So there’s something similar to the Bechdel Test called the Mako Mori Test, inspired by Pacific Rim. To pass the Mako Mori test, the work requires:
- at least one named female character
- who gets her own character arc
- that is not about supporting a man’s story
Now, Naruto passes the Bechdel Test easily within the first few chapters/episodes (see Sakura and Ino’s introduction), but it doesn’t pass the Mako Mori Test. Not with the two main female characters, Sakura and Hinata.
I’m not denying that Sakura undergoes tremendous growth over the course of the story — but all of it is to support Naruto and Sasuke’s respective character arcs. I think a lot of us Sakura fans have gotten so bogged down in our own wishful thinking that we tend to forget that actual canon Sakura is nothing like the well-rounded, well-developed, inherently feminist role model we want her to be:
- The Sakura we want is a strong-willed, yet kind and compassionate character who wishes to grow stronger and improve herself for herself — supporting and catching up to Naruto and Sasuke come as a natural byproduct. She’s far from a perfect person, but she’s someone we can root for as she pushes out of mediocrity thrust upon her by her all too normal heritage, past all conceivable boundaries, into something truly amazing.
- Canon Sakura, on the other hand, has little agency or purpose outside supporting and catching up to Naruto and Sasuke. She initially resolves to better herself to support Naruto and bring back Sasuke, but she never really grows out of that, never wants anything for herself. And after all is said and done, after she barely reaches Naruto and Sasuke’s level, the very last thing we see her do in the manga, the only thing we see her do in the epilogue at all is… you know where this is going, and that particular debate isn’t the main focus of this argument.
With Hinata, we have almost the opposite problem. When we were first introduced to her, we saw a painfully shy little girl shut out by her father because she wasn’t as strong as he wanted her to be, and absolutely despised by her older, much stronger cousin for something over which she had no control. All she wanted was to push past all of that, become something her father could be proud of, a strong leader that could ensure that branch members of her clan like Neji would no longer have to suffer — and it was Naruto’s optimism, his courage that just so happened to inspire her to work toward that goal.
But after a certain point, all of that changed. Hinata no longer wanted anything beyond supporting Naruto — nothing we, the readers, could see. And just like that, her entire character was trivialized to a few superficial character traits and, surprise surprise, her desire to support Naruto.
By the epilogue, Sakura’s one defining feature became her devotion to Sasuke, and Hinata’s one defining feature became her devotion to Naruto. This isn’t a comment on the endgame pairings — rather that Sakura and Hinata, who absolutely should have passed by the sheer virtue of being the two female leads, spectacularly failed the Mako Mori Test.