Naruto and Sasuke: Hope, Love’s Longsuffering…

Recently, a commenter named Corey (aka Ashesreignited) joined the community here on Beneath the Tangles.  Besides the various insights in his comments, he sent me an email and we soon began to discuss Naruto, a show ripe with themes and symbols that Christians would recognize.  But besides R86’s wonderful commentary on Shikamaru, we’ve barely touched the show.  Luckily, Corey volunteered to write a guest post on the series.  It’s a long one, but if you like the series as I do, you’ll enjoy as Corey takes us down memory lane while addressing the themes of forgiveness and faithfulness.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

– I Corinthian 13:7 (NLT)

As the series opens, the villagers of Konoha are prejudiced against Naruto because he carries the Nine-Tail Fox within himself. Naruto isn’t told about the fox and becomes a kind of pariah. There is a sense of loneliness, a sense of being “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3 prophecy about Jesus, the Suffering Servant).

Sasuke suffers from loneliness too.  His family and clan die at the hands of his older brother Itachi, leaving him an orphan. In a way, Team Seven becomes a kind of surrogate family for both Naruto and Sasuke, who fight each other like two brothers.  While going through their training, they begin to respect each other. Though the surface tension is a competitive spirit, deep down they share one thing in common, their painful loneliness, which is the very basis for their friendship. Whereas Naruto’s loneliness leads him to relate better to others, Sasuke’s loneliness and his painful loss gives birth to revenge.  His revenge, for a time, is restrained by his ninja training and his friendship with the other members of Team 7.  However, an encounter with Itachi reignites his revenge.

Naruto Sasuke Friends
“You Are My Friend” by 米@自家通販

After healing from a quick defeat at Itachi’s hands, Sasuke turns to the snake-man Orochimaru (who has so many parallels to Satan) for power to accomplish his revenge.   Naruto tries to stop Sasuke from going to Orochimaru and thus a fight ensues.

I find so many parallels here in how we deal with those who have rejected us and have become our enemies, whether family or friends and the sense of betrayal. Naruto reflects the impulsive foolishness of our gut level response (anger or rage seems to step in when we are in pain). Naruto declares that he will use force to make his friend return. Sasuke intends to kill Naruto, remembering Itachi’s words about how killing his best friend will lead to greater power.

Conversations always seem to happen in the midst of a fight in anime and Naruto is no exception. There are more than fists flying at the Valley of the End.  Naruto is covered in a bijuu chakra cloak and Sasuke asks, “What are you?” Naruto replies “I’m your friend.”

Sasuke:  Why…..?   Why do you waste so much effort on me?

Naruto:  Because for me you were a part of my family.

We see a moment just after Naruto loses the fight; Sasuke can’t bring himself to kill an unconscious Naruto!  Naruto’s words and unrelenting love touched Sasuke! Sasuke leaves Naruto and disappears into the forest.  Kakashi arrives and carries Naruto back to Konoha for medical attention.  Jirayia shows up at the hospital where Naruto is recuperating from his fight with Sasuke and tells him that wisdom means giving up on Sasuke, as Jirayia remembers his failure with Orochimaru. His response to Jirayia is that “if that’s what wisdom is, then I will be a fool the rest of my life.”

Jiraiyia convinces Naruto to delay his search for Sasuke until he is better trained. Three years of intense training go by, fueled by Naruto’s desire to save Sasuke from Orochimaru.

Three years later,  Orochimaru attempts his  dark plan to consume Sasuke (compare 1 Peter 5:8 and the Devil looking for someone to consume!) and possess his body, but Sasuke defeats him, steals part of his power and chases down Itachi.  But even Itachi’s death doesn’t satisfy Sasuke‘s revenge.  He seeks the destruction of Konoha and the leaders who ordered the death of his clan. This time he turns to Tobi, a mysterious figure who manipulates from the shadows, for power.

Episode 214-215 comes into the story just after Sasuke has just finished killing Danzo, a village elder involved in ordering the destruction of the Sasuke’s family and clan.  Sakura attempts to kill Sasuke and is saved by Naruto and Kakashi when he nearly kills her.   Exhausted from his fight with Danzo, Sasuke is protected by Zetsu who then retrieves reinforcements in the form of Tobi/Madara.   The arrival of Tobi creates a standoff between Kakashi, Naruto and Sakura on one side and Tobi, Zetsu and a tired Sasuke on the other.

A conversation comes out of this “stalemate.” Naruto recounts their time together, memories of their shared experiences and suffering and how he always looked up to Sasuke…

Naruto:  I’m glad I met you.

Sasuke:  Nothing you say is going to change me. I’m still going to kill everyone in Konoha.  Either kill me and be the hero that saved the village or I’ll kill you and you’ll be known as the loser.

Naruto rejects both options. He declares that they will die together in battle that he’s willing to bear the brunt of Sasuke’s hate and die with him (Jesus Christ bearing the brunt of the hatred of his own people through the cross?).

Sasuke:  What the hell do you want?!! Why are you so fixated on me?

Naruto:  Because I’m your friend!

Naruto and Sasuke Friends

Sasuke is taken aback and descends into melancholy by Naruto’s unrelenting perseverance.  His moment of sadness feels like an eternity.  Naruto once again makes Sasuke pause in his singleminded search for revenge.  Sasuke, however, “comes to his senses” and tells Naruto that he will kill him first and then the rest of Konoha. Kakashi steps up, feeling that it’s his responsibility, that it’s his fault that Sasuke has become dangerous, feeling he can’t be save.  It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Someone has to kill Sasuke.

Kakashi:  I’ll take care of Sasuke.  You have to protect your precious dream of being Hokage.

Naruto:  How can I become Hokage if I can’t even save one friend?

Many of the Naruto’s friends and teachers consider Naruto’s unwillingness to give up on his friend as foolishness.   There might be too heavy of a burden Naruto sets on himself, believing that only he can bring Sasuke back. However, his unwillingness to be discouraged into thinking Sasuke is unredeemable, or too far gone is a matter of hope. The Bible is very clear on this issue: Jesus calls us to love our enemies, asks forgiveness for his enemies from the cross, and returns to his disciples, those who betrayed and abandoned him.

Naruto shows how faithfulness in times of betrayal is one of the greatest reflections of the cross. The Bible tells this story again and again, like in Hosea and his prostitute wife, God’s relationship to Israel and God’s relationship to man.  Obviously, faithfulness here doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they do or avoiding the consequences, for Naruto vows to die fighting Sasuke, to protect Konoha his village, stepping between Sasuke and Konoha to thwart his revenge. Naruto is unwilling to kill Sasuke, but is willing to die defending his village. I find this an amazing and ultimately moving thought, that Naruto’s faithfulness doesn’t allow his friend to have his revenge.


15 thoughts on “Naruto and Sasuke: Hope, Love’s Longsuffering…

  1. I don’t like Naruto but that’s due to the long drawn out scenes and not focusing on the story. However, I find that this post is spot on. There are similarities between Jesus and Naruto in that Naruto loves his friends regardless of who and what they are. Jesus allowed the taxmen to be around him, he cared for a former prostitute, and he was willing to die (and did die) to save others. Although Naruto annoys me to no end, I was attracted to his everlasting love for others despite being abused as a child and treated like an anomaly.

    1. I love Naruto but in terms of writing it could be a bit more economical… Naruto is a bit rough in terms of writing but holds together so well because it has heart. There are many themes explored in the series: fatherlessness and mentorship, Forgiveness and faithfulness, violence and peace, and they are so intertwined with each other. It’s hard to tell people to skip over anything because everything ( except un needed flashbacks and fillers) are essential to the story. so there is a parallel endurance required to Naruto… I found that even though i enjoyed some of the earlier episodes it wasn’t until Naruto’s training with Jirayia that I finally felt the story pickup.

      1. Corey wrote that Naruto was “willing to die” – he would die if he needed to, though of course he ultimately did not and has not.

  2. Naruto’s faithfulness stands out to me, too. Friendship is a common theme in anime, and can get cheesy, but Naruto’s approach to Sasuke is at a level that can stir deep thoughts. One of the parts most deeply engrained in me aired about a year ago, when Naruto told the revenge-seeking ninja from the Hidden Cloud to beat him up in Sasuke’s place. Unfortunately, I never got around to writing as much as I wanted to about it. I really need to re-watch the episodes surrounding that.

    1. I would love to read that whenever you post it!

      Naruto’s faithfulness is on par with loving someone who constantly tears at your heart. I mean there is a kind of “suffering at the hands of” feeling to Naruto’s faithfulness. Naruto chooses willingly to allow Sasuke to wound him emotionally, he put himself at risk of eternal heartache in his hope. I didn’t make it very clear in my post but God required a prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute as a kind of example of God’s love for his people. Hosea’s wife couldn’t seem to stay away from going back to work in the brothels. God essentially asked Hosea to put himself in a place of possible heartache… Jesus’ death on the cross show the willingness to suffer at the hands of those he loved. Naruto’s love here is something beyond the casual nature that Americans are prone to.and so I find alot of people referring to their relationship as “gay” and Naruto’s faithfulness and forgiveness as “childish”.

      1. I hope I’ll be able to take the time to really go in depth on the topic at some point. Who knows when that will happen, though. 🙂

        I’ve heard about Hosea and his wife several times, though I don’t think I ever read it for myself. I need to – stories/lessons about faith often relate to material things, such as food and health, not matters of the heart.

        I think Naruto’s faithfulness and forgiveness are both childish and abnormally mature. Childish, in that most adults would evaluate the situation and decide that they’ve done enough and should move on from their wayward friend before they get hurt any worse. Naruto moves forward as a faithful friend, disregarding the very low probability of success, much like a child would. He’s stubborn despite the facts, despite how much he’ll get hurt, much like children can be stubborn. But he’s abnormally mature for much the same reason. He knows the most likely outcome and proceeds anyway. Sometimes, being “childish” is the most mature thing to do, the most loving thing to do.

        I don’t even want to think about the “SasukexNaruto” “fans” and relationship theories. 😛

        1. The automatic version of “:P” turns into something that looks like a smiley instead of a tongue sticking out… that’s what the end “smiley” thing is. -_-

        2. At least in my mind the terms childlike and childish are opposites… I usually use “childlike” to denote the positive qualities of childhood (faith, vulnerability, guileless, wonder, honesty..etc) and use “childish” the negative qualities of childhood ( lack of wisdom, impatience.. I bet you can think of a few).

          so at first I was a bit confused but I heartily agree with you…

          My comment wasn’t in reference to SasukeXNaruto fans but just the ideas that Americans have about friendship, how in the United States we want friends that are loosely involved with each other and this type of passionate fight to keep a friend is so rare or foreign that they automatically assume it’s sexual/romantic by nature.

          1. Your distinction between “childlike” and “childish” makes sense.

            I get what you mean on the second part, too. A lot of friends in the States toss around “love ya” when saying goodbye or communicating online (okay, this really only applies to girls [not including me] – it would be weird with guys). But when it comes down to it, they don’t actually demonstrate much love. They (we) wouldn’t go through even an eighth of the emotional or physical effort and pain that Naruto does on behalf of a friend. And that’s too bad. Sometimes, a person really needs a friend at least remotely like Naruto.

    1. Thanks! I’m a bit embarrassed by such praise… I’m just thankful for your encouragement . I like this blog and I’ve been trying to find a place to connect and express myself about Anime, how it’s influenced me and it’s spiritual parallels… if you ever get my testimony I’ll get a chuckle out of few of you about my first anime… 🙂

  3. Ugh…this post is reminding me how much I loved Naruto, and is tempting me to go back to reading it, even though I told myself I wouldn’t finish it until it ends XD
    This is exactly why I loved the manga The story telling was a mixture a goods and terribles. The characters weren’t given enough attention. But there were still times when it had such beautiful messages. The scene you quoted after Sakura tries to kill Sasuke is one of my favorites.

    1. I’m in the same boat, I keep trying to decided if i want to wait with baited breath every week for a new chapter or if I should just wait for it to finish and read it in one long stretch. Dribble it out in small amounts like arsenic, a pinch of poison? or gorge myself on it all at once and feel bloated and regretful? hahaha or there’s the intermediate path where you watch the anime because it’s like weeks behind the manga.

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