As the most recurring controversial character of the series, Sakura Haruno is often overshadowed by Team Seven’s godlike champions, Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha. Unfortunately, it has prevented her from much acknowledgement to her own character growth over the decade, and the strength she has accrued from her challenges is more than merely physical.
Much of Sakura’s development (and regression) is best measured in conjunction to the original Team Seven, given how she had time to develop alongside them. However, the closer the series came to its conclusion, the more Haruno came into her own – for better and worse. Here are 5 ways Sakura changed as a person in Naruto and 5 times she regressed.
10 SHE CHANGED: Her Relationship With Naruto
In the beginning of the anime, Sakura served as the belligerent, unwilling target of Naruto Uzumaki’s affection. From excessive bluster to practicing jutsu until he was literally red in the face, every attempt at courtship he made pushed her further away.
Once the two had a chance to mature and with Sasuke absent for a long time, Sakura had an opportunity to cultivate healthy respect for the aspiring Hokage. It was one well deserved, as he had evolved from the knucklehead ninja of Leaf to its most powerful savior and redeemer.
9 SHE REGRESSED: She Deceived Naruto
After Sasuke’s attack on the Five Kage summit, Sakura came to Naruto to “confess” her love to him. It made for an awkward exchange which Naruto was immediately able to sniff out, openly noting the insincerity behind her words.
Sai would later arrive to tell him that the other shinobi of the Leaf had decided to turn against Sasuke for his heinous transgressions – Sakura was merely attempting to gain his favor so that he would not join them. The deception was both flimsy and immoral, a palpably negative development in her continuing growth.
8 SHE CHANGED: She Protected Naruto & Sasuke In The Forest Of Death
In the Land of Waves arc, Sakura lamented what many of her detractors accused her of ~ uselessness. Though Sasuke, Naruto, and Kakashi fought Zabuza and Haku nobly, she had little to contribute to the fight. Without medical jutsu at the time, her viability as a ninja was questionable.
That changed when Naruto was defeated and Sasuke was still suffering under his curse mark. Sakura stood her ground against three mysterious Sound ninja, enduring abuse until help arrived in the form of Rock Lee, and later, Sasuke himself.
7 SHE REGRESSED: She Continued To Support Sasuke Even After He Attempted To Murder Her
Fresh off his victory against Danzo Shimura, Sasuke is confronted by Sakura, who offers her allegiance to him. Reluctantly, he agrees under the concession that she must kill Karin, the existing medical ninja on his team who he had thoughtlessly injured after Danzo attempted to use her as a hostage.
Kakashi was forced to intervene to save her life, yet even his incorrigible blood lust was not enough to sway her desire for him. Sakura’s infatuation continued because she was not forced to live with its consequences.
6 SHE CHANGED: Sakura Versus Ino
Sakura and Ino were close friends growing up, but as they reached maturity, a mutual affection for Sasuke drove a wedge between them. The rift would only widen when Sakura was placed on his team, intensifying their rivalry.
When the girls were pitted against one another in the Chunin Exams, she managed to escape Ino’s mind transfer jutsu with mental prowess and fortitude alone. It is a feat few can claim, and it belies that beneath Sakura’s brazenness and infatuation, she has cultivated willpower more uncompromising than most shinobi in the village.
5 SHE REGRESSED: Her Treatment Of Rock Lee
Though Sakura’s treatment of Lee did improve ever since he attempted to save her in the Forest of Death, she clearly still has yet to learn his true value as a teammate and friend. Despite Naruto’s frequent heroism and the similarities between both he and Lee, she pushed them aside the most for the sake of the one who scarcely tolerates and often mocks her: Sasuke.
One could reason that Sakura was attracted to Sasuke’s strength, but at the time, he was the weakest of the three. Eventually, Sakura would come to appreciate Lee, but not before his dynamic displays of unwavering loyalty.
4 SHE CHANGED: Sniffing Out The White Zetsu
When word reached Allied Shinobi Forces that spies prowled their own disguised in both visage and chakra as ordinary ninja, panic spread across their ranks. Sakura already had her hands full fixing up the continuous stream of warriors in need of her aid but managed to detect a Zetsu even amid her work.
She used her intelligence to play a simple trick on him, referring to Shizune’s pig as if she were a person. The Zetsu fell for the ruse, and that is when he was seized. It proved that Sakura’s wits extended past her encyclopedic medical knowledge.
3 SHE REGRESSED: Hesitating To Destroy Obito’s Eye
After his change of heart, the Black Zetsu which had attached itself to Obito’s body attempted to dominate him while Madara came for his Rinnegan. It resulted in his paralysis, rendering him unable to destroy his own rinnegan. He was strong enough to speak and begged Sakura to gouge his eye before it could be misused, though her hesitation lead to exactly that.
While its understandable that Sakura’s implacable attraction to Sasuke makes it easier for her to forgive his misdeeds, she shared no affection toward Obito, nor the aversion to blood of her mentor, Lady Tsunade. It was a moment of indecision which cost the Allied Shinobi Forces dearly.
2 SHE CHANGED: Sakura Versus Sasori
Sakura’s fight against Sasori was one of the earliest in Shippuden and one of the first demonstrations of how far she had come. Haruno faced the master puppeteer with only Chiyo to assist her – a provision which she could not exclusively rely on for victory.
Sasori’s puppet army and horrifying physiology were daunting, yet Sakura won through strength, ingenuity, and tenacity. Considering that he was strong enough to defeat a Kazekage, it’s unfortunate that she never got more opportunities to unleash her peerless strength.
1 SHE REGRESSED: Ending Up With Sasuke
An overarching theme of Naruto is forgiveness and while Sasuke’s absolution may have upset some, it makes sense in the rhythm of the show. However, after everything he had put Sakura through – from relentless verbal abuse to abrupt abandonment and even the previously mentioned murder attempt – her romantic reunion with him upon his return to the Leaf proved for an unsatisfying conclusion.
It belied that nothing Sasuke had done would be punished and that Sakura’s character would continue to revolve around him. If she had chosen someone else, or no one at all, it would have given her the development she desperately needed to flourish as an independent character.
Sakura is one of the more polarizing characters on Naruto, as she changed yet regressed over the course of the hit anime