The Screwtape Letters that some men have been twisted to enjoy cruelty, it is true. But enjoyment of the wrong thing cannot be said to be a benefit, unless you’re crazy enough to defend drugs on that account…oh yeah, pot got legalized with that as an excuse…my country is crazy…Well, oh well.

Kindness is defended even by skeptics as a necessary evolutionary instinct. That theory doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny, but if even godless men feel the need to defend kindness, it is because kindness is reasonable.

I find what’s godly is always reasonable.

That said, cruel stories are never rational. Naruto proved it to me, if I was ever in doubt, but I’ve seen many movies and shows, and a handful of books, that would confirm the theory. the worst was Ender’s Shadow, please never read that.

And that is where I am going to conclude for today, whew, I could get material out of this show for months…until next time–Natasha.

 

 

Naruto: 5 months of frustration, 2.

Okay…wow… that last post was one of the saltiest I’ve ever written.

Now to get to a more pleasant subject: The good things about the show.

The animation. yeah, that’s pretty good….

Kidding. This will be a Spoiler Heavy Post.

Fair warning, I’ll still be criticizing the show in this part, but I do like these characters.

I would say my top 5 characters on this show are Gaara, Shikamaru, Sai, Temari, and Kankuro. I like Hinata, but she is used so little and given so little to contribute that it’s hard to rank her at the top.

Though to be fair, all the female characters are underused.

After detailing why I hate so much of how the show handled it’s three main themes, I want to talk about the good themes it brought up and didn’t totally ruin:

  1. Love versus hate, with loneliness
  2. Learning to understand grief and love
  3. Processing grief
  4. Trust.

I talked about it a bit when I wrote about Gaara in my anime bondage series, but he is absolutely the best written character on this show. It was like he was a compass that kept getting magnetically drawn toward good writing decisions.

After he initially is introduced as a flipping scary monster, he is changed by Naruto’s determination to protect the people he cares about, Gaara is brought back to what his uncle once told him about love, and he decides to try to understand love after this.

He begins an off-screen journey of learning to value the people around him. We are not shown how or why he succeeds, but presumably part of the reason are his two siblings. Who did not treat him like a monster and accepted his remorse and resolved to help him find a new path. We are not shown much of them doing this, but we’re shown enough to tell us they really did care about Gaara and wanted him to be happy.

One of the better parts of the writing is how little needs to be said or shown to convey the Sand siblings dynamic. When we first meet them, Temari and Kanuro are jerks, but on the level of schoolyard bullies, with Temari slightly less so, but she doesn’t try to stop the more violent Kankuro. However, they are both terrified of Gaara and don’t dare to defy him. Later he threatens to kill them and they act very disturbed. Clearly it’s their assignment to protect him.

Still, they go farther than they necessarily need to, and risk their lives for him and Temari is shown to be clearly concerned when he injures himself and then loses control to the sand raccoon spirit inside him.

We are able to infer a lot that later gets confirmed, much, much later than it should have been, but with this show you had to take what you could get even if it was late. We are able to see that they loved Gaara but due to their inability to help him, they were too scared to try; and that Gaara himself did not understand that they loved him because he didn’t believe anyone could love him, since he was a monster. He interpreted their fear as fear of him, and not also fear of what he would do to himself, which was plain to the audience.

We find out later that as kids they were close at one time till their gem of a dad separated them by force and didn’t let them be friends, though he still let them guard their brother.

Kankuro warns Gaara that winning over Sand Village will be hard, but Gaara resolves to do it anyway, and Kankuro decides to help him out. In a few years Gaara becomes the Kazekage of his village, and his siblings both hold important positions. Kankuro is basically the only reason Gaara hasn’t been assassinated, and Temari handles relations between Sand and Leaf to keep the peace they forged, which clearly only still exists because of their efforts.

To consolidate it, Gaara develops into a strong leader during the war and wins the respect of the other kage, as well as the ninjas as a whole, by humbling himself to them and admitting they all need each other, even saying if they want vengeance they can take it out on him after the war. Temari and Kankuro continue to support him.

We see them change in smaller ways, though they retain their surface hardness, they become more merciful. Temari, who starts off as harsh and critical of anyone she perceives as weak later is able to acknowledge people have strengths that aren’t always obvious, we also learn that her harshness can be a from of trolling to challenge people to be better, and she is willing to acknowledge when they surpass themselves.

Kankuro we see go from being a bully to being a softie about his siblings, he makes a moving plea for Gaara’s life, and protects them vigilantly. Though he can be more practical about cutting his losses, and letting people face hard tests, he protects his troops well in the war.

At the very end of the show we get to see the three siblings cap off their growth by finally having something like a normal, jovial demeanor with each other, and softening toward their other friends also.

What makes this so very different from the love is better than hate message of the main plot is that we see results. Gaara grows in wisdom as he pursues love. He makes decisions that are merciful, he puts others needs ahead of his. While his siblings are less magnanimous, they respect his efforts and ultimately support him even when they think he’s carrying it to far. But they all grow, they all change. And what’s better is we also get to see that not everyone shows love in the same way. Kankuro shows it in actions, Temari in challenging people, and Gaara in being merciful and self effacing when he could with all rights be severe.

Gaara also purposely makes efforts to be a better friend, he puts thought into it we never see even Naruto himself put in. It’s clumsily shown in the very last arc when everyone is trying to get a wedding gift, while the others get caught up in the impressiveness of it, Gaara is thinking of how he can show his friendship the best way.

And to me that was what made it believable. While Naruto goes on and on about change, Gaara and his siblings actually implement it. We don’t see Leaf change at all, but Sand goes from being the scary, unfriendly desert village to being the kind merciful village that protects all the others. We see in the chunin exam arc that the ninjas in Sand have learned from Gaara’s example and his mercy toward them, and have begun to treat outsiders and each other with more kindness.

My sisters and I hailed Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro as the best trio, and the only people who know how to get crap done.

Shikamaru:

Shikamaru is the best written Leaf Ninja, and his good writing occasionally extends to his two teammate Ino and Choji like an umbrella of grace. By which I mean they are at their best whenever they are in an arc centered around him.

And amazingly, Shikamaru escaped the big curse of this show: Stagnation.

He actually grows over time from being a lazy, unmotivated character, to being a hard working, reliable one.

His ability to strategize, instead of making him stuck up, gives him the opportunities to be merciful where other ninjas lack the brain power to think of a better solution.

Shikamaru repeatedly is able to choose to protect his teammates, instead of what is considered the hard, but logical decision of leaving them to die if necessary. The one time Shikamaru chooses to kill, it is over a monstrous person who only he could figure out how to stop.

Let’s talk about that.

In the arc Shikamaru loses his teacher Asuma in, the subject of grief is dealt with. The show brought it up a lot, but from Sasuke to Naruto to every other villain in the dang series, people handled grief badly. Usually choosing revenge.

In this arc, Shikamaru is bottling up his pain, as is the usual way for ninjas, and his dad takes him aside and drives him to explode, then tells him to “let it all out and then decide.”

Shikamaru then breaks down and his dad leaves him to cry it out, finally Shikamaru is clear enough to come up with a strategy to take down the psychopath who killed Asuma and intends to kill more people.

The plan succeeds, and in a beautiful moment of good writing, Shikamaru tells the villain and the audience that he is not doing this for vengeance but because he, like his teacher, has the will to protect his village, and the people important to him.

He then finds peace in having brought justice.

The whole thing is later upstaged by Naruto getting involved when he shouldn’t have, but at least that part was well done.

Shikamaru becomes a good leader and is able to minimize damage to his team. Later he becomes the adviser to three of the Hokages. It was my opinion that he was the only reason Leaf survived long enough for Naruto to even become Hokage, because the previous Kages were idiots.

When Ino and Choji are with Shikamaru, they get shown to be more loyal, competent friends than they are the rest of the time. The friendship between Shikamaru and Choji is the most natural and believable one of the show. Shikamaru is able to work with whoever is with him, they don’t have to be the strongest. That is why he can always use Ino, who is generally even more useless than Sakura, thanks to no one being able to think of a way to use such OP powers as she might have, except Shikamaru.

And that brings me to the theme of Trust. It’s not brought up a lot, but Shikamaru is shown to trust his teammates, and that is why he is able to come up with such good plans.

At a later arc, he strangely doesn’t choose to trust his friends or the village alliance, instead wanting to handle something himself in order to protect Sai. He foolishly doesn’t give his allies enough credit for being able to understand. A fact that Temari gets furious at him over.

When Temari, being the best girl that she is, helps Ino and Choji find out where Shikamaru is, they bust in and rescue him and his teammates, and Sai, and slap some sense back into him–literally.

Shikamaru later tells Temari he’s counting on her to keep him accountable if he ever starts to lose his grip again…and then marries her… bringing his arc full circle. He went from being lazy and not liking to be challenged to realizing the importance of trusting people close to you to challenge you for your own good and help you improve into the best version of yourself you can be.

This supposedly is what Naruto’s story is supposed to be about, learning to trust and love making you better, but Naruto fails completely to show this message because he does everything alone, while Gaara and Shikamaru both actually do it, and they gather friends and family around them, and improve.

Shikamaru starts changing Leaf in small ways by leaning more toward loyalty and mercy and cooperation in the exams. Temari acknowledges this to be the best path, so her correction of him later makes sense. While highlighting the good thing about her character, that she makes other people try harder.

A solid dynamic that Ino and Choji get included in and become better because of.

Last but not least, I have Sai. And Hinata.

Sai is point number 3, learning to understand grief and love.

(I just noticed that the problems of this show are with the overall plot and MCs, and the good parts are with side characters and their personal journeys. Make of that what you will.)

When Sai was introduced, the characters kept saying he kind of looked like Sasuke and maybe acted a bit like him…which was funny, because Sai acted totally emotionless except for a weird fake smile.

In an astounding example of the lack of self-awareness where Sasuke was concerned, Naruto and Sakura didn’t like Sai, for displaying the same freaking qualities as Sasuke-kun.

He was just so detached, and didn’t seem to care if he hurt their feelings at all, I mean who could ever like someone like that…Sakura.

Sai also asked them why they cared so much about Sasuke when he had ditched Leaf and betrayed them by going to their enemy, Orchimaru, and aiding him. Sai didn’t even say Sasuke was a dirty rat–he said he was a traitorous cockroach, which was true. But Sakura and Naruto both acted like he’s spat on Sasuke’s grave or something.

Later Sai is touched by Naruto’s loyalty, and it helps him understand something about his own past.

Sai had a friend, it turns out, who he considered to be his brother. His brother dies of a sickness before graduating the underground training. We later learn that to graduate you had to kill the person closest to you in order to complete the emotion suppression requirement that the leader imposed…you know…like you do.

Sai didn’t have to kill his brother because he died before that point, but he couldn’t understand how he was supposed to look and feel over it.

Again the show used symbolism well here, Sai carries a book of his brother and himself, and the bond they have, in the end Naruto helps him know how to finish the book.

He chooses to try to help them capture Sasuke, instead of killing him, as was his original assignment. Of course they fail.

Sai sets out on a personal quest to understand feelings. He starts reading Self-Help books about how to act around friends, and taking notes on how the people around him interact. It’s uphill work since the ninjas are very dysfunctional, and most of them are not self aware about it, but Sai beats the odds and begins to learn anyway.

He later steps in to defend Naruto when Naruto is letting a woman from Cloud village beat him up instead of Sasuke, whom she hates for harming her teacher, Lord Bee.

Reality check time: At this point Sasuke has joined the Akatsuki, a group hell bent on capturing all the people with tailed beasts, including Naruto himself, and killing them to get their power. And our lovely Sasuke is helping them do this for his own personal reasons….yeah, Naruto, you take that beating for him.

Well, Sai, who is consistently the only sane person on this show, decides to step in. Then he and Shikamaru, the other sane person when the plot demands it, decide to tell Sakura enough is enough.

Sakura listens, and tries to convince Naruto to give up on Sasuke. But the point where it would have worked is long past. (A running theme on this show was good advice too late, past when the person might have listened.)

Sai gets blown off later when he wants to stop Sakura from doing something stupid, and also wants to know what happened with Sasuke after they confronted him under the bridge.

In the war Sai does make some more friends, and start to release more of his emotions, without losing control to them. He begins to really feel that he wants to protect his friends.

At the end of the show, Sai’s arc get capped off at the same time Shikamaru’s does. I thought the show would forget about him, honestly, but instead, we got to hear how he feels insecure about his place on team 7, now that Sasuke has switched sides, sort of, they no longer need a replacement for him…not that he’s on the team, but Sai was the emotional replacement too.

Sai quite justly feels that team 7 does not care about him as much…which he’s right about. And doubts whether he has friends who truly care. Ino is able to help him by telling him that they, team 10 and Temari, who came to save him, are his friends.

Sai snaps out of the daze he was put under by the villain of the arc. It was a touching moment to see Sai get to realize he had other people who cared about him besides those idiots on team 7.

Sai is basically the person Sasuke should have been if the show was going to work. Someone who realizes they have emotional problems, don’t really understand love or how to process grief, and set out to learn to do it in the right way, after Naruto inspires them.

The lack of self awareness of Naruto and Sakura was so glaring I would have sworn it was intentional, but there never is a Euraka! moment of them waking up.

Thank goodness Sai is smarter. He’s the only one on team 7 who never blames themselves for what Sasuke does, or seems to feel any real pity for him. He only wants to help his real friends. In the end he realizes who those people are,and there are more of them then he thought.

It’s a good ending for him. And a much better message of what learning to love is, and how you can understand grief and pain better by sharing it with other people.

 

As for Hinata, she doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the message of the show, but she does stand as the only other girl who can recognize real value of character, and she actually can support Naruto emotionally, and back it up.

One of Hinata’s best moments is when she steps in to save Naruto from Pain. The symbolism that pain can only be defeated when we share the burden is heavy in that scene, she takes some of the weight off Naruto, and gives him love instead of blame. She does something no one else has the brain cells or courage to do, even when she was stupidly told to leave him alone to have the crap beat out of him because “he could handle it” (dang! I hate so many of the people on this show…)

But Hinata didn’t do it. Though she never gets a lot of acknowledgement form anyone that what she did was the right thing to do, Naruto later does say she saved him. The fans love her for it.

Hinata may not have the words to express it, but she does get it, more than most of the characters do. She provides the rare element of kindness, only a few characters on the show possess. She also supports everyone, not just Naruto, and tries to be kind as a principle, not just for one person, like Sakura does.

This is it folks, these are the good characters. (Who get any attention worth mentioning.)

(There is one other good arc, the Guren and Yuukimaru one, which I recommend watching, without seeing the rest of the show, because it was beautiful, just beautiful, but has no bearing on anything else in the plot, and no one learns from it. In fact it has the supreme irony of Naruto preaching a message of letting go of the wrong people that he never follows himself. But the arc itself is amazing. I can’t believe the same person wrote it.)

Thanks for reading my very long review of this show, and my fingers are tired, so I am going to end it here, until next time, stay honest–Natasha.