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“Come with me, Karin. I need you.”
“If you reeeeally need me, I’ll go with you.”

Their Development

As you’re all aware, Karin (and in consequence SasuKarin) was introduced when the manga was pretty advanced (10 years and 347 chapters in, to be exact); up to now (Chapter 663) they’ve been present for 316 chapters, and in like 230+ or so of those they actually didn’t show up at all. So the material we have to work with (SasuKarin-wise) is actually from more or less 72 chapters.

Merely 72 chapters. One would think that since that’s such a small number compared to the 660+ chapters that the manga has actually had, then the development we have gotten must be fairly limited.

Alas, that’s not the case. And in those mere 72~ chapters SasuKarin has gotten more substance than the vast majority of the non-canon pairings in the series. That should be telling enough on its own. But since without explanations this manifesto wouldn’t be needed, I’ll expand on those 72~ chapters a little bit more.

When this manifesto was first posted (2009) their development was encompassed in a single section. But since a lot has changed since then, I’ve divided it in different stages for greater accuracy.

a) Meet SasuKarin

Everything—really—starts with chapter 348, where Sasuke and Suigetsu make their way towards Karin’s location so that Sasuke can recruit her; because, as he tells Karin, he needs her.

This early on the game, and there’s already something that’s worth of notice: when he recruits Suigetsu, and later when he recruits Juugo, he never, ever tells them that he needs them. Ever. The only one to get such a request—“Come with me, Karin. I need you”—is Karin. That automatically sets her apart from her other two teammates, but actually, it not only singles her out from them but from every girl Sasuke has ever interacted with. Why? Because Sasuke’s acknowledgement is not easy to gain, and much less an acknowledgement that expands from your abilities to your persona—Alas, Karin has it. She’s the only girl that Sasuke deems as useful—which coming from him, is one hell of a compliment—and the only girl that Sasuke truly acknowledges and respects in such a way.

Sasuke’s respect for her is also shown in various instances; like, whenever Karin talks back to him, insults him, questions his logic (or lack of it), scolds him, etc—Sasuke never, ever, reacts negatively to her. Instead, he’ll listen to her words and then offer some reasoning of his own; whether it’s to disagree, explain to her his own plan of action, etc, he has never told her to “mind her own business”, “be quiet”, or even worse, “if you don’t like it, leave” like he has said to Suigetsu. He never said anything uncouth like that to her, even though 99.9% of the time she (and not Suigetsu or Juugo) was the one to question him. That much also shows that he respects her input as well; whether he does as she says or not notwithstanding.

Truth is, Sasuke on his own chose and acknowledged Karin; something in her caught his interest, and she ultimately earned his recognition and his respect. Something that also becomes partiality, which I believe is a word that can accurately encompass Sasuke’s side of their bond; he’s partial to Karin. From her opinion to her well-being, he’s considerate with it all. And when has he been considerate with anything, really?

This ‘partiality’ I’m alluding to was also reflected back in chapter 352; when Suigetsu teases Karin and makes her angry, Sasuke is annoyed and tells him to “stop messing with Karin. I told you to cooperate with her”. Yet, when Karin is the one to annoy Suigetsu, Suigetsu is the one to get a warning. But Karin? Karin doesn’t get such a thing. Two chapters before that, in 350, Karin tricks Suigetsu into going in the wrong direction so that she has to take only Sasuke to Juugo; Sasuke asks her why did she do it, and Karin’s answer is that Suigetsu is annoying, and she doesn't like him; what does Sasuke do, then? Nothing. Nothing at all. Instead of telling her to go and get Suigetsu back or even lecture her for her action, he doesn’t complain at all. He indulges her and plays her game instead, saying “let me go... I can walk by myself” but doing nothing to pull away as Karin drags him by the wrist to Juugo’s cell.

And that’s not the only time such a thing has happened, either; one of the biggest examples is chapter 364, in which Suigetsu once again insults Karin who quite literally starts to beat the crap out of him; and what does Sasuke do? He watches. Not saying a word, even though he got actually splashed on the face. In fact they’re all so engrossed in it that none of the three noticed that Juugo was losing control of himself until it was too late.

In details like these it’s easy to see this partiality I was mentioning earlier, just like it’s easy to notice what might as well be seeds for something else; because fact is, isn’t it weird that Sasuke asks Suigetsu to cooperate with Karin, but never asks Karin to cooperate with Suigetsu? That he leniently lets her be, even when she yells at him [Sasuke himself], or berates him as she pleases?

And some may try to disregard these details as useless, but this is Sasuke we’re talking about. This is the type of stuff that actually does count.

But there’s more. Of course there’s more, because if there’s something that characterizes SasuKarin it’s that the [on-panel] focus they’ve gotten is well-rounded. What do I mean by that? That said focus has been consistent, substantial and continuous; and it’s formed by both, subtle hints (like the ones I just mentioned) and obvious ones, like the ones I’m just about to address.

The biggest and most obvious SasuKarin moments that we got during this stage come in the form of two chapters in the Taka vs Killerbee fight; but the truth is that this fight as a whole was filled with SasuKarin moments in various shapes and forms.

So, before discussing the meaning of the aforementioned two chapters, I’m going to address the Taka vs Hachibi fight as a whole, which starts in chapter 410 and finishes in chapter 415. 5 chapters, 2 of which were SasuKarin highlights, and where the remaining 3 had important moments which showcased Sasuke’s trust in her, the way he relies on her, and also the way they care about each other. That alone seems to me like quite the treatment for a pairing that’s supposed to be meaningless; especially considering that said chapters not only have mutual moments between them, but the most emotional stuff is actually coming from Sasuke. Sasuke.

The Hachibi fight was there to highlight Taka and help them bond even further, so that Sasuke could realize that he’s not alone; however, the bond that was highlighted the most wasn’t Sasuke-Suigetsu or Sasuke-Juugo, no. It was SasuKarin.

We start with chapter 410, where Sasuke takes his usual approach to things; meaning, he is completely arrogant, underestimating his enemy and believing the fight will be a piece of cake. So he tells them that he will “Capture him [The Hachibi]” and tells Suigetsu to “go right” and Juugo to “go left”. To Karin? To Karin he says, Karin, you watch my back.

We’re in the first chapter of the fight, but that already shows two things: One, he trusts her with his blind spot. He trusts that if the situation merits it, she’ll be able to assist and help him save his ass; he knows that he can rely on her and does so. He trusts her capabilities. The second, he would rather she stay out of the fight and remain as support; which is, in turn, thoughtfulness about her well-being. And it’s interesting to notice the fact that indeed, Karin isn’t the offensive type, and because of this it would be understandable if she were to get in the way; but Sasuke has never been shown to consider her a nuisance because of her lack of offensive abilities, and in fact she’s the teammate that he relies on the most. He trusts her; and it’s no wonder why when despite the fact that she isn’t the offensive type, Karin actually doesn’t get in the way and can fetch for herself (and all of them while she’s at it) just fine.

That doesn’t mean Sasuke won’t make sure to guarantee her safety, though; like he showed back in chapter 350, and like he shows here.

Anyways, chapter 410 mostly focuses on other characters that have nothing to do with Taka, but when we get back to them it’s to see that both Juugo and Suigetsu have been defeated. What does Sasuke do? He calmly steps in, not showing any signs of distress, and proceeds to tell them that he’ll deal with the Hachibi. While he’s at it, he also mentions how they are the ones using Akatsuki. Try to keep that in mind and we’re shown Taka’s individual reactions; Suigetsu goes “heh” and Juugo goes “of course”, but Karin? Karin’s thought is “Sasuke… you’re the coolest! I knew you’d never stop to being someone else’s errand boy!

I emphasize that sentence, because quite honestly, that is the part that truly matters; we know that Karin thinks that Sasuke is cool. Everyone thinks that, it’s nothing awe-worthy. But the rest of the sentence, more precisely, hers “I knew—” goes to show something quite simple: she knows Sasuke. Right here, she’s not saying that Sasuke is “cool” because he’s good-looking, or because he looks badass, or because he has done a wonderful technique; no, right here Karin is saying that he’s the coolest because of his personality. And it’s not even because of his aloofness, which is the usual thing that girls fawn over him for; no, it’s because of the fact that he’s a strong soul who yields to no one. Just like her.

So right there, Karin showed that the thing that she admires about him; what truly makes her think that he’s “the coolest” isn't even he being a 'genius' or something, but rather personality traits that make him, him. And this is actually backed up by the only other times in which Karin marveled over Sasuke in such a fashion; the first happens as Sasuke was making it clear to Suigetsu and Juugo just whom was in charge there, and the second as Sasuke singlehandedly acquires the information they were looking for and leads the team—as you can notice, both instances happen to be displays of him being an independent person who yields to no one. So Karin is above all, attracted to his personality; being physically attracted to him is just a plus. In fact, the only time she has been shown thinking that he’s good-looking was back in chapter 363, when it came to her almost as an afterthought as she thinks that: Sasuke injured looks cool, too"—which goes to show that even though he’s tattered and bloodied, a complete mess who barely came out alive from the fight, she still likes him just fine.

Back to the chapters at hand, in what’s remaining of chapter 411 Sasuke proceeds to get his ass handed to him—Karin showing concern for his well-being while he’s at it. Now, we have arrived to chapter 412; the moment that made many blink twice in order to make sure they weren’t seeing things. Because seriously, was this Naruto? Was this Uchiha Sasuke?

Chapter 412 begins with Sasuke falling thanks to the attack of the Hachibi, Karin yelling his name, and Juugo running towards the scene; with the help of Juugo and Suigetsu who team up to attack the Hachibi, Karin is able to get close herself and singlehandedly pull Sasuke away from harms’s way. She takes him to a safe area where she proceeds to extract all the swords impaled on him, never once losing her clear mind even though it was obvious she was worried because of the state Sasuke was in. Then, comes the moment.

Karin pulls up her sleeve, revealing that she’s got bite-marks along her whole arm; marks that she’s been hiding under those long-sleeves, which suggests that she’s not happy with them, and neither does she consider them pretty. Alas, what must be done must be done, and Sasuke’s life is at stake; so she doesn’t hesitate and asks him to bite her arm. They look into each other’s eyes, and then Sasuke proceeds to bite her. Without any hesitance or second-thought. And this, I found interesting; because Sasuke’s lack of surprise meant that he had either seen those before (which in turn makes one wonder when and how) or that he simply trusts her that much, as to not even inquire why the hell he should bite her. Or perhaps, it’s a mixture of the two.

Of course, as Sasuke sucks on her chakra, Karin has a positive reaction to it in a way that makes it look as if she were having an orgasm; so as if the whole “bite me” thing wasn’t sexual enough, her reaction was sure to completely settle the air of sexuality the scene had. However, the act of biting Karin itself is not meant to be perceived sexually; the scene is only written in such a fashion when it is Sasuke biting her, and Karin herself states in chapter 635 that she "doesn't like anyone other than Sasuke biting her".

But for me, the most remarkable aspect of this whole chapter doesn’t come until immediately afterwards. After Sasuke’s wounds have closed, he sits and tells her You saved me, Karin and she replies with an “aa” which more or less means a “yeah”.

That is extremely relevant, because when has Sasuke acknowledged anyone’s help in the way he acknowledged hers? Even going as far as to tell her that she saved him? Not even a nonchalant “Thanks, Karin” no. He gives her complete acknowledgement and gratitude for her help, and Karin, instead of flushing or trying to act nonchalant about it, replies with a simple “Yeah…”. It is a tender moment; a moment where Sasuke is not only receiving and accepting, but giving, too. Afterwards, the two of them stay like that, sitting together, as Karin regains her breath.

Then comes chapter 413, and right from the start we see Sasuke reacting differently to his surroundings. Suigetsu, Juugo and him have decided to attack together this time like the team they are, and Sasuke is finally taking the Hachibi seriously. Alas, what I was truly making reference to when I said that he was ‘reacting differently’ was actually this. If you remember, just a few paragraphs ago I mentioned how when Suigetsu and Juugo got beaten at the start of the battle, Sasuke merely entered the fray as if nothing had happened at all.

But this time; what is the difference this time? That Sasuke is shown to be clearly concerned for his teammate’s well-being, and he actually hurries and makes his way towards them to inquire whether they were alright or not. It’s worthy of notice that another clear difference that sets this scene apart from the one at the beginning, is the fact that this is the first time during the battle that Karin is in danger. This is the first time that she’s directly involved, and might end up hurt; just like it is the first time that Sasuke shows obvious concern for their well-being. Coincidence? Up to you to decide, but I don't think so. And I actually believe that there are facts backing up that conclusion; facts that I’ll mention in the following paragraphs.

In chapter 413, Sasuke gets hurt for the second time. By running towards them, he wasn’t careful and left an opening; the Hachibi was too fast for any of them, and Sasuke got his torso blown off. Juugo catches him in midair, and Karin proceeds to hurriedly make her way towards him. Once again, she shows obvious worry and shock as she sees the state he was in—worse that he has been. Ever. But again, she doesn’t waste any time and doesn’t lose her clear head, quickly proceeding to pull down the top of her shirt only to reveal yet more biting marks covering her torso. It’s obvious she had the intention to heal Sasuke, even if that meant losing all her chakra and ending up completely exhausted; but Juugo reassures that he’d take care of it.

He does just that and by chapter 414 Sasuke is already awake. Karin though wastes no time; regardless of the fact that she again shows genuine care for his well-being as she thinks to herself “thank God, you’re okay ♡” she tells him instead “are you awake, Sasuke? Come on, get a grip!” and makes sure that he knows the gravity of the situation, also helping him and supporting his body as they make a run for it. In the following two pages, we’re shown Sasuke’s response as both Juugo and Suigetsu risk their lives for him. Juugo, who saved him just like Karin did two chapters ago, got a “Juugo…” and the same thing was given to Suigetsu as he risks himself to give the other 3 time to escape. See the difference?

By the end of chapter 414, comes the moment as far as Team development goes. As Karin tells him that We won’t get away… what do we do!? Sasuke proceeds to stare at his fallen teammates one at a time. First Suigetsu, who is completely liquefied. Then Juugo, who now looks like a kid. And lastly is Karin, who is completely torn up. So basically, he goes from: Karin, Suigetsu, Juugo and back to Karin again, and then come the flashbacks in chronological order. So, first comes Karin’s, then Juugo’s and lastly Suigetsu’s.

After this, Sasuke closes his eyes, recalls Team 7 for the first and only time in Part II as a whole (so far), and then he opens his eyes and uses Amaterasu. The sidetext illustrates it pretty well, he remembers that he isn’t alone. Sasuke puts everything he has in Amaterasu!

Basically, the guy is doing it to protect Taka just like they protected him; right then he acknowledged their bonds, and reacted to them.

“Who will survive the clash…?! Next issue, 'SASUKE’S DECISION'!”

And lastly, we get Chapter 415. The SasuKarin chapter by excellence (of this segment) for reasons that are pretty obvious and straight-forward.

As the Hachibi falls and starts being consumed by Amaterasu, Sasuke is attacked by pain in his eye; he’s in no condition to run, Juugo is helping Suigetsu, and the only one who notices the danger and acts is Karin. So Karin grabs Sasuke and Juugo (who is carrying Suigetsu), and makes a run for it. Holding all of them. But then the Hachibi falls and the strength of it is enough to send them jumping in the air, and while Karin manages to get them out of the way of danger, she’s not so lucky herself.

And that’s when Sasuke reacts. He raises his head, only to witness how a huge tentacle was just about to fall over Karin, which would completely crush her. Look at the lines drawn around him; not even Karin, who is the one with one foot on the grave, has them. Plus, the way they’re drawn was a nice detail; there she is, seconds away from be crushed, and their eyes meet. And it’s there that Sasuke cuts the tentacle, pulling chakra out of God knows where, succeeding in saving Karin. Or so they thought.

Sasuke is, again, quick to notice that Karin’s life was in danger once more, as a tentacle burning with the black flames is about to hit her from behind. Hastily, Sasuke screams Karin, run!”. But there was no way to avoid it and Karin is hit.

Sasuke’s reaction is raw, and immediate; take a look at the way every panel in the page is drawn with motion lines around. Since there’s barely any movement, there’s no other point to them but to emphasize the emotion of the situation; the anxiety, the shock, the urgency, everything.

Look at the frame in the top-right corner. Look at Sasuke, the guy is actually freaking out; his first instinct seems to actually be trying to attempt to get up and go to her, but Juugo stops him and tries to forcefully pull him away (sfx: grabbing). Juugo tells him things like they are:

“Forget her! We need to run before the fire consumes us, too!”
Wait, Juugo!

- raw here, where you can observe Sasuke's yell is indeed bolded, unlike Juugo's.

Sasuke irrationally refuses to leave her behind. Even though he knew that it’s impossible to turn off those flames; even though he knows that Juugo is right: if they stay, they die; the three of them. But Sasuke wouldn’t listen. He risks all their lives in the offhand chance that there might actually be a way to save Karin.

His drive is so strong, his determination and will so unwavering, that as he looks at her and desperately calls her name on his mind “Karin!” (in nice bold, at that), he manages to unleash a new power. A new ability of his sharingan, which we would later find out is called Enton: Kagutsuchi. All of it, to save Karin.

And he manages to put those flames out, contrary to what any probability would’ve suggested (notice even Juugo is shocked speechless). Then he’s assaulted by a new pain in his eye, but yet again that doesn’t deter him from being the first to notice the fact that Karin was, again, in danger; “Juugo, get Karin! Now!” he yells, once again showing raw emotion and urgency out of open concern, something very rare in him.

But he does it in this chapter over and over again, and solely thanks to one girl: Karin.

desperate sasuke is a sight to behold

One thing I found quite telling about all this, is that quite honestly it’d have fit a lot better if Juugo was the one in Karin’s place. Why? Because physically he’s the strongest one out of the bunch; sure thing he was turning into a child, but he showed pretty clearly that he was still strong as he got a hold of Karin and brought her to where they were, so he’d have been perfectly capable of getting Sasuke, Karin and Suigetsu out of harm’s way. Besides that, the way he was so ready to leave Karin behind; Juugo, who’s the kindest of the bunch. That role would’ve been more befitting of Karin, who will always keep a level-head and think of the probabilities and most logical plans of action regardless of her feelings.

Alas, that’s not how Kishimoto wanted it to happen; he wanted Sasuke to react so strongly over Karin for a reason. And that is pretty meaningful on its own, even without looking at how huge that chapter is for SasuKarin. But interestingly enough, five years and 200 chapters later, Chapter 619 seems to put just how meaningful it is into words—but I'll get to that later, in order to respect the Manifesto's chronological order.

After all this, Taka didn’t really show up much; in fact they went on a hiatus for like 30 chapters. But when they did show up again, for those of us who are aware, it was quite easy to notice the fact that one thing hadn’t changed: Kishimoto was still highlighting Sasuke and Karin among Taka. Focusing on their reactions, their thought process, everything, above the remaining two.

For example, we have chapter 453. In this chapter, there are two things that happen that I thought were worth pointing out; after Sasuke attacks Tobi and lands on the branch directly opposite of Karin and Tobi mentions that something happened to Konoha, Sasuke has a visible reaction. But he remains silent. As such, who’s the one to inquire about Konoha for him? That’s right, Karin. Who doesn’t give a damn about Konoha and doesn’t have any reasons to do so, but she still asks directly after Sasuke’s reaction was shown. And this is not the only time such a thing happens in the chapter; later, after Suigetsu suggests that they should go directly to the place where the Hokage’s meeting is being held, Karin says nothing. But when Sasuke is shown being all “…” Karin does react, and turns towards Suigetsu to give him a reproaching look. In the following panel, Sasuke confirms that he has indeed accepted Suigetsu’s suggestion, and Karin is shown thinking that Ugh… things just got a whole lot more complicated which confirms that she had, indeed, read his expression and anticipated what his words would be, since otherwise she’d have glared at Suigetsu from the start. I point this out because it is, quite simply, another display of a very simple fact: Karin knows Sasuke—a fact that will coincidentally come to play a very important role later.

I also think it’s interesting to note how Karin seems to be the only one who isn’t happy at all with them going to the Kage Summit. I believe that this might come to play a role later, though of course, this is purely speculation from my part.

Manifesto Update: ^ that did indeed turn out to be Kishimoto’s foreshadowing at his finest. So let’s take a look at what happened during the Kage Summit and what it ultimately lead to, shall we?

But before doing that, it’s vital that you do not lose sight of the things we learned about SasuKarin during this 1st segment; please, do not forget all the traits that Kishimoto established about their dynamic throughout the aforementioned chapters.

That said, let's get the update started; while this manifesto originally covered up to Chapter 457, the following section (Sasuke's Downfall) will take it from there up to Chapter 489. Lastly, the 3rd section will cover SasuKarin from Chapter 567 onward.

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

April 2013

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