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.