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So Naruto Gaiden has concluded, and it featured both Sasuke and Orochimaru in his latest iteration. Which again raises the question, what exactly was the moral of the story for these two?

The Naruto series excelled at emphasizing certain moral behaviors to its readers/viewers: e.g., with hard work, determination, self-confidence, and a will to succeed, even a loser or social outcast can reach the top; love and understanding each other on a deeper level can solve any problem and bring out all you're actually capable of; kindness and compassion towards wild 'Beasts' can lead to positive results; it's important never to abandon your friends and family; etc etc. All very good, solid shounen values!

So what do the lives of Sasuke and Orochimaru teach us (if anything) from their character arcs? By the end of Shipuden neither has really repented or shown remorse for their bad behavior (simple "sorries" do not cut it), both have done horrible things (murder, hideous human experimentation, etc) for which they are never punished (Sasuke is pardoned, Orochimaru's 'imprisonment' in Gaiden is pretty milquetoast, and he's even allowed to continue researching with his assistants!), and it is implied that they got a free pass for the simple reason that they joined forces with the Shinobi Alliance to destroy a common threat that was even worse (and one which was against their own interests to see succeed anyway!). Even then, Sasuke attempted to hijack things at the last minute and take over the world, only relenting when he was soundly defeated (i.e., he stopped when it was no longer possible for him to achieve his ends!). Yet both are still allowed to do pretty much whatever they please for the next decade or two. So what are we to make of all this? Do whatever you want and if you have powerful enough friends, you can get away with it, and keep on doing whatever you want?

  • Second chances? Sausake got it and he turned good again. – Ankit Sharma Aug 17 '15 at 13:53
  • Does it need a moral? Sasuke is, at his heart, a foil for Naruto. Naruto shows how an outcast with little apparent potential finds strength by learning from others around him. Sasuke is revered and is fantastically talented from birth. He, nevertheless, seeks power by rejecting those around him an plunging into the alien. This is not moral tale but a investigation into character's and motives. One good thing about Naruto is that every villian is evaluated to determine why they become this way. One bad thing is this always earns them redemption and they become viewed as good. – kaine Aug 19 '15 at 19:01
  • All true! Yet 1) shonen’s obsessed with teaching lessons, at least the editors are! 2) Oro./Kabuto/U. clan sure felt like they were building up to some arc! Eg, Senjuu have "will of fire", U. clan is its "foil", as you said, with "nindo of hate"; Naruto hypes forgiveness; frequent Redemption Arcs, Gaara/Kurama/Pein, suggests the same'll occur here too. 3) N.'s 3 major goals were: Hokage, redeem/return Sasuke & win Sakura. Up to 699 he's on track to Hokage, Sasuke takes an atonement journey, & N. and Sakura no longer have to chase him or fight wars & are free to develop their relationship – Meir Illumination Aug 22 '15 at 21:14
  • Then 700 reverses it! Eg Oro, a primordial evil (orochi in Kojiki or snake in Eden), story suggests he’ll be killed or reunite with his old team. No! Both are sort-of redeemed, neither return to live in K., neither atone much etc. So of N.'s 3 goals, he achieved 1, sort-of achieved 2, and totally failed 3! S. achieved his 1st goal as avenger, but did little for his 2nd (relates to my question, whether S.’s serious about restoring his clan anime.stackexchange.com/questions/24153/…). While perhpas not a moral, subtext's very cynical – Meir Illumination Aug 22 '15 at 21:25
  • Pretty sure you're right and that Orochimaru's life teaches us that you can be a magical Mengele and get away with it. The round-up for both Sasuke and Orochimaru's life basically ends with everyone going "Eh, guess they were eating a Milky Way or something. Not like all of those lost lives and violated morals are worth anything to anyone." Come to think of it, Mengele himself basically got away with it. But by hiding, not by everyone just suddenly not giving a damn for no good reason. – zibadawa timmy Feb 28 '17 at 22:20
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Though walking the line about the possibility of this being opinion based, I feel we can answer the question based on the good ol' "Shounen Virtues" you aptly described. Let me know if you want to expand/limit the answer.

The main two according to me are:

  • No one is completely bad. However in the darkness you may be, you always have that small little goodness inside of you. Be it Anti-Villains, Not Evil but Misunderstood or another common Trope. Other examples include Zabuza, Haku, Kimimaro, Itachi, Kisame, Nagato, Konan, and Obito. This also goes very nicely with the Whole Yin-Yang symbolism.

  • Everyone deserves forgivness/second chances. There is nothing you can do that can/should/will not be forgiven. True redemption however takes sacrifice. I really liked the panel where Orochimaru saves Tsunade's life and then they talk about Jiraiya's death. Sasuke undertakes a journey of self discorvery post the events of 4th Great Ninja war. This is a true Shounen value in the sense because if they regret their past actions they are excused.

Other small values I feel were discussed are

  • Morality of Revenge - Sasuke's journey from Itachi to hidden leaf and finally for World Domination. Also subverted by Naruto by forgiving Pain. Shikamaru meanwhile is still laughing at Hidan
  • Bonds of Student and Teacher - Fights between 3rd Hokage and Orochimaru, Jiraiya and Pain, Kakashi and Sasuke, 4th Hokage and Obito we see recurring instances of Sensei's love.
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Not really, it was just to show what the hell Sasuke was doing with Orchimaru, and how Sasuke obtains the powers he does. Naruto is kind of a split story between Naruto and Sasuke. But we see Naruto's side more often than Sasuke's.

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