Sometimes in fiction, relationships between characters in some cases fall flat. Their chemistry is blandly told instead of creatively shown, so we’re expected to feel a certain way, but we personally cannot feel it. Or perhaps we are expected to believe that their relationship has some type of ‘chemistry.’ But this can be problematic, especially towards an audience who don’t know how strong and healthy relationships are supposed to be. And if people start to normalize the negative habits from people they call ‘family,’ then they will most likely normalize behaviors in future relationships. So in this article, we’ll examine the show, “Naruto” and how it depicts the friendship between Naruto and Sasuke.
In case anyone isn’t familiar with Naruto, it’s about a boy who possesses a nine-tailed fox which once attacked Naruto’s village. Although it’s not his fault for the village’s destruction or for having the fox in his body, the village people blame and despise him. Orphaned and alone, Naruto dreams to become the Hokage, a leader for his village, so that he will gain the respect and attention that he’s deprived of.
So now let’s dig into Naruto’s relationship with Sasuke. They’re constantly referred to as “friends” (and even as “brother’s” by its next show). But if we look at the beginning, the two are forced to work with each other. Naruto constantly tries to be better than Sasuke, while Sasuke finds Naruto below him, calling him a “loser.”
It’s not until they have to go on their first mission together do they learn how to cooperate with each other. An example of this is when the two train for long hours together, climbing trees. It’s at this moment, Sasuke acknowledges Naruto’s strength and even asks him for advice. Setting their differences aside, their teamwork flourishes.
Snapshot taken from anime-planet.com
However, as much as they may have seemed to develop, their relationship isn’t very healthy moving forward. Because by the second arc, Sasuke continues to insult Naruto. Neither of them are shown to spend time with each other either. If they were friends, they would have willingly made time to spend with each other. Because realistically, friendship requires some type of effort. Or else how can one develop a close friendship? Surely, there’s no denying they are comrades, but it’s doubtful to call them “friends.”
Adding on, their relationship starts to spiral downward due to Sasuke’s past trauma. His thirst for power is what keeps him standing. And as Naruto grows with more strength, Sasuke feels inferior and starts to despise his comrade. Now, in a friendship, finding one superior than the other is not healthy. Especially if the friend finds themself being overly jealous. Friendship is supposed to be about appreciating one another as equals.
Eventually, Sasuke’s opposition becomes so strong, he challenges Naruto. Naruto accepts to fight, ignoring the cold nonverbals Sasuke was giving off. Now, Naruto could have stopped Sasuke and questioned his odd request. Afterall, if they were “friends,” couldn’t Naruto have found something off with Sasuke? Couldn’t they have communicated instead of resorting to a physical fight? The fact that Naruto and Sasuke didn’t do that proves that their relationship is less about friendship and more about power.
After their fight, Naruto’s other comrade confesses that Sasuke’s mental state can spiral down further. Interestingly, Naruto dismisses her words stating “he’s not like that” and completely ignores their fight earlier. Which of course isn’t the best idea, and once again goes to show how little they know about each other. Friends are supposed to communicate with one another, which neither of them do. Sasuke ends up cutting his ties with the village in pursuit for more power.
Upon hearing this, Naruto is shocked and chases after him. After going through many obstacles, he finally catches up to Sasuke. It was also at this moment, the viewers realized what type of relationship Naruto and Sasuke had. Because when Naruto questions if Sasuke sees him as a comrade, Sasuke replies, “To me you became my closest friend.”
Snapshot taken from Cartoononline.io
Snapshot taken from Cartoononline.io
Except, if we go back to the beginning of the show, their ‘friendship’ was overshadowed by their rivalry. Their desire and constant need to one up one another, while hiding their feelings is not what a healthy friendship realistically is. Young viewers who aren’t aware of healthy relationships may end up believing that this “bickering” and “rival” type relationship is normal in friendship, when it realistically isn’t.
Luckily, the show does touch on how problematic Sasuke is, but it also tries to make the viewers believe that Naruto and Sasuke are close friends. For sure, as the audience, we are shown the similarities between Sasuke and Naruto’s painful childhood. We see the loneliness the two have to endure through, yet once more, the two don’t talk about it until Sasuke leaves the village. Once again, neither Sasuke or Naruto are shown spending time with one another, or enjoying each other’s company. So how could they be then seen as close friends?
In summary, Sasuke and Naruto’s relationship is an example of how shows can romanticize negative relationships for the viewers. As the audience, it’s our duty to not fall for these portrayals. Now it’s not that we shouldn’t watch shows anymore, rather we let us be aware of what’s being shown to us and acknowledge its impact on ourselves and others.