Thought for my second post I’d write about another show that holds some kind of emotional significance for me. It seems to me that there is some kind of taboo in the blogosphere against professing a fondness for any of the ‘Big 3’ but, I’ve never been reluctant to shout from the rooftops my love of Naruto. Whilst Death Note was my first anime, Naruto was the first one I ever truly fell in love with, (if Death Note were Rosaline, Naruto would be Juliet) therefore, eager was I to use this project as an opportunity to sing its praises once more. But, not having the time to re-watch the entire 220 episode long series in one, or even a few weeks I had to resort to selecting but one of my favourite moments. The few episodes I’m about to focus on were one of many reasons I found myself becoming so emotionally invested in the show.
Rock Lee vs. Gaara, the Chuunin exams, series 2. Dear God. There are many fight scenes in Naruto but, this is no doubt one of the best and most memorable. Not just because of how expertly it was animated, (OK, Gaara didn’t do a lot of moving during that fight but Rock Lee’s rapid movements were done flawlessly) but, because of the theme the fight between them explored, the underdog. Rock Lee was very much the underdog in this fight. Rock Lee is very much the underdog in Naruto, the show, full stop. The characters in the show are pretty blunt when it comes to describing Lee, he has “zero-talent for ninjutsu or genjutsu” and, quite frankly, he looks ridiculous, making it difficult for viewers to take him seriously but, this fight proved he was worth more than just a few cheap giggles at his expense.
Towards the conclusion of his fight with Gaara, to emphasise his growth as a ninja, it emerged just how much of a loser Lee used to be, it is this point in the fight which always plucks the, usually rock-hard, strings of my heart, it is during this flashback I see a really big part of myself in him. I too am blessed with little talent; I too have to work for everything I yearn to achieve. I’m not naturally smart, in order to get the grades I want I have to spend hours and hours studying each day, and I do, fitting my 10 hour a week part-time job and little leisure time around that, and even then I rarely ever do as well as the top students in my school who claim never to bother studying. Which is why it is particularly hard for me to watch Lee doubt himself during that flashback and to see him get so badly beat up by Gaara during their fight, it brings me to tears every-time.
But, Gai’s message of believing in yourself must have really struck a chord with Lee ‘cause he keeps on fighting right up until the end, even though he’s unconscious and his body, ruined, something which really opens the floodgates! And whilst he doesn’t win his fight, and whilst he faces an excruciating rehabilitation, ultimately, he, the underdog, is the real winner of the fight. Lee did what he set out to do and showed all those who doubted him that he too is a “splendid ninja”, and that whilst he may not have inherited any gifts, in Gai’s words: “-he has a more important gift, the gift of perseverance”, and you know what, none of his fellow Konoha ninja ever scoff at for being talentless again, and whilst Gaara wins the match, no-one cheers for him, not even his siblings.
Underdogs like Lee are a recurring motif in Naruto, there are numerous underdog characters including: Hinata, Choujo and Naruto himself. They may not always win their battles but, boy do we ever come to respect and even revere them over the other, more naturally gifted characters, simply for having the courage to persevere. So yeah, that’s one of the many reasons I fell so hard for this show, I can really relate to many of its characters and find its message of working hard and succeeding against all odds really inspiring. It makes me think, whilst I may not be naturally brainy, my work-ethic makes me worth so much more than those who, whilst may achieve more than me on paper, take their abilities for granted and so never experience that elation of having all their hard work pay off.
So, has re-watching this battle changed any of these feelings? No but, I cried again.