Two and a Half Minutes
Warning - I don’t care if you ship Sasusaku, Narusaku, Narusasu, or Naruhina this post is gonna hurt. It’s long - but that’s because it is addressing something that has been going on a long time.
So, the fandom, myself included, have been giving Sakura Haruno a lot of sh** for her “two and a half minute” date with Sasuke.
But I’ve been rereading the series - and a realization slowly dawned on me. A realization that Sakura Haruno - one of my most hated characters - might in fact be one of the most tragic characters in all of fiction.
Now, if you’re out of the loop, the “two and a half minute” date meme comes from Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Episode 17. Ino takes Sakura to where she had her first date with Sasuke.
Sakura remarks, with a wistful smile, that the date only lasted two and a half minutes.
Now, many people view the above as Studio Pierrot being “biased” against Sasusaku. That since the above episode is anime original, that it’s just Studio Pierrot crapping all over Sakura and Sasuke because they dislike the characters. I fundamentally disagree with this view. There’s many reasons i disagree with this view - the notion of an entire studio disliking a character is absurd and childish, Sumire was an anime original character but she is appearing in the manga as well - Boruto had a movie before the manga proper started - but the main reason I disagree with this view is because I think the shortness of the date - along with other visual elements - hints towards a plot that has been going on since the very beginning of Naruto as a series
So before we ask “what significance does two and a half minutes have?”, let’s examine where Sakura sits when she “reminisces” about her date.
From behind, Sakura sits on the left side of the bench. Now, remember - she’s reminiscing about her first date with Sasuke here. Try and figure out what’s wrong with the above picture - specifically, the problem with Sakura sitting on the left side of the bench. Give up? Well, remember, this is supposed to be Sakura and Sasuke’s first date. Sakure and Sasuke do not begin dating until chapter 700. With the above in mind - that the first date is sometime after chapter 699 - and with Sakura sitting where she sits - there’s something she and Sasuke cannot do.
If Sakura sat on the right side of the bench - then Sasuke would have to sit on the left. To hold hands, Sakura would have to hold out her right hand - and Sasuke his left. But Sasuke can’t do that.
He lost his left hand in his fight with Naruto in chapter 699.
So what’s going on? Is the evil Studio Pierrot painting Sasuke and Sakura as so clumsy as to not sit properly to hold hands?
No, I don’t think so. But before you write off Sakura’s placement on the left side of the bench as a coincidence, remember, Studio Pierrot has been very persistent about Sasuke’s missing left hand. In the second ED, Sayonara Moon Town, Sarada reaches for Sasuke’s left hand - which of course isn’t there.
The imagery here is obvious - Sarada doesn’t know her father well enough to know he is missing his left hand. But there’s more
left hand imagery in the ED than that.
Specifically, towards the end. Sarada sees a blurry picture of her mother and her father holding her hands - with Sasuke using his
left right hand. But when Sarada puts her glasses on - the image is revealed for the fake it is. Just as Sasuke never held Sarada with his left hand, Sarada’s family was never truly united.
There’s a lot to say about Sarada - she is in my opinion the most interesting character in Boruto by a mile. But this post is about Sakura - and about understanding Sakura’s dilemma - Sakura’s tragedy. I will not mince words to appease the concerns of shippers - what Sakura Haruno faces transcends OTPs and petty shipping.
So I’ve been saying that I do not think Studio Pierrot is biased against Sasusaku. I stand by that statement 100%. However, I do think Studio Pierrot portrays Sasusaku for what it is - a broken marriage.
Primarily, it is Sasuke’s absence that causes the Uchiha family stress - but ultimately, it is Sasuke’s lack of communication that hints towards broader problems. Sasuke leaves Konoha, Sakura, and Sarada to investigate the Moon People. 80% of his missions take place in locations where cell phones do not work. In a healthy marriage - you’d expect Sasuke to still vist and contact Sakura and Sarada once in a while - but in the show…
For those who think Studio Pierrot is the devil, note that in the manga Gaiden story written by Kishimoto, Sarada never met her father once either - and in terms of letters, keepsakes, and momentos, all Sarada and Sakura have are a pair of glasses, and a picture.
Now, I am not trying to demonize Sasuke - or any character. But what I am doing, and what Studio Pierrot is doing - is humanizing them. Boruto as a series focuses on what happens after the “happy ending” - after the hero achieves his dreams and saves the day.
The easiest thing in the world a sequel can do is rehash the first story. It’s a rather simple fanfic level of writing a bad sequel strives for - all the characters from the first series marry, have kids, and are completely content for the rest of their lives, as their carbon copy kids retrace their steps.
Boruto is not a bad sequel. Boruto is an extremely good sequel - because Boruto takes risks - and realistically appraises what happens after the end.
For example - what happens to the dango obsessed badass fighting ninja after the war is won and peace prevails?
She gets an office job and becomes fat.
What happens when Naruto becomes Hokage like he always dreamed?
He gets swamped with paperwork, and his family life is strained.
So it’s no surprise that when Sakura marries the guy who tried to kill her on multiple occasions, that their married life would be unstable, and unhappy. That Sakura would go into denial, and insist that Sasuke loved her - going into violent mood swings when even the slightest bit of doubt was cast onto that premise. This is Boruto, folks. It is a sequel that takes risks and builds upon the foundation that Naruto laid. It isn’t needlessly dark - but it isn’t unrealistically sappy either.
As I mentioned previously - I hated Sakura for the longest time, because I just could not figure out why she was in love in with Sasuke.
Not only did Sasuke try to kill her -
But he explicitly viewed her as worthless
And has held a low opinion of her since the start.
Even Sasuke seems confused by Sakura’s love for her - and calls it a “fantasy.”
And for the longest time - I agreed with him. I did think Sakura’s love for Sasuke was a fantasy - that her feelings were fake, shallow, worthless.
But that’s not the case at all. Sakura is, in fact, the most genuine character in the series. Her feelings were not wrong. What was wrong with Sakura, were the circumstances that led her to her broken marriage. -And the fantasy she IS trapped in.
So let’s return to Sakura, Ino, and the bench.
Remember what Sakura said - her first date with Sasuke was near a bench, and that the first date only lasted two minutes and thirty seconds.
Can we think of anything from the original series involving Sakura, Sasuke, a bench, and a time limit? Well, rather than a time limit, a reason for the date between Sasuke and Sakura to end prematurely.
I can. The bench isn’t quite the same, but Sakura is sitting on the right side of it. Now, when I say go back to the original series, I mean go back allllllll the way to chapter 3 of Naruto.
You might realize what’s up immediately, but play along. View these events through Sakura’s perspective.
Sakura is bummed. She’s angsting over her appearance - she doesn’t think Sasuke will like her. But her depression fades away as the boy she has a crush on appears - and looks at her with warm eyes.
Sakura fantasizes about Sasuke telling her a cheesy one-liner - and then immediately dismisses it. She’s not a kid. She’s not living in fantasy. But then, miracles of miracles - her fantasy becomes true.
At a time when she was down on herself - Sasuke came over to her - flirted with her - and made her daydreams into reality.
They say a cynic is just a romantic who secretly wants to be proven wrong. And here, Sakura’s cynicism was smashed apart - by a boy with warm eyes.
But just as she leans in to kiss her prince -
Sakura’s encounter with Sasuke must not have lasted long. All said - probably no more than two and a half minutes. But two and a half minutes is a long time for a girl with low self esteem - and for a boy with warm eyes to cheer her up-
But unlike Sakura - we know the truth of her “first date” with Sasuke. We know that the Sasuke with warm eyes was in fact Naruto.
Naruto, immature, and with a crush on Sakura. He disguised himself as Sasuke, and Sakura fell in love with Sasuke. What once was a childish crush became something more - how could it not?
But I don’t think Naruto is aware of the repercussions of his actions. By coming to Sakura when he did - Naruto made Sakura fall in love with a Sasuke that didn’t exist.
A Sasuke with Sasuke’s appearance, but Naruto’s warmth. And for all the bad Sasuke did, Sakura didn’t forget that warmth. She became a romantic - determined to save Sasuke - to save the boy that saved her.
But Sakura was never told that the Sasuke she fell in love with was Sasuke dressed up as Naruto. That isn’t to say she oblivious. Read the following - and consider the implications of Sakura switching from talking about Naruto in the third person, to addressing Naruto in the second person.
See? She starts talking about Naruto in the third person - but then turns to “Sasuke”, and says “All I want is for you to acknowledge me.”
Sakura is no dummy - and one thing established from the start is that Naruto is good at transformation jutsu. She seems to have her suspicion the Sasuke she sees is Naruto - but she doesn’t seem to really mind who the boy with warm eyes is. Such warmness and emotional honestly causes Naruto to understand his crush on her.
But Sakura is left without closure. And when she sees Sasuke’s heroism on Team 9 - it begins to make more and more sense to her that she is in fact in love with Sasuke.
Even when Sasuke turns evil - and attempts to kill her, Sakura is determined to save him. Or as Kakashi puts it…
But Sakura’s doubt - or perhaps her search for the boy she fell in love with - it does come up again. This time in Shippuden. When she confesses her love to Naruto.
Her confession is clumsy, and awkward. She has to explain why she doesn’t love Sasuke anymore - and it all sounds terribly unconvincing.
But then she says this.
“I realized… who you really are.”
It is snowing when Sakura confesses. Snow equates to love in Japan - and Hinata and Naruto are given plenty time in the snow to showcase their love.
But to all of what Sakura says, Naruto says in return -
“I hate people who lie to themselves!”
It makes sense, from Naruto’s perspective. Sakura has been so desperate to get Sasuke back - and there’s no way someone like her could love someone like him.
But while Naruto remembers all the times Sakura pleaded to save Sasuke, he forgets the time he and her almost kissed by the bench.
He forgets because much like Sakura, he has low self esteem. He can’t imagine someone would love him. Not just a tsundere like Sakura - his future beloved wife needed to confess to him and almost die multiple times before Naruto could get it through his head that he was loved. And speaking of tsunderes - guess what Naruto acts like when he realizes he loves Hinata?
A tsundere. Just like Sakura. There was a time when Sakura loved Naruto, and when Naruto loved Sakura - but due to their low self-esteem, and circumstances beyond their control - along with misunderstandings up the yin-yang, they never got to be a couple. it’s ironic, it’s tragic, and its awful - but I have a strong feeling it’s the truth.
But while Naruto ended up with a wife that loved him, and he loved back - Sakura ended up in an uneasy marriage - one built upon misunderstandings and compromise.
Sasuke felt guilt for his actions - and Sasuke needed to rebuild his clan. As for why he would marry Sakura, well, grim necessity might be a way to describe it.
And why Sakura would marry Sasuke - well - surely, he was the boy she was chasing. Naruto told her not to lie to herself, after all.
And when it comes to her love of Sasuke, Sakura definitely isn’t lying.