Pairing: Naruto Uzumaki/Sasuke Uchiha
Spoilers: The entire series, more or less, up to about Chapter 295
Author’s Notes: This essay is extremely image heavy. This is because a lot of the subtext between these characters speaks for itself (rather, it's in the subtleties of the art). Also, everything you'll read here is predominently manga focused
Naruto, Sasuke and what ties them together
"I acknowledge it- you are strong. You know the same lonliness that I do. That kind of pain makes a person strong."
Naruto Uzumaki is loud, boisterous, determined and utterly devoted to the people he cares about. Though people may interpert him as a moron (which he is, fequently), Naruto is smart in the only way that really matters in the end- he knows what he wants, and he knows what's important to him. For everything else, he trusts his instincts. The key to Naruto's power lies not only in his unshakable determination and loyalty, but also in the nine-taled demon fox which was sealed inside of him when he was an infant. Because of this, Naruto led an isolated childhood, shunned and teantively feared by the rest of the village. During this time he decided that one day when he grew up he would become Hokage and prove to everyone that he was worth paying attention.
Sasuke Uchiha is cold as ice, fiercely independent and often toted as a genius. He calls himself an 'Avenger' and has funneled all of his insatiable ambition and drive into a single, obsessive task- his vow to kill a certain man as revenge for the death of his family. Sasuke also grew up alone- the massacre of his clan left him feeling, understandably, sullen and antisocial- however he has something Naruto never had: respect, admiration and the undivided attention of almost everyone in the village. Sasuke hardly seems to notice his inherent popularity and instead prefers to live a solitary life. Although it is obvious that beneath his cool veneer, Sasuke is a horribly broken boy who needs companionship and understanding more than anything, the path he has chosen to walk is a dark and lonely one.
They spent their entire childhood dancing around each other despite the fact that (presumably) they were the only two orphans in the academy at the time. When they are finally forced to work together along with the young kounouchi Sakura Haruno on Kakashi's Team 7 they bicker, snarl and fight tooth and nail in a constant battle of fruitless one-upmanship because everyone knows that Sasuke's a genius and Naruto's just an idiot. Yet, somehow, between all the nasty words, prideful posturing and occasional death matches on hospital rooftops, the two manage to wordlessly form an inexplicable and nearly terrifying connection based vaguely on their shared experiences as Team 7, but mostly rooted in their respective experiences with lonliness.
In the end, the point is that Sasuke chose his isolation while Naruto's was forced upon him. Sasuke chooses hate, but Naruto chooses love and that is the entire crux of their relationship. It is, in fact, the crux of the series
This bond between them cannot be neatly defined. Sasuke tried to call them best friends; Naruto said they were something like brothers. Neither of these concepts meshes well with the thread of honest and bitter rivalry that runs through their relationship. There's a heavy sense of inevitability when it comes to Sasuke and Naruto. If you're feeling melodramatic, you could even call it destiny. It can be said that they are kindred spirits of sorts- dramatically juxtaposed mirror images. However, since this is a pairing essay and I'm a hopeless romantic when it comes to these sort of things, I'll venture to call them ill-fated soul mates.
"I'll do it because that's my ninja way!"
Here's the thing about Naruto- you get the feeling that somewhere along the way, he could have gone wrong. Having a Nine Tailed Demon Fox sealed inside him was hardly his idea, nor is it his fault that the Kyuubi nearly destroyed the village the year he was born. The people of Konoha know this on a concious level and yet are unable to curb their disdain and resentment towards the container of their would be destroyer. None of the other children know what Naruto carries inside of him (indeed, Naruto himself did not discover it until he was twleve years old), but what they do know is the way that their parents regard him catiously; look down their noses at him.
Many fans are of the opinion that the villagers went out of their way to be downright cruel, but this is hardly how it was. The true tradgedy of Naruto's situation is not that he was mistreated, but rather that he was easily dismissed, treated more often as a nusience or a problem than a child. No one wanted anything to do with him. Naruto solved this problem externally by becoming a trouble maker in order to attract attention. Internally, he became a dreamer. Naruto's dream is to become Hokage- number one ninja in all of Konoha, and it's leader to boot! When we first meet him, this dream seems almost laughably ridiculous, but as the series progresses Naruto not only proves himself to be fully capable, but he begins to garner the support and love of his generation as well as earning the respect of the former one.
Naruto is a Hero in the truest sense of the word, with a capital 'H' and all. The influence he has on other people is epiphany inducing and comes to him effortlessly. His way of thinking is black and white and often fueled by gut instinct; he defines the concept of thinking with your heart, not your head. As far as Naruto's concerned, there's always an easy answer to every complicated problem and that answer is usually the most obvious one.
His name means 'Tempest' and 'Spiral' (it also means, uh, fishcake). Naruto is a varitable force of nature. Technically he's not much of a ninja, but what he lacks in finesse and tecnique he makes up for in heart and pure willpower. He is highly empathetic and has a habit of taking on other's burdens and setting out to fix their problems for them, usually in a fit of well meaning moral outrage. He's a doer and a dreamer; there is nothing that can extinguish the fire in his spirit; nothing that can force him into crippling depressions.
... well, nothing except for Sasuke Uchiha, that is.
"I have no future. My present has disappeared as well. I live only for the past."
Here's the thing about Sasuke- his entire world revolves around his brother. It always has and, unfortunately, it looks like it always will.
Sasuke Uchiha was the prototypical second child living in the shadow of his impossibly talented brother, Itachi. As a child, he often felt ignored and passed over by his father and thus drove himself harder in a vain attemp to keep up with his older sibling. When he was eight years old he came home to find the entire Uchiha clan- grandparents, extended family all- laying dead in the streets. At home he found Itachi standing over their parents' corpses, Mangekyou Sharingan spinning as he offered no excuses. Understandably, Sasuke has hardly matured into the most stable of personalities. He lives only to avenge his clan, still dominated and driven by his brother's shadow.
When we first meet Sasuke, he is presented as your average "cool kid". He's handsome and smart and talented. All the girls want him and all the boys want to be just like him. As time goes on, however, it becomes more and more apparent that no matter how much Sasuke attemptes to play the part of cool and ineffectual, the truth is that underneath it all he is voliatile and dangerously unstable. He's obsessive, possesive, emotionally needy and desperately, bitterly jealous. His entire personality hinges on his inherent superiority- this delicate balance of security maintained only by the belief that he is in fact the strongest member of Team 7/strongest ninja in their year/strongest genin in the village.
Sasuke's psyche is battered and bent. He's been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the day his family died, alternately blocking out certain memories while obsessing over others. He calls himself an avenger and lives only to restore the pride of his clan. The most tragic aspect of Sasuke's character is the fact that he was healing, albiet slowly, during his time as a member of Team 7. Unfortunately, a chance encounter with Itachi at exactly the wrong time quickly countered any good Sakura and Naruto had done and set Sasuke back on his self destructive quest for power.
Eventually, in his search for this power, Sasuke leaves the village in order to become the protege of Konoha's enemy, Orochimaru.
A lot of SasuNaru fans tend to disregard Sakura's role in the series. You know how it is- she's the girl who gets in the way of the slash pairing so of course she recieves some undeserved critism in the fandom. As far as I'm concerned, her role in the series and in Sasuke and Naruto's lives is not something you can ignore, especially not when talking about the Sasuke/Naruto pairing. What Sasuke and Naruto have goes beyond Sakura in ways that are almost painful to watch, however the Team 7 dynamic as a whole is the core and lifeblood of both the pairing and the series. Thus, whatever the relationship between Sasuke and Naruto, Sakura in inevitably entwined.
The Boys and Sakura
Sakura loves Sasuke, Naruto loves Sakura and Sasuke is of the opinion they're both a waste of time. And thus, Team 7 becomes a twisted love triangle from the moment they meet.
I'm firmly of the opinion that if Sakura had been on any other team in her genin year, she would have been a fantastic kounouchi in her youth. A leader, even, or at the very least a respected strategist. It was bad luck that stuck her on a team with the two most frighteningly powerful genin Konoha had seen in a while. It was worse luck that stuck her on a team with her long standing crush.
Sakura is constantly holding herself back on Team 7. Partly because of her desperate attempts to win Sasuke's affections, and partly because between Sasuke and Naruto, there's just no space for her to shine. All of Sakura's moments in the first part of the manga occur when the boys are not around, or if they're both knocked unconcious. This is further evidence by the fact that during the three years after Sasuke left the village and Naruto went to train with Jiraya, Sakura became strong in their abscence. I'm not talking about the way she excels at healing jutsu's or her chakra-induced brute strength- I mean emotionally. Sasuke's betrayal has left Naruto all broken and incomplete in places, but Sakura's become the rock that keeps him grounded. Who knows- ultimately, she may be the force that binds them all back together again. It's ironic that weak little Sakura who was always watching their backs has become the strongest of them all.
Sasuke never loved Sakura the way she wanted him to. He has, in fact, broken her heart and spit on it several times. The sad thing about this is that he probably never meant to be as cruel as he actually was- aside from Naruto, Sakura is the only other person in the series Sasuke has ever been shown worrying about or attempting to protect. SasuNaru fans make a big to-do about the way Sasuke nearly died for Naruto while fighting Haku, but they fail to remember that Sasuke was ready to kill for Sakura in the forest of death. Sakura earned not only Sasuke's protection but, occasionally, his respect. Unfortunately, when it comes to Sasuke, both of these are a double edged sword. He became protective of Sakura and Naruto on the principle that he was stronger than they were. His respect for Sakura isn't so deep that he would ever consider her a challenge or an equal.
Sakura and Naruto's relationship is a bit more complicated. He had to earn her love the hard way. And Sakura does love Naruto- probably not in the romantic sense, but certainly as a dear friend. Naruto spent a good deal of his childhood attempting to win Sakura's heart for reasons he never actually specifies. You get the feeling that Naruto had a crush on Sakura because he was supposed to. Several of his conversations with Jiraya imply that he doesn't know too much about what it actually means to be attracted to the opposite sex and he gives up on Sakura with surprising ease once he realizes the true depths of her feelings for Sasuke. What's really remarkable about their friendship is the fact that they finally come together over their shared pain for Sasuke, yet the bond they form is not entirely dependant on him. The affection they feel for each other is real- the way Naruto still thinks Sakura's the greatest girl in the Universe, and the way Sakura's willing to defend Naruto at every chance... they share the incredible pain of having lost a team mate
(Romantically, I tend to believe that a romance between Sakura and Sasuke would not be possible. Once upon a time I felt that the manga was leaning in this direction, however lately it seems that if any Team 7 pairing will become canon, it will be Naruto/Sakura. While I'd prefer Kishimoto kept everything nice and platonic (it's more fun that way afterall), I trust his ability to pull either of these relationships off brilliantly.)
Rival!Shipping is hardly a modern concept when it comes to fandom. Almost since people learned how to read, we've been idealizing and romanticizing heated, adversarial relationships. From bodice rippers to Digimon fanfiction, the general rule for Harlequin powered romance seems to be Hate=Love. Or, at the very least Hate=Lust.
Most rival!Shippers will maintain that they view their chosen couple's snarktastic, irrational interaction as a flimsy cover for unresolved sexual tension. This is also one way to view Sasuke and Naruto's heated rivalry. However, what makes their struggle different is that they fight each other honestly. Most typical shounen rivals are fighting over a girl, an honor, the fate of the world, ect. The reason Sasuke and Naruto fight is because they want something from each other that needs to be freely given, not won in a power struggle.
Naruto used to rationalize his rivalry with Sasuke as being over Sakura no matter how apparent it was that Sasuke didn't want her. Since then, he's had a million and one reasons why he's wanted to beat the crap out of Sasuke Uchiha but, as he admits during their battle at the Valley of the End, the only thing he's really wanted was for Sasuke to acknowledge him. As evidenced by this really huge chunk of soul baring dialogue!
"Sasuke, I always knew you were alone. In the beginning I was glad because I thought you were like me- I wanted to talk to you! But you... didn't speak. You always had everyone watching you. You could do everything and we were too different. So I decided that you would become my rival. I didn't want to lose because I was called a loser all the time. Even when we became Team 7, I still thought this way. I always tried to lie but... but the truth is... I always wanted to be like you. I *aspired* to be like you. Because of that... I was glad that you wanted to fight me."
Sasuke, on the other hand, has an inefiority complex about as wide as Russia and, although it's safe for him to admit that Naruto is strong, he could never concede to them as equals. Doing so would be an affront to his pride. Despite the fact that he agrees to fight Naruto with his forehead protector on, he still depreciates the action with a self satisfied smirk and the line: "You won't even be able to put a scratch on my forehead." Sasuke has a thing about protecting his team mates on the condition that they can't protect themselves. Oddly enough, it's seeing the power of Naruto's Rasengan that finally pushes Sasuke over the edge
What Sasuke and Naruto need from each other is the key to satisfying their respective complexes, unfortunately those needs run counterpoint to each other and fufilling one would mean discarding the other. Sure, Sasuke's is a little selfish and Naruto's is a little immature, but neither one of them would ever back down an inch or agree on a compromise.
In the end, the truth is that Naruto is your typical shounen fighting series- it's about fighting and getting stronger, especially in the face of adversity. But (and this is a big BUT), what makes it so different is that it does not travel that typical succession of increasingly powerful villians. The story of Naruto is truly the story of the underdog, as it is also the story of corrupted power and genius gone wrong. You can't draw strength from isolation no matter how far you push your limits- Naruto learns this and finds his power in the love he has for those around him. Sasuke attempts to beat blood from the stone, desperately searching for his own personal power in the depth of his hatred. It leads them down different paths in life, but the beauty of the story is that the really want to be walking the same path. Effectively, they are each other's shadow. Contrary to many a fangirl's belief, the series is not primarily about Sasuke and Naruto, but rather Sasuke and Naruto are about the series. Their relationship serves as a microcasm of the overall themes of the manga.
The friendship that blossoms between Naruto and Sasuke is a bit harder to place. This is because it's unconventional and vicious with only fleeting moments of blinding inspiration and comradeship. Naruto even wonders at it himself:
"Our fists didn't have to meet for me to understand, but since that time we haven't spoken. We... how are we friends?"
We see the first threads of strained friendship between these two in the Hidden Mist arc- training together, stubbornly competing over trivial things and, for the first time, fighting side by side. It is during this arc that Sasuke has his infamous fake death scene, collapsing listelessly into Naruto's arms after protecting the other boy from a life-threatening attack.
You could say that Sasuke and Naruto's friendship began with a kiss and ended with a kiss, but whatever it was that bound them together began much earlier than where we meet them in the manga. During the 'Valley of the End' arc, it is revealed that Sasuke and Naruto were very much aware of each other during their younger years at the academy. Naruto admits to having made overtures of friendship towards Sasuke and Sasuke admits to having always been acutely aware of the similarities between them. This panel below more or less summarizes their pre-Team 7 relationship:
There are a million and one things I could say about this picture, but what truly speaks volumes is the absolute, painful understanding and longing in Naruto's expression. The two deal with their pain in very different ways- Sasuke internalizes while Naruto externalizes, but the fact that they're both smiling after they look away betrays the fact that they're relieved to have someone who understands what it's like, even if it happens to be "that guy".
Although this previous connection is not revealed until Chapters 227/228, the understanding is apparent as early as Chapter 3 where Sakura and Sasuke have this exchange:
Sakura: "Naruto is always coming between us! It's because he was badly brought up. You know- because he has no parents. He doesn't have anyone to answer to and it's made him completely selfish! If I did the kinds of things he gets away with, my parents would ground me for life... kids without parents always grow up selfish."
Sasuke: "And lonely."
Sakura: "... what?"
Sasuke: "Being scolded by your parents- that doesn't even compare."
Sakura: "S-sasuke? What's gotten into you all of a sudden?"
Sasuke: "You make me sick."
As much as Sasuke appears to believe Naruto is a waste of oxygen at this point in the series, he is quick to defend him when it comes to the subject of being an orphan. From this point on, the friendship between Team 7 progresses more or less naturally- Sasuke and Naruto are stupid boys at each other and Sakura is exasperated with them. For all that becomes of it later in the series, Sasuke and Naruto have a normal, mutually beneficial rivalry-friendship at this point in the manga. Naruto is so outraged by Sasuke's "death" that he unwillingly draws out the Kyuubi for the first time; Sasuke is spurred into action against Orochimaru by Naruto's mocking words during the Forest of Death; Sasuke rushes to Naruto's rescue without a second thought when Itachi returns to the village.
Predictably, it is Sasuke's cracked psyche that ruins this amiable balance between them. Although Orochimaru marked Sasuke with his curse seal in the early chapters of the Chuunin exam, Sasuke showed little to no interest in ever giving the legendary sannin the time of day. Unfortunately, shortly after the exam Itachi enters the picture and everything changes.
When Sasuke first hears that his brother is in town hunting for Kyuubi, he dashes off the the rescue without hesitation, his general opinion on the situation being something along the lines of: "I'll rescue Naruto AND kill my brother all in the same day! This'll be great!" The problem is that Sasuke fails to prove a threat and Itachi isn't interested in anyone who doesn't have a nine tailed fox demon sealed in their stomach.
The real kicker in this situation is that after being berated and mentally tortured by his brother for his effort, Sasuke is filled with unspeakable rage towards, of all people, Naruto. This rage is rooted in jealous resentment and is, proverbially, the straw that breaks the camel's back in that it's the event that finally pushes Naruto and Sasuke's relationship from friendly competition to destructive rivalry. That Sasuke is twisted enough to be jealous that his brother has more interest in killing Naruto than killing him is a testament to how overpowering Itachi's effect on him is.
Naruto and Sasuke can't even admit that they're friends until they're facing each other in a brutal, bloody battle to the death. Surprisingly, it's Sasuke who says it first (only minutes after implying he doesn't really care about Naruto in the first place), explaining that the only way to surprass his brother is to gain the Mangekyou Sharingan, and the only way to gain the Mangekyou Sharingan is to kill his best friend.
Well, Sasuke doesn't have a best friend. But he does have Naruto.
And, well, Naruto's never had a best friend either. But he does have Sasuke.
And really, that's the closest thing either has ever had.
"Do you know, Naruto... that if both you and your opponent are first class ninja, you can read each other's minds when your fists meet. There is no need for words. I know you aren't naive, Naruto, so you can read the *true* mind? Can you read my mind!?"
So why do I think that these two characters are desperately, devastatingly in love with each other?
The easy answer is: because they are.
The fun answer is: because Kishimoto has given us more than subtext to work with- he's given us pure, literary reasoning. Everything about Sasuke and Naruto's relationship is a cleverly written paralell- dual contrast and compliment. There's a tension and intensity bubbling and broiling beneath their words and actions; something off in the way they think about each other and something unintentionally intimate about the way they interact.
One of the most interesting and telling scenes in Naruto and Sasuke's realtionship is actually a conversation between Lee and Gaara. They're talking about Kimimaro's selfless devotion to Orochimaru, but the conversation overlaps with the beginning of Naruto and Sasuke's confrontation.
Gaara accidently insults Gai and Lee ferverntly leaps to his beloved sensei's defense. Dully, Gaara observes how a person will defend their important person without a second thought whether they're worth it or not. He is thinking of Kimimaro while he says this and notes that he was the same as Naruto.
Gaara goes on to say that just because someone is important to you, it doesn't mean that they're a good person. Lee replies: "Well, you shouldn't take someone bad to be your special person then!"
Solemly, Gaara argues: "No. Even if you know that person is bad, no one can defeat loneliness."
The next panel shown is Kimimaro dead in the forest of bone. The next succession of panels shows Naruto yelling Sasuke's name across the waterfall.
Now, forgive me for sounding like a slash minded fangirl here, but how else am I supposed to take that particular comparison? The tenative, emotionally raw proclaimations of friendship exchanged at the Valley of the End read less like platonic overtures and more like the confused love admissions of thirteen year old boys who have no idea how to rationalize what they're feeling.
Now, don't get me wrong. There is such a thing as intense and strictly platonic friendship (I point you in the direction of the anime Gungrave for a prime example), but there's intense friendship and then there's Sasuke and Naruto.
Gaara's words are almost depressingly prophetic- although Sasuke has not yet succeeded in reaching Orochimaru when it is said, it is still painfully apparent that Naruto will continue to chase after Sasuke no matter what the toll on his sanity. The day before Sasuke leaves the village, Sakura takes Naruto out and explains the situation with the curse seal to him despite Kakashi's previous request she keep it to herself. Despite this, Naruto is convinced that Sasuke is not stupid enough to accept Orochimaru's offer.
Don't worry!" he tells Sakura cheerfully, "Sasuke won't give into someone like that! He's strong enough as it is, I promise!"
Although these words are partly for Sakura's sake, Naruto's faith in Sasuke is unshakable. Even after Sasuke does leave the village, Naruto remains convinced that all the other boy really needs is a good beating to come to his senses:
Ex 1: "Even if I have to break all the bones in your body and drag you home, I won't let you go to Orochimaru!"
Ex 2: "I'll break your arms *and* your legs and take you home by force!"
Ex 3: "If you're still not sure, I'll break you like a stick and bring you home immobile!"
(Seriously- that's some of the most romantic dialogue ever written XD).
After the fight leaves Naruto broken and depressed Jiraiya, ever the caring mentor, demands that Naruto give up on the idea of ever bringing Sasuke back to Konoha. Naruto is outraged at the very idea and exclaims: "He may be nothing to you, but to me Sasuke's a dear friend!" Jiraiya attempts to explain that to be a shinobi, one must make wise decisions based on logic rather than emotion. Really, he just wants to prevent his student from suffering the same sort of pain he and Tsunade did when they lost Orochimaru.
Not one to be discouraged by public opinion, Naruto states: "If that's what it means to be wise, then I'd rather be a fool!" making it clear that he will never give up on Sasuke even if it means that he has to go alone, stalked by ANBU every step of the way.
Naruto is the kind of induvidual who saves people from themselves effortlessly by the very virtue of simply being who he is. He hardly gives a second thought to the effect that he has. Sasuke was the one person that he actually set out to save, and Sasuke is the one person who got away. Sasuke is Naruto's greatest rival, his best friend, his greatest weakness and his worst failure. Naruto's demons are a little more literal than most people's, but now he's haunted not only by the shadow of the Kyuubi, but also by the memory of Sasuke.
Post time-skip, this single-minded drive to bring Sasuke home has warped itself into something a little obsessive. It's as if the very mention of Sasuke's name dig up a painful world of hurt in Naruto's emotional core. In particular, Sakura and Naruto's new team mate Sai makes a hobby of pointing out the negative aspect of Sasuke's character and the flaw in Naruto's logic regarding him. Understandably, this does not improve Naruto's opinion of him and even drives Sakura to physical violence in her friend's defense. Naruto makes it clear that he will still do anything to bring Sasuke home.
Orochimaru also plays on this weakness, intentionally goading Naruto with offhand mentions and comparisons of Sasuke, baiting him into drawing out the Kyuubi. As the Kyuubi begins to take over, Naruto commands Orochimaru: "In my prescence, do not speak of Sasuke as if he belongs to you!" It is Sasuke's name that draws out the four-tailed transformation just as it was Sasuke's "death" that induced the Kyuubi for the first time and Sasuke's betrayal which brought out the first tail.
What's curious about Naruto's attitude post time-skip is that he appears to be sugar coating his relationship with Sasuke in many instances. He claims that Sai is a "poor replacement for Sasuke" because he pisses him off (or maybe because he's just not cute enough ♥) and grows frustrated when Orochimaru and Kabuto remind him that Sasuke left the village of his own free will. I'd comment more on the psychological implications of this behavior, but there hasn't been enough of the time-skip arc for me to make any accurate judgements. For that, I'll wait until Sasuke has been re-introduced.
Sasuke's feelings are more difficult to discect (afterall, don't you always chidori the one you love right in the chest?). He isn't as prone to grand, sweeping statements of utter devotion as Naruto is, but the sentiment is there. It's mostly in the way Naruto gets to Sasuke like no one else. Having chosen to live a life devoid of companionship, Sasuke has very little regard for other people. As mentioned already, he lives FOR his brother. He wallows in memories of his brother and dreams only about killing his brother. The driving force in his life are the words his brother left him after killing the family. Sasuke will occasionally take interest in others when he feels that they present a challenge (re: Gaara, Lee or Neji), but he doesn't tend to register anyone outside of Team 7.
Once in a while, Sasuke respects Kakashi and once in a while he seems to care about Sakura, but the only memeber of Team 7 who has ever gotten his full attention is Naruto. Now, granted, this is probably because Naruto is the main character of the series and people can't help but pay attention to him, but I'd like to think that there's something more to it. Naruto has inspired change, both positive and negative, in Sasuke several times in the series. Even Orochimaru noted distastefully that Naruto's effect on the "Uchiha boy" would be difficult to reverse.
Kakashi, Sakura and Naruto all make their attempts to keep Sasuke from joining Orochimaru. He appears to think about Kakashi's for at least a few hours, and Sakura's does make a visible chip in his emotional armour, but Naruto's is the only one from which he walks away visibly shaken. In fact, Sasuke's silent reaction to the outcome of their battle is intense enough to speak for itself in this regard. His expression as he stands over Naruto and ponders his decision are some of the most heart wrenching panels in the entire series.
Although Naruto fails to bring Sasuke home to the village what he does accomplish is causing yet another positive shift in Sasuke's psyche. There are no words spoken in the last leg of battle; no explaination of what changed Sasuke's mind, but these three panels make it obvious: Naruto, realizing there was no way to change Sasuke's mind, symbolically went for the forehead protector rather than a crippling blow (to, of course, prove wrong Sasuke's previous taunt). Seeing this, Sasuke turned his chidori away from Naruto's heart at the last minute.
As he walks away from the Valley of the End, Sasuke decides that he will reject his brother's method of gaining the Mangekyou Sharingan and find his own way. This may not seem like too monumental a decision (after all, what thirteen year old boy could bring themselves to kill the person they'd just identified as their best friend?), but for Sasuke it represents the first step towards freedom from his brother's shadow. This is the kind of change that only Naruto can inspire in him.
In the end, their relationship can be ugly and unhealthy. The tensions between them are more emotional than sexual and there isn't much in their interaction that can be constituted as romantic. But there's inspiration, need, devotion and a mutual obsession. Their relationship may drag Naruto down, but in the end he is the only one who can save Sasuke's soul, just as Sasuke's return is the only thing that could ever make Naruto whole again.
If that's not love, I don't know what is.
"Right now, Sasuke is in the darkness. The only one who can save him is you, Naruto."
THE VALLEY OF THE END
"Can you kill me calmly, Sasuke?"
.... or, why I love SasuNaru
In case you haven't noticed yet, Naruto/Sasuke is what you could call my Naruto OTP. It also happens to be arguably the most popular pairing in both the Western and Japanese fandoms. It's one of those pairings that you either love or hate- very few fans are ambivalent towards it.
I know why people hate it. They hate it because it's the typical example of fans liking slash pairings "just because". Many fans rationalization for liking SasuNaru is because "they're hot" or "it's hot" or because "all that fighting obviously means they want each other LOLOLOL." I myself often grow wary of the massive SasuNaru fandom. The other exasperating thing (seen on BOTH sides of the fandom) is an odd preoccupation with the seme/uke dynamics. Personally, I think seme/uke dynamics are dumb and limiting but will admit that they are applicable once in a blue moon. When it comes to rival pairings, assigning specific seme/uke rules has a bad habit of ruining the competetive dynamic that made the pairing attractive in the first place. The majority of SasuNaru fanworks are painfully out of character to the point where you wonder wheter or not the writer/artist was even reading the right manga.
And of course, there's the fact that any popular pairing will create an unintentional peer pressue in any given fan community. It's hard not to grow irritated with the pairing that EVERYONE and their uncle twice removed ships unconditionally, especially when you couldn't care less about it.
These are mostly quibbles with the fandom (alothough, trust me, a bad fandom can ruin even the best pairing), but there are a lot of reasons to hate SasuNaru based simply on their canonical interaction. As mentioned above, it's ugly and unhealthy and does unpleasant things to Naruto's psychology.
But, despite all of that, this is why I love it:
Canonically, you can say that Sasuke is so socially retarded that Naruto is the closest thing he has to a friend, and that Naruto's devotion to Sasuke has more to do with his strength of moral character than any sort of romantic love. But still, you have to admit that there is something grand and sweeping to it.
... it's all about the emotional intensity. The storm those two kick up between them is absolutely riveting in canon, which makes it the most intense relationship in the series. There are enough paralells between them for them to bridge their differences, however everytime they do so, the contrasts of their personalities tend to make the gap between them that much wider.
Sure, their personalities would prevent a relationship between them. It's only common sense- they may care about each other a lot, but I'd hardly say that they're healthy for each other (I'd hardly say that Sasuke in general is healthy for anyone, least of all his two team mates, but that again is another essay entirely). But I don't like SasuNaru for the fluffy bunnies and domestic bliss. I like SasuNaru because it's so raw. My favorite Sasuke/Naruto fics tend to be the ones that sort of walk the line of being slashy, but don't quite dive into it fully. Even if those two were attracted to each other, I doubt they'd ever be able to exactly identify it or act on it. And even if they did, ahaha, that would be the relationship from hell. Which, for some people is what makes it fun
To be honest, I was skeptical of the pairing at first. I had no patience for it or it's all consuming popularity. I fell hard for Sasuke and Naruto as characters, but tended to disregard their relationship as being too typical shounen rivalry for me to actually find interesting.
And then I hit the Valley of the End and suddenly, everything was different. Going back and re-reading certain parts of the manga in this new light, I couldn't help but think: "Oh, how sad. They're so in love with each other and have no idea what that means."
I love the pairing because it's about redemption and sacrifice and determination and good and evil and all those great epic things.
And I love it because the Valley of the End arc damn well nearly made me sob.
Image From: http://yukimaru.yon.to/cg.html
I'm a bitchy elitist when it comes to SasuNaru. I like my complicated angst, muted pain, unhappy endings and, occasionally, violent sex.
SO here you have a collection of not only my favorite SasuNaru fics, but what I honestly feel are the best SasuNaru fics on the internet right now. If there's something I've omitted that you feel should be included, feel free to leave a comment here with a link to said fic.
Also, I included my own scarce fanfiction because this is my essay and I'm lame like that.
As far as I am concerned, these are the two greatest SasuNaru fics ever written. Both are speculations on what will happen to Sasuke after Orochimaru dies- the first is the story of him coming home to die, and the second is the story of Naruto bringing him home. The first is darkly, obsessively romantic while the second opts more for quiet subtext. Both are utterly beautiful, heart wrenching and pretty much perfect.
At The End of All Things by Silvaren
Touch the Parade by Ceresi
Skinless/Underneath the Underneath by Shivvlan
Homecoming by Myth720
Attraction by Gelfling
Damaetas by Pellaz
Anbure/Start by Goddess Kes
Mosaique by rondaview
Flash Frame by rondaview
Summer by Pellaz
Avoiding the Issue by Sadieko
Relative Humidity by Two if by Sea
Smoke in Spring by Saro
Something Like Home by Perfectionist Cat
Phantom by White Rain
Climb a Little Higher by Chevira Lowe
The Virtue of Victory by Chevira Lowe
20 Truths About Uchiha Sasuke and Uzumaki Naruto by Aishuu
Sasuke and Naruto in 50 Setences by Mei
Mutual Talent by Crazy Toffee
Thread by White Rain
The Things We Do For Love
Five Years and Four Minutes
The Same Story
Also, a while ago a giant rec list was compiled on sasuxnaru. If my favorites aren't quite your cup of tea, you'll definitely find something here:
The Great SasuNaru Rec List as Compiled by Several Members of the SasuNaru LJ comm
Snow White and the Seven Narutos
Croik's infamous animated GIF (seriously, the most hilarious thing you'll see all year)
Ninja of the Night AMV
General Misconceptions about NaruSasu - a_white_rain
By no means complete by, lolz, I'll have fun tracking down links. For now, here's some truly exceptional pieces.
We Are The Same by Banryuunokizu
Broken Glass by Hiruka
1111 hit Kiriban by Himu-kun
Closest to Heaven by Foxfur
... and one really fantastic AMV rec:
Phenomenon (Open Your Soul) by Sierra Lorna
ALSO: The results to The SasuNaru AMV contest. The winners are all worth a watch, although my favorite by FAR is the one set to 'Brothers in Arms'.
SasuNaru LJ Comm: sasuxnaru
SasuNaru Round Robin: nsn_roundrobin
Sasuke & Naruto FL: Destined Brothers
SasuNaru Fanfic Recs: C O L L I D E
GENERAL FANFICTION ARCHIVES
TONFA: The Original Naruto Fanfic Archive
LEGENDARY: a naruto goodfic archive
Sennen Goroshi: Naruto Fanfiction Recs
EDIT: Fanworks added on 02/03/2006. Thanks to frakalakalaka & kunoichi_jaden
Fanworks added on 05/03/2006 thanks to Zettai Hentai's AMV contest coming to a close.
Fanworks added on 03/25/2006 thanks to crazy_toffee being the coolest thing ever.
Fanworks added on 04/11/2006 because I stopped being too lazy to find art and remembered a few things.
Meta added on 06/07/2006 because a_white_rain spends time metaing the things I'm too lazy to meta about.
NOTE: I do read every comment made on this manifesto. I apologize if I can't manage to reply to them all. ^__^;;