The birth of Naruto Uzumaki, the hero of the series, marks the day when the Kyuubi no Kitsune marches on the Hidden Leaf Village. The Kyuubi no Kitsune is a mighty beast with nine tails capable of causing natural disasters with a flick of his tails. The current leader of the village, the Fourth Hokage sacrificed his life to seal the beast within Naruto to save the village.
Years later, Naruto has become a hyperactive ninja bent on becoming the next Hokage-dattebayo!
1. Their Powers
As can been seen in the character bios above, Naruto and Sasuke each have a signature power that they utilise throughout the series.
Naruto has the Kyuubi no Kitsune sealed into him, granting him access to its unstoppable chakra. However, from the start, he is shunned and hated as the villagers of Konoha are unable to accept him for who he is rather than what is inside him. Moreover, he has almost no control over his power, leading him to have abysmal skills as a shinobi. It is only with time and training that he eventually gains complete control over his strength and the villagers come to love him.
On the other hand, Sasuke is born with the kekkei genkai (bloodline limit) of the Sharingan. Many treasure him as a shinobi as he is the last one in the village to have this powerful dojutsu (eye technique). But the more he rebels against the system, the more people start to realise the true curse that lies with the Uchiha kekkai genkai. As the series reaches its climax, the Sharingan is seen as a curse rather than a blessing.
This parallel behind their powers is just one of many clever ways that Kishimoto-sensei contrasts their characters. Their status of cursed and loved travel in opposition, signalling Naruto’s path into one of peace and Sasuke’s into that of war. Just from their powers, we can see that their characters are traveling in opposite directions. And as we know, that always leads to conflict.
2. Their Mentors
Undoubtedly, everyone knows that Sasuke and Naruto were trained under Kakashi Hatake, the copy ninja. But their paths diverged with Sasuke’s defection to Orochimaru. Naruto also left, albeit peacefully, with his own mentor, Jiraiya.
Orochimaru is the perfect epitome of what makes a shinobi, a shinobi. He achieves what he wants and damns the consequences. No path is too low to take. No child is too pitiable to exploit. Orochimaru will do whatever it takes to achieve his ultimate goal of mastering every jutsu in existence, even if it takes snatching the bodies of other living beings.
This perfectly mirrors Sasuke’s own goals. His unquenchable thirst for revenge led him to deserting the very village that spent all these years sheltering him and praising him after his family tragedy. Worst of all, he left the very man who he started to call brother.
At the other end of the spectrum is Jiraiya, Orochimaru’s rival. He is a man with a mission, to break the cycle of hatred. He hates killing, and wants killing to stop in general. Yet, he isn’t afraid to admit that he doesn’t have the answer to stopping the violence in the world. With the final death knell, he leaves his dreams in the hands of his apprentice Naruto.
And Naruto commits to this mission with gusto. He tries his very best to extend mercy to his enemies, even when they do not deserve it. When faced with the killer of his mentor, Naruto relents at the last minute, remembering what Jiraiya said to him about the cycle of hatred.
Nagato: “I couldn’t believe in what Jiraiya believed in. Or in the man himself…but you chose a different path. In you I can see a different future…I will believe in you…Uzumaki Naruto.”
While Sasuke chooses to distance himself from Orochimaru, its undeniable that the snake sannin has had his influence on the way Sasuke believes things should be done. And its abundantly obvious Naruto believes in breaking the cycle of hatred like his mentor did. That is why the two will never see eye to eye, fated to clash over the ideals their mentors imparted to them.
Haku: “When people are protecting something truly precious to them. They truly can become...as strong as they need to be!”
This is the running theme throughout the entire series. Naruto starts out wanting to become Hokage because he wants acknowledgement from everyone around him, but as he starts building bonds with those who supported him, he starts to realise that what he truly wants to do is to protect those precious to him. And it is that motivation that has made him so determine to fight through the toughest of odds.
Of course, his motivation also extends to his brother in all but blood, Sasuke.
What isn’t obvious however, is that Sasuke is travelling down the opposite path.
Yet that only happens on the surface level. We’ve seen many instances where Sasuke actually shows that he cares for those around him.
We know this, because the first time Naruto and Sasuke get into a serious battle, Sasuke seemingly sacrifices his life for Naruto, even though it almost looks like the two will never get along. But as time goes on, his views of the world become more and more poisoned by cynicism.
Sasuke: “I lost everything, every bond I had. I don’t want to see my previous comrades die in front of my eyes once more.”
Despite his convictions, Sasuke is losing himself to the past, constantly troubled that there will be a repeat of his family tragedy. Eventually he snaps, becoming the avenger that the world hates, breaking the bond he formed with his rival and best friend, Naruto.
Sasuke: “Why? Why do you go this far for me?”
Naruto: “Because it’s the first bond I ever had”
Sasuke: “Come then Naruto, I will break that bond…”
But is he truly lost, or did he simply pretend to be that way to protect himself? Either way, this push and pull relationship between the two characters have caused them to come into conflict multiple times, with Naruto wanting Sasuke to come back to them while the Uchiha’s last son wants to shun his friendship, in a bid to protect himself from losing it all over again.
Whilst he starts from a zero, Naruto eventually becomes a hero. Despite it not being his goal anymore, he has gained the acknowledgement of everyone around him. From the Kazekage of Suna, to the priestess of Oni no Kuni, he’s saved his fair share of people who express their gratitude accordingly. Of course, he’s lost his fair share of people throughout his life, but his journey has only earned him more than he’s lost.
But Sasuke just keeps losing. From his family, to his brother, to even his primary motivations, he just can’t seem to win. Despite how hard he’s tried, the relentless avenger just can’t catch a break at all. Whether this is a result of natural circumstance, the scheming of the villains of the series or a happenstance of his own making, Sasuke seems to lose everything near the end of the series.
As stated earlier, this could partly be a result of Sasuke wanting to protect himself from feeling the pain of losing anyone precious to him.
All this has an effect on how they behave.
Naruto feels justified with the way he acts because his actions have only earned him the goodwill of everyone around him. He would, all the more, hold on tighter to his moral compass and seek to bring peace and happiness to the world.
Sasuke, on the other hand, would also believe that he is right to distance himself from the world, believing that he would have lost all these things regardless of the fact and each loss only makes him more convinced that building walls around his heart is the right way to go.
Neither side will give in. Thus; an unstoppable force will meet an immovable object.
Sasuke: “What do you know about me? Someone like you without a family and siblings. You never had anyone from the very start. What do you understand about me!?”
The above quote was taken from one of the most prominent and memorable scenes in the entire series, their battle at the Valley of the End. It is this quote that represents a lot of what the difference between the two of their backgrounds are.
It’s obvious that Sasuke perceives it differently, stating that he feels more pain because he’s loved and lost, as opposed to Naruto who’s never loved at all. But at the very core of their emotions, they both feel the same thing; loneliness. Sasuke is surrounded by crowds of fans who praise him incessantly for his kekkai genkai, but he can’t identify with any of them. The phrase: “Alone in a crowd” feels apt for his situation.
As for Naruto, it’s pure abject loneliness. No one likes him. Everyone thinks that he’s a demon in human flesh. His family are all dead and he is alone in the world.
Yet it’s the fact that they come from such similar backgrounds that causes them to clash. Humans aren’t born the way they are, it is how they react to their circumstance that defines them.
The two of them come from very similar circumstances, yet as demonstrated multiple times, they are almost a contrast of each other. If one pushes the other pulls. Despite the fact that both characters can identify with each other and acknowledge the pain that they feel, neither can understand why their comrade in loneliness chooses to go the opposite way. It is this lack of understanding that causes an immense amount of frustration within the two, leading to their continuous conflict with each other.
It is a never ending clash of ideals.
Naruto chooses to become a hero, winning the hearts of people. Sasuke scorns the notion of heroes, becoming the villain of the world. Despite that, the two still care for each other, knowing that they have both been through the same pain of loss and loneliness. Regardless, the two are fated to clash again and again because of their choices.
And that’s what makes all this all the more heartbreaking.
Naruto and Sasuke are so similar yet different. Each time they meet after his defection, it always ends with a climactic battle, because their ideals are too different. The two rivals are fated to clash each and every time, yet they both consider the other to be a brother and a friend. But it is this friendship/rivalry that we derive so much emotions from.
Kishimoto-sensei has truly done a masterpiece with this aspect of the long running series, Naruto.