Though anime has a history of poorly written female characters, particularly in shonen series, the annoying pattern is progressively improving. Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man, for example, have wowed spectators with brilliantly written heroines who have become nothing short of iconic. Sagiri from Hell's Paradise is the most recent lady in the spotlight, proving that women can be more than just formidable fighters on the battlefield. This dichotomy in character is also shared by Sakura Haruno, the controversial female star in the Naruto franchise.
Despite their varied backgrounds and environments, both Sagiri and Sakura begin their journeys standing out like sore fingers due to their meekness in warfare. Both require additional protection early on and look to be more liabilities than fellow warriors. With so much potential, Sagiri and Sakura must dig deep for inner strength to compete with their closest companions. Though their evolution appears to be comparable, Sagiri is regarded as a superbly created and inspirational character, whilst Sakura is regarded as one of the most polarizing characters in anime history. They started in roughly the same spot and require almost equal growth, but Sagiri is a better version of Sakura for a variety of reasons.
Sagiri and Sakura Talk About Becoming More Than a Damsel
Naruto's female ninjas aren't controversial in the slightest, and the franchise has a decent amount of powerful heroines. The only thing in Sakura's way of becoming an exceptional shinobi was herself. Though she was determined to achieve the best grades as a student, she never pushed herself to prepare for any physical encounters, though that may partially be due to the peaceful era Konoha experienced early on in the series. Once Sakura was met with physical threats on missions, it became clear her knowledge alone wouldn't be enough. As scared as she was to die, she followed her teammates Naruto and Sasuke into danger as they fought to protect their village and each other -- though Sakura was the one being protected more often than not.
The women of Hell's Paradise might've been more accepted among ninjas, but they're definitely controversial among Samurai. As the daughter of the Yamada clan's leader, Sagiri has always been expected to walk the path of a woman and simply marry and bear children to bring in the next generation. To even her father's disappointment, Sagiri was always determined to do more than be treated this way. She trains diligently to become an accepted member of the Asaemon, the clan's group of expert executioners who dabble in other macabre fields to contribute to society.
When faced with genuine threats on her life, however, Sagiri is found lacking in her conviction to kill. Her sense of guilt drives her meek appearance in Hell's Paradise, but she is wrestling with a sense of fear for her own life that overwhelms her. Fully knowing determination can only bring someone so far, Sagiri still accepts the risks of the journey to find the Elixir of Life and work around criminals. Despite her bold declarations, she takes some time to find her footing as a Samurai.
Both Sagiri and Sakura begin their journeys determined to fight for their own reasons but are overwhelmed by the threats they face. They find themselves at a crossroads where they either have to accept that they are merely damsels in distress and don't belong on the battlefield, or they have to grow stronger. By choosing to fight, Sakura and Sagiri are unique in their intelligence, respectable mannerisms, and their balance of physical strength while exercising the utmost compassion for others. Despite their similar growth, Sagiri's journey in Hell's Paradise is far more impactful than Sakura's in Naruto thanks to pacing and focus.
Sagiri from Hell's Paradise Outgrows Naruto's Sakura in Terms of Character Growth
Though Sakura does grow in her own ways, she often frustrated Naruto viewers with her painfully slow development. She has moments -- like her battles in the Forest of Death or when she fought against Sasori -- and her impressive skills as a medical ninja are nothing to scoff at, but these shining moments are too few and far between. The series' focus clearly shifts further toward Naruto and Sasuke, leaving behind much-needed scenes for Sakura's development.
Sagiri, on the other hand, is fairly impressive as a warrior right away in Hell's Paradise. Her mistakes in battle only serve to make her more human and don't last nearly as long as other female leads like Sakura. Sagiri is pushed to her limits, but rather than standing behind someone deemed stronger, she proves she can take care of herself regardless of the obstacles in her way.
Unlike Sakura in Naruto, there is also a key focus on Hell's Paradise's characters giving Sagiri room to grow and develop properly. She isn't just a supporting character for the protagonist Gabimaru, but an essential aid against the challenges they face together. Perhaps if Sakura was treated in the same way as Sagiri has been, then Naruto's primary heroine could have also been recognized as a great character.