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I.
SASUKARIN


Their Development


b) Sasuke's Downfall



There is one more thing that must be kept in mind throughout this section, in order to not miss the point Kishimoto was trying to make. That one thing is: contrast. Contrast to everything we learned in the previous section.

That is the keyword.

From the get-go, there was a brief moment in 457 that already denoted this. For the first time since their introduction, Suigetsu gets to mock Karin due to something Sasuke has said to her; even if this ‘something’ is no more than a mere “just focus on tracking the enemy’s positions for the moment, Karin”, it still gives Suigetsu the chance to laugh at her over it because Sasuke isn’t addressing her input with some of his own (as he has always done in the past), but rather, ultimately dismissing it.

Nevertheless, it’s only in 460 that things get real. Taka are set-up by Zetsu, who alerts the Kage about their presence and intentions; as such, Karin’s worst fears come to pass as they are ambushed by a group of Samurai, and later by the Raikage himself. What is remarkable about this chapter however, is that it bluntly marks the beginning of a sudden but steady downward: that of Sasuke into darkness.

Sasuke, who always made a point of not killing (anyone but Itachi) and avoiding the enemy’s vitals at all times, is now “pissed and unable to hold himself back”. He uncharacteristically mercilessly slaughters the samurai. Suigetsu is understandably annoyed at that, but Karin?



Karin is shaking. As a sensor (and one that is so sharp and in tune with others chakra that she can even notice when people lie, at that) she is able to notice the changes in Sasuke’s chakra, and what she feels in him right then is different. Moreover, in her own words, it just isn’t the same Sasuke she has known until then.

I emphasize that because it will come to play a huge role later. So do keep in mind that from the first moment that Kishimoto made Karin comment on Sasuke’s change, she isn’t just commenting on his ‘cold’ chakra as a sensor. There is, in fact, another sensor present during this fight; but it is through Karin that Kishimoto voices Sasuke’s change, because she is commenting about it as someone who knows Sasuke. The Sasuke ‘she has known until now’, her Sasuke, is the touchstone that allows her to tell there is a difference and point it out so accurately. It is her Sasuke that is explicitly contrasted with the Sasuke he is becoming.

"[...] Revenge is the Uchiha clan's destiny. Sasuke has taken on the hatred of the entire clan... and he will inflict that curse's hatred on the world. Hatred is his greatest weapon, his friend... and his strength. That is Sasuke's dogma!!"
- Tobi, chapter 462


The battle carries on, and soon Karin becomes focused on tracking Danzou (but not without being concerned over Sasuke’s well-being, of course). However, a second reminder is issued to us in chapter 464; … this chakra… it’s like he’s a completely different Sasuke… it’s just too cold…!! are Karin’s thoughts as Sasuke fully awakens and employs Susano’o. Notice the side-text, and also the chapter title; both reference a ‘darkness’.

Sasuke himself bluntly states it in that very chapter. Sabaku no Gaara tries to talk to him, to remind him that living for revenge does not solve anything and that since they’ve “walked through the darkness of this world, they are able to see even a sliver of light”. Sasuke, however, does not bulge; “I have long since closed my eyes… my only goal is in the darkness.



His hatred is consuming him. And at an immoderately swift pace.

Chapter 465 opens with “an evil darkness surrounds Sasuke…”, and it is in this very chapter that we get a wake-up call about the extent to which Sasuke has changed during this battle. While up to this point Kishimoto had been reminding us of the contrast between this cold Sasuke and the old one through Karin’s observations concerning his chakra, this time around he directly establishes it through their interaction.

In 465, Sasuke creates an opening by crushing the pillars, thus causing the roof to fall. Everyone is caught in the commotion, Karin included; Sasuke realizes this, and fetches her. Saving her is something the usual Sasuke would have indeed done. Yet, the contrast and reminder of the fact that we’re dealing with a different, changed Sasuke comes immediately afterward.



Whereas exactly 50 chapters ago he went to extreme lengths (remember, he even risked his, Juugo’s and Suigetsu’s lives) to ensure Karin’s safety, his Susano’o now callously throws her after saving her. Whereas 51 chapters ago Sasuke cast an Amaterasu after being moved by his team, he now discards Suigetsu and Juugo and leaves them to fetch for themselves without a second thought. On top of that, he now outright orders Karin around; these are all clear differences to the way Sasuke used to behave. They’re scenes meant to be contrasted with the Sasuke we knew, and meant to reaffirm what Karin had stated in previous chapters: it is like he’s become a completely different Sasuke.

And all those differences prompt Karin to ask herself a question that us readers are meant to echo:



Notice that Karin’s behavior itself—her reaction when in synergy with this new Sasuke, is also different from her usual conduct. His behavior is a total alteration to their usual dynamic, and since a dynamic works two ways, Karin herself briefly responds differently to him by keeping her upset thoughts to herself rather than giving him an earful.

She is at a loss as to what prompted Sasuke’s sudden change, and she is understandably concerned over it; not having a reply to her inward question, she does as she is told and they go to Danzou together. In 466, Karin does not fail to notice that Sasuke’s chakra is getting weaker since he has been overdoing it. However, it isn’t until a couple of pages later that Sasuke meets what could—and would—have been his demise.

And it’s then that, for the first time ever, we see Karin being moved to tears.



Aside from stressing that this is the first time we see tough, level-headed and collected Karin being moved to tears (much like how the first time we saw Karin look distraught was also due to concern over Sasuke’s safety), I believe those panels speak for themselves as to just how deep do Karin’s feelings for Sasuke run.

Luckily, the situation turns out to be a false-alarm as Tobi has saved Sasuke. He warps him to safety in 467, and then goes to fetch Karin as well so that she can heal him. And together in Boxland is where we leave them, as the manga shifts its focus to other characters.



It isn’t until chapter 475 that Sasuke and Karin return to the manga. And if the Kage Summit signified the beginning of Sasuke’s downfall into Darkness (or his Slowly Slipping Into Evil), his upcoming fight with Shimura Danzou—and what happens during it. What Sasuke does during it—cements his change, and shows us just how deep he has sank.

“The [end of the] battle against Danzou will determine Sasuke’s Path. He [Kishomoto] told us that he wrote something big happening with Sasuke.”
- Report of Jump Festa 2010.


The fight lasts for 6 chapters, so I will skip commenting on the details (like Karin’s reaction to Sasuke’s Susano’o, what seems to be confirmation of the fact that Karin was aware of the truth behind the Uchiha massacre, etc.) and focus on the most important parts. From the beginning of the fight, Karin does her best to support Sasuke; from trying to stay focused and figure out Danzou’s ability to warning him of incoming danger. The highlight of this comes in 478, when Sasuke has been paralyzed by a seal; as previously stated, Karin isn’t the offensive type. She is top-notch support in all ways, but up to that point, her attack power had been nothing short of limited. As such, she would not have been able to do much in a fight as crazy as Danzou vs Sasuke.

She herself knew this. But that did not stop her from trying.



Yet again, prompted by her concern and feelings for Sasuke, we see the usual cautious and rational Karin spring into action and willingly endangering herself all for a chance to ensure his own safety. Even while hurt, she attempts to move and go to him once more. And with details like these, Kishimoto effectively proved wrong (for the umpteenth time) those who mistakenly downplayed the strength of Karin’s feelings for Sasuke.

Sasuke’s pain and hatred give him a surge of power strong enough to ‘level-up’ his Susano’o and break the seal. And for the first time since 464, we get another notice of Sasuke’s change.



479’s cliffhanger features Sasuke and Danzou impaling each other. 480 reveals that Sasuke outsmarted Danzou and came out on top; take a close look at his reaction and behavior immediately afterward—it will become relevant soon enough.

Sasuke is badly hurt and drained, so Karin hurries to go to his side and heal him. As he bites her, we pan to Tobi, who is watching them and comments on the scene: “that girl… it was a good thing to bring her along. She is useful… and Sasuke specifically chose her as his favorite.


(there is the raw, in case anyone doubts the wording)


However, Danzou refuses to give up. And he uses a cheap tactic that backfires on him, and ultimately leads to what becomes Sasuke’s real turning point (or his Moral Event Horizon).

He takes Karin hostage.



Tobi himself wonders what Sasuke would do, now; which by itself already implies that usually, Karin's safety being on the line would put Sasuke on a tight spot.

Sasuke begins by remarking on the hypocrisy of Danzou’s earlier words; all this talk about self-sacrifice, and you take a hostage? Notice how while Kishimoto skillfully shows us the scene from various angles, he never shows us Sasuke’s eyes; we are supposed to wonder what would Sasuke choose to do, much like Tobi himself did.

And the answer is supposed to be dismaying, and outrageous.



He actually opts to take his revenge through Karin’s body, and it is then that the title of the chapter, Sacrifice, makes all the sense in the world. And it is also now that you must recall his behavior immediately after the first time he thought he had beat Danzou, and compare it to his face right here, and here. The contrast is colossal; and what marked the difference between relatively-sane-but-changed Sasuke and mad-man, gone-off-the-deep-end Sasuke?

Sacrificing Karin.

Notice also how in that very chapter, Karin was fittingly individualized from Taka and highlighted as Sasuke's 'favorite'; in other words, the fact that she does mean something to Sasuke was highlighted. As such, even the side-text itself doesn't fail to illustrate that the point isn’t only that Sasuke callously stabbed someone, but that it was Karin; the girl for whom he risked his life in 415—which was, coincidentally, the biggest and last remarkable good deed the usual Sasuke did before his downward into darkness.

“Sasuke sacrifices Karin for his revenge and enters true darkness…!!”


And so in a split-second everything Kishimoto had been alluding to since 465 comes to a head; and much like how Karin was the commentator throughout the whole process of Sasuke’s change, and how Kishimoto established the contrast even more through their interactions—it is Karin (and their bond) that ultimately becomes the threshold to Sasuke stepping into “true” darkness (much like how Naruto was Sasuke’s threshold back in VotE).

Teachan, from Naruto Forums, summarized the meaning of this very accurately in the following comment:

“This is Kishimoto's proof that Sasuke is not himself anymore: stabbing Karin mercilessly after a page-panel of madness. Kishimoto wants us to believe that what Sasuke is doing is monstrosity. While he had Sakura going there, he could easily make her the victim. But, no, he chose another one for the job. What does this mean?

Karin is important. She is the means to show how far Sasuke has gone into the darkness. Not anyone else is fit for the job. Why? Because Karin is the person closest to Sasuke right now.”

- original post here.


If one stops to consider it all from a writer’s perspective, it honestly is as simple as that; as previously mentioned, she was the only person Sasuke has risked his life for in the entirety of Part II so far. It was for her that he awakened a new power. It was she the one he deemed as necessary, and the one he trusted his back to; it was she who loyally stuck to him through thick and thin thorough Part II, who never condemned him for seeking revenge for his clan, and to whom he owed his life in equal measure as to how she owed him hers. She who has been there to witness or aid him during many of the most pivotal moments of his development. As such, Sasuke actually going as far as sacrificing her on his own free will effectively cemented the contrast Kishimoto was aiming for—much like how it was through Sasuke’s bond with Naruto that we got to witness just how far Sasuke was willing to go to obtain the power for his revenge, back at the end of Part 1 (which was casually the last time we witnessed a “[...] completely changed Sasuke!”).

Before continuing to address the following chapters however, I must do a quick fast-forward to bring up the quote that best illustrates this. And said quote happens to belong to Sasuke himself.

"[...] You are someone, who knows the same pain of loneliness as I do. And... that pain makes a person stronger. Because of that, by severing these bonds... I'll gain even more strength."
- Sasuke to Naruto, here and here.


That was in Chapter 230. Sasuke casually does not mention that philosophy of his again until Chapter 574, where he flashbacks to that very scene. “Did you forget it, Naruto…? What true strength is…?” it’s funny that he wonders if Naruto has ‘forgotten’ it, considering that Sasuke himself found a different source of strength back in 414 and 415. Yet, here we find that he has regressed into his end-of-Part-1 mindset.

Something Kishimoto has him do only after he has stabbed Karin, severing his bond with her (which was the last one he had consciously allowed himself to carry, as he claims to have severed his bonds with T7 back in Part 1, and he already left Suigetsu and Juugo behind in 465). That alone is telling enough. That stab was meant to showcase a lot of things, yes; but Sasuke not caring about Karin was not one of them. Just about the opposite, actually.

Now that has been said, we can go back to focusing on the chapters following 480. 481 begins with yet another reminder of what Sasuke has done (and to whom he has done that to), and it features a clear-cut contrast to chapter 348 as well.



Where Sasuke once found her necessary, he now deems her as an encumbrance. Two things are worth pointing out about this short but meaningful exchange: the first is that this is the first time his bond with Karin has directly stood in the way of his revenge. Before this fight Karin was always an asset, to the point Sasuke took her with him without hesitating even after going dark. His bond with her was something he simply did not need to question or think about, because it represented no hindrance to him or his purposes.

However, that does effectively change the moment Karin is caught hostage; because this time around he was faced with a dire and conscious choice between his revenge and her well-being—between his revenge and his bond with her. He made a selfish, foul choice, and it prompts Karin to question just what was she to him.

And that is precisely the second thing worth pointing out; Karin actually does not ask that aloud. She does not even finish the question in her own mind. All she gets out is a simple “I…” and yet, Sasuke reacts to it and actually bothers to reply.

The rest of 481 focuses on Danzou and his dying flashbacks, but we return to SasuKarin in Chapter 482. A chapter that, much like 415, would go down as one of the most important chapters for this pairing.

Tobi advices Sasuke to finish Karin off properly. We see Sasuke looking up at the sky in thought, before approaching Karin. Meanwhile, Karin is remembering something.

The first time they met. Which unexpectedly took place back in the Chuunin exams, when they were 12-13 years old. Sasuke jumps in (using his Shishi Rendan for the very first time, chronologically) and saves her from being eaten by a wild bear. Karin, however, possesses the earth scroll—just like Team 7. Looking at the water canteen Sasuke is carrying with him, it’s evident that this flashback canonically takes place during Chapter 60, during which Sasuke was considerably stressed out and on edge because they were running out of chances to get the Heaven Scroll they needed.

So one would think that Sasuke would have been annoyed at the fact that Karin did not have the scroll he was looking for, right? Moreover, considering Sasuke’s personality, it would have been only natural if he were to find Karin pitiful; helplessly sprayed on the ground like that and half-blind to top it off.

Yet… what is it that we see?



Sasuke smiles at her. The very first (and only) smile of its kind that 12 year old Sasuke gave anyone in the manga. And it is that smile—literally Karin’s Sasuke that Kishimoto directly juxtaposes with the current one. We are literally seeing Sasuke’s change through Karin’s own eyes, in the culmination of the process that began back in 460; from commenting on the changes of his chakra, to the changes of his attitude and behavior, to experiencing it all in her own flesh—Karin and SasuKarin undoubtedly were Kishimoto’s instrument to drive home Sasuke’s descent into Darkness, and just how far he sunk. Though we have already been over how meaningful that is.

It’s also worth noticing how Sasuke uses the exact same words but for opposite purposes. The casual ‘See ya’ that was once a greeting and marked the beginning of his bond with her, is now a farewell that marks the moment when he is about to irrevocably sever their bond.

Lastly, there is one last thing that made 482 (titled “once more…) so special.


“I just wanted… to see that face once more….”


Karin’s fuel—the reason why she stuck with Sasuke through thick and thin and helped him in any and every way she could, was in hopes of being able to witness him making such an expression again. All along, all Karin wanted to see was Sasuke being happy. Love does not get more selfless than that. And it is also a very nice bonus that the chapter itself was titled after Karin’s words; meaning, SasuKarin and Karin’s flashbacks were the core of this chapter.

For some reason or another, Sasuke (luckily) does not go through with it [finishing her off] right away. Three pages later, Sasuke is still merely readying his chidori—and this gives Sakura the enough time to arrive to the scene and interrupt it. In 483, we see yet another showcase of just how selfless Karin truly is—Sasuke is bluffing, tricking Sakura into thinking that if she kills Karin, he would let her join him. Yet when Sakura turns her back to him, Sasuke does not hesitate to go for the kill. Karin, who has not asked to be spared not even once, addresses him then—and asks him not to do it. Despite what he has done to her, Karin does not want Sasuke to take another innocent life; she does not want to watch him sink even further.

484 highlights Karin’s emotional strength; but also her pain, and her empathic nature. The boy she loves sacrificed her, yet just like she never asked him to spare her life, she does not shed a single tear for herself, either. It is only through empathizing with Sakura’s tears that Karin loses hold of her emotions and the tears finally come out; but she is evidently not happy to be crying. This scene only served to show just how big Karin tearing up at the thought of Sasuke dying truly was, back in Chapter 466.

But by now, given everything, the fact that Karin selflessly loves him with all her heart is nothing but a given.

484 also features Sasuke’s hatred reaching yet another high, and Karin pointing out that he simply is not the person any of them used to know. Given everything that happened, Karin knows this better than anyone. And it is that knowledge that which makes her words in 485 all the more meaningful:


Sasuke… I may have healed you a little, but this is too much…
No… that’s enough… [of] about Sasuke…


I am using the raw of the second panel rather than its scanlation, so that the tone and feeling of the original line can be captured better. It is evident due to them alone that Karin is hesitant; which is not only backed up by the mood of the panel (look at it, it’s deliberately made so that Karin looks small, lonely and desolate) but also by the panel that came directly before it. Karin’s instinctive reaction is to be concerned over the fact that Sasuke is overdoing it, as she would have usually been; yet then her mind steps in. And her mind, her assertiveness tells her that no, it’s enough. Because Sasuke betrayed her. He hurt her.

And more than that, he simply is “not the Sasuke you used to know”. He is a “completely different Sasuke.” He has essentially changed into a stranger. His essence and his chakra and his behavior and his words are the opposite of how he usually was; of the Sasuke Karin fell for, bled for, fought for.

It is enough. But that does not mean she has stopped loving him; far from it.

This scene is actually the best thing any SasuKarin and Karin fan could have asked for, given what happened. With a single line, Kishimoto adeptly demonstrated two things—the first, is that Karin has the self-respect and assertiveness enough to not put up with just about anything Sasuke may pull; she is not about to knock herself down a notch below him and let him do as he pleases, which is one of the fundamental traits that make her such a good match for Sasuke. The second, is that it reiterates that Karin is not in love with an illusion. It also suggests that we eventually will see the stab being addressed, which is great because no one ever seems to actually want to confront Sasuke about this sort of thing, which they should; because motives aside, these are things Sasuke chooses to do himself and is, as such, responsible for them. (update: as of 627, this assumption was proven to be right on the money.)

Lastly, to finally wrap this section up (I swear I never intended for it to be this long, but there truly is a lot to say—I'm actually leaving out some stuff I will touch on other sections) there is a scene in 487 that may come to play a role later.



This is Karin reacting to the very moment Sasuke decided to give in and accept Naruto’s request (meaning, Naruto did reach him); making a promise that, as we later found out, he does intend to uphold.

Sasuke leaves with Tobi and Karin is then taken into custody by Konoha (coincidentally, getting to interact with Team 7 while she is at it. It may not look like it now for some, but is important that Kishimoto let Karin be present in the Team 7 reunion) and we don’t see her or Sasuke again for nearly 90 chapters.

Yet, Kishimoto still found ways to deliver SasuKarin.




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

April 2013

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