I recently read this part of the manga again and I never really understood just how badly this section was written until the recent circus show in the debate thread (this thread is not a debate thread by the way). I won't address any attempts at revisionist history in this thread either. Just a heads up. Lets review just why this is so bad chapter by chapter.
Admittedly, it starts off promising. In a nutshell, Sai has been contemplating Naruto's recent actions. He took a savage beating from Karui and it reminds him of a prior conversation he had with our loudmouthed knuckleheaded hero. With but a single glance, he realizes Naruto likes Sakura. A fact which Naruto confirms with the embarrassed look on his face. We learn just why Naruto is always smiling in her direction. This then prompts Sai to ask if Naruto has told her how he feels. To which Naruto answers, his back turned, that he could not due to not having kept his promise to her.
This is surprisingly good writing because it lets the reader know that that promise Naruto made over 200 chapters ago still weighs on his mind and was not something the author just tossed in there for no real reason; that combined with the way he smiles at Sakura all the time, he made the promise because of his love for her. Let that sink in: Naruto promised Sakura he would bring back the person she was in love despite his love for her.
Recalling the beating Naruto just took, Sai decides that he's not just going to sit around and do nothing; he's going to take action.
He decides to visit Sakura for some reason only to leave off with an ominous "Sakura, I need to talk to you."
Again, we have ourselves some surprisingly good writing. For the longest time, this side of Naruto's character was something that was merely alluded to us. The bench scene, the hospital scene with Tsunade, the fight with Gaara. These are all prime examples of Naruto truly and deeply caring about Sakura and Sai, a man whose personal arc has been about learning and understanding human emotions, is able to brings it all to the forefront. What's more, we see Naruto's smile on full parade. As Sai as told us and Naruto has confirmed, it's his love for Sakura that compels him to make that face. With Sai finally piecing everything together and putting it all on the table, we get the sense that the author is preparing to really get the heart of Naruto's character.
Sai proceeds to really lay the down the hammer.
And there we have it. Sasuke may cause Naruto pain, but so does Sakura. Because of Naruto's love for her, he is determined to shoulder that pain, all that while giving a smile which we finally understand the true meaning to. Sakura, knowing her teammate better than anyone, sees the truth in Sai's words and finds herself at a heartshaking realization.
And so the chapter ends and we have the potential for some well needed character development from both Naruto and Sakura lying around the corner. Ideas that have been hinted at or glanced upon finally seem to be making their way to forefront. So how could this possibly turn out being one of the worst written sections of the entire 700 manga?
And there we have it folks. The first real sign that things are about to go south. For some strange reason, Shizune makes the following idiotic observation. Naruto's not doing it because he promised Sakura? He wants to save Sasuke himself too? Well gee Shizune, what gave that away? Was it the part of the previous chapter where Sai says "Sasuke causes Naruto pain?" At no point in the previous chapter is any notion of Naruto NOT equally wanting to save Sasuke for himself even alluded to. Sasuke causes Naruto pain and Sai is the very first person to bring attention to this, so why is this piece of dialogue from Shizune even here? I have a theory about this, but I'll get back to it later. For now, lets just make note of the fact that Shizune redundantly calls attention to this as its really going to show you just how asinine later parts of this section of the manga truly are.
Yet another odd piece of dialogue here. Are Sai and Shizune taking stupid pills all of the sudden? Everyone relies on Naruto too much? No Sai, that was not your point. That was NEVER your point. Your conversation with Sakura in the previous chapter was about Sasuke and Sakura. You said THEY caused Naruto pain. You mentioned NOBODY else. Otherwise, why even bother confronting just Sakura in this chapter? Pay close attention to Sai's sudden goal-post-shifting as this is NOT the last time he does this.
There he goes again, acting like he came there to say that everyone relies on Naruto too much. This is not the same Sai from the previous chapter. It's as if someone decided to completely rewrite his reasons for starting this conversation in the first place.
So Shikamaru and most of the rookie 9 decide it's high time to kill Sasuke. They take it upon themselves to do it. Shikamaru comes to ask for Sakura's blessing as well as insist that he's going to go through with it either way. He also wants to tell Naruto, but Sakura insist she will tell him instead. This has good and bad points to it:
Good: It ups the tension and makes Sakura relevant. She hasn't been relevant to the story in nearly 200 chapters at this point, so her being at the middle and forefront in potentially being faced with killing Sasuke as well as being forced to respond to these newfound revevalations about Naruto's feelings is great. The sheer potential of this happening anyway.
Bad: Sakura thinking she has caused Naruto the most pain. This is not true and she knows it's not. All Sai told her was that both she and Sasuke cause him pain. Now this may not seem like a big deal at first, but it's paving the way for the stupidity that comes in 469 and 470.
Traveling at the speed of plot, Sakura begins heading to the Land of Iron. Notwithstanding the overly convenient timing, we clearly see that Sakura has something on her mind. As if whatever she's about to do is serious and well thought out. Knowing him better than anyone else, she knows just what needs to be said to her longest and most faithful friend, right?
And just like that, within the span of one chapter, she's right where she needs to be at the right and exact time. Wonder what she has to say. Find out next time on DRAAAGON BALL Z!!!
Naruto is blushing! Yamato is shocked (hopefully, the readers are too distracted by the weird face to remember what he said in chapter 297).
And just like that, it immediately falls apart. This page has ZERO ZERO ZERO payoff for anyone who has been paying attention. We know the rookie 9 (or most of them) plan to kill Sakura and we know Sakura knows this. We've seen no catharsis, no grand revelation, nothing from Sakura that would lead her to say any of this. And so right off the bat, it's obvious the author plans to headfake the readers in some fashion. Naruto nonetheless blushes for a total of . . .
One page before common sense kicks in. Again, Sakura just blurts obviously false nonsense. Nothing about her sounds sincere. And her, the smart one and Naruto's closest companion, actually believes that Naruto is going to buy any of this. Like Sai and Shizune, it seems Sakura also gets a prescription for stupid pills in this arc.
And yet again, Yamato reacts in a fashion that screams of begging readers to forget what he said in chapter 297.
Sick and tired of the continuous BS, Naruto finally decides to call Sakura out on it. But maybe . . . just maybe, things aren't as they seem. Maybe Naruto is under the effects of a genjutsu. Maybe Sakura is under the effects of a genjutsu. Surely she would not lie about her feelings to someone who she has just been told loves her to the point of pain. That would be stupid and despicable. What's more, it would in no way absolve Naruto of the pain he's going to feel when he finds out Sasuke has been killed.
Sakura flat out denies lying about her feelings and even gets visibly angry about it. This is something I've always found curious. Why is she getting angry if everything she is saying is a lie? It almost makes her sound sincere, despite all of the stupidity that preceded this. Almost. We still have the fact that Sakura has been told that Sasuke causes Naruto pain, so he'd clearly continue pursuing Sasuke regardless of his promise to her were she really paying any attention to Sai or Shizune's words. So what part of Sakura honestly thought this whole thing would not blow up in her face?
Disregard the stupid justifications for Sasuke's asinine selfish criminal behavior and the continuing trend to always excuse Sasuke's behavior no matter what. Pay close attention to the dialogue on the bottom left panel. Naruto tells Sakura "It doesn't have anything to do with my promise to you." Wait, what? So in addition to Sai, Shizune and Sakura, Naruto is also now taking stupid pills (and notably and ironically lying to himself). Damn right it has to do with your promise to Sakura, which is why you brought it up when Sai asked you if you've told Sakura how you feel about her. What is going on here? Sai, Sakura and now Naruto. Within mere chapters of each other , their character motivations and personalities are actively being rewritten. What gets said in a few chapters earlier is flipped on its head a few chapters later. What the hell, Kishi?
My reaction is the same as Naruto's, but obviously for different reasons.
And now we reach what is arguably the dumbest part in this entire merry go round of stupidity. In reality, Sakura was supposed to tell Naruto that the other leaf ninjas have decided upon themselves to kill his precious Sasuke. Pay extra close attention as we learn Sakura's motivation in confessing to Naruto.
So she knew how Naruto would react, but decided to tell him anyway for . . . reasons? What the hell does he telling Naruto she loves him accomplish if she knows it won't accomplish anything. It is a complete and total waste of time. If she wants to kill Sasuke, then have her go kill Sasuke. Going and confessing to Naruto accomplishes absolutely nothing besides facilitating pointless drama. Put those plot speed boots and Sasuke detecting powers to good use and head directly for Sasuke. By killing him yourself, Naruto is no longer burden by his promise and your objectives are accomplished. So what the hell? Why didn't Sakura do this? She thinks Naruto is going to hate her forever anyway, right?
So what does the confession accomplish besides wasting our time?
Then there's this gem below:
Once again, Sai backpedals on us. First he wants to let Sakura know that she and Sasuke cause Naruto pain. Then he wants to let her know that everyone relies a bit too much on Naruto. Now he's been reduced to a screw up who should have kept his d_mn mouth shut so he implicitly apologizes talking nonsense to Sakura and setting her on this path in the first place. Way to go Sai. In just a few chapters, you've gone from a catalyst for some serious character development for Naruto and Sakura to a worthless buffoon who is only good for backpedaling exposition.
I won't cover the remainder of the arc other than to say that this whole false confession goes nowhere. Naruto and Sakura's highlighted behavior throughout these chapters and pages I've posted are never referenced again. For the remainder of the manga, it's as if none of it ever happened. And it may as well not have happened since there was no need for Sakura to confess here as a means of fulfulling her objectives. We could've skipped straight to her pursuing Sasuke and Naruto finding out as a result of Sai coming to warn him or something.
But I suspect there's a reason things were written in this fashion. Remember earlier when I mentioned having a theory about Shizune's idiotic observation despite there being nothing in Sai's comments to suggest otherwise? I think chapter 457 and 458 pissed off A LOT of the usual suspects (i.e. the ones Kishimoto apparently takes the time to watch their videos). And so Shizune's comment was a way of appeasing the parts of the peanut gallery who refuse to read even on a third grade level (NO NO NO, Naruto wants to save Sasuke for himself as well!) . It's possible that 457 and 458 were initially going to pave the way for something else. Perhaps something along these lines:
But that's not what we got. What we got was the heroine playing with Naruto's feelings despite knowing full well it wouldn't accomplish anything (thus legitimizing most of the complaints towards her character), the hero and heroine behaving in the dumbest and most inconsistent fashion we had ever seen up until that point (it gets topped during chapters 484 - 487) and a complete and utter waste of time that screams of pointless drama. A premonition of things to come for the following story arc no doubt.
Edited by ThroughWithLove, 29 September 2017 - 11:57 PM.