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Their Development

c)Their Rising

SasuKarin suddenly made its comeback in 567, in the form of a short conversation between Suigetsu and Juugo. It is the first time we’ve seen either of them since the Kage Summit, and what does Kishimoto have them do?

Discuss SasuKarin.

Notice how, while Suigetsu says that Karin wants to seduce Sasuke, he says that he and Juugo would be getting in their way. In other words, his comment implies that he thinks Sasuke wouldn’t be adverse to Karin’s advances. Juugo himself seems to agree with it after some consideration (“… I see.”) and when he inquires what should they do, then (since apparently Juugo would not want to get in their way), Suigetsu once again repeats it: “we’re going to keep getting in their way, of course” and even goes as far as calling it his second favorite thing to do. Knowing this helps put a lot of things in perspective, doesn’t it?

6 chapters later (573), Sasuke makes his grand return at the very last page. What is the very first page of 574? That’s right, Karin making her own return to the manga for the first time after nearly 2 years. That says a lot of just how connected these two’s paths still are in Kishimoto’s plan.

Back to the chapter, we see Karin using her acting skills and pulling a stunt (by pretending to have extreme mood-swings over Sasuke’s picture) to throw the guards off-track and attempt to escape. The scene is humorous, but it reminds us of a very simple fact: Karin is still angry at Sasuke for what he did to her. Which is promising.

But that is not all 574 has to offer. We go back to Suigetsu and Juugo, and they—yet again!—talk about SasuKarin. Not individually, but as an unit; which pretty much proved that we (SK fans) have been right all along in considering that Sasuke and Karin are the highlighted bond of Taka.

Suigetsu’s reply could not have been any more telling. His original wording in Japanese is 「くっつきそう」 which, when used for people, indicates that the two in question are “about to hook up”. So the ‘together’ in the above sentence carries that connotation (which is emphasized by his drive to “cut things into two”, which again implies he sees Sasuke and Karin as an unit). Funnily enough, Juugo does not seem to approve of Suigetsu’s cockblocking tendencies.

As if all the SasuKarin reminders weren’t enough, we then see Karin herself being brought up to Sasuke in 579—and accompanying her name is a very big revelation. But let’s address it chronologically.

Kabuto reveals to Sasuke that he has obtained some of the abilities he now possesses by implanting Taka’s DNA into himself. The first member he brings up is Suigetsu, but Sasuke does not react at all.

Then comes the revelation. “[…] I have an incredible recovery power… this is something I originally obtained by studying the body of a female member of the Uzumaki clan…

"You know her quite well, it's Karin" (insight about the wording, here)

That gets Sasuke. You not only see it in his expression as he remembers Karin, but also in the panel that follows it, where he is even drawn with his arm raised as if he had just given a step forward out of surprise. Then, Kabuto brings up Juugo; and does not forget to take a jab at what Sasuke did by saying “No… he [Juugo] is no longer your nakama, is he?” to which we see Sasuke going “…”.

I stress Sasuke’s reactions to Taka being individually brought up because there is a difference between them. While Sasuke does not react at hearing about Suigetsu, the revelation about Karin does make him lose his cool, and so by the time Juugo is brought up, Sasuke is not indifferent to it. A top of that, the size of the panel of Sasuke’s flashback to Karin is basically bigger than Suigetsu’s and Juugo’s combined. So it is pretty evident that Kishimoto was deliberately differentiating the three and Sasuke’s individual reactions to them.

This is even clearer thanks to the fact that in 592 we finally see Suigetsu and Juugo reuniting with Sasuke; yet Karin is casually not brought up by either of the two (even though talking about SasuKarin was all they did 2 out of 2 times they showed up) and as of ch 619, we have not yet seen her reuniting with them. In other words, by reuniting Taka but saving Sasuke and Karin's encounter for later, Kishimoto did not group their individual bond with Taka's bond as a team; he individualized her in regards to Sasuke, and thus highlighted their bond yet again. Which was to be expected, considering this would be the first time they saw each other after what Sasuke did to her.

It will be the first time they see each other after what Sasuke did to her; so it’s no wonder he is building up the suspense regarding it.

That said, I can't not mention just how fitting it is that Karin is related to Naruto out of all people. Naruto, who also was Sasuke’s threshold, and who is his most important (alive) bond (whether Sasuke is willing to admit it or not). Plus, being an Uzumaki (meaning, one of the two known survivors of a very special clan that was whipped out) adds yet another background similarity between her and Sasuke. But I’ll address this later on its appointed section.

Unexpectedly enough, Chapter 619 indirectly brought SasuKarin forth yet again, for its contents served to highlight just how meaningful Sasuke awakening Enton: Kagutsuchi for Karin back in Chapter 415 truly was.

Through Tobirama's words, we find out some unheard of backstory about the Uchiha, and their nature. But the statement that held the most importance for SasuKarin was actually the explanation about the Sharingan and its workings:

When he almost lost Karin in Chapter 415, Sasuke's Sharingan was indeed affected and the Mangekyo in his right eye finally awakened a power: Enton Kagutsuchi, in order to put out the flames of Amaterasu that would have otherwise consumed her.

This is even more important when one takes into consideration the times in which Sasuke's Sharingan has 'changed' throughout the Manga, for each one of them, with the exception of 415, has been related to two individuals: Itachi and Naruto. Which, in turn, says a lot about the strength of Sasuke's feelings for Karin, their nature notwithstanding.

Chapter 627 finally brought us the long awaited encounter between Sasuke and Karin.And while it was handled differently than most of us had expected—a lighthearted atmosphere to counterbalance the sour note with which we last left their bond, rather than the tension that was generally expected—and was part of an already-packed and rushed chapter, there still were quite a few noteworthy things about it.

The first is, of course, Sasuke's apology.

click HERE for more info about Sasuke's wording

The fact that Kishimoto handled Karin's return in an humorous fashion allowed him to deliver a Karin who, for the first time in the manga, went all out on Sasuke. She came in literally looking murderous and screaming insults at him, and Sasuke has an obvious and immediate reaction to her presence.

Next thing we know, he is apologizing to her. He does so right away, without any prompting from her whatsoever-in fact, Karin hasn't even finished her sentence when Sasuke is already offering her his apologies.

He does so sincerely, putting himself in a spot we had never seen him be willing to take in the past (not even in situations where it was more than warranted) because Sasuke is simply not the type to feel he owes anything to anyone. And much less the type who admits being in the wrong in front of a crowd. But, most importantly, he does it because he genuinely wants to. He does not ask for her help, does not spare a single thought to her abilities. He has no ulterior motives and absolutely no personal gain to get from this.

He apologizes because he knows he was in the wrong, evidently regrets what he did to her, and wants to offer her at least that much.

As Nimueh from the Ice&Spice FC so aptly put it:
If I may, I’d like to retouch on Sasuke’s apology. While I was rereading the chapter, I was struck by how Karin-centric his apology truly is. Sasuke isn’t asking her forgiveness, nor is he asking her to have anything to do with him at all. That would’ve shifted the focus of his apology from her to him, and he isn’t about to put himself first; in that moment, he’s only interested in Karin.

- Original post: HERE

Sasuke's apologies were about no one else but Karin herself. And that, coupled with his sincerity and just how easily they come to him despite the nature of his character, is what makes them so meaningful. Not to mention this is the first time we have seen Sasuke apologize to anyone in the manga.

Sasuke's apology stands out even more when one contrasts it with the utterly unapologetic behavior with which he greets the Rookie 9 in chapter 631. When they rightfully bring up what Sasuke has done, rather than trying to make any amends that might do some favors to their image of him, Sasuke simply replies that he "honestly doesn't care what any of them think about him". This clear-cut difference in Sasuke's behavior not only highlights his apology to Karin, but also seems to suggest that Sasuke does care about what Karin thinks of him.

Back to 627. Karin is, understandably, moved by his apology (which, again shows that Sasuke's apology was genuine, as Karin is able to detect lies and would not have been so touched otherwise). Aside from his chakra, Sasuke's apologies are the best proof of the fact that the Sasuke she is in love with is back for good, and she is completely elated and relieved about it. However, this actually puts Karin in a tough position and we see her struggling with herself. Thus, we basically see her dere outright fighting her tsun for dominance, as she is moved but still fairly angry over what he did. Orochimaru puts it best: Sasuke is Karin's "soft spot". And it is casually Orochimaru who ends up giving Karin the perfect excuse: "[...] but right now I'm cooperating with Sasuke... Ah, perfect. You can join us, too.".

And then comes the second highlight of the Sasuke/Karin interaction in this chapter:

Karin claims that [since Orochimaru said so] she has no choice but to tag along. Much like in Chapter 348, she is claiming to follow Sasuke for reasons alien to her own volition-and while the reader knows better, Sasuke is none the wiser. Regardless, what's important here is that Karin is simultaneously showing her affections for Sasuke (which is Kishimoto confirming to the reader that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Karin is still very much in love with Sasuke) and being tsun over him, as her wording in japanese is such that she still sounds fairly pissed at him. Karin has not left Sasuke off the hook. As such, Sasuke does not have the slightest clue of what to expect from her-hence his face.

And it is precisely that face which is so noteworthy. When have we ever seen Sasuke look this nervous due to a girl? Never. She is literally making him sweat.

It's a hilarious panel-but this in no way makes it meaningless. If anything, it goes to show something that has been obvious all along: Kishimoto likes to deliver humor through SasuKarin, and this is very important. That he can employ this dynamic to lighten up the usual stoic and serious Sasuke says a lot about how healthy this bond is, how well Sasuke and Karin compliment each other, and may as well indicate that Kishimoto enjoys writing it. This, regardless, does not mean humor is all there is to SasuKarin. Far from it.

Moreover, as per usual: Sasuke does not push Karin away. Even as we pan away to Suigetsu's POV, we can see Sasuke is still letting Karin snuggle up to him-and everyone is just standing there, watching them.

Lastly, Kishimoto did not forget to include a reminder of Karin's Uzumaki inheritance; typical Kishimoto foreshadowing. And on this subject, it's worth of notice that despite how rushed the chapter was, in less than two pages, Kishimoto managed to: prove yet again that Karin has no qualms in putting Sasuke in his place and won't take any BS coming from him, that Sasuke has always displayed atypical behavior and consideration toward her, that Karin is still in love with him, include a SasuKarin comment coming from Orochimaru himself, and reinforce SasuKarin's physical dynamic through that snuggling up panel.

If there's one thing clear about 627, is that rather than being about solving what transpired between Sasuke and Karin, it was about reestablishing the SasuKarin dynamic: a pairing that has never been about angst or drama (Sasuke, as a character, has got enough of both on his plate as it is), but about their natural companionship, their mutual support and respect for each other, and the little moments when they show each other facets of themselves they rarely showcase to anyone else. I have no doubt in my mind that there will most likely be a change in their usual dynamic, for the stab has most likely served to disrupt SasuKarin's previous status quo; but for those changes to take part and be noticeable, it was vital that Kishi put SasuKarin back on track right as they were before.

Now that he has done so, they can begin to move forward.

Lastly, it's also important to notice how Karin was taken from Sasuke right as he sunk to the lowest of depths. What he did to her, and as such their parting, was the direct consequence of Sasuke's selfish decision and singleminded focus on revenge. So it's only fitting that now that he has finally understood Itachi's motivations and made a new choice that has put him on the right direction, Kishimoto immediately 'returned' Karin to him. And his sincere apology to her was the very first gesture that symbolized and proved the change his character just underwent.

And so, things have (almost) come full circle. And I say almost, because Sasuke still has to make up for what he did to her.

Update: 08/02/2014

While they haven't had any more interactions since 627, given that Taka divided in two teams as they headed towards the war, Kishi has indeed been showing us that there's been a shift in the usual SK dynamic.

Karin has been, for all means and purposes, much more open about her feelings for Sasuke. From admitting that she doesn't like to be bitten by anyone but him to entertaining the thought of liking him all over, her behavior not only allowed Suigetsu to —finally!— call her out on her feelings (which is the very first time they have been stated on panel), but also prompts people like Orochimaru to comment on them.

The first highlight, however, doesn't come until chapter 662. In a way that's extremely reminiscent of the Kage Summit arc, we see Karin curled in on herself, most likely due to how strenuous it must be to have such quantities of powerful chakra surrounding her. Yet, she keeps her Kagura Shingan activated—and it is easy to tell just why that is.

And while keeping track of Sasuke’s chakra can’t reveal to her that Madara has just stabbed Sasuke (ironically, in a way that immediately reminds readers of how Sasuke himself stabbed Karin in the past), she is painfully aware of the way Sasuke’s chakra begins to fade.

And her reaction is immediate.

If her unleashed tears back in chapter 466 were noteworthy, her reaction now—the way she clutches her head in anguished shock, how she starts to shake, how she makes no attempt to hide her tears from Suigetsu and the rest—is in a whole new league of its own. Stoic, composed Karin quite literally becomes an open book as she cries in despair over Sasuke’s impending death (while Kishimoto establishes a parallel between Naruto and Sakura and Sasuke and Karin, no less), and it’s yet again the strength of her feelings for Sasuke that make her true emotions come forth. Back when she was staring in the face of her own death—that of Sasuke’s, at that—she didn’t shed a single tear for herself, and it tookher empathizing with Sakura’s own pain for the heartbreak to get the better of her.

Yet, Sasuke’s life being in danger has continuously been the one thing that can move Karin to such displays of emotion.

And it is ensuring Sasuke’s safety—the strenght of her feelings for him—that takes Karin to new heights.

By the time we see Karin again in chapter 663, she has not only gathered herself—she has quite literally become unstoppable. Her drive and determination to get to Sasuke are so strong that Karin awakens her dormant Uzumaki powers—Kushina’s chakra chains, in this case—and subdues a creature that even Hiruzen himself struggled against. And not only that: she takes on the attack that killed Neji without even blinking and heals herself on the spot. All of it, to get to Sasuke.

Whom, by all means and purposes, seems to be already a goner. But such a measly little detail is not about to stop Karin from trying to save him.

And that isn’t only a clear display of the ever-present theme of shinobi becoming strong once they have something precious they truly want to protect; it also serves as a parallel to chapter 415. In both cases, Karin and Sasuke were—logically speaking—as good as gone. Yet neither of them listened to reason and struggled to save each other, and their raw emotion (actual desperation, at that) fueled by their refusal to let the other die paved the way for them to awaken a new power.

We see Karin remain single-mindedly focused on getting to Sasuke's side in 664, prompting Orochimaru to remind her that if she does not slow down, she will wear herself out. Karin pays no attention whatsoever to him however, because she has sensed an 'evil' chakra near Sasuke. In 667, Taka arrives to Sasuke's location to realize that the chakra belongs to Kabuto; Karin flips out at first, demanding he get away from Sasuke—but once she realizes Kabuto has actually saved his life, the fight leaves her and she is once again moved to tears out of sheer relief.

Sasuke regains consciousness in 672, much to Karin's happiness.

... And that is pretty much it. The very last SasuKarin moment of the manga, and the very last line Karin gets to speak. The following chapter, Taka and Sasuke get separated as Sasuke goes off to join Naruto and Taka get caught in the Infinite Tsukuyomi. And we never see Karin again, nor is she mentioned.

It is however worth mentioning that Sasuke only apologizes to Team 7 in the very last chapter of the manga; after having his final fated confrontation by Naruto, at that.

And that’s basically it. It may not look like it due to its length, I actually left a lot of things out since I wanted to focus on pointing out the subtle moments and the meaning behind the major ones, instead of pointing out everything. But here is a list of all the chapters Sasuke and Karin have had any moments or talked in, in case you want to take a look at it. Casually, out of like, 84 chapters that have Taka in them (as of 673), around 53 have SasuKarin in various shapes and forms. And it's worth mentioning that out of those 84, around 14 don't have Karin in them.

Or, Return to the Index (comments go here as well).

April 2013

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