「つながりのカタチ」 (Tsunagari no Katachi)
“Bonds Come in All Shapes”
Skirmish in the Hideout
Though I had one or two minor qualms about the overall execution of Sarada Gaiden, they are largely forgiven coming out of the arc resolution. For starters, Pierrot pulled out all the stops on the taijutsu scenes, culminating in the delivery of beautifully choreographed and fluid action sequences. The taijutsu we got to glimpse in the Ninja Academy wasn’t too bad, but of course, it simply could not compare with a fight between jounin tier combatants. Not that I remember the last time Sakura showcased some proper hand to hand combat, but this episode did wonders by highlighting her competence and caliber. Exchanging blow after blow, it was spectacular to see Sakura’s immense strength colliding with telekinetically manipulated objects controlled by Shin’s Mangekyo Sharingan.
You could see the fierce fires of fighting spirit etched on the faces of Sakura and Shin, which helped elevate the combat intensity. But a subtle contrast was not lost between their similar expressions, helping convey the clash of their respective ideals – Sakura’s furrowed brows signifying a determination to protect her family, while Shin’s contorted face demonstrating a burning hatred demanding revenge. That said, both looks vastly paled in comparison to the fury incarnate, coming from the single eye of a man fully aware of attempts made on the lives of his wife and daughter.
Only I felt somewhat deflated, because they introduced an anime original development that was totally unnecessary. For a man who squared up against gods and goddesses of the shinobi world, possessing ocular powers that give him motion precognition, it’s beyond belief that Sasuke ends up getting stabbed as a result of Shin’s cheap trick. You don’t build up a really hyped up narrative, then proceed to dismantle it by raining on Sasuke’s parade of awesomeness. Unfortunately, not even the Rinnegan wombo combo worked as compensation. I refuse to be pacified!
But at least Naruto and Sarada got ample time to shine. Who else got the chills when Naruto told Kurama to calm down, as the latter was beginning to get unhinged amongst the sea of sharingans? And don’t even get me started on Sarada. Utilising her heritage of immense strength combined with a crimson sharingan beautiful even by Uchiha standards, our girl powered through to land a clean hit on Shin’s spying creature, ending the dangerous but short-lived threat towards her family.
Overall, I was quite satisfied with Sarada Gaiden, even if the consistency wasn’t always there. With the arc ending on a high note, I’m willing to accept minor imperfections as a natural part of the production process. Amidst the delightful treats we got this episode, and tying off loose ends featuring the Shin Clones, Chocho and Karin, it can be easy to forget the most important resolution. Sarada may have reconciled with her parents, and the lucky lass receives from Sasuke the thing supposedly better than a kiss. But in my opinion, her most valuable gain came from interacting with Naruto. He imparts his Will of Fire onto her – alongside an aspiration to become Hokage. If she inherits even a fraction of Naruto’s determination, no doubt Sarada will get to extraordinary places in life.