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Bayana Davis

Bayana is a writer and content creator born and raised in Oakland, California. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Girls Create and cohost of the #WizardTeam podcast. She is a fierce advocate of critical fandom, the increased representation of Black women in media, time travel, dragons, and avoiding the AI apocalypse. You can generally find her fangirling and agonizing about writing on Twitter at @yanawroteit.

3 Comments

  1. Dr. Evocative
    07/15/2015 @ 10:19 PM

    As I was doing the dishes earlier today I was thinking the same thing. All of the female characters just don’t add up interns of how good their character is. I love Hinata to death but just like Sakura, her main source of inspiration is being in love with Naruto. Its just like you said. Either they’re love struck, too strong, helpless or have no purpose. A shame because these are character that I could really enjoy if that had a better purpose. Sakura could have been a powerful female but it just wasn’t in Kishimoto’s plan to give her anything that would stick with her character.

    Reply

    • Bayana Davis
      07/16/2015 @ 12:47 PM

      Seriously! It always makes me so mad because he’ll do such a great job with her for a couple of arcs and then fall right back into her crying. I hated Sakura in the first part, but was so excited to get more development in Shippuden and then it just fell flat. There were so many opportunities to make her strong and complicated and developed, but she just fell into the same stereotypes over and over. And it’s the same with all the other female characters as well. I could go on forever lol

      Reply

  2. Shane Beard
    10/28/2018 @ 2:52 AM

    Hello Bayana,

    This is my first time reading your blog, as I found this post when it came up as the first result in google when I searched "naruto’s depiction of female characters". Obviously this post is more than three years old by now so my comments are not timely at all, but I would like to share my opinions anyway, if you care to read this very long rant. I couldn’t agree more with your analysis of Sakura’s very poor treatment by Kishimoto, and I think you are right to focus on her as she is arguably the most prominent woman in the series. Her unreciprocated love and obsession towards Sasuke is ridiculous, and as you mentioned, it essentially defines her character. There was a good chance for character development in her growing out of her crush, but instead she literally never gets over it and her storyline terminates with a “happily ever after” ending in which she marries Sasuke, who had shown her no affection or interest whatsoever throughout the series and in fact tried to kill her at one point! Their pairing makes no sense at all.

    Speaking of women’s relationships to Sasuke in this series, Karin’s fixation on him defines her as an even more obsessed version of Sakura. I don’t know how exactly the anime treated this because I stopped watching it after the Pain arc, but in the video game Naruto Storm 4, Karin wakes up after Sasuke ran her through with his chidori spear in the fight against Danzo, showing exactly how much Sasuke valued her life. Instead of this being a major turning point in which she realizes that Sasuke is an ASSHOLE, she is momentarily angry at him and then immediately reverts into drooling over him again, the entire moment being laughed off! I couldn’t believe this as I was watching it! Shouldn’t this be seen as some kind of warning sign?! Both Sakura and Karin ignore all the negative aspects of Sasuke’s character in favor of an unhealthy obsession. And even worse, in the case of Sakura she is ultimately rewarded for obsessing over one man her entire life by getting to marry him, almost as if we’re supposed to take away that such fervent crushing is a good thing? I don’t seriously think that Kishimoto wants the reader to think that, so rather it is indicative of the lack of thought he put into Sakura’s arc. Despite her prominent placement as a member of Team Seven, her story is clearly pushed to the margins in favor of the other two protagonists. What we are left with is her character and every other woman in the series being, as you say, “defined in relation to their proximity to men”.

    On a similar note, I would also like to touch on how the portrayal of Sakura as a fighter is ultimately so disappointing. There is a commendable moment in which she shows a lot of courage and inner strength in standing up the Sound ninja in the Chunin exams, and cuts her hair as a symbolic show of maturity, but she never gets any stronger in Part 1 after that. This is pretty bizarre when you consider that so many other characters (Sasuke, Naruto, Rock Lee) have no problem training their asses off and getting stronger. Instead, as we know, she is portrayed as a useless crying girl, and later on she isn’t even picked to go on the Sasuke Retrieval mission, which is just pathetic. But there is one major way Kishimoto easily could have made Sakura a much more competent character. Early on in the series, Sakura is described as having an affinity for genjutsu, but she never actually does anything with this other than being decent at dispelling it. Why does she not ever cast genjutsu??? This would have made Team Seven so much more versatile and brought something really unique to the table on Sakura’s part. Her using genjutsu early on in the series would also have been a great introduction for viewers/readers to illusory jutsu and how it could work in conjunction with other techniques. But nah, Kishimoto opts to sideline Sakura as a completely ineffectual fighter and character all the way until Part II.

    And then we get to the Kazekage rescue arc, like you one of my favorite parts of the series. Now Sakura is an incredibly competent ninja with skills in both medical ninjutsu and chakra-enhanced strength. We only had to wait several story arcs and over a hundred episodes for her to show some competence, but okay, we finally are seeing development. She defeats Sasori with Chiyo in one of the very best fights of the series. I was very hopeful when I watched this that Sakura would continue to kick ass as the series went on, but the genjutsu was broken in the following story arc. At the Tenchi bridge she gets knocked unconscious before Naruto and Orochimaru’s fight even begins. REALLY KISHIMOTO?! She could have had a skirmish with Kabuto here or something, but she gets treated like a damsel in distress. And as you mentioned, once she sees Sasuke again, it’s like she’s reduced to that same useless girl again she was in Part I.

    I don’t want to go through every arc in Part II, as she is basically sidelined in favor of focusing on Naruto and Sasuke. But I will bring attention to the pathetic scene in which she tries to kill Sasuke. The humiliation of her character just seemed so abject as Sasuke put his hand around her throat and she was just helpless and overwhelmed until Kakashi came to save her. UGH. This could have been a great fight, one of the best in the series, and perhaps THE turning point in her character in which she finally put her schoolgirl love for Sasuke aside and took action into her own hands. Plus, practically speaking, we know that Sakura’s super strength is incredibly powerful, so how the hell is Sasuke going to manhandle her like that when she could have broken all the bones in his arm with a flick of her wrist? But I digress.

    In conclusion, Sakura could so easily have been a much more competent and developed character, and it is deeply disappointing that she is not shown to be one. Personally I really like her character design, I think it’s very adorable and memorable, so the way her character came to be handled makes me even more pissed off. As you concluded, her writing also reflects on how the rest of the women in Naruto are portrayed—they are sidelined and treated with virtually no depth. To me, this is one of if not the most glaring flaw in the series. There are multiple fanfictions I have read that do so much of a better job portraying Sakura as a layered and strong character, and I honestly prefer these to the original series canon, haha.

    Well, thank you very much for your article Bayana. It stoked my thoughts to write out this little essay. I understand if you don’t respond, after all this post is years old by now and I am guessing Naruto is not on your mind now, haha.

    Best,

    Shane

    Reply

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