Naruto – Sakura Blossoms – This time, watch my back.

Really, really loved this moment. Because, okay, whatever her strengths, Sakura is weaker than Naruto and Sasuke and Rock Lee and, like, who wouldn’t be, they’re all freaking beasts. Naruto, literally, Sasuke’s an Uchiha, Lee’s a prodigy of own sort.

But it’s no coincidence that they’re all male. Nor that so are four of the five Hokage, and so many other main characters in the first series have been, Orochimaru, Itachi, Gaara, Kakashi, and so on. The main women have been Sakura, Ino, Anko, Tenten, Temari, all weaker than some male counterpart. Compare Hinata to Neji! The one elite woman, Tsunade, is almost there as a token and vaguely unexpected twist.

Now, there can be different types of strength, and this is no knock on these ladies, but a few things:

1) This is a fighting shounen series, where characters are very much judged on their physical capabilities.

2) These women want to be powerful and are working toward that. There’s nothing in the Kishimoto world that limits the opportunities and training available to women, so it’s just been his choice which characters to focus on and their respective strengths.

3) Being wise and having inner strength, bearing adversity well, caring for others, the different kinds of strength typically attributed to femininity aren’t just for women.

So here, Sakura, who realizes that throughout the exam and missions so far, she’s been protected by the guys understands the position she’s in and her own weakness and then faces it down and goes and tries to fight anyway. I don’t love the implication that she has to get rid of her long (pink!) hair, a metaphor for her “weak” feminine side, to do this, but to me, it’s a sacrifice she decides is worth herself and her friends and teammates.