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Posts Tagged ‘Ino’

images-63What are the things that are most important to women? Well, if you believe what the media shows, it seems we think of nothing but fashion and guys. My eyes were recently drawn to an episode of a spin-off anime of Naruto, following the comedic adventures of Naruto’s friend and comrade, Rock Lee and others in short, mini skits. This particular episode featured a skit about “a maiden’s battle” and depicted four of the major female characters of the series, Sakura, Hinata, Ino, and Tenten so, I decided to check it out. (For those of you unfamiliar with the set up in Naruto, ninja are commonplace and most of the cast, including the girls I’ve just mentioned, are skilled warriors who aid in protecting their village and perform dangerous missions. Yet, as I’ve written about in other posts, the female characters are often given more traditional roles.) Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that this skit was a cess pool of stereotypes.

In the ten to fifteen minute skit, there is a big sale going on at a department store, the kind where hundreds of people line up in front of the entrance before the doors have even opened, all prepared to charge in and grab the best deals. It is revealed in a scene with Tenten’s two male comrades that she has gone of to a “women’s battle” instead of training as she usually does. What’s this “women’s battle,” you ask? Yes, it’s braving the mob and competing with fellow women for the best bargains at the sale. We soon find out that Tenten’s fellow female comrades, Sakura, Ino, and Hinata have also come and even powerful women like Tsunade, who is the leader of the village. This extreme shopping trip is compared to a battle and the women use ridiculous tactics to try to outwit others in order to get what they want.

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I searched “shopping” and this is the kind of stuff that comes up. Look at how happy these white women are to be shopping!

So, what’s wrong with this? This is a comedy and I’m sure some people will think that I’m taking this too seriously. After all, while this is one of only a few skits I’ve seen from the show, it’s clear that all the skits play on the ridiculous. My problem with this skit is that the comedy lies in pure stereotyping of women. While the men train, the women participate in petty competitive behavior over a sale. Only one male character is suggested to be partaking in the sale while all the major female characters that live in that village are depicted along with the nameless mob of other shoppers who are depicted as women. By placing all these major female characters in this situation, it makes it seem like all women, no matter their different personalities, are drawn to “girly” activities like shopping. Not only that, but the characters and even the skit’s title verify that this is a “woman’s battle.” That phrasing bothers me beyond suggesting that mostly women show up to these things because to me it draws a line in the sand, so to speak; if shopping is specifically a woman’s battle, does that mean that serious things war, an actual battle, are supposed to be a man’s fight and some women just happen to be there as well?

There is nothing wrong with a woman who likes to shop. Even I like to do it sometimes. There is something wrong, however, with depicting only and all women shopping, especially in such a competitive fashion since that perpetrates the female vs. female stereotype as well.  While many cultures, including my own, label shopping as something women do and like to do, I’ll bet you there are men who like to do that as well. While this sale isn’t limited to clothing, in the United States, many stores will have huge sales on a day called “Black Friday,” just after our Thanksgiving Day and tons of men participate in that. And certainly there are some women who absolutely hate to shop.

Finally, as for this skit being a comedy, in this day and age when we’re trying to move away from stereotypes and be more progressive, wouldn’t it be more enjoyable for everyone to make fun of silly stereotypes like the ones I’ve discussed here? Anyway, if you’d like to see the skit for yourself, I’ve put a link to the episode it’s in at the bottom of this post. The skit starts after the second commercial break at the halfway mark. Watch it if you’d like and tell me what you think!

http://www.crunchyroll.com/naruto-spin-off-rock-lee-his-ninja-pals/episode-42-shino-loves-insects-tenten-fights-a-maidens-battle-610747

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Warning!! Some minor spoilers for Naruto!

Art by Masashi Kishimoto

Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura. Three names that are highly popular in the manga/anime community. These are the names of three characters from the ever popular series, Naruto. Naruto, the protagonist of the series starts off the oddball kid striving to gain acknowledgment, Sasuke begins as the cool and handsome type who excels at anything he tries, but has a certain darkness about him, and finally, Sakura…well, she likes Sasuke. Harsh, yes, but this is honestly the first thing we, as readers of the manga or viewers of the anime, know about Sakura. Well, that and that Naruto has a crush on her (even though Sakura wouldn’t give Naruto the time of day in the beginning).

But Sakura actually has a lot of potential. Similar to Hermione from Harry Potter, she is the brainiac of the bunch and she’s eager to let you know it, comprehending some concepts before even genius Sasuke figures it out completely. And while she doesn’t have the brute strength or any special skills (initially) like the guys, Sakura has good control over some of the finer, technical points of ninja training like chakra (a type of energy) control. (For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it takes place in a fantasy world filled with modern ninja.) Sakura teaches Naruto and Sasuke a few things, here and there.

Despite this, Sakura sits on standby through much of the first several volumes of manga. There are a few moments of glory (Sakura showing up both Naruto and Sasuke at training then essentially teaching them how she did it being the best one), but mostly, she gawks over Sasuke, snaps at Naruto, participates in some dialogues, and stands on the sidelines.

Art by Masashi Kishimoto

Sakura isn’t stupid though, as I’ve said. She knows she’s the weakest link and that Naruto and Sasuke end up being the heroes while she does practically nothing comparatively. She’s just along for the ride. In an almost palpable wave of depression, this dawns of Sakura accompanied by symbolic pictures of her watching the backs of her two comrades. Luckily, Sakura isn’t the type to wallow in despair and do nothing to change the situation. She decides to change; no more looking at Naruto and Sasuke’s backs, she’s going to walk beside them from now on and be a real asset!

Art by Masashi Kishimoto/ Translation by Mangareader.net

Finally, after sitting around uncomfortably for so long, her feet tingling with sleep, she moves somewhat awkwardly at first, but then with new-found energy that bursts forth spectacularly. Following these awakenings are beautiful times for Sakura, her real shining moments and the Chunin Exam arc of the Naruto series showcase a number of them. Protecting Naruto and Sasuke in a moment of crisis and taking on an opponet in a heated brawl of brains and brawns is one example. But while these moments are full of Sakura asserting herself, realizing new potentials, and allowing the readers to get to know her better, they are undermined ever so slightly for me. I say that because even though Sakura tries to protect Naruto and Sasuke (and it is truly intense), she ends up being protected. By the end of the Chunin Exam arc, Sakura is forced to play the damsel in distress more than ever before when she’s under the threat of being killed by another young ninja if Sasuke and Naruto don’t beat him. This kind of sequence of events (gaining power, playing a key part, but reverting back to leaving everything to her comrades) has repeated itself at least twice since the second part of the series began. It’s disappointing as a fan, watching her make a breakthrough, but having this remade Sakura yanked away just when I was getting excited.

Art by Masashi Kishimoto

The other thing that always disappoints me about the Naruto series is that, despite showcasing many times the power of friendship, friendships between females are unfortunately lacking. Sakura’s one female friend that is depicted is her rival in both love and profession and the two constantly fight. It seems their chosen greeting for each other is Ino (the friend) making some jab about Sakura’s forehead (because Sakura believes she has a large one) and Sakura calling Ino a pig. It is revealed that once Ino and Sakura were close friends, but when they realized they both liked the same boy (Sasuke), they changed to rivals. Now as a reader and fan of Naruto I understand that being one’s rival is another way of being a friend in the series, something that is discussed often about Naruto and Sasuke’s relationship, but Naruto also has a lot of normal friends who aren’t rivals, but just plain old friends. It would have been good to see friendship between girls instead of the usual jealousy depicted between girls. I think the other problem is main reason why the two became rivals. Fighting over a guy that doesn’t return either of their feelings just seems a little sad. While Naruto is jealous of Sasuke because he has Sakura’s attention, that is not the main reason the two boys are rivals. It’s true, girls can be mean to each other and fight over guys, but it would be nice if good friendships were shown in fiction because, believe it or not, it does happen.

Art by Masashi Kishimoto

Both of these scenarios undermine great potential that exists and Naruto isn’t the only manga that does this to its female characters. I’m speaking to women and men both when I say wouldn’t it be more interesting if female characters like Sakura could make that extra leap of faith and not depend so much on the male characters around her or if good relationships were shown between girls? If for no other reason, it would be less expected and provide new scenarios. As I wrote this, it occurred to me that another female character in the series, Temari is a good example. She doesn’t appear as often as Sakura and readers don’t get much of a chance to see Temari interacting with other young women, but she stands on equal footing with her male comrades and is not placed in such weakened positions as other female characters in the series. Sounds like I need to do a piece on her!

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