It’s 23rd of July and I guess the title would make it obvious whose birthday we are celebrating today, it’s our dear old, kinda annoying but cool guy Sasuke Uchiha!! Happy Birthday Sasuke!
So… how do we plan to celebrate here at Renai Otaku? By looking back and seeing how he was born! And no..ahem… I don’t mean the private moments his parents had…this is a PG article kono hentai reader!!
Instead we are going to be looking at how the concept of Sasuke and all his character traits and role in the series came to be! How was Sasuke, the character thought of? What gave him his name? What inspired his design and abilities? What was the reference for his character arc?
So let’s strap Sasuke down and begin to dissect him, which is the least interesting thing you can do in that situation unfortunately -wink- but if you think that’s not good enough for your attention then I have bad news for you.
Jokes aside, let us first think of all the traits that define Sasuke and then trace back the inspiration for them. Name, backstory, abilities (notably the Sharingan), Character Design and Character Roles.
On this page:
Name: Inheriting the Legacy of an Identity
Sasuke’s name comes from the most iconic ninja of all time, Sasuke Sarutobi, who has existed for centuries in countless stories and media.
Heck, the name Sasuke is so synonymous with Shinobi that the obstacle race show known as “Ninja Warrior” is simply named “Sasuke” in Japan. The specific version of Sasuke that inspired our subject of interest is Sanpei Shirato’sversion of Sarutobi Sasuke. Shirato’s Sasuke was on a quest of vengeance for his dead family and in the 1979 anime adaptation, he even had a companion/love interest named…as you may have guessed it…Sakura!
So what about his clan name, the Uchiha? Uchiha is basically another way of saying “Uchiwa“, which translates to “fan”. As we can see, fans are the clan symbol of the Uchiha. The fan symbolises their affinity for fire ninjutsu as fans can be used to make flames stronger.
While Sasuke Sarutobi became Sasuke Uchiha in this particular incarnation, Mashashi Kishimoto, the author of Naruto, managed to incorporate the legend in an easter egg when Mikoto Uchiha, Sasuke’s mother, reveals that Sasuke was named after the 3rd Hokage’s father, Sasuke Sarutobi.
“In the writer’s mind, even a backstory has a backstory.”
– Terry a O’Neal
Sasuke wouldn’t be Sasuke without the whole revenge plotline, how his clan was massacred by his brother overnight. Which later turns out to be an extreme political action, orders from the shadow government, to prevent a coup d’etat staged by his own father, the clan leader due to growing mistrust and conspiracies that led to Uchiha discrimination in Konohagakure….woops! A LOT to unpack there, isn’t it!
While clan massacres and conspiracies are a staple in ninja folklore, this particular series of events is extremely similar to what happens in a very iconic 18th century ninja folklore with a name that is sure to blow you away. It’s name is “Jiraiya Gōketsu Monogatarai“ or “The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya”.
While that story has numerous versions as well, the main plot line involves Ogata Shuuma, who is given the nickname Jiraiya, who has to avenge the massacre of his clan, the Ogata clan. In the novel, a snake spirit possesses the body of a young boy named Orochimaru, who then creates a conspiracy of a coup d’etat against The Shogunate to destroy the two most influential clans in ancient Japan, the Ogata and Matsūra clans. Jiraiya, sole survivor of the clan massacre, then learns Toad Ninja Magic and also gains a magic eye called the Sharingan. Wow… let’s take a moment to appreciate how well these were incorporated into the modern incarnation of these characters!!
Abilities and Quirks
Sasuke’s most defining ability is the Sharingan as he belongs to the Uchiha clan. As said before , the Sharingan itself comes from Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari. However, Kishimoto-sensei has also once said in an interview that Hiei’s Jagan also was one of the inspiration behind giving Sasuke the Sharingan as Sasuke’s design and personality are inspired by Hiei. Hiei is a character from YuYu Hakusho, a manga by Yoshihiro Togashi.
Character Design and Personality
So now that we have a sweet revenge backstory we need a cool design for our avenger, do we not? So who else would be the best character to reference for all the cool edgy vibes other than Hiei! He even has a magic eye so there could be nobody better!
Sasuke also inherits his design from Kishimoto-sensei’s 1995 one-shot manga, Karakuri (Eng: Mechanism) in which there are cybernetically enhanced humans called “Roido” who are at conflict with society, superhuman and have red eyes! And when you see how the main character looks you’ll be surprised…or not!
Character Roles in the Series
Sasuke being a vessel for Orochimaru is a parallel to Orochimaru being the vessel for an evil Serpent in Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari. And his eventual rogue ninja status is a parallel to another of Sanpei Shirato’s work, Kamui Gaiden!
So there you have it! We now have dissected all the ingredients we need to cook up a jet black spiky-haired too-cool-for-school Sasuke Uchiha, a magic-eyed avenger and a rogue ninja, who ends up gaining the powers of an evil Serpent.
If we dig even deeper there are numerous more inspirations and Easter eggs we can find as Naruto is a series rich in historical and mythological incorporation. To not make the article too long and info-dumpy I didn’t even delve into all the subtle influences of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of The Immortal and Go Nagai’s Devilman among many others.
However while influences are numerous, Sasuke is by no means merely a sum of those influences. Sasuke is an incredibly written character within the series who acts as a contrast to Naruto and also serves as a product of the cruel system of shinobi that governs the world of Naruto.
His actions, thoughts and growth are all in accordance with the events that happen in the story and his character arc is a very beautiful one. The path of a lone wolf who is on a constant state of self discovery among all his in-universe influences much like how the author decided to take all the influences from history and mythology and make something new out of it!
So once again, Happy Birthday Sasuke! You were a character through which unforgiving rage and hatred was explored and a lesson about loss and pain was taught to us. With a rich history and a complex role, you have become one of the most fascinating and iconic characters in manga! Let’s hope through this article many of your fans and many others who are not your fans have gained a certainly new kind of appreciation to how you came to be!