Saturday, November 8, 2014

Naruto: the ending, the pairing and why people have such differing opinions

As I'm sure the whole world knows by now, the Naruto manga, arguably one of the most popular manga series of all times, has finally come to an end after 700 chapters. In some ways, you could almost claim that with the ending of Naruto, a shift will be taking place in the manga world to fill the void left by a series that has become a world-wide hit. Just who the hell is going to step up and fill that void is unknown.

For those who haven't been reading anymore (because I know some people stopped), chapter 699 marked the end of what we call Shippuden and chapter 700 is more of an epilogue. It basically has all the things you'd expect in an epilogue. Naruto and his friends are older, they've got their own brats, and their children are almost carbon copies of what they used to be like when they were younger. Bolt, Naruto's son, is a prankster who's always pulling pranks on the village to get attention from his dad. Shikadai is an exact replica of his father, where everything is too bothersome to do. Even Salad (which is a ridiculous name), acts a lot like Sakura and Sasuke.

In some ways, this is almost nostalgic. In others, it's kind of annoying. I'm not exactly sure what I expected to see when Naruto finally ended. I mean, how do you end something that's been going on for over a decade?

Regardless of our thoughts feelings and beliefs on how Naruto ended, as well as the "what the fuck am I supposed to read now?" that I know many of you probably feel, I do think Kishimoto managed to end this on a high note and in a way that leaves people--most people--satisfied.

Of course, there are a few things that bother me about this ending. Naruto's hair, for example. Why the hell Kishimoto decided to have Naruto cut his hair short I don't know. I can't even fathom it. That hair-cut is just plain ugly. The only person who has worse hair-cut than Naruto is Gaara, who apparently learned how to use a comb sometime between chapters 699 and 700.

Small annoyances aside, the one thing that so many people have been debating about are the pairings. Why? Who the hell knows. Ever since the conception of Naruto, people have wanted to know who he would end up with. Sakura; his teammate, crush and the girl who made it a hobby to bash his face in when he asked her on a date for almost half the series? Or Hinata; that really shy chick with the large knockers, white-eyes and slightly stalker-ish tendencies? For nearly the entirety of the manga people have been debating who Naruto should be with. You've got the Sakura fans, the Hinata fans, and then people like me who didn't really care who he ended up with because this is a Shounen manga and not a Romance. However, most people have wanted to know this. There have been hundreds of thousands of fan fictions written about either Sakura or Hinata getting themselves a little Jinchurikki loving. In fact, there are almost as many fics with one of these two paired with Naruto as there are fics where Naruto gets a harem! Talk about shocking!

For those NarSaku fans out there, sorry, but it looks like Hinata is the winner in this. NaruHina is now canon.

The idea to have Naruto and Hinata paired together has brought a lot of conflict to the table. While NaruHina fans have been orgasming on the spot at their hopes and dreams finally being realized, NaruSaku fans have been raging. It's been so bad that some NaruSaku fans have tried creating a petition to ban Naruto in the US unless their demands of an AU ending in which Naruto and Sakura get together have been met. It's not going happen, ever, but you've got to give them points for tenacity if nothing else.

All this being said, I've been having to ask myself: why Hinata? Why not Sakura? Why have a pairing at all? The last question is easy to answer, as the idea of Naruto growing up and starting a family of his own is sort of like the zenith of the manga. Naruto, who was always alone, that orphan everybody hated and no one wanted to be around; having him gain a family is a way of showing how much life has changed for him, how much he has changed. While Naruto becoming Hokage can also signify this, I believe the act of Naruto becoming Hokage has less to do with change and more to do with vindication. Naruto, the deadlast who struggled and clawed his way from the bottom. Naruto, who always had to fight tooth and nail to get ahead. Naruto, who was the underdog for pretty much the entire series. Him becoming Hokage is a way to vindicate his struggles. It's the prize at the end of a long, hard journey, whereas him starting a family is to show the passage of time and change.

Now, the NaruHina pairing is a little harder to decipher. Generally speaking, Naruto and Hinata didn't really interact all that much outside of several filler episodes in the anime. They had that moment before the Chunin Exams, that time Hinata saved Naruto from Pein and the most recent one with Neji's death. These are pretty much the only time, minus a few smaller instances, where they have any significant interaction. From a purely logical standpoint, the NaruSaku pairing makes more sense. They're teammates, Sakura has more presence than Hinata and it is true that Sakura's personality is a lot like Uzumaki Kushina's personality, right down to the temperamental nature. On the other end, Hinata's only saving graces was her kindness, her love for Naruto and her boobs.

What? It's true. Have you seen Hinata's boobs? They're huge! Way bigger than Sakura's. Everybody knows Shounen heroes go for large breasts unless they're into Tsun-lolis (Cough! Toradora! Cough).

Hinata's rack aside, we still have to ask ourselves why Naruto ended up with Hinata and not Sakura.

I think the first reason is simply because of the fanbase. Let's be honest here people, the NaruHina fanbase is bigger. While NaruSaku is popular, NaruHina is the number 1 most popular pairing for Naruto. Period. I don't have statistics, but I can pretty much guarantee that more people were rooting for that quiet girl who always hid behind lamposts and watched Naruto from a distance than that violent girl who bashed him over the head more times than I care to count.

If I were to try and step into the mind of Kishimoto, I'd say that the reason he chose Hinata over Sakura is to signify Naruto's change. In the beginning of the series, Naruto was a loud, obnoxious, idiotic brat. He was dumber than a brick wall and twice as dense. I often likened Naruto to a less powerful and more annoying version of Son Goku from DBZ. However, by going with the quiet girl who always supported him from a distance of at least fifteen feet and one pole or fence between them, Kishimoto is showing how Naruto has changed and matured over the course of the story. He's showing that even a knuckle-head like Naruto can eventually grow up. Of course, there are problems with this pairing. It felt rushed. It feels more like a last minute addition than because it made sense. And don't even get me started on SakuSasu. I'm not going to even mess with that shit storm. I don't want to get torn apart by an even more rabid fanbase than NaruSaku, thank you very much.

In the end, I feel that pairing Naruto with Hinata was the best choice. I will be honest, I have never once liked Hinata's character. Ever. I just don't. Her entire dandere personality bugged the crap out of me. She's thrown in sporadically throughout the series and feels more like eye-candy than a real person at times because we rarely ever see her. The only time we ever see her developing is the Pein invasion and Neji's death. Heck, those are some of the ONLY times we ever really see her at all. Perhaps I'm just more upset by her lack of presence throughout most of the series than because of her personality. We just don't see enough of her, and what we do see always bothered me because she was so damn quiet. However, I still stick with my decision that Kishimoto made the right choice here. While not a perfect pairing, NaruHina did everything that Kishimoto wanted it to.