I’m sure I’m not imagining things now, or overanalyizing.

Naruto is a boys-will-be-boys, fraternal love shounen anime. I don’t think that the manga is so different from the anime arcs that it can’t be compared, so I’ll judge the thing as a whole and offer more of my critique.

Of course, Naruto is doing a few things with homoromantic/homoromantic asexual love (?)–that is affection between two or more people of the same gender that is affectionate, sexual, and/or nonsexual–that many fighting anime meant for male audiences does not do. But the rub is that female characters, no matter what positions of power they might hold, are on the periphery as things that need to be protected, mothers, the love interest of male characters, violently irrational maniacs, boy crazy goofs, healers and nurses, spiteful deceptive vipers, canon fodder for male ignorance and sexism perpetrated by male characters.

After watching the most recently subbed episode of Naruto Shippuden (episode 247, “Target: The Nine Tails”), and seeing Kushina’s portrayal, I’m really frustrated with Kishimoto and the animating staff. The mangaka’s resolution to Kushina being brought to the Village Hidden in the Leaves to be a vessel for the Nine Tails, and how she dealt with it, is that she “filled herself with love”. What the hell is that supposed to mean? She got a boyfriend, is this the answer to sexism and making women’s bodies vessels and weapons of political warfare? That’s the resolution to this horrible thing that an entire village and it’s political leaders decided to do to her? And then they told her not to be too loud while she was giving birth to a f**kin’ baby??? 0_0

That’s got to be one of the most horrible and the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. He chose to present her as yet another passive, maternal, my-boyfriend-fixed-the-horrors-of-my-life kind of female character. Another passive, motherly (albeit with a fiery temper) kind of female character, using her inconsequential, passive magical girl powers to save everyone except herself. I’ll tell her the same thing I’d tell Sailor Moon: She would get punched in the face and murdered if she tried to use the power of love to stop a fist from coming at her and to stop someone trying to kill her. I think Kushina’s plight could have been presented, at this point, as more realistic.

It’s really sad because several of Kishimoto’s female characters have a lot of promise and potential, but despite that the anime/manga is ongoing, it’s clear that these characters as strong female heroines are being poorly executed/portrayed. I definitely think that Kishimoto’s inability to craft 3-dimensional female heroes is a reflection of how he probably thinks of women and interacts with them. It’s the same hurtle that female viewers and female players such as myself run into with both anime and manga and furthermore the gaming industry.

Art is not separate from those who create it, it comes from within them.


Taviante Queens


13 thoughts on “Masashi Kishimoto’s Female Characters in ‘Naruto’ Revisited

  1. I feel like commenting a lot, so sorry if I show up alots. Anywho thank you for a level headed, brief examination of the female characters. I know many (including myself) who could go off on tangents about how messed up female representation is, but few can actually acknowledge the potential of some of these characters (like yourself). So again, thank you.

    1. You’re welcomed to comment here as much as you like. (The only people I blow my fuse at are people who I feel come to my blogs to insult me.)

      I do try to be fair in my criticism of things, which usually means I try to express my thoughts and feelings on the subject matter to the fullest.

      I actually really like Naruto, so it hurts and infuriates me a lot that Masashi Kishimoto has chosen to portray female characters this way while creating such a powerful dynamic between male characters. I feel the same way about Bleach but the patriarchy and fraternity just keeps getting in the way.

  2. Well apart from Bleach’s (to me) excessive objectification (am I allowed to say that word?) I feel Ten Ten being underplayed makes her less of an exception, because she’s part of a team of badA ninja that occasionally appear. When they do come on the scene Ten Ten is well underplayed much of the time, leaving a lot to be desired in her character’s development. I mean, Rock Lee is the survivor, Neji had a deep past but reformed, and then there’s Ten Ten. I’m like over 100 episodes behind but I don’t think she’s as up to par as she could be- character wise and skill wise.

    1. I don’t see why you wouldn’t be allowed to use that word, especially since its relevant to the conversation.

      I agree with you, the underplaying of Ten Ten is pretty bad. I don’t view her as an exception but I do see her as an overtly feminist figure, someone who is excited about kunoichi succeeding and becoming stronger (if the term “feminist” can be applied here). All the other young kunoichi have their heads wrapped up in boys and looking pretty for the most part it seems.

      In 100 episodes, when you catch up on it, nothing much has changed with Ten Ten, I can tell you that much. She’s still the obscure female weapon’s specialist on Team Guy and that’s pretty much it, disappointing.

  3. I wrote down a bunch of really deep stuff, but my IPod Internet crashed and the deep stuff I wrote got destroyed. If ever you wanted to contact me for arguments in Naruto, I wrote my email. I’ll probably attempt to reply at a later date.

    1. I hate when that happens! Thank you for trying to offer your thoughts though. Do come back…under one condition:

      I’m not sure if you’re A) going to comment on general perceptions of Naruto, B) giving a simple presentation of your personal opinions on the anime/manga, or, a huge no-no, C) here to argue with me about my reading and opinions of Naruto.

      If you’re here to argue with me, then I can tell you I won’t be too open or receptive to it unless you’re super polite and appear not to be a bigot.

  4. His portrayal of Sakura simply broke my last tolerance. Well, if Kishimoto was going for shounen-ai, I wouldn’t have minded. But he forcefully peppered the manga with females at just the right spots to make the male characters shine.
    And then, the last chapter came out… Was is it any surprise to any of us that he made all the females pregnant and home bound!!!
    And then there’s this scene of Anko being fat!!! Meaning what??!!!
    I curse the day I started watching and reading Naruto. I can honestly say that Kishimoto destroyed an entire part of my childhood and its idealism.

  5. I don’t know what I expected. The manga seemed to say that big dreams are only for little boys and big boys. And I think none of the female fans missed that hidden message.
    Kishimoto couldn’t write a powerful female character even if sylvia Plath herself held his hands. He literally has to give them a bad temper and ground-breaking(pun intended) skills to tell his readers, ‘look at me, I give you a powerful female’.
    And I still don’t get it, how hinata became the dutiful wife to our ever powerful, ever loving hero Naruto!!! I should have known better, the straight hair, the heavy breasts, the meek demeanor, strong but not stronger than men— and we have Hinata, the ideal Japanese dream girl. First he made Neji stronger and then he killed him off, to tell the rest of us, ‘There, the discussion is over, Neji is stronger. He died. Now you’ll never know what happens in the future’. And instead of showing us Hinata’s commitment to the Hyuuga clan, we have her popping the future hokage and his sister in succession.
    I am pretty sure that, if Kishimoto ever creates a female Hokage in the form of Sarada Uchiha, he will make another Tsunade.

    1. I don’t know why your comments only just appeared in my queue, I apologize. I 100% agree. I like Neji’s development, now we’ll never know how much he could have changed. I like Hinata but you said it best. Don’t forget how he killed off Chiyo so Gaara could live (though you could argue that Chiyo sacrificed her life to correct a wrong she caused that hurt Gaara and her village). The female characters exist only to be derided and make the male characters look better. They exist as eye candy. But that’s the mistake Kishimoto made–because everybody who’s actually paying attention can see it.

  6. I can’t rail enough. Is Kishimoto even aware of what his female fans think??!! I don’t know. How can any artist with such a global outreach be so apathetic? I feel like after more than a decade of working on Naruto and affecting many lives, Kishimoto will simply be known as an artist who failed as an artist. The manga artist who detested females to such an extent that he couldn’t even dream them bigger in fiction.
    Can he not understand what we feel. We are disappointed. I am disappointed.

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