I care for no man, and no man cares for me

Posted: April 24, 2011 in honorary glasses
Tags: , ,
honorary megane danshi badge“Honorary Megane Danshi″
part 2: Gaara

spoilers abound. you have been warned.

Gaara, who starts out as a minor antagonist in the first 80 episodes of Naruto, becomes a major protagonist and icon by the time Naruto Shippuden rolls out. The dark rings around his eyes qualify as glasses, right? Haha, he’s honorary anyway.

Back in 2006, I had just come home from a long summer of being a camp counselor in August. I was watching television with my twin sister when we stumbled upon this anime, Naruto. The episode was the start of the chuunin exams when they take the test, and we were both hooked. (Thankfully that was my first experience with it, had I started from the beginning, I might’ve never got that far in, thanks to Naruto’s annoying tendencies.) At the time, I was sporting a look of shorter, red hair and I always had my signature ring of eyeliner.

Gaara

Gaara, age 13, toward the end of Naruto

When I saw Gaara, it was like love at first sight. He physically looked different than the other characters, and his almost silent and creepy disposition made him something of an intrigue when I watched. He also reminded me of Sydney Carton (my favorite literary character of all time), from A Tale of Two Cities, and his line “I care for no man, and no man cares for me.”  As I continued to progress with Naruto, a whole backstory filled in for Gaara that made my heart ache for him, and his tranformation makes him one of the most dynamic round characters I’ve ever seen.

Like the title character, Naruto Uzumaki, Gaara was implanted with a powerful tailed beast (before he was born). Because of this, his mother died giving birth, and he was raised to be something of a weapon for the Sand Village, Sunagakura. He was given the name Gaara, which means “self-loving carnage” or “demon who only loves himself,” as a testament to her hatred for the village.

Gaara, age 6

I’m not sure if he couldn’t control his power and sand manipulation abilities, or if he just didn’t know how, but he constantly terrified the villagers and other kids, no matter how good his intention were. At the time, Gaara lived with his uncle (or aunt, depending on translations, but I’m convinced its his uncle) who harbored a hatred for Gaara for the death of his sister, Gaara’s mother. Also, because of the sand’s protectiveness (which is said to be infused with his mother’s protection), Gaara has never felt pain before, as the sand continually shields him prior to any injury. And the tailed beast that resides in Gaara makes him unable to sleep, hence the dark rings, so his personality is extremely unstable.

Such a combination made Gaara an uncontrollable threat by the time he was 6 years old, so much so that his father hired assassin after assassin to kill him. One night, Gaara discovered that the assassin was none other than his uncle, who revealed his hatred just before he suicide bombed himself (Gaara remained untouched, thanks to the sand), and it destroyed him. Everything his uncle taught him about love and caring for others was shattered, and Gaara etched the kanji “Ai,” meaning “love,” on his forehead as a proclamation that he can only love himself. Unlike Naruto, who faced a similar lonlieness and resorted to mischief for attention to prove his worth, Gaara decided that to prove his own worth, he needed to kill anyone who crossed him.

Gaara, age 12

Gaara, age 12, during Chuunin exams

As a 12 year old in the start of Naruto, Gaara is a monster, and he’s absolutely insane. He wants nothing more than to throw down with Sasuke to prove he can not only beat, but destroy him. He mercilessly annihilates three shinobi with a single sand attack during the Forest phase of the Chuunin exam. In his battle with Rock Lee at the third phase of the Chuunin exams, he crushes all of the bones in Lee’s right leg and arm, making him unable to fight for an extremely long time. The night before the final Chuunin exam battles, he murders a Sound ninja without even a thought.

After Orochimaru murders the Fourth Kazekage and parades as him in disguise, he tries to use Gaara as a weapon to destroy Konoha. The plan backfires when Gaara can no longer contain his bloodlust and the tailed beast makes its appearance too soon. At this point, he’s engaged in a fight with Naruto, who musters all of his strength and some of his tailed beast’s chakra, to take down Gaara. He explains to Gaara, as they lay unable to fight, that the two of them have had similar childhoods, and that love is what validates your existence, not killing, and fighting for those you care about makes you strongest of all. Defeated, and moved by Naruto’s words, Gaara’s personality does almost a full 180, starting with a simple apology to his team mates and siblings, Temari and Kankuro.

Throughout the rest of Naruto (before Shippuden), Gaara is seen helping Konoha in their battles, namely Rock Lee’s battle with Kimimaro (top most image). He and his two siblings also become ambassadors between the Sand and Leaf villages, and work with them to help set up a ninja training school in the Sand village. He sites Naruto as his inspiration and strives to uphold the same ideals.

Gaara, age 15, as Kazekage

Gaara, age 15, as Kazekage

At the dawning of Naruto Shippuden, 15 year old Gaara has replaced his father as the Fifth Kazekage. He defends his village brilliantly when it is attacked by Akatsuki. Unfortunately, Gaara is kidnapped and killed as his tailed beast is drained from him. After Naruto rescues his body, he is so upset about Gaara’s death that he lashes out at the Sand villagers. He blamed them for implanting the tailed beast and being responsible for all the time he suffered. His rant touched the heart of a Sand village elder, Chiyo, who had long abandoned the Sand village because she hated the way things were done. She used a forbidden puppet master’s jutsu to resurrect Gaara, in exchange for her own life. Upon waking up, Gaara is shocked to see the number of people who were excited to have him back, including his whole village. For the first time, Gaara felt loved in return.

Now as the shinobi world has been enveloped in a world war, Gaara rose amongst all the Kages to become the leader of the Joint-Shinobi army.

He was created as a weapon, feared and neglected for his power, and he turned to a life of hate. His encounter with Naruto ignited a spark that changed him into the most revered figure in the entire shinobi world. Epic win.

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