Passion Week, Day 6: Loving You for Who You Are – Naruto and Sasuke

Have you ever loved someone enough that you willingly thrust your own plans aside for their sake? That you didn’t care whether they appreciated your efforts or not? Or even whether you particularly liked the person or not? Wouldn’t we all want a friend like that? Or would we just dismiss him as a meddler?

I can’t help thinking that one of the reasons Naruto has endured so long is because of the pivotal relationship between the title character and Uchiha Sasuke. We were privileged to see the two boys grow up together, train together, fight alongside one another, and sometimes fight with each other. But when a few years later, Sasuke’s blood lust to avenge his slain family possesses him completely, to the point that he abandons Konoha village and the life and friends he has always known along with it, something changes in Naruto as well. He decides that he will do anything, absolutely anything, to bring Sasuke back to his senses and back to their village as a productive, peace-loving citizen.

Friends, rivals, “frenemies.” They are common in anime. But never again will there be another Naruto and Sasuke.

Whatever enemies he must face down, whatever rigorous training he must undergo, whatever ends of the earth to which he must chase Sasuke — none of this matters to Naruto. Bring about world peace? Conquer all his own inner demons? Tame the kyuubi itself? If that’s what it takes to win his friend back, then it’s zettee ni yarundattebayo!

All this, and frankly, I’m still not convinced Naruto even likes the guy all that much. No matter. This is a love for his friend that is so fierce, so uncompromising, that I don’t think Naruto even sees the obstacles in the way of restoring Sasuke, let alone worries about them.

I am not sure that people like me who have never served in the military can fully understand this concept of nakama that so often comes across so strongly in shounen anime, of the intense love and concern for one’s comrades at arms. But I think we can understand it by analogy. We have all had friends with whom we shared important growing and learning experiences. Some of them, too, we perhaps had our disagreements with, and perhaps even disliked in certain ways. But the bond is special.

It is like the love Jesus has for us all too, in a way, although I do not wish to push this analogy too far. Jesus has gone alongside and before us all, has been tempted just as we are (yet without sin), and has paid the ultimate price on the cross to secure our restoration in him. There is nothing any of us has gone through, that we can justifiably say that Jesus doesn’t understand. And yet, as the author of Hebrews put it, for us Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame.

If that’s not love, then the word has no meaning.

And I don’t wish to elevate Naruto beyond reason here either. I don’t think he’d want to be so elevated. But if even such a long-running and popular anime as Naruto can teach us something about love, in this critical relationship between Naruto and Sasuke, then I consider it worth watching for that reason alone.

-ttebayo!

R86

R86 is a chemistry professor, which is the sort of job that probably made you stop reading already. He teaches at Texas A&M University, also known to Austin dwellers as "Enemy Territory." In his spare time, he enjoys music (flute/saxophone/clarinet and MIDI/Vocaloid synthesis), gaming, and watching anime.

8 thoughts on “Passion Week, Day 6: Loving You for Who You Are – Naruto and Sasuke

  1. Excellent pick and I love the fact you point out that you’re not even sure Naruto likes him… I love that

    I was just watching One Piece this last week, specifically the Enies Lobby fight . It’s a very powerful moment between Luffy and his Nakama. Luffy may want to be Pirate King but he literally goes off the rails when Robin takes off of her own free will in order to save them, he goes to retrieve her and convince her to come back. He ends up fighting one of the hardest fights he’s ever had… I think in a land like America where the word friend is tossed around too freely ( friend you on facebook?) and so many shallow relationships ( A brother is borne for adversity!– Proverbs) that I think that’s why these are so powerful… They reflect the nature of God’s pursuit for us and his faithfulness which seems so absent in most American friendships … most of us think that if we fell off the planet nobody would notice. We are so disconnected from each other for a myriad of reasons… Technology being one…but Americans emphasize the individual, which we try balance this out by teaching about the whole body of Christ at least where I live it doesn’t sink in. We forget Eldredge once said that we are in a spiritual war and we need platoons. ( using a military metaphor to describe the invisible war we don’t see clearly).

    1. Actually, I was worried that my idea of Naruto not liking Sasuke might be the most controversial statement in my post. I’m glad at least one other person doesn’t think I’m crazy for saying so. 😉

      But I will not go to the wall defending that statement, since I don’t think it matters much whether they like each other or not. The point, as you put it so well, is the extent to which Naruto (and so many other shounen heroes) will go to the wall for nakama. And here I must confess with some embarrassment that I haven’t watched even one episode of One Piece, and as if that weren’t enough, attempted some Luffy fanart anyway. And with nearly 600 episodes in existence, I think that train has left the station for me.

      I have enjoyed more than one of Eldredge’s books, and agree that as Christians we could use any reminder that we are involved in a war whether we like it or not — and as such, it is no wonder that nakama are so precious (or should be). I have written before that the idea of teammates comes across equally strongly in so many sports anime, for (I believe) much the same reason. But the greatest irony that you’ve pointed out might be that the very technology on which we Americans depend is what most separates us. And I even bought my first smart phone the other day! 😮

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

      1. I would say reading One piece as a manga would get you caught up. Second don’t let it’s size overwhelm you, there are a few part of the series that can be skipped over without missing much, certain fillers ( which there are alot more than you would think) and a couple arcs that aren’t really important. I I read most of it and caught up after about 3 weeks of reading… of course I would say it might take a little longer because mine was like a (food metaphor) face stuffing for the past few weeks… It might take you three months at a slow pace. That being said I encourage you to climb the seemingly overwhelming mountain but I understand my schedule is freerer than most… I won’t be disappointed if you say no.

        1. I am up to v. 60 and I will say, it’s easier to read the manga than watch the show. It’s really hard to skip filler, though, since there’s virtually none. It’s really all meat- even people you meet in splash pages come back in some later arcs! And some abilities and relationships developed in the arcs that aren’t as big come into play later.

          That being said, I also find One Piece to be fantastic, and would go to the mats for it. I never got into Bleach, am tired of Naruto and think it should have ended already, but I don’t think I could ever say that about One Piece.

          1. You’re right the manga is mostly meat…. I wasn’t very clear in my post above about the distinction between the Anime and Manga . what I was trying to say is that skipping over the Skypeia Arc may not be the worst thing in the world. The Anime however is padded with alot of filler.

            Bleach was good starting with the Rescue Rukia arc but it goes down hill later. Aizen( main bad guy) vs Ichigo was the biggest let down ever!

            Naruto has issues I agree… but in the Manga the War is almost over and I hope a flood of answers are going to be revealed.

            1. Skypia has some things that I wouldn’t skip on (actually, I rather enjoyed it simply because it was so different to being with), and it was short. 5 volumes… Short.

              Even if the War is almost over in Naruto, though, I’ve been thinking it should have ended a while ago because the plot deveopments and levels of power that characters have is just… ridiculous, in my mind. I don’t care what answers come out, I hit the wall with that series two years ago.

              1. I can forgive Kishi for some awful terrible bad writing if I can see Sasuke and Naruto fight Tobi….together. I believe a good ending can redeem a sporadically good series… Bleach is an example of the reverse, of how a series that ends very badly can ruin a decent series… I’m with Murasaki I want to see if Sasuke is redeemed. I’m not here encouraging anyone to stick with an Anime or Manga if they don’t enjoy it… I however have too many questions I want answered. So there we part ways.

  2. This was actually what I considered the best thing about Naruto. It’s what kept me reading even through the most boring story arcs and is likely to be the reason I eventually get around to catching up with it. Naruto didn’t give up on Sasuke even when everyone around him had, even though it seemed pretty stupid. I just hope all his efforts aren’t wasted…

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