Naruto has introduced a lot of characters over the years, and Masashi Kishimoto has done an amazing job making them all unique in their personalities and fighting styles. In general, people expect the main characters of any series to be the favorite or at least best known. Both Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha are immensely popular. However, there’s another main character that doesn’t get the same amount of love: the female lead, Sakura Haruno. Is it Kishimoto’s fault or is the character just not interesting to the fans? I think it’s both.
If you have read the Naruto manga or watched the anime series you would agree that Sakura isn’t as strong as the male leads, Naruto and Sasuke. Heck, the whole of Part I revolved around how she couldn’t do anything and watched her two teammates grow in strength. Sakura Haruno was introduced as a typical female character having a crush on Sasuke while ignoring Naruto’s feelings for her. So, you can’t really blame a character for not having much of a personality if her main purpose was that of a love interest.
She grew out of her stereotypical role as the series progressed, but the fact that she wasn’t intended for the female lead role was still obvious. I sometimes wonder if there were any plans of a lead female character in the series at all. If you look at how the story has been playing out over the years, the whole thing would still be same without a female lead.
The most obvious reason why Sakura feels weaker than Naruto or Sasuke, and even some of the other characters, is her lineage. Naruto is an Uzumaki, child of the Fourth Hokage, the chosen one, and vessel of the nine-tails. Sasuke is an Uchiha, bearer of the Sharingan, and an overall genius. Not only that, but they were revealed as the incarnations of the Indra and Ashura. Compared to them, Sakura is a simple female ninja or kunoichi.
Looking at the female characters Sakura has a direct relationship to, even they are ‘special’ than her. Her best friend as well as adversary, Ino Yamanaka, is part of the newest generation of the well-known Ino-Shika-Cho formation. She also played an important role in the ongoing Great Ninja War, serving as a communicator throughout the battlefield.
Hinata Hyuga, a member of the Hyuga Clan, is set to become the clan’s heiress. Her relationship with Sakura is through Naruto and that’s why a lot of fans compare the two girls with regards to who is perfect for the young Uzumaki. Hinata has shown her love for Naruto many times and even came to his rescue in front of the very powerful Pain.
Sakura’s teacher, Tsunade, is a legendary Sannin, granddaughter of the first Hokage, is considered as the world’s most powerful female ninja, and an expert when it comes to medical techniques. She’s also the Fifth Hokage.
When it comes to Sakura, she has had to prove herself in front of characters having been born with special powers and coming from well-known families. During the story we see Sakura growing as a character as well as in power. During Part I of the series, she shows incredible control over her chakra, protects an unconscious Naruto and Sasuke, breaks Ino’s control over her mind, and does what she can to save the two male leads. In Part II, under Tsunade’s training, she’s able to become physically strong and uses medical ninja techniques with proficiency that’s unheard of.
So, where did things go wrong? A female character from a normal family trying to become powerful to save her friends seems to have everything one needs to create something great. I think part of the blame lies with Kishimoto himself. He forgot about Sakura. I think that’s also the reason her genjutsu skills have been ignored for years. I think they, too, slipped Kishimoto’s mind. What kind of a creator forgets about the female lead? Maybe he just doesn’t want to focus on a female character.
She recently awakened the ‘Strength of a Hundred Seal’, and it was revealed she’s able to summon Katsuyu. These feats are admirable, but the problem is Kishimoto didn’t show her journey. When Naruto and Sasuke get a power-up, their journey is shown. Sakura’s power-ups during the Fourth Great Ninja War were a surprise. The whole thing didn’t even make sense. It would’ve been better if the writer foreshadowed something or showed a bit of her journey. For me, it was Kishimoto’s way to make up for his mistake of forgetting her. As if he wanted to say: Sorry guys I forgot about her. But you know what? Here are some power-ups.
The fault also lies with the fans. I think most of us are impressed by power sets that do damage and are cool to look at. When it comes to Sakura, her major skill set is passive. Her amazing medical skills fade in comparison to powers that blow things up. Slitting Naruto below his ribs, putting her hand inside, and helping his heart beat with her own hand pales in comparison to the cool-looking Sharingan.
I’m not going to get into shipping wars because hating Sakura just because fans want Naruto to end up with Hinata, or some other character, is another matter.
I like Sakura as a character. For me, she hasn’t had things handed to her in a plate. She has had to fight and train in order to become powerful. Yes, she might not be powerful compared to other ninja with offensive skill sets, but she is still an expert in the things she does know. Her healing technique saved the lives of countless ninjas in the war, and she kept Naruto alive by manually beating his heart.
I wish Kishimoto gave Sakura the attention I believe she deserves. When it comes to anime, female characters are mostly depicted as cute, big-breasted love interests. Sakura has grown out of that stereotype. The most important one being she’s not big breasted, and is definitely not considered cute in the Naruto-verse. If Kishimoto plays his cards right, Sakura can develop into a character that’s uncommon in anime. It’s tough for a third character to make a mark when the whole story revolves around the rivalry between two male leads. But I’m hoping things start to look up for her and Kishimoto taps into her potential.
What do you think of Sakura as a character? Please share in the comments!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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