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The last chapter is out. Sakura is the mom.
Let’s talk about it.
There were many subjects the Gaiden chapters could have covered. Though Kaguya was defeated, the end of the manga opens the way for several new and interesting stories.
I don’t think anyone of us expected it to be centered around Sarada. Certainly, we didn’t expect her to question her parenthood.
Sure, the moment we saw the last chapter of the manga, there was plenty of speculation about Karin being Sarada’s real mother due to how similar they look in black and white. However, I don’t think most of us really expected Kishimoto to go there.
Lo and Behold! The first chapter ends with Sarada theorizing Karin is her mother.
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It was a surprising decision but not a bad one.
For one, Sarada was a pretty nice protagonist and Sasuke sucking at basic human relationships made way too much sense. Still, the main draw of these chapters was simply curiosity of who the mother really was. Would Kishimoto really go there?
While some people may sigh in relief now, I’m not satisfied with this.
I expected it. Let’s be honest here. We are all familiar with a ‘Misunderstanding Plot’. In fact we expect it. What is weird is for the author to do the opposite.
And you know what? Misunderstanding Plots suck.
The reveal creates several problems. Starting with the mystery of Sarada’s birth. The girl went poking around several times, looking for answers and didn’t find them. Why?
All of this could have been avoided – easily at that – if someone had just talked to the girl. Sakura and Shizune’s silence is all sorts of weird in light of the truth, since Sarada is just a normal girl as opposed to, say, a genetic experiment using Uzumaki and Uchiha genes.
This is the main problem of a Misunderstanding Plot. It makes the people caught up in it look foolish at the end.
Then there are the thematic problems. One of themes of the Gaiden is Genes. More specifically what we are really passing down to our kids. Is it just a matter of passing down genetic material? Bad guy Shinn seems to think so. His ‘kids’ are his clones and he considers them nothing but extensions of himself.
He does not pass down anything. He predates. He cannibalizes his kids.
As counterpoint we have Sarada and Sakura. Their blood relationship is in question. Sarada believes Sakura is not her real mother but comes to the conclusions it doesn’t matter if they are not biologically related. Sakura is her mother. What Sakura has given her is way more important than blood.
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You can see then how the revelation of their real blood relationship clashes somehow with the theme.
It’s like saying ‘blood doesn’t matter BUT you two are related we just need to make that clear.’
To Kishimoto’s credit, Sarada doesn’t find out. Which is his way of having his pie and eating it, but the last minute reveal solely for the audience’s benefit does undermine the message of the Gaiden.
This reveals a flaw that is common in many writers, the lack of ability to really follow through on their themes when said themes run contrary to what is accepted.
You have to wonder how much is due to themselves and how much is due to editors and the like. Being constrained by the limitation of the genre can be a pain at times. For example, if this hadn’t been published in Jump, would Sakura still have ended up as the mom?
It is something to think about.