Sexism in Naruto: From Kishimoto’s Lips

Before I delve in, I should note that this section was admittedly the hardest for me to do. There was a lot of material to sift through and it needed to be given proper context. Also, I had read past interviews or heard the details of them, but some of that information wasn’t readily available.

While I had already had knowledge of or read several old interviews from Kishimoto beforehand, I needed to reread these and go over some material I had not yet seen. On top of that, I needed to vet this information and only stick to confirmed sources. Unfortunately, some trolls have put out fake interviews over the years and I will of course refrain from using the information from them.

Now, on the surface, I would understand if anyone who reads or has read the information in this post will argue against the words of Kishimoto being overtly or inherently sexist. Of course, I would disagree, most notably in the case of Sakura.

At the very least these excerpts provide valuable insights into how the mangaka viewed his characters and wanted to convey. I have left some things out, like Kishimoto’s description of Kakashi’s character becoming more “woman-like,” and other things I felt were totally innocuous or not germane to this post.

Anyway, as this section is running long, I thought I’d leave out my thoughts on each passage. I only added emphasis to what I thought was important. Beyond that, I want anyone who reads this to come to their own conclusions and weigh each passage on their own. I’d prefer it that anyway.

As you can see, the excerpts will be listed in chronological order. These include things translated from direct quotes from Kishimoto and summaries from people who have heard his past interviews. (I’m thinking about including an annotated source list for anyone reading this or anyone else who’s interested to find all the articles/links to these — and more.)


From a 2006 US Interview with Shonen Jump

Links:

Context: In a two-part, 2006 US Interview with Shonen Jump (USA), Kishimoto at one point was asked a question about Rock Lee and Sakura. SJ asked whether the fact that these two characters were seemingly born without special powers resonated with readers and if those factors led to their respective levels of popularity.

Excerpt:

Shonen Jump: Sakura and Rock Lee don’t appear to have any of the special powers that ninja like Naruto, Sasuke, or Gaara have—do you think those two characters are popular because they provide a kind of reader’s-eye view of the story as it unfolds?

Masashi Kishimoto: Is Sakura popular in the U.S.? Well, Lee only has Taijutsu. And as a girl [emphasis mine], Sakura is physically weaker than the others. So I can see why it’s easy to empathize with them. They represent human weaknesses.


From a 2009 Interview with Naruto Collector

Link to Images: http://www.naruto-boards.com/717851/a-collection-of-masashi-kishimoto

Context: It appears this is a real source, as Naruto Collector is/was a real magazine and there were images of the pages shown that held the text. The mangaka was asked a few rapid-fire odd-ball questions.

Excerpt:

NC: If you weren’t the creator of Naruto and were simply a fan of the manga, which character’s poster would be your first choice to put up in your bedroom?

MK: I’d prefer a female character, so maybe Tsunade, and maybe one of Naruto performing the Ninja Centerfold Jutsu. And Gaara….he’s one of my favorite characters.

NC: We know a lot about Naruto, Itachi, Gaara and Kakashi, but does Sakura have dark secrets we don’t know about yet?

MK: She’s a normal girl, so I haven’t given it much thought.


Late 2009: At the Infamous Jump Festa 2010

Link: Thread on Naruto Forums

Context (the gist of what was said): Kishimoto was asked a few things about the Kage Summit Arc, which was going on at the time. The discussion naturally veered toward Sakura and her false confession. The mangaka referred to her as “that chick,” which even shocked the interviewer. Kishimoto also said that he was writing Sakura like “a realistic girl,” and did not dispute the notion that Sakura was being a detestable person. He also threw in a remark about Hinata being more of a heroine than Sakura was by that point.

Excerpts:

 (The translator’s note is not my own.)

 ジャンフェスネタバレまとめ
JUMP Festa spoiler summary

・サクラはちょっとナルトに対して驕っている
Sakura’s acting a little haughty towards Naruto

・これからヒロインらしくする
She’ll be more heroine-like from now on

・サクラはやっぱりサスケが好きみたい
Looks like Sakura really does love Sasuke

各声優さんから岸本先生に質問
Each voice actor asked questions to Kishimoto-sensei

中村はやはりサクラの今後について、岸本「正直女らしい意地もみせる
As one might expect, Nakamura asked about what was upcoming with Sakura

周りからヒロインらしくないとかヒナタのほうがヒロインだとか言われている
がやはりサクラは自分の中でヒロインなんで、これからヒロインっぽい所見せる」
Kishimoto: “Honestly, from the standpoint of showing a female-like disposition, she hasn’t been much of a heroine. You could even say that Hinata’s more of a heroine than her. But since, as we know, Sakura is a heroine deep inside, she’ll show that side of hers from now on.”

ナルトは近いが、サクラやはりサスケが好き的な発言。後あんまりナルト対していい
言葉は使わなかったような驕っている…だっけ思い出せない。
Naruto’s close, but Sakura loves Sasuke as we should expect from that speech. She’s being haughty with her using not so kind words against Naruto right afterwards…didn’t she? I can’t recall.

次は岸本先生への質問コーナー
Next was the Questions For Kishimoto-sensei Corner

中村さんが「最近の展開でサクラは・・・」ってかんじで
Nakamura-san started off with something like, “With the latest developments, Sakura has…”
あいつ(竹内さんが「あいつ?w」って反応)はナルトの好意を利用したりイヤなヤツだけど、
He said something like, that chick* (Takeuchi reacted to that “That chick” lol) is detestable for using Naruto’s good will,

まあそういうリアルな女の子っぽく描こうと思って、といったかんじ
but, well that’s just how I’d think to write a realistic girl.

サクラがイヤなヤツだとはよく言われるけど故意でそうしてるらしい
You hear all the time that Sakura is a detestable person, but that’s what seems to be the intention

「ヒロインはサクラなので」「これから意地を見せるところを描く」
“Since Sakura is the heroine”, “I’ll be writing from now on to show her with that disposition”

「みんなヒナタヒナタ言うけど・・・」
“Though everyone says Hinata-Hinata all the time…”
↑これはヒナタを応援する声が大きいってニュアンスじゃないかな(個人的な印象ね)
↑I wonder if it’s that their voices supporting Hinata are so loud (my personal impression)

*tn note: word was “aitsu”, is genderless but normally used for guys in a very colloquial way (read: not polite). When referring to a guy, it’s “that guy” or “he”, and to a girl would be something like “that chick” or “she”, but of course in a slightly impolite manner.


From a Late-2013 Interview in Shonen Jump

Link: Article on Saiyan Island

Context: Kishimoto was giving an interview shortly after Jump Festa 2014.

Excerpt:

Q: Are any of your friends or family members inspiration for the characters?

Kishimoto Sensei: Let’s see…Naruto’s mom, Kushina, is based a little bit on my wife. She’s a bit like that, a little scary. (Laughs)


From a Late-2014 Interview Alongside Kosuke Yahagi for Weekly Shonen Jump

Link: Images as imgur Album

Context: In late 2014, Kishimoto shared a Q & A session with his first editor at Shonen Jump, Yahagi Kosuke. The two talked about how Kishimoto first took to manga, worked to fulfill his professional dream, and got started in the industry. Since the beginnings of Naruto were discussed, the topic of Sasuke and Sakura’s addition would naturally be discussed. Kishimoto elaborates on his initial plans for the characters.

Excerpt:

WSJ: Sasuke and Sakura make their appearance in chapter 3.

KISHIMOTO: Yahagi-san told me to focus on the main character in the first two chapters. And then to use chapter 3 onward to establish the rival and heroine and create a love-triangle relationship between the characters. I’m no good with female characters, so I wasn’t planning on this initially. But once I established the triangle, it became a lot easier to create the chapters after that. I was surprised by how good that advice was. And that’s why I tend to listen to what he tells me. Then again, one time he argued with me for six hours to convince me to take his advice. He’s very persuasive, so sometimes I have no choice.


2014 Translation of Select Excepts on Naruto Forums (by User mezzomarinaio)

Link: Post on NF

Context: The user mezzomarinaio was “summoned” by user Haruka Katana to respond in the SasuSaku FC thread (Part 12) concerning a certain part of an interview with CinemaCafé.net. Of course, it concerned the pairings of NaruHina and SasuSaku, particularly in connection with “Naruto the Movie: The Last.”

Post: 一方、映画でナルトに引導を渡す(?)役割を果たすことになったサクラを演じる中村さんは「ま さか、こんな 失恋気分を味わうとは…」と笑いつつ、ナルトとヒナタだけでなく、サクラとサスケの間に何があ ったのか「先 生、気になります」とその間のエピソードを描いてほしいと岸本さんにおねだり。岸本さんは「確 かにサスケの 方が気になりますよね。いろいろ、考えますね」と頷き、「サクラには幸せになってほしいです。 ツラいことば かり描いてきたので」としみじみと語っていた。。

http://www.cinemacafe.net/article/2014/12/06/27884.html

 

You mean this paragraph?

Basically, it says that at the premiere, Chie-san laughingly told Kishi that Sakura gave off the feeling of being broken-hearted when giving Naruto ‘the last rites over the deceased’ in the movie (don’t ask me… even the article put a question mark after that part XD) – and that she wanted to know what had happened between her and Sasuke, not just between Naruto and Hinata. The article says that she was literally begging Kishi to write about it. To which Kishimoto apparently nodded and answered with ‘Certainly, people are interested in Sasuke’s side… I’ll be thinking about various things’. Then he said very earnestly that he wanted Sakura to be happy, since he’s only been making her experience painful things until now.

As always, though, I can’t vouch for the article’s trustworthiness…

By the way… I know that everyone must be pretty tired of Kishi’s interviews by now (gods know I am), but I just wanted to clear this up in advance since I’ve seen some people claiming that Kishi said that ‘Sakura was close to reciprocating Naruto’s feelings’.

http://i61.tinypic.com/e7m39w.jpg

Why did you decide that Naruto and Hinata would get together?

Hinata was the only kid who paid close attention to the way Naruto was working hard from the very beginning, and always supported him. She understood that the way he worked hard and didn’t give up even if things didn’t go smoothly for him was pretty cool. Not that Sakura didn’t realize that along the way too… but just as I thought, not rewarding Hinata despite her looking at him from the very beginning would have been pitiful.

No comment on the rest of the paragraph… but nowhere does Kishi state that ‘Sakura was close to reciprocating Naruto’s feelings’ (in fact, he clearly says in a previous interview that he never make her change her feelings for Sasuke). He only mentions that along the way, she also noticed that Naruto was a hard worker and therefore pretty cool (duh) – in order not to give the impression that he was belittling her with his previous words about Hinata.


Details from a 2014 Kobyashi Interview

The original video is now unavailable.

Reddit Thread by OrganicDinosaur

Context: The interview in question went over a number of topics surrounding the manga and Kishimoto’s decision-making. Among the many topics Kishimoto addressed during the interview was Sakura’s perception and romance. The part that deals with Sakura’s character also concerns Hinata, in terms of popularity and Kishimoto’s intention for fan reception. The mangaka said that he felt that Hinata — who became far more popular than Sakura — had become the “true heroine,” so he brought her and Naruto closer together at one point during the war. Kishimoto was shocked by how unpopular Sakura was, even by girls, as early as Part 1. The mangaka tried to raise Sakura’s popularity by making her prettier.

Excerpts:

  • 22:55ish begins the shitstorm section about Sakura…24:08 Asks about her family. Since she wasn’t as well received by the readers (popularity-wise), he decided not to expand upon her background. Though Kishimoto himself likes her character, and tries to draw her beautifully.

  • This is what I think I can hear, Kishi really does say that Sakura wasn’t popular, and that’s the reason why her family wasn’t elaborated on. Kishi agrees with the interviewer’s reconstruction of his answer and laughs.

@24:06 Kishi「なんかぶっちゃけ、あの、サクラそんな人気なかったんでそこを広げてでも。(笑)」

Interviewer?「(笑)ぶっちゃけ人気で無かったから広げなかったんすか?」

Kishi「そう、そうかに。。。」

  • 25:52, if I’m hearing it right, says that Hinata didn’t have as many appearances as Sakura, but had a better reception (popularity). He wondered if she should be the heroine instead.
  • The parts I’m more sure that I can hear. Roughly it sounds to me like Hinata rose in popularity even though she wasn’t drawn much, like the exposure that Sakura gets. Kishi says perhaps he better make Hinata the heroine instead, because it seemed like she was closer to the position (like by the end)

@25:38

Kishi:「ヒナタばっかり人気上がるんで。 ヒナタ。。。あんまり描いてないのに、

。。。サクラみたいに何もしてないのに人気が上がるんで。

。。。この子ヒロインにしたほうがいいん。。。かなってちょっとのは…

。。。ヒロインっていうかヒロインの位置に近づけたほうがいい。。。最後活躍というか…」

  • ….I’m 90% sure that the meat of the convo above is right, from what I can hear (….they talk really quickly too ;__;’;;~)

  • Here we go, takL (NF’s main, native Japanese translator) heard the same thing as me. [LINK]


Taken from a Thread on NarutoPedia (by KirinNOTKarin98)

The Video with Kishimoto’s Interview is unavailable.

Thread on NarutoPedia

Context: The post I quoted from has even more detail than the above post, and it confirms the earlier information. Since the following excerpt is part of an extensive summary, it has plenty of its own context.

Excerpt:

On Sakura’s popularity & character – Kobayashi then asks about Sakura. Kishimoto says he tried to write her more realistically [than other characters], and tried to show a girl’s ‘real’ self/ feelings [through inner Sakura]. He thought she would appeal to female fans, but was surprised when she actually became hated. Kobayashi asks if there was a lot of Sakura hate, and Kishimoto says there was, and even young girls told him they hate her. Kishimoto said that he continued on regretting Sakura’s character. Kobayashi apologizes for bringing up the painful memories as Kishimoto apologizes for tailing off (lol).

Kobayashi said that his team were discussing in a meeting why Sakura’s family was never written. He says that they eventually appeared in a movie, but not in the manga. Even when all the parents are shown along with their children during the war, and even random relatives are shown, Sakura’s parents aren’t seen. He says that they came across like a civilian family and kind of made Sakura seem on the side-lines. He asks Kishimoto why this is, and Kishimoto replies that, honestly speaking, Sakura was that unpopular that even if he expanded on her… (nb. He tails off in what he’s saying). Kobayashi reiterates Kishimoto’s statement, and Kishimoto tells him that’s right, to which Kobayashi laughs.

Kobayashi asks if it was too late to drop her, and Kishimoto says that he just had to persevere with her, and thought about how to raise her popularity. In the 4th volume, a cover page shows her with Katsuyu, so this was the direction he tried to work in. In later volumes, he tries to draw her more beautifully. On the cover page of Vol 66, he drew Sasuke and Naruto quickly, but with Sakura he took a long time to draw her beautifully and was using source materials as guides. But he says that in the end no one really took notice (it had no effect), and Hinata’s popularity just kept going up on its own.

Kishimoto explains that Hinata, like Sakura, never really did anything but her popularity just kept going up and up, so part way through the story he started to wonder whether he should make her the main heroine instead, or at least gradually write her into the direction of the heroine.


From the Post-2015 NYCC Interview

Link: Transcript on AnimeNewsNetwork

Context: This is pretty straightforward. In this section, Kishimoto was asked about the end-of-manga pairing of NaruHina, but in terms of the reaction to it [particularly in the United States]. Kishimoto’s answer is mostly humorous.

Excerpt:

Did you expect such a divided reaction (in the U.S. at least) when you revealed whom Naruto marries in the future?

I actually didn’t realize I caused such controversy.

Really? You had no idea?

Mari Morimoto: So the fans wanted Naruto to get together with Sakura?

Well, there’s definitely camps of fans who felt that way, and there were also those that were very happy he ended up with Hinata. But there were quite passionate opinions on both sides!

I almost caused a rift in my own household too, because my wife was very upset also that Naruto didn’t get together with Sakura. In fact, she complained quite vehemently to me!

Jo Otsuki: Quite few of the female staff at Studio Pierrot that produces the anime, apparently were also upset.

Whoah. So how did you handle that, especially with your wife?

I tried to defuse the situation by assuring my wife that SHE was actually the model for Hinata. (laughs)

As you were saying that, I thought, I wonder if your family life was more like Hinata and Naruto‘s family or Sasuke and Sakura’s? (everyone laughs)

Masashi Kishiimoto: Well… it might not actually be like either. My wife is quite strong as well, she’s a strong character.

Oh, so kind of like Sakura!

So I think my wife might secretly realize that Hinata wasn’t really the model for her… (laughs)

Did you decide this early on, that Hinata and Naruto would get together in the end, or when…?

From the middle, actually.

From the middle of the story? Hm! What sealed this decision for you?

I think what made me realize it was partly because, if you really look back and think about it, Hinata always supported and acknowledged Naruto, even before Master Iruka. She had the ability to see beyond his reputation and see the true person inside. I think I started realizing that they were meant to be.


From Shōnen Jump Podcast: NYCC Interview With Kishimoto

Links:

Context: Kishimoto gives yet another interview with Shonen Jump after the New York City Comic-Con. This time, he is with two others, including his translator, Mari Morimoto. About 13 minutes in, Kishimoto was asked about the conception of Kaguya. She was admittedly thought of late into Part 2. Kishimoto was next quizzed on his favorite female character.

Excerpt:

Interviewer: “Who is your favorite female character, and why?”

Kishimoto: Does this mean within my own Naruto?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Kishimoto: You know, I’m a little shy having to mention a character that I myself created. Euhm… I guess… Maybe I should say Hinata.

Yeah, I think I’ll go with Hinata.

Interviewer: (laughs) Oh, Naruto-kun.

Translator: Why?

Kishimoto: Why? Eh… Hmmm… I guess it’s because she’s not violent at all?

Interviewer: (laughs)

Kishimoto: Yeah, Sakura… she’s kind of a hard woman. (laughs

Interviewer: (laughs) That’s Sasuke’s problem now.

Kishimoto: (laughs) Yeah, you’re right.

Interviewer: (laughs) He deals with it by not being home.

(everybody laughs)


From a 2015 Interview with Cinema Today

Links:

Context: Kishimoto was asked about planning end-game romances (the big two pretty much).

Excerpt:

Q: During serialization, were you writing with the characters’ romances also decided in advance?

Kishimoto: I wasn’t very conscious of it. I thought I would leave the course of it up to them. I wrote it while wondering if Sasuke and Sakura would get together and how it would be. I didn’t write Sakura in the position of heroine. Naruto was special because he was the main character, but all other characters were equal, regardless of who were main or side characters. The characters would decide based how it would work in the story. But along the way, I thought that Naruto and Sakura were different. I somehow decided [their romances] at a pretty early phase.

Q: So you left it up to the characters.

Kishimoto: In the same way that the beginning of romance is not very conscious, you might say it was not very conscious for me. I’m embarrassed to write it, so in truth, there were parts that I didn’t want to write (laughs). In “The Last -Naruto the Movie-” Naruto’s romance was written, so I was happy that the parts that I myself could not write could be seen in the movie.

This series continues as I will weigh the differences in treatment.


 

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