Friday, January 09, 2009
Sasuke Uchiha (うちは サスケ, Uchiha Sasuke?) is a fictional character in the Naruto manga and anime series created by Masashi Kishimoto. He was created as a rival and foil to the series' titular character, Naruto Uzumaki, with his design causing difficulties for Kishimoto during drawing the manga scenes, although he has grown to enjoy drawing Sasuke.
In the anime and manga, Sasuke is a member of the Uchiha clan, a highly skilled clan of ninjas allied to the village of Konohagakure. His primary motivation throughout the series is to avenge the destruction of his entire clan by killing his brother, Itachi Uchiha, a task he pursues at all costs. While he was initially cold and singularly driven by his revenge, he becomes more empathetic through his relationships with other characters, notably Naruto Uzumaki, whom he comes to consider as a rival. Sasuke has additionally appeared in several of the featured movies in the series, as well as several other media relating to the series, including several video games and OVAs.
Several anime and manga publications have provided acclaim and criticism of Sasuke's character. While many reviewers have noted his cold and detached attitude and abilities, he has been viewed as a stereotypical "rival" in the mold of several similar characters in other shōnen manga. His personality has also been subject to criticism, with many finding it difficult to like or sympathize with Sasuke's character; IGN jokingly labeled Sasuke as an "emo-kid."Nevertheless, Sasuke has been highly popular with the Naruto reader base, placing high in several popularity polls. Merchandise based on Sasuke has also been released, including action figures and plush dolls.
When developing the original Naruto manga, Masashi Kishimoto had not initially intended to create Sasuke. After speaking with his editor about the future of the series, he was advised to create a rival character for the series' protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki, resulting in Sasuke's creation. To learn more about creating an effective rivalry, Kishimoto read a variety of manga to gather ideas on what constituted such a rivalry, and he coalesced these ideal elements into one relationship. Because Sasuke is intended to be Naruto's opposite, Kishimoto is always careful to make sure Sasuke is never too emotional. With Sasuke's character being that of a "cool genius," Kishimoto feels he has created the ideal rivalry.
Sasuke's design gave Kishimoto a number of problems, making him the most difficult character he had to create. Because he lacked a proper idea of what Sasuke's face should look like, initial drafts of Sasuke appeared too old or mature for a character the same age as Naruto.Once settling on a proper face, Kishimoto worked on Sasuke's attire. Original designs of Sasuke had a number of necklaces and ties around his arms and legs, a result of Kishimoto's habit of giving characters as much ornamentation as possible. Realizing he could not draw such a complex character on a weekly basis, Kishimoto simplified the design to a basic contrast of Naruto's costume.
For Kishimoto, Sasuke remains the most difficult character for him to draw. While drawing, errors and mishaps commonly result in Sasuke's youthful appearance being lost, a result of Kishimoto's inexperience in drawing characters mature beyond their years. Sasuke's hair, originally kept short to save Kishimoto time, has slowly gotten longer as the series has progressed, increasing the amount of time needed to draw Sasuke. Midway through Part I of the series Kishimoto drew a new costume for Sasuke that featured a number of belts strapped around his arms and legs. Because of the time needed to draw a costume of this design, Kishimoto returned Sasuke to his original costume. Despite the time and energy Kishimoto spends drawing Sasuke, Sasuke has become his favorite character to draw.
When designing Sasuke in his Part II appearance, Kishimoto's main objective was to make him look cool. For this, he tried giving him several outfits such as Shimenawa around him to preserve Orochimaru's style of clothes. He also tried other clothes such as turtleneck and a military uniform to show "cleanliness". However, he ended choosing Japanese-style clothes.
Sasuke's early childhood, as told over the course of Naruto manga volume twenty-five, was spent living in the shadow of his older brother, Itachi Uchiha, a natural prodigy of the Uchiha clan. In an effort to win some recognition for himself, Sasuke trained diligently to win some of his parents' attention, though he was never able to surpass the milestones set in place by his brother, who would be the only one to acknowledge Sasuke's accomplishments. In time, Itachi began to distance himself from the clan and fell out of his family's confidence, which consequently began to look to Sasuke as the new future for the clan.
Soon after Sasuke started to be accepted into his family, he returned home one day to find the streets littered with the corpses of the Uchiha clan. Upon rushing home, Sasuke found Itachi standing over his parents's corpses. As Sasuke tried to flee, Itachi went on to explain that he had never loved his little brother. Claiming that Sasuke was not worth killing, Itachi encouraged him to get stronger by living a life of hate and anger towards him, with his sole purpose being to avenge the clan. Itachi left, and in the absence of a loving family Sasuke agreed to do as instructed, dedicating his life to killing Itachi. Years later, in Part II of the series, Sasuke is shown to have some doubts about the events of that night. It is not until after Itachi's death that he learns the truth surrounding the massacre of the Uchiha: that it was all done on command by the village.
Sasuke as he appears in Part II.
When first introduced during his assignment to Team 7, Sasuke displays a great indifference to his teammates. Feeling that his abilities are far superior to their own, he is unwilling to cooperate with Naruto Uzumaki or Sakura Haruno, as doing so would do nothing to help him kill Itachi. These perceptions are quickly proven wrong, for despite their failings, Sakura is an excellent source of information; while competition with Naruto acts as an effective way to get stronger. While he retains a confidence in himself throughout the series, Sasuke increasingly relies on his friends over the course of Part I. As he starts to get close to others he also begins to risk his own life to save them, even though his death would leave him unable to fulfill his goal of vengeance upon Itachi.
Although Sasuke becomes content with a life of happiness in Konohagakure, he never allows his ambition to gain power to leave his thoughts. During his Part I battles with characters such as Haku and Gaara, Sasuke tests his abilities against those of progressively stronger ninja, in the process discovering the weakpoints he needs to overcome. While initially complacent with his development, Naruto quickly starts to grow stronger at a faster rate. This, coupled with his quick defeat by Itachi during a brief return to Konoha, leads Sasuke to believe that his growth is slowing. In an attempt to reassess his strength, he begins to treat his friends as opponents so as to test his abilities against their own.
Dissatisfied with his progress in Konoha and believing Orochimaru holds the keys to getting strong enough to kill Itachi, Sasuke defects from Konoha at the end of Part I. Naruto attempts to stop him, but Sasuke, believing the death of Naruto, his closest friend, will give him the power he desires (as he was told by Itachi), tries to kill him instead. He is ultimately unable to follow through with this idea, because he felt that is what Itachi would have wanted him to do, and instead continues on to Orochimaru. In the two-and-a-half years he spends with Orochimaru, Sasuke's goal to kill Itachi takes precedence above all else; he is willing to give his body to Orochimaru if it means killing Itachi, but later turns on Orochimaru after reaching the conclusion that he can learn nothing else of value. After achieving his goal of bringing about Itachi's death, in the process learning how his brother was manipulated by Konoha's higher ups, Sasuke abandons all of his hate for Itachi and resolves to destroy Konoha for both of their sakes.
Sasuke in cursed seal level two form using the Chidori.
Sasuke has always been able to grasp most ninja abilities with ease. When Naruto begins Sasuke is highly proficient with the Uchiha clan's signature fire-breathing and weapon-based techniques, talents he continues to hone throughout the series. Of the abilities gained through his Uchiha lineage, Sasuke most commonly uses the Sharingan, an ability manifested through the eyes, that grants him a variety of advantages. Sasuke's Sharingan develops for the duration of Part I, first only allowing him to track fast-moving objects and culminating with his ability to predict the movements of others. In Part II he starts to use his Sharingan to cast illusions, allowing him to manipulate and confuse others.Sasuke's Sharingan reaches its peak after Itachi's death; through the death of the person closest to him, Sasuke awakens his own Mangekyo Sharingan, and was also granted his brother's Amaterasu fire technique as well as the ability to dispel it.
Orochimaru's influence is also a recurring element of Sasuke's abilities. During their first encounter in Part I, Sasuke is branded with a cursed seal, which grants him a brief surge in strength and speed when active. Sasuke's various uses of the seal cause him to crave more of its power as he enters to a second level amplifying the effect and drastically changing his appearance. Itachi removes Orochimaru and the cursed seal from Sasuke's body during their final battle. When Sasuke begins to train under Orochimaru, his physical abilities are greatly enhanced and he learns how to summon snakes so as to help him in battle. In addition to the techniques taught to him, Sasuke gains access to some of Orochimaru's more common abilities during the period he absorbs him into his body; Sasuke is able to recover from injuries in short periods of time and can regurgitate new bodies for himself.
Prior to Sasuke's defection, his teacher, Kakashi Hatake teaches him how to use the Chidori, a collection of lightning-based chakra in his hand that serves as a rapid thrusting attack that severely damages any target. While Sasuke is able to use the Chidori twice per day during Part I, his usage of the attack in Part II is unknown. Instead, Sasuke employs variants of the technique, using the fundamentals behind the Chidori to create a number of new abilities. Sasuke's first display of such an ability involves emitting electricity from his body as a shield and then sending it along the blade of his chokutō to increase its cutting potential. He later proves able to mold electricity into more solid forms such as extendable swords, and even harnesses natural lightning to use it as an attack named Kirin (麒麟, Qilin?).
For the first half of Part I, Sasuke accompanies Team 7 in its various endeavors and training sessions. After his encounter with Orochimaru, who begins to manipulate Sasuke into his custody, Sasuke starts to act independently of Naruto and Sakura, pursuing his own opponents and being the only one to train with Kakashi. After Itachi's brief return to Konoha and his simultaneous defeat by him, Sasuke becomes dissatisfied with what he has learned as a member of Team 7. Believing Orochimaru will be able to give him the strength needed to kill Itachi, Sasuke goes to him, severing his ties with Konoha in the process. Naruto follows him in an effort to stop him, and the two do battle. Though he tries to kill Naruto, Sasuke ultimately cannot bring himself to do so, and instead continues on to Orochimaru's hideout, ready to gain strength at any cost.
After two-and-a-half years Sasuke, convinced that he has learned all he can from his new master, turns against a weakened Orochimaru before the latter can steal his body. Though Orochimaru attempts to force a body switch, Sasuke is able to reverse the process, absorbing Orochimaru and allowing him to put his plans of finding Itachi into motion. Sasuke forms "Snake", a team of individuals assembled to aid him in finding Itachi. Once they are able to track Itachi down, Sasuke leaves his team behind and goes to kill his brother. When Itachi dies after a prolonged battle, Sasuke is collected by Madara Uchiha. Madara tells Sasuke how Itachi killed the Uchiha under the orders of Konoha, spared Sasuke out of love, and subsequently allowed himself to be killed. Saddened with the revelation that his long-hated brother was a good person, Sasuke reunites with the members of Snake, renaming them "Hawk" with intent to destroy Konoha. In the meantime, Sasuke agrees to have Hawk work with the Akatsuki by capturing the eight-tailed beast, who later manages to escape.
Appearances in other media
Sasuke (right) in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2
Sasuke has made several appearances outside of the Naruto anime and manga. He appears in all three of the original video animations produced for the series, helping Naruto and Konohamaru to find a four leaf clover in the first original video animation, joining his team in escorting a ninja named Shibuki to his village and helping him fight the missing-nin that stole the village's "Hero's Water" in the second, and participating in a tournament in the third. Sasuke also makes an appearance in the first two Naruto featured films, although he is only briefly present in a memory segment in the second. He also makes his first Part II appearance in a film in the second Naruto: Shippūden movie.
Sasuke is a common playable character in Naruto video games, including the Clash of Ninja series and the Ultimate Ninja series. In some games, it is possible to unlock and play as a version of him with the cursed seal active. Due to his lack of appearances in early Naruto Shippūden chapters and episodes, he does not appear in any games based on Naruto Shippūden until Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX 2.
In every official Shonen Jump popularity poll of the series, Sasuke has ranked within the top five characters. Though Sasuke's rank initially alternated between the third and fourth spot, he has ranked first twice. In an interview, Yuri Lowenthal, who does the voice acting for Sasuke in the English dub, states that he is honored to be playing that role due to the large retinue of voice actors auditioning for the role, and also noted the stress associated with his job due to fans being highly critical of any deviation or mistake made while dubbing. He has also commented that his first impression of the character was that of a serious guy and dedicated to his training, but he later appreciated the pain and where it came from. Several pieces of merchandise have been released in Sasuke's likeness, including plush of his Part I and Part II appearance, key chains, and numerous figurines.
Several publications for manga, anime, video games, and other related media have provided praise and criticism on Sasuke's character. IGN characterized Sasuke as "the resident emo-kid" due to his cold and serious personality, and found it difficult to have a degree of empathy for his character. GameSpot extolled Sasuke's abilities as "badass," although echoing IGN's comments concerning his personality. T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews noted that Sasuke fell into the stereotypical "rival" mold of several other shōnen manga, and found him, along with several of the other characters, to not be likable. Due to the high amount of anticipation from fans concerning Sasuke's animated appearance in Part II, the production staff for Naruto: Shippūden included Sasuke in a sneak-peek of a later episode featuring him before the opening of the first episode of Naruto: Shippūden; his character does not appear for more than fifty chapters after the start of Part II in the manga