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CapnSwashbuckler PM
Joined May '07

It's ironic, really; I gravitate towards Harry Potter and Naruto fanfiction, despite outright despising both series. I despise Harry Potter mostly for books six and seven; through the first five books, Harry was set up to be a hero, and he does a face-martyr turn. Moreover, most of the heroic setup is illusory; he never does anything useful or proactive, and he never really puts in the effort to face the obvious future challenges. PerfectLionheart has an excellent work comparing Harry Potter to Mr. Potato Head in Sorceror's Stone, and how nothing really changes no matter which of the two is in that spot. Naruto I hate because the main character, title character, and pretty much every other character all suck. I realize nobody reads shonen manga for brilliant characterization, but Kishimoto actually managed to put together a reasonably interesting setting, even if it does make much more sense if you think of the ninja as samurai, and then populated it with thoroughly unlikable characters. The only thing keeping the setting from being 40k-level grimdark is the title character. (I decline to say main character because I think that's really Sasuke - after all, so much of the action centers around him, shows him to be the hero, or is centered around yet more Sharingan bullshit.)

Speaking of utterly unlikeable characters. At what point does writing stop being simply in-character and start being outright bashing for characters who are utter douchebags to everyone around them?

Something that really bothers me about Naruto fandom is shipping. I mean fuck. Are we really talking about little kids sucking face? Even in cultures where kids grew up fast because of constant low-level warfare, and yeah, that's been a historical thing here and there, even then the kids mostly waited for puberty. Admiration of character traits is cool. The sort of stupidity where Sakura offers to go with Sasuke when he leaves the village goes well past that and blows my mind in so many different ways. That's a level of dumb in characterization that I think fandom should ideally avoid, not embrace. Even then a lot of pairings don't make sense. Naruto/anyone doesn't make sense because he's too dumb to live, and he probably doesn't have the emotional maturity or exposure to understand the nature of or even know how to deal with a romantic relationship because of a lack of interpersonal relationships in his life. Sasuke/anyone doesn't make sense because he's a singleminded sociopath. As much as I hate to admit it, and even though Naruto is apparently heterosexual based on his pursuit of Sakura, Naruto/Sasuke might well be the most sensible pairing for the both of those characters. Naruto is unhealthily obsessed with Sasuke, and he's the only one who could really break the little Emo Avenger out of his shell a bit.

Besides which. Naru/Saku and Naru/Hina are both horrible pairings for what I think should be obvious reasons. Sakura is utterly detestable, and Naru/Hina throws together two people who are utterly clueless about how functional families work. Both are emotional cripples who simply react and develop differently to years of emotional abuse. But, it's no big deal to me. My OTP is Shino/Fu and only much later, not as twelve-year-olds sucking face, so whatever.

All the interpersonal relationships involving Naruto confuse me. Tsunade is a quarter Uzumaki. Why did she ignore a cousin so readily? Jiraiya was his godfather. Where was he during Naruto's childhood? Sure, he had his spy network and his duty to Konoha. He also had his duty to Naruto and Minato Namikaze, which should have taken precedence. If you don't believe so, let's consider what being someone's godfather actually means. It's a sacred honor, which predates the Romans. Failing in those duties is as sure to piss off the gods as backstabbing someone who has broken bread with you, or mistreating travelers in distress (consider the 'angels among us' thing, which is a serious biblical thing), or all the other things that sure as hell piss off the gods. You don't fail in that shit because you want to be able to look yourself in the mirror the next morning. Even if that wouldn't be an issue because you fail at being a decent human being, you don't fail in that shit because you don't want the gods to make you their whipping boy in the hereafter.

I feel as though Tsunade's Uzumaki heritage and Jiraiya being Naruto's godfather were ill-considered later additions by Kishimoto, and he hadn't really thought through the implications of a lot of different stuff. When you get down to it, Naruto runs on fridge logic. Seriously, none of it makes sense fifteen minutes later and there's more holes in its plot than there were in Los Angeles's infrastructure after the Rodney King Riots. And that's the bigger issue, really. But it becomes really, really obvious with the interpersonal and familial relationships. Like how Uchiha Sasuke doesn't go into hiding from his clan's enemies but Naruto has to nearly die to discover his parentage. Or how nobody who should have looked out for him did for...why again? Even Danzo would've made a better guardian for Naruto than what he got in canon. Sure, he'd have been turned into a living weapon, but at least he probably wouldn't have damn near gotten killed his first time outside the village gates. He'd have been halfway able to defend himself. Naruto should be a moderately significant political figure as he gets older, considering the relationship with the Uzumaki Clan and Uzushiogakure. To me, there seems to be an uncomfortable degree of similarity between Sarutobi and Dumbledore. It's honestly difficult for me to not regard both of them as villains in their canon form. And really, the reason it's hard to not look at them in that light is on the authors, for tossing crap in later on which can only paint them in just that light.

I think the only reason the Uzumaki were made out to be at all important was because things were getting to the point where if characters didn't have the Mary-Sue Steal-Again, they just weren't important. Much like how Naruto just isn't important without the fox stuck in his gut. I don't know canon well enough to back this up with volume numbers for revelations, but given how the series has progressed I think it's a reasonable assumption, or at least not eminently unreasonable. The entire series makes much more sense if Naruto's just a clanless orphan who had the bad luck to get picked for having a giant-ass demon fox sealed in him.

I feel as though so much could have been done with the Naruto setting by Kishimoto, but wasn't. How do the daimyos have any say in anything? Do they actually have any say in anything? Or is their relationship with the Kages more like the relationship between pre-Meiji Era Japan's emperor and shogun? If not, how do they counter the level of force that the Kages command? Because let's be blunt, power talks. They have to have something up their sleeve besides goodwill, tradition and money. Likewise, so much could have been done with some characters that wasn't. Danzo Shimura is an excellent example of this. In canon it seems like every action is designed to shoot Konoha in the foot. That doesn't make any sense to me. Kenchi618's portrayal of Danzo in his story The Sealed Kunai seems much more appropriate; there, he's basically the setting's J. Edgar Hoover. That characterization makes a lot of sense to me, and turns what could be a barrel of what the fuck into something usable. Likewise Maxfic's use of Danzo in SIPA.

Speaking of the political side of the setting, I think the only explanation for why things suck so bad for Naruto is that everyone's evil and/or trying to limit his power. He's carrying the most powerful demon in the world in his gut and he's the kid of two ridiculously powerful ninja. He's going to be a one-man army. So why does he suck so fucking bad at everything? It's like teachers were outright instructed to hold him back as much as possible. That, the Sandaime's kindness, everything points to a deliberate attempt to induce Stockholm Syndrome and excessive loyalty to the Hokage. If the Sandaime were really trying to make things not suck for the kid, he'd execute people left and right to make his point. Because military dictators can seriously do that when they need to make a point. I mean really. Let's say the Sandaime wanted Naruto taught properly. Academy teacher tries to send him out of the classroom for practical demonstrations? Executed in front of the rest of the academy staff. I'm sure that seeing a coworker's lifeblood staining the ground at his feet does wonders for one's motivation. Pour encourager les autres and all that. That obviously didn't happen, so the only rational explanation is that Sarutobi was making sure that Naruto was deliberately limited in order to be able to keep him under control. In that light, Kakashi's role as Team 7's teacher makes a lot of sense. Let's take the two most troublesome kids in that class, one an obvious flight risk and the other someone whose power has to be limited as much as possible, pair them with the civilian kid we don't care about, and stick them with the lazy teacher who's unlikely to actually teach them anything! To me, this is the only explanation for the blatantly horrible teaching Naruto gets in canon. How else do you explain him being able to learn kinjutsu in less than two hours and being horrible at everything that was taught at the academy? I mean yeah, he's ignorant, but he's obviously not completely dumb. There's more going on there.

The title character himself completely confuses me. What exactly is Naruto? He's a total moron who's too dumb to live, and yet he can master complicated techniques faster than anyone else. Is he secretly brilliant when he focuses, but dumb as a box of rocks when he can't control his ADHD? Is he some kind of idiot savant? Does he have crippling dyslexia? I don't think we ever get any sort of explanation. Second option is best for comedy fanfics, first and third are better for more serious occasions. But that's beside the point! I'm befuddled by the TC's loyalty to his village when it and its people have never done anything to deserve his loyalty. If they had, maybe he wouldn't be such a dumbass. I mean really, he couldn't graduate the academy because he had trouble with a technique that he was pouring too much chakra into? Seriously? How incompetent are the academy teachers? Only the best NCOs become Drill Sergeants. You want good initial instruction in any military. To do anything else is outright dangerous to the longterm health of a military organization. We know one of his teachers was a spy; just how badly was the academy compromised? And that's one relatively minor example. There are like three people who he can say he's close to at the start of the series. He gets put on a team with a teacher who doesn't teach and two people who will never respect him. This does not seem to me as though it should be fertile ground for loyalty to bloom. Rather, it seems to me that anyone who really had to deal with that would force people to acknowledge him by going on killing sprees. And causing people to remember him by trying to break the seal holding back the Fox. Or whatever. That kind of stuff. You know, the way Gaara dealt with his problems.

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