Since manga is still primarily the wet dreams of teenage boys, manga creators aren’t exactly known for developing strong female characters. Naruto‘s creator Masashi Kishimoto is no exception. Ino? Flirty, gossip-y hussy. Tenten? Does she ever say anything even remotely interesting? Hinata? Only known for being on Naruto’s jock 24/7. In fact, the females-as-second-class-citizens attitude is a running joke among fangirls who actually like post-time skip Haruno Sakura. Of all the kunoichi, Sakura is really the only one who has the potential to be a total Betty (Bad Ass)—she is a genjutsu-type medical ninja with superhuman strength and near-perfect chakra control, after all. But Kishimoto simply refuses to draw/write/see her that way, even though she’s one of the three main characters. It’s infuriating.
When Tsunade came along, readers got to see a nuanced female character: she’s the granddaughter of the first village leader and a student of the third; she’s one of the Legendary Sannin; she’s known real love and lost it; she isn’t so squeaky clean that she has no vices; and she’s got mad love for her village. Yes, Kishimoto draws her with huge knockers so sometimes that gets played for comic relief, but she’s the most three-dimensional female character in the manga and he acknowledges that dimensionality by making her Konohagakure’s leader. The best part? Her becoming Sakura’s shishou. It’s the original Betty training the next-generation Betty. When Sakura finally gets to show Kakashi and Naruto what she learned under Tsunade (at 2:23), it’s awesome.com.
So knowing Kishimoto’s crappy track record with female characters, I was more than a bit nervous when Tsunade put her life on the line for the village. I just knew he was going to kill her off. He’d even alluded to 86ing her in past interviews and I wondered if doing so would encourage him to make Sakura a stronger character (student surpasses the master and all that jazz). But yesterday? Yesterday, Kishi-kun did me and other fangirls a solid and for that, I’m grateful. Since Orochimaru and Jiraiya are already dead, I know Tsunade’s time will come soon, but I’m glad Sakura gets a little more time with her master to become a stronger woman.