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The pink-haired ninja Sakura Haruno we see in BORUTO is nothing like what she was when Masashi Kishimoto began his long-running manga Naruto back in 1997. It’s been more than a decade and a half since she was first introduced to fans, but Sakura is arguably one of the characters who has grown the most in Naruto’s large cast of ninjas.

Before Sakura makes her debut appearance in BORUTO, let’s take a look back at how she developed throughout the story:

An Artificial Start

When the series began, Sakura was an honors student with tons of confidence in herself and her abilities. She constantly looked down on her classmate Naruto, and praised her crush Sasuke to no end despite knowing pretty much nothing about him—except that he was “cool.” When asked about her dream for the future, she had no real plan for herself—only a vague want to end up with Sasuke. She was trying to live up to an ideal pushed into her head by others: Be pretty, get good grades, get the coolest guy.

She also had a tendency to play up her cuteness, hiding away her real thoughts while her “Inner Sakura” shouted everything she was REALLY wanting to say inside her own head. And that’s not the only part of her true self she was hiding—she only grew out her hair longer so she could impress Sasuke after hearing a rumor that he liked girls with long hair.

While Sakura thought she had pulled the short stick when she was teamed up with Naruto after graduation from the ninja academy, she soon learned that grades don’t mean everything.

Realization of Weakness

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On their very first big mission, Sakura was forced to realize that all the book smarts she boasted about were honestly pretty useless. While trying to remember escort mission protocol, she almost got herself killed. Enemies don’t follow the books, and it turned out that Naruto, the “good-for-nothing” she constantly talked down to and ridiculed, actually was able to do a ton more than she was.

That’s not to say that her knowledge was for nothing—and she showed her talents at multiple points. But her weakness finally became clear to her when Naruto and Sasuke were incapacitated during the Chunin Exams, leaving her on her own.

Her change from a look-obsessed, haughty crybaby into a strong girl unafraid to protect what’s dear to her is made complete when she cuts her hair—a symbol of her effort to try and meet the standards of others—in order to escape from the enemy and stop them from harming her teammates.

From this point, she started treating her teammates in a completely differently way. She talked down to Naruto a lot less (though she was still very harsh on him) and started seeing Sasuke as a person, not just as an object of her admiration.

What is Love?

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What Sakura initially felt for Sasuke wasn’t love—it was adoration of an ideal. However, as she spent time with him, she began to have feelings of real love for him. When Sasuke left the village, Ino, Sakura’s friend who still had the same feelings for him that Sakura did at the beginning of the series, merely cried.

Sakura, on the other hand, tried to stop him before he defected, giving a heartfelt, tear-jerking speech about everything she would do for him if he would just not leave. She even offered to defect from the village with him if she could be by his side. While her feelings couldn’t stop him, he appeared to appreciate her a lot more than he did at the beginning of the series when her feelings were—well, artificial. Her love for him had even gotten through to Sasuke, someone so drenched in hatred that he was willing to betray everything he ever knew.

Becoming a Guardian

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After losing Sasuke and failing to bring him back, Sakura decided that she wanted to become stronger. Naruto departed on a training journey for the same reason, and during his absence, she studied healing jutsus as well as combat techniques from Tsunade, the fifth Hokage of Konohagakure. When Naruto returned, Sakura had completely changed: she threw away the dresses she once wore for more practical clothing, no longer hid her true emotions with “Inner Sakura,” was able to use healing jutsu to an impressive level, and—most shocking of all—possessed a physical strength rivaling even Naruto’s.

Although Sakura had been protected by her teammates Sasuke and Naruto in the past, the Sakura after the timeskip was not only able to pull her weight, but became an irreplaceable ninja powerhouse of the village. Countless times in Naruto: Shippuden, Sakura saved Naruto’s ass, sometimes from the brink of death.

And, putting physical assistance aside, Sakura was also there for Naruto in the role of emotional support, giving him advice and telling him about things he wouldn’t have been able to notice in the first place. Sakura even strongly resembles Naruto’s mother in personality with her fiery but doting personality. And, with her healing powers, it’s no mistake to say that Sakura has changed from “one dependent on others” to “one to be depended on.”

Forgiveness & Eternal Love

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Let’s face it: Sasuke was an asshole (or is, depending on your opinion). He betrayed his best friends (who had basically become his family) as well as his entire village just to get revenge on his brother. And even when the impetus behind his need for revenge turned out to be false, he STILL refused to repent and continued to cause havoc! Even when everyone wanted him dead, Sakura was one of the few who continued to love him from the bottom of her heart.

At the meeting of the five Kages on the brink of the Shinobi World War, the decision had be made: Sasuke had to be killed. However, Sakura secretly decided to go a step further: She actually planned to kill Sasuke herself—feeling that stopping him from committing anymore crimes was her responsibility. However, even after she was almost killed by him, Sakura could not bring herself to harm the man she loved.

Her love and dedication to the man she once saw superficially as “the coolest guy in school” had become so strong that she would risk betraying her own village or even worse, dying herself. While she judged people on appearances in the past, at this point of her life, Sakura had become someone who saw the good in people no matter what the situation.

Although she was rejected by him time after time, after the war ended, Sasuke finally accepted her straight-forward, pure feelings of love. And while some still considered him a criminal, the understanding and loving Sakura forgave him.

Becoming a Mother & Wife

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Although the two reconciled and even got into a romantic relationship, Sasuke still felt a need to travel alone and repent for his sins. Even after she gave birth to his child, Sasuke was out of the house so much that their daughter Sarada could not even remember her father’s face.

While we’ve only seen adult Sakura in manga Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring and film Boruto: Naruto the Movie, we still are able to get a good look at the final person she has grown in to. Without her husband on hand, she’s clearly lonely. But now, as a real mother to her own child, Sakura has to hold it together. Instead of complaining or getting depressed, Sakura stands strong and consoles her own child’s loneliness. She puts her own child before herself. While Sakura once chased after her (future) husband, now she believes in him and waits, putting her own needs second and the needs of her husband and daughter first.

With her daughter being a main player in the Boruto anime, we’re sure to see Sakura again. But for now, the contrast between the twelve-year-old girl we met more than a decade and a half ago and the mother who stands in front of us today is clear. Sakura is no longer the weak little girl who had to be protected. This powerhouse mother not only takes care of herself, but also her husband, daughter, and precious comrades that surround her.

The Naruto Shippuden anime ended its ten-year run last month. The sequel to that anime—BORUTO: Next Generations—is currently airing, and is available to watch for free with subtitles on Crunchyroll. The original Naruto and Naruto Shippuden sequel anime are also streaming there.

Comments (6)
  1. You make a good case for this character, I’ll give you that, but I hope you understand Sasuke’s character just as well. He wasn’t an “asshole” just for the sake of being one, and there’s no way in hell a normal person would go back to support Konoha after hearing about what they did to Itachi. Sasuke was intentionally portrayed the way he was to show how far revenge can drive an individual. Being an Uchiha, his emotions were even more uncontrollable.

    • I’m actually a lot more understanding of Sasuke than most, and I forgave him after he tried to repent for his sins.
      But instead of hearing the truth from his brother and realizing “oh shoot this probably wasn’t a good idea,” he makes things WORSE and continues hurting everyone around him. He had a chance to make things better, but instead makes things worse. It’s only at the very end that he starts to move forward.
      So, while I’m fine with Sasuke at the end of the manga, I’m not going to deny the fact that he was an asshole. What he did was horrible. But is what he did understandable or not? That’s a whole other story.

      • Something I wrote on a Reddit thread about Sasuke essentially going from solo asshole – liking having a team – betraying that team – murderous asshole, which I feel is appropriate to repost here…

        The mental levels he goes through along with these stages is the more important thing to focus on, here. His entire world revolved around eradicating the one person who stole everything from him, and he refused to let anything get in the way of that goal.
        Everything he did, he did it specifically because he thought it was something Itachi wouldn’t do, from falling in with the team dynamic of squad 7, to refusing to kill under almost any circumstances (even self-defense…except when faced with what he regarded as a true evil, like Orochimaru or Deidara). But when he felt he was being held back by his team and village, he forwent them all to pursue his goal of killing Itachi, and Itachi alone.

        Then, he has that long-awaited showdown with the monster. This monster torments him all through the fight, then just before he dies, asks for forgiveness with the same forehead poke he’d done when Sasuke was a child and dies with a smile on his face, because he has seen for himself how strong Sasuke has become. He may not have the same eyes yet, but he can certainly hold his own, and this final fight should be the push that gives him the power he needs to defend himself from Itachi’s enemies.

        Immediately after Itachi dies, he learns that not only did Itachi do what he did to prevent a civil war within the village and nip the potential for exploding into an international war at the bud, he was ordered to do so by high ranking village officials. Suddenly, the village he thought was an example of what good and justice should look like shatters into a cesspool of deceit and hideously unjustifiable murder which used his brother as a pawn to “preserve” the village as a whole at the expense of his entire family. He loses all sense of self-certainty and has a literal, on-screen, full-out mental breakdown as he tries to piece together some semblance of a moral code to follow as he tries to recover from this information overload.

        The result? Exactly what Itachi did. He would kill whomever got in the way of his plan to restructure the ninja world in an attempt to create lasting peace. He would become whatever monster the world needed him to be in order to keep the nations from slinging kunai at each other’s throats. So long as they were focused on him, they couldn’t be fighting one another, and that’s about as good a peace as Sasuke can imagine for their world. It took such a ridiculously indomitable spirit as Naruto’s to be able to make a stand against him, because while Sakura had gotten stronger, she was nowhere near their level and only he could survive long enough to be able to convince Sasuke that there’s a better way.

        Finally, Sasuke meets an obstacle he can’t overcome, no matter how smart or strong he is, and he submits himself to judgement because he truly wants to be able to see the world as Naruto does. He wants there to be true peace and justice, and honestly, I think it comes as a huge relief to him to see that maybe he doesn’t have to walk this path alone. To see that after everything he’d done, there was still someone out there who would extend their hand rather than a kunai, someone who wanted the same thing he did and seemed to have the power to make it happen. Then, to see Itachi himself admitting his biggest mistake was trying to do everything by himself and giving Naruto his blessing in Naruto’s memories cemented it.

        Everything about Sasuke’s character revolved around his relationship to Itachi, and how it changed as he gained more information over time. Love him or hate him, he is one of the most, if not the most morally evolved character in the series, from start to finish.

      • Alright. I understand what you’re trying to say, but it looks like someone beat me to the reply. 2015jonjones really just killed it. Lol.
        However, I’m not sure what you mean when you say that Sasuke made things worse and continued to hurt people around him after hearing the truth from Itachi. Would you mind elaborating? I don’t recall him doing such things after that. In fact, he did some pretty nice things: he apologized to Karin for being an asshole (lol I’m just gonna roll with this term), he assisted the Allied Shinobi Forces in their fight against Obito and Madara, he was an effective team player in the fight against Kaguya (and helped Sakura as she was exhausted), and he even made sure to keep her away from his final battle with Naruto (in a harsh way, but still effective). The only person he was going to “hurt” was Naruto, for obvious reasons. We already knew from part 1 that the only way these two would come to an understanding is through a fight, and Naruto clearly didn’t have an issue with losing an arm if it meant saving his friend, so even he wasn’t feeling “hurt” (in the emotional sense). In fact, he was smiling and laughing after the fight.

  2. Sakura’s character development is awful. She’s portrayed as this girl who is obsessively (and creepily) obsessed with a guy who doesn’t really care about her. And instead of becoming a truly strong woman capable of making the best decisions for herself, she chose to bear his child. Her story is so tragic: a girl forcing herself to a fairy tail ending instead of forging her own destiny. I mean, it’s the 21st century and we still see this from a female lead? WTF?!

  3. cescpistol
    Absolutely sakura should’ve never end up with sasuke!! kishimoto is just asshole and never like her but keep her anyway for fans. But if this story went correctly it should be her as naruto wife not hinita but either way both scenarios work. Sasuke on the otherhand should’ve been by himself or with karin or even hinita but sakura!! no fucking way cus it makes no sense.

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