gaara: Sabaku no Gaara (Default)
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There are two main reasons why I love Naruto (besides, obviously, Gaara).

One: The mangaka introduces a character that is, for the most part, unlikable. Sometimes, the character is even completely detestable. Then, usually around the time the character fights Naruto (or has their own Epic Fight [tm]), the character's backstory is revealed. And you realize that you can't hate that character - you realize you have to appreciate who that character is and what they bring to the story.

It is an amazing process that has happened over and over. I hated Neji until we learned more about him and his struggle (and he stopped being such an asshole). I didn't even really like Lee until we saw his utter determination and strength of character. Even Gaara I was a bit "meh" about, until it was revealed what his deal was, his terrible past and how he's managed it.

Kishimoto even does this with the villains. Most people love Zabuza and Haku, even though they pretty much killed Sasuke and nearly defeated Kakashi. And even if people hate Orochimaru, it's hard not to understand him and appreciate what he brings to the story. I'm still not convinced I like Pain or that I appreciate him, but in light of the newest chapter, I feel my utter disgust for him wavering. And no one now denies that Itachi is not who we thought he was.

To my knowledge, there is only one character that does not fit this standard: Kabuto. I HATE this guy, and Kishimoto has not deigned to explain anything about him. However, with his - ah - Orochimaru parasite, I believe he will resurface, probably before Naruto fights Madera.

Two: While Kishimoto shows the cool awesomeness of being a ninja, he does not forget what having a world based on ninjas would actually mean. So far, the ninjas have had three giant wars, equivocal to World Wars I would say, and the last of those was responsible for the creation of many of the series villains.

Most of the characters in Naruto have lost one or both parents. The villains, with maybe one or two exceptions, are all products of war, of witnessing horrors in their childhood that no one should ever see. Characters are forced to do things against their will (most of the Jinchuriki), manipulated into doing terrible things (ah, Itachi, arguably Pain), or irrevocably damaged due to being a ninja (Orochimaru, maybe Sasuke, Sai).

Being a ninja is hard and people constantly die or are injured. There is a reason none of the Kages die of old age. Masses of children become genin, starting ninja academy when they are around 10 years old. In the Village of Hidden Mist, to graduate, students must kill their classmates.

I know people (myself included) joke about backstories involving murdered parents. In regards to Pain's recent tale, I see people saying things like "Murdered parents? He's gonna have to do better than that to be a Naruto villain!" And while it's true that Pain's story is not particularly gruesome for the Narutoverse, if it had been in any other universe, it would be devastating.

The fact that Naruto is probably the character with the second most terrible backstory (guess who's first?) also commends Kishimoto. His villains have experienced horrific tragedies and their stories would be great motivation for anyone to go insane and homicidal. But Naruto doesn't. He has been dealt a cruel hand and he goes through life with verve and optimism, refusing to back down, let up, or falter.

Kishimoto shows that life, especially in a world where the ability to kill is prized above all others, is rife with misfortune, but that does not excuse anyone, and villains in all forms do not get away with their actions.

And how does Kishimoto do that? If they are savable, Naruto will save them through his power of friendship. He might be the most powerful character, but tries friendship first, and I think that too attests to Kishimoto's message: violence cannot, and will not, solve everything.

Though, it will probably look cool.


gaara: Sabaku no Gaara (Default)

May 2009

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