47 – Chapter notes

“The Odd Ones” is a play on the statement that “Kakashi had a nose for those odd ones” from the beginning of the manga (from the first chapter, I think). But, which ones are odd? Are all of them? Some of them? Kakashi’s pretty odd too, lol. So it fits. And Sakura’s perception of them being the ‘odd ones’ while she is the ‘normal one’ could get turned on its head in coming chapters, as she comes into her real power. The challenge of making a Team 7 without Naruto is a big one. First off, Sai is added, but he’s like the opposite of Naruto in terms of emotions, lol. And though Sasuke was just as mean and distant, Naruto kind of took the edge off that. Without Naruto, all Sasuke’s anger is directed squarely at Sakura. As for Sakura, without Naruto she receives no real encouragement. (We know he was always her biggest fan.) So she has to decide that to keep going, she will just have to rely on herself for support. Hopefully, reading between the lines, you can still see some of Naruto there.

• And then it was over. Sakura was admitted into her last year with absolutely no fanfare, just like a normal kid. No one looked at her to laugh or be afraid or impressed. — In a chapter titled “The Odd Ones,” there is weight placed on Sakura being normal. It’s not just about her being from a ‘normal’ civilian family. Here, Sakura is pleased just to be one a normal shinobi kid as well. And again, there are shades of Naruto’s story throughout hers, even though he’s not here. Naruto would have felt this way as well, grateful to be in academy and happy to be finally seen as a normal kid by the others.

• Sasuke Uchiha waited alone. The teacher trailed his pen down the board. “Uchiha, you’re last on the list.” The teacher didn’t need a demonstration. He didn’t even seem to want to look at him. “You can join the rest,” he said with a single nod. — Sasuke should have been treated like a prince in the village, being the most powerful student and a survivor of the massacre. (Like, why didn’t the Hyuugas immediately take him in and raise him as their own? They could have married him off to one of their daughters, then consolidated all Uchiha properties and become the most powerful.) But Sasuke was pretty much shunned as well, although no real reason was given for this. So here, his story feels like both his and Naruto’s from the original. He’s is too powerful for his young age, and it makes older nins nervous. Without Naruto’s constant interest in him, Sasuke really is isolated. Academy is not a happy experience for him.  

• On the playground, Sakura always went along with the Ino and the other girls who thought he was cute. But secretly, she wasn’t so sure about him. — In the original, Naruto’s interest in Sasuke validated and elevated him. Without Naruto there, Sasuke just becomes a really weird, stand-offish kid. No one wanted to be like him or be near him. Naruto alone wanted those things. So without Naruto, Sakura might not think so highly of Sasuke, even though the other girls think he’s cute. Sakura, who was still so new to this world, would have seen past his looks to someone who was dangerous and different. And she very much wants to fit in. Sasuke, without Naruto, might not have had as much appeal to her.

• Iruka’s oddly dark humor was common among shinobis, she’d come to learn, especially the more seasoned ones. It was like the more they’d seen and lived through, the weirder their sense of humor became. — A little foreshadowing of Kakashi as their teacher. He’s such an oddball too. lol

• It wasn’t until a field medic came to speak to the class about healing and chakra that she began to see it differently. — Filling in the gaps of Sakura’s story and answering a lot of questions. Sakura had some knowledge of medical skills before Tsunade arrived, but how did that come about? What happened to nins who were not cut out for fighting? The Hyuugas have an abundance of healing abilities, how are those used in the village?

• But Sakura thought, at the moment, Hinata looked very much the way she felt. She was glad it wasn’t her being forced to go up there. — Sometimes Sakura is portrayed as unsure and doubting. But really Hinata had that attitude all locked up way before Sakura ever did. 

• They were thrilled, jostling each other on the way down and showing off their ‘wounds,’ most of which amounted to nothing more than scraped knees and splinters. — Naruto could be any one of these boys. Or all of them. lol

• Hands dropped and whispers of “S-Rank?” “Is that a real thing?” ricocheted around. Then the hands of some of the rowdiest boys went up, followed by several others who didn’t want to miss out on that adventure. — This. Just this. It’s Naruto, right?

• The shadowy figure lurking within earshot at the edge of the field, smiled at this development. Jamming his hands in his pockets, Kakashi strode off, whistling into the cool night air. He knew he’d made the right choice when he picked her. — No tricks here. He was serious when he said he didn’t make mistakes. He picked her, and several other teams wanted her too. It was actually Sasuke that no one wanted. 😀 More on this later.

Spoiler Notes:

Barely visibly beyond the top of the fissure, the night sky was reduced to a thin river of stars. It seemed so far away, streaming far above the darkness that engulfed them. — Same visual foreshadowing for Sakura, of being far below an open space. This is the same foreshadowing building from previous chapters, the skeleton at the base of the Forest of Death, and the lantern outside the old woman’s cottage. She is cut off. 

• This was a polite was of asking if she were secretly someone else’s child. — She would have probably been asked this a lot! 

• He leaned closer to inspect it. Little drops of chakra were oozing down through her fingers, turning her whole hand into a luminous ball of light. If she held it long enough, the chakra would begin to slide off the back of her hand in big fat drops. — Sakura’s chakra is like water. It’s pure, undiluted. It’s in a raw form. Right now, Sakura thinks there is something wrong with it because she doesn’t understand what that means. It just flows and flows and doesn’t stick to anything. This theme is being built through each chapter.  And of course, just because she doesn’t see it, doesn’t meant that others don’t also know what her innate abilities are…. 

• She was just an anomaly. Like her pink hair. — This line, the idea of Sakura being an “anomaly,” will come back. It it what defines her power as being different from Naruto. He was made, turned into a vessel for power. But Sakura is a true anomaly. She has power, but there is nothing known about it. There is no reason for it. And they do not know how it will turn out. And her pink hair is what people readily see, but there is another anomaly that people who “know” about these things are looking for. There is a sign of hidden power in Sakura, that she doesn’t see or know about herself.

• Scars meant someone had seen battle or strife. And if it was bad enough to mark them on the outside, then it most certainly changed them on the inside as well. — Sort of a reference to Naruto’s scars on his cheek (even though he hides them in this story), and Sakura’s little scar on her arm. As well as things that change you on the inside, like the marks that you cannot see, such as Sasuke’s trauma. The difference here is that Iruka smiles despite his scar. He has accepted whatever happened as part of who he is. 

He looked at each one of them like he meant it. Then he smiled again. It was brilliant, warm and welcoming. It stretched up the mark on his face, made happy wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and immediately won them over. — Iruka’s smile is wider than the scar, and outshines it. The scar (the bad thing that happened to him) is not fixed in place; he controls it. His smile moves it, not the other way around. In a story full of people with trauma, Iruka has a positive outlook and shares it freely. This is what wins them over and makes him such a good/beloved teacher.

 • Hands were raised, but not so high in the air and not with such force of certainty. Sakura considered this option. They were of a middle range of skills, and she was thinking that she’d probably be safer in this group than with the more boisterous ones— — Here, Sakura choses for herself to be in the middle range of kids. Her motivation is to fit in. But Kakashi chooses her for a team with over-powered teammates that will inevitably go out on big missions. Just a little insight to her character. What she said in the beginning was true — he saw in her something she did not. She has the ability and drive to reach beyond where she is.

• “Sakura-chan, I’m afraid this is too hard on you.” She patted her hand where it rested on the table. “You know, you don’t have to go back if you don’t want to.” Her voice turned firm “I don’t care what the Kage wants, it’s your choice….” — So hopefully, you can see some family resemblance from Sakura’s mom to her. Even though her chakra legacy is unknown, Sakura’s determination and clear disregard for rules and status quo comes from her mom. Lol. Her mother would thwart the Kage to make her daughter happy! Small foreshadowing too that to love someone means that you give them free will to let them make choices about their lives. Even a young girl.

• Sakura knew then she had to return to the shinobi academy. She wasn’t going to let one dumb speech scare her, was she? She wasn’t just going to give up now, was she…? — Sakura talks herself into going back, specifically telling herself not to give up. This small act of bravery, when it’s only to herself and there’s a much easier way out, is the foundation upon which her other brave acts are built.

• Sakura realized then that the speech was meant to scare them. Maybe even weed out anyone who didn’t believe in themselves. It was, like many things in the shinobi world, a trick. — Another theme that will be explored more. While violence and super-powered techniques of course work, just like they are being taught, the smartest shinobis employ tricks to get their missions accomplished. It expends much less energy and still get the job done, without revealing anything of your true power. Small foreshadowing. 

• Kakashi cut a look down at her as if she’d said it out loud. He seemed to read it on her face. “You know, if this is not what you expected, you can still back out. Do it now, while you have the chance—“  — Another step in Sakura’s journey to realizing her ninja code of ‘not giving up.’ Kakashi asks her directly, gives her an opening to leave and she still doesn’t back out (even though she dodges answering him directly).

• “ME!?” she shrieked. “You and Sai don’t fit in! You both are the weird ones! I’m the normal one! I come from a normal home, I have a normal family and—“ — Play on Sakura always being the ‘normal’ one in the manga. She is there, but she’s not here. Lol

• “If I were you,” he said quietly, “I wouldn’t come back tomorrow. You were lucky today. But your luck will run out.” He pointed at her, delivering it like a command, “Give up now, before you get yourself killed—“ — Couple things here: First, this is the least mean thing Sasuke says to her this chapter. It’s actually focused on her. She was, in fact, lucky, and she still might get herself killed. Sasuke’s not wrong. But Sasuke doesn’t know how to be nice. So even something that might have been a first step toward some sort of teammate connection comes out as a command. Second, this attitude of young Sasuke’s will unwittingly be repeated to Sakura by an older Naruto, after he returns. His frustration with her will mirror Sasuke’s younger, angrier, deflective nature. He will tell her she’s going to get herself killed, then dive into save her or be saved by her. 

• All of Sakura’s pent-up frustration and self doubt boiled over. She unleashed it in one explosive yell. “I’m not giving up!” Shocked, Sasuke shut his mouth. “I’m not ever giving up!!” Her voice echoed off the trees. She was glad to hear it come back to her. Even if she didn’t come from a “clan” like all the rest or have good teammates or even ninja parents to tell her to keep going, then she’d just tell it to herself. — Sakura fully realizes her ‘never give up’ ninja code that she tells Katsuro about. And hearing her own voice is the replacement for where Naruto should have been if he were there. He would be the one to tell her. But he’s not, so her character evolves by learning to rely on herself instead of her teammates.