Deep in the Tiger’s Den is a Het Pairing: Sasuke × Sakura’s Doujinshi Popularity

When I traveled to Japan this past May, one of my activities was to visit various doujin shops such as Toranoana. I like to see what’s popular, to get a general image of trends among hardcore fans. Which titles are popular? Which characters? Which pairings? And unlike doujin events, where many artists release their own works more for passion than profit, Toranoana is about what sells.

In Akihabara, this means going to multiple Toranoana stores, each of which specialize in a certain demographic. One in particular is devoted to girls (though nothing prevents guys from entering and shopping there), and as expected it’s primarily filled with BL.

However, one major exception was actually Naruto. In a relatively small yet dedicated section, surrounded by guy-guy pairings in most every other title, heterosexual romance took to the majority of the Naruto shelf. Of those couples, Sakura × Sasuke was by far the most popular.

I’m not against Sasuke × Sakura by any means, but I have to wonder why does it hold such a special place among hardcore female anime and manga fans. Why is it to the point that other het pairings are outshone, and the normally dominant BL pairings fade into the distance in this one ninja-themed microcosm?

One thing I discovered while searching for reasons is that Sasuke × Sakura is perhaps the most popular straight romantic pairing in English-speaking Naruto fandom, and visibly popular among Japanese fans. Given that context, it might just be the case that its sheer prominence is able to overcome even the fujoshi hegemony of the girls’ doujin scene.

Perhaps one factor is that Sakura is an easy target for female readers to project themselves onto. She’s also closer to the two most important characters in the manga than anyone else. However, given that fujoshi popularity is usually based on the strength of the pairing itself than the individual characters, it makes me skeptical about Sasuke × Sakura being an exception, even if it is a heterosexual ship.

From what I’ve read, a common reason fans support Sakura is her sense of loyalty towards Sasuke. She’s willing to support him through thick and thin, and even oppose him when she feels he needs it. The scene where Sakura tries to stop Sasuke from leaving to join Orochimaru appears to have been a flashpoint for supporters and haters of Sasuke × Sakura, because the former saw Sasuke’s “thank you” and knocking Saa away as him reluctantly pushing away those he cares about, while the latter saw it as an example of Sasuke showing flat, platonic fondness at best. Given the actual outcome of the series—Sakura and Sasuke married and had a child—the fans clearly won out, with Sasuke’s behavior best described as “reliably angsty.” Even as husband and wife, Sasuke’s #1 gesture to show affection is to tap Sakura on the forehead, and then disappear for months or years on end, undergoing secret missions to protect his family Andy his village.

Sasuke × Sakura reigns strong as a premiere het pairing, and I’m not bothered one bit. If any fans would like to help me understand the SasuSaku mind further, feel free to comment!

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Chouchou and Body Confidence in Boruto

I’ve been enjoying Boruto: Naruto Next Generations quite a bit, even to my own surprise. The series is quite different from Naruto, akin to how the transition from Avatar: The Last Airbender to Avatar: Legend of Korra involves fundamental changes to the world. It’s a new era in the Hidden Leaf Village, and this is reflected in not just the setting, but how the newer generation of characters behave. One of my favorites in this regard is Chouchou, especially because of her body positivity.

As a daughter of the Akimichi clan, Chouchou is a heavyset character just like her father. However, unlike Chouji in his younger days, who was extremely sensitive about comments to his weight, Chouchou barely bats an eyelash to those who would call her fat. She’s confident in her lifestyle, and to anyone who points out how much she eats, she responds that it’s necessary for an energetic girl like herself. She may be larger than her peers, but it’s anything but a negative for Chouchou.

One of the biggest indicators that Chouchou is not meant to be your stereotypical fat character is that she lacks a “fat voice.” It’s very common in anime for overweight characters to have a rounder, deeper voice that is meant to accentuate their size. Instead, Chouchou sounds perky and fun to be around.

That being said, the “fat voice” does appear in an episode with a different character, a film actor who was fired because he put on too many pounds, so it’s not as if Boruto is entirely without fault in regards to its portrayal of fatness. Even so, Chouchou is still a step in the right direction.

 

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[APT507] Stepping Out of the Shadow: Reasons Why You Should Watch Boruto

I was a Naruto fan who stopped paying attention and then really enjoyed the Boruto movie. Now the new  Boruto TV series is out, and I’m actually fairly impressed. Check out my review over at Apartment 507.

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Fun New Experiments: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2015

The past month has been quite fun for Ogiue Maniax. First off though, I’d like to thank the following Patreon supporters for believing in me and my writing:

General:

Ko Ransom

Alex

otarsus

Anonymous

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

If you haven’t checked out what I’ve written over the past month, I think I’ve put out some pretty good work this time around. As part of New York Comic Con I reviewed Boruto: Naruto the Movie, which is the bookend to the long and popular Naruto franchise. I also finally got around to talking more about my current favorite food manga, Mogusa-san, and I make a pretty convincing argument as to who’s the best moe character of 2015.

My Genshiken chapter review this month felt somewhat heavier than my previous ones, but I think it makes a good partner with my most recent post, which covers my own thoughts on the recent harassment issue in the Steven Universe fandom.

No sponsored posts this time around, but if you’re interested in having me tackle a specific topic of your choice, I take requests from sponsors who have pledged $30+ on my Patreon.I’m trying a few new things with Ogiue Maniax, as while I love the blog I do wonder if it’s grown stagnant and unwieldy in certain respects. First, while many of my articles are fairly long, I’ve started including some shorter posts as well. Back before 2010, when I would write one post per day, my output was more about getting ideas out there and making them short and sweet. Although I think longer posts have their merit in that they allow for more in-depth explorations of ideas and so I would never do away with them, I am wondering if shorter posts can reach people in a different way.

Second, I’m dipping my toe in YouTube. I do not believe I will ever fully get into the YouTube game, but I was thinking of it as a different medium to get my thoughts across. Today I’ve released the first in what could be a series of “1-Minute Reviews,” based on my past reviews on the blog. The idea, as implied, is that I give my take on an anime in 60 seconds or less.

Third, I started up a Facebook page for Ogiue Maniax. I’m currently not entirely sure what its use is, but I’m open to suggestions.Finally, I’ve created an Ogiue Maniax Skype Group for any Patreon supporter who contributes $2 or more. I’m curious to see if anyone would be interested in chatting with me or other readers directly. I’m still unsure if I would do video chat, but voice chat is something I’m open to. Just contact me through Patreon with your Skype name and I will add you to the group.
So tell me what you think!

 

Rediscovering the Ninja Spirit – Boruto: Naruto the Movie

This review is part of Ogiue Maniax’s New York Comic Con 2015 coverage. Major spoilers for the Naruto anime/manga and minor spoilers for Boruto: Naruto the Movie are included.

Once upon a time, I was a huge fan of Naruto. Having both read the manga and seen the anime from the very beginning, I can still remember what got me hooked onto the series in the first place. The rich world of competing ninja villages provided the space for elaborate and creative battles. The fact that every character, hero or villain or somewhere in between, had their own stories and their own pasts that shaped who they are made it so that Naruto could be so many things to so many people. I wanted explore their society, to imagine what powers and characters would appear next. I have many fond memories of Naruto that can be best summed up by the fact that, even if he was never among my favorite characters, Uzumaki Naruto himself embodied not only a sense of tragedy but also the drive and empathy to move forward and help those who are similarly lost.

At some point, however, I fell off the Naruto fan wagon. Sure, I still enjoyed it to an extent, and I more or less kept track of what was going on, but I found that the continuously escalating power creep of shounen manga and the ever-growing and unwieldy cast just made Naruto feel as if it had lost focus. I don’t mean that it didn’t know where it was going, but rather that when the series became chapter after chapter of gigantic, virtually city-sized attacks, those humble beginnings of Naruto and his companions trying to navigate their world got lost in the shuffle.

This is why I actually enjoyed Boruto: Naruto the Movie so much. It felt like a return to the foundations of what made Naruto great, yet also does not deny all of the artistic and narrative development that happened since then, power levels and all. It encapsulates Naruto and eternal friend/enemy/rival Uchiha Sasuke’s growth by showing how they pass their experience on to the next generation.

At the start of the Boruto, it’s been many years since Naruto saved the world. Naruto’s son is Boruto, whose mother is Hyuuga Hinata (who is my favorite Naruto character). Unlike Naruto, who was an orphan and shunned by his community due to housing the fox spirit, Boruto must deal with the fact that his father is the world’s greatest celebrity. Naruto, who has since fulfilled his dream of being Hokage, is so busy that this leaves little time for Naruto to be a father, and Boruto lashes out against that. Understanding between father and son, as well as the value of hard work, are ultimately the main themes of the film.

When I say that Boruto feels like a return to the Naruto of old without shunning what it became, what I mean is that it really captures a sense of the inner struggles of its characters within their elaborate world of ninja fantasy, while also communicating the passage of time perhaps better than the manga itself ever did. For the younger generation, it gives a strong sense of what motivates each and every character, while remaining sharp and complete as a story. For the older generation, one can feel the developments, through their interactions and especially through the fighting, that brought these familiar faces to where they are now. Rather than being in the haze of hundreds of chapters or episodes, the movie conveys just how much these characters have grown over the years, both within their universe and as characters in a work of fiction. When Naruto harnesses his ultimate powers, what jumps out is the sense of hard work, pain, and joy that led him to this point.

While Naruto has always been a story of generations, particularly the young both surpassing and learning from the old, a story dedicated to exploring the relationship between father and son is something new to the series. Sure, there was the arc where Naruto finally meets his father, among other examples, but for the most part Naruto is generally a manga and anime where parents’ legacies are more important than the parents themselves, who are either dead or in the background. Naruto was an orphan, Sasuke’s parents were murdered by his own brother, Sakura’s folks were still alive but hardly relevant. Now, not only is it Naruto and Hinata with children of their own, but most of the rest of the characters as well, and it’s a joy to see the direct connection between generations play out in greater detail.

I watched Boruto as part of the 2015 New York Comic Con, which, much to the delight of Naruto fans, invited Naruto creator Kishimoto Masashi and Naruto voice actress Takeuchi Junko as guests. During his first interview of two, Kishimoto mentioned that he had remained true to his vision for the ending (which he came up with back in 2009), one where Naruto ultimately saves Sasuke from himself. Looking back, it made me realize just what Kishimoto had been going for at a point when Naruto as a story seemed to be getting crushed by the perils of long serialization (Naruto ran for 18 years). There was a point in the manga when it seemed to transform into the Sasuke Show, that it was it turn doomed to a fate of meandering and directional changes. Now, I realize that it was meant to show Sasuke’s descent into darkness so that Naruto could be the light that guides him out of it, but again, within that long weekly shounen struggle it’s all too easy to lose sight of the overall context.

In contrast, Boruto suffers no such issues, and that helps it stand out in a significant way. The movie keeps at a fine pace in spite of the gigantic cast of characters. It would be all too easy to falter by showing too many characters doing too many things, but this is really Boruto’s story in the end, and it’s a satisfying and heartfelt one.

The last thing I want to say is that, at certain points in the movie, I was on the verge of tears. Thinking back, I recall the same thing happening upon seeing the tragic story of Zabuza and Haku, Naruto’s first real antagonists, play out beautifully. It was at that point all those years ago when I realized that Naruto was something special, and Boruto feels very similar. A part of me, the part that remembers what it was like to first discover Naruto and to be fascinated by its world, would like the story of Uzumaki Boruto to go on, but overall I would be fine if this ends up being Naruto‘s swan song.

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