Film Festival Circuit III: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya in Cinemalaya Film Fest

When I heard about “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” being screened for this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival under the Independents: Asian Showcase section, I told myself I had to take the opportunity cause it’ll never have a regular screening in cinemas here so this is the only chance I got. I managed to tagged along my college friend Anna to watch it with me on August 9, one of the only two screenings for the Isao Takahata gem at the CCP Main Theater.

At first though, I was a little put off by the animation style of the film. It reminded me of the style of another Isao Takahata film, “My Neighbors The Yamadas,” although I haven’t really seen this one fully, partly because I wasn’t so interested. But fortunately, I went ahead to watching Princess Kaguya and I was definitely proven wrong on my apprehension regarding the animation. The film is Isao Takahata’s final film. The director is best known for “Grave of the Fireflies,” which I have seen and really brought me utter sadness and tears. I still find it hard to watch it again.

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The film is based on a 10th century folktale called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” and is considered the very first Japanese prose narrative from the Tokugawa period. It centers around the bamboo cutter Okina (Takeo Chii) and his discovery of a little child inside a bamboo shoot. He brings her home to his wife Ona (Nobuko Miyamoto), but when she carries the child she suddenly grows into a normal looking baby.

The couple decided to raise the child and naming her Kaguya (Aki Asakura), which means “radiant night” in Japanese. There was a shining light coming out of the bamboo shoot to where Okina found her, thus the name that means radiant night. The little Kaguya becomes friends with the local children and they also noticed how she strangely grows too fast like a bamboo, so they started calling her “takenoko” or little bamboo and developing a special friendship with Sutemaru (Kengo Kora).

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But the mysteries didn’t end with her discovery, Okina found gold coins and elegant silk robes inside the very same bamboo, and he was convinced that Kaguya is a gift from heaven and is destined for nobility. With this Kaguya’s life is changed entirely, from the suburbs to the city to learn the ways and principles of a noble lady fit for the high society.

The news of her elegant beauty has quickly spread, eliciting attentions from noblemen to the emperor. But on the day she was solemnized as Kaguya-hime (Princess Kaguya), she realized how most people only cared about her physical looks and that she’s only being named a princess due to her father’s wealth.

Despite her bold disobedience at times to her father and mentor Lady Sagami (Atsuko Takahata), she still yearns to please her father in the best of her abilities but upon hearing how people deride even her father makes her start to realize that all the things about her nobility is unworthy.

One of my favorite scenes in the film. Just look at that. 

One of the strong themes tackled in the film is how women of nobility are stripped of their free will, thrown into situations other people have decided for them without consideration to their opinions and feelings. Another is how women are merely treated as possessions and status symbols and how they are lured by men with money, flamboyant words and promises.

And yes not to forget the animation itself that initially turned me off. I have to say it really is majestic. The hand-drawn or brush-stroke style makes every scene feel and look like its being sketch as it happens on screen. The whole film is a masterpiece painting that comes alive before the audience. It can also  be likened to traditional Japanese painting such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

And of course, a Ghibli film is not complete without its accompaniment of musical score from perennial genius and Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi that complements each and every moment of the film, from the joyful discovery of Kaguya, her early experiences as a human, to saying goodbyes, to good memories of friendship, and new beginnings and challenges as a princess.

Infinitely beautiful, truly one of the very best animated films ever made.

Someone at Studio Ghibli call this student film-maker and give him a job! 【Video】

I hope Studio Ghibli pick this up and develop it into a full length feature film. It’s just worthy of it.

I’m already interested just from the plot alone, of a young man living on a treetop village and meeting strangers.

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Lush greenery, magical flying machines and huge, squelching monsters, overlaid with a soaring orchestral soundtrack. This animated short makes no pretence about its strongest influence – it’s a beautiful homage to the works of Hayao Miyazaki.

The film even features a mysterious-looking gentleman who looks suspiciously like Miyazaki himself. But this short, which has been gaining attention online in Japan and abroad, was not made by a team of professional animators, but a young film student in Paris.

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The Gift of Books, Itachi and Sasuke Goodies

I’m writing this post at 11:15pm, Dec. 31st just before everything starts over again.

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I’m thankful for these great gifts of experience, adventure and knowing great people who are like real friends to me; although they’re fictional people. Most of the time, these people are the kind of people I’d really like to meet and be friends with. They’re the kind who are not so easy to find in the human world, so I’m really grateful for these wonderful stories of life, of love, of friendship, and everything else in between.

The most memorable character for me this year is Tsukuru Tazaki. He’s so close to who I am and I feel so connected with his story, despite not exactly having the same dilemma and ordeal he had to go through.

At present, I’m reading my first non-fiction book and travel related  one but still so Japanese. I’m enjoying it a lot, having to know more about the country I hold so dearly – my favorite country Japan.

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I also thank my Uncle Luvin from the States, who paved the way for me to be able to get Haruki Murakami’s latest release – The Strange Library; as well as this very beautiful (Naruto) Itachi messenger bag and this bad-ass looking Sasuke’s Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan necklace. But of course, before Uncle Luvin; it is God I have to thank for all these.

This year might not have been the best with an unfortunate event, but I’m looking forward to starting over again. I do not want to promise, instead I will keep on trying and learning from mistakes everyday; and hoping my Christmas wish that I always prayed for during the nine-day Misa de Gallo mass will be awarded to me by God this new year.

Happy New Year everyone and God bless!

Updating this post with some photos earlier during the New Year’s Eve dinner or media noche. Well, I don’t usually post photos of myself but it won’t hurt to do once in a while. I had to take the photos myself and I’m not so good with taking selcas; as I’m not with any family member, but it’s still good. And since I’m not photogenic, I had to take a couple of shots to finally capture some decent ones.

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I suddenly noticed earlier that my glasses and my shirt are the same color. That was not intentional.

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The only ones I personally prepared are the macaroni salad and the ham. The apple crumble, chicken and pancit malabon were take-out orders.

The candles, they’re called prosperity candles. I’m not sure if this tradition is done elsewhere too, but the practice is you light all (7) candles: red (health), blue (peace), yellow (intelligence), violet (spiritual growth), pink (love), green (money), and orange (career) at 11:30pm and put them out at 12 midnight. The smallest candle or the one that melted the quickest symbolizes the good fortune that the new year will bring you first, followed by the rest.

It’s really hard though to decipher which one is the smallest since the candles got a little mixed up when they melted. But I think orange is the smallest, then pink, blue, green, red, violet and yellow.

Orange is for career, hurray! I think this one got me a little excited, crossing my fingers and praying it will be. Pink for love, but not so much a priority. Blue for peace, oh yes peace of mind. Green for money, so I could travel more and buy more books; and Naruto manga and some goodies, and save more. Red for health, good health is always a blessings. Violet for spiritual growth, guidance from God. And last but not the least, yellow for intelligence; to learn new things and new experiences for the mind, body and soul intellect.

5 Centimeters Per Second: Of Distance and Time

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“Hey. They say it’s five centimeters per second…the speed of falling cherry blossom petals is five centimeters per second…” – Akari

I was greeted by this very phrase from the first few minutes of the movie. I haven’t seen any real cherry blossoms but it made me wonder if they really do fall at the speed of five centimeters per second. I find it a lovely backdrop and a perfect catalyst to start the story of love of Tohno Takaki and Shinohara Akari, who started as little kids who grew closer during elementary school.

It was recommended to me by a work colleague but I had only gotten around to watch it recently. It was like a new venture for me to take on a Japanese animated film that is non-Ghibli and non-Hayao Miyazaki made; so I didn’t really know what to expect. In one of these past few days, I just had this sudden urge to see it and other Japanese films that were recommended to me.

The movie is divided into three acts: The Chosen Cherry Blossoms, Cosmonaut and 5 Centimeters Per Second. The style is a new take in my opinion in tackling an animated romantic drama. I specifically like how the different stages of Takaki and Akari’s life are depicted in three sections, but definitely with more focus on Takaki’s perspective. The style makes it highly introspective and allows a deep exploration to the characters, especially Takaki. But I must agree at some point that the story runs a little slow. But since I’m the kind of person who likes introspection, so I take the introspective part a positive one.

Act 1: The Chosen Cherry Blossoms

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In act one, this is where I see them as little kids who seem to be a bit out of the ordinary. Sharing similar interests and almost the same personality, they instantly became the subject of tease among their classmates for always being together. Back to the first scene, Takaki and Akari are watching the cherry blossoms fall when she suddenly runs to the  other side of a train crossing. After the train has passed, Akari tells him that she hopes they could watch the cherry blossoms once again. And that is the beginning of real life for them.

The animation from this very scene alone is simply indescribably beautiful for me.

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Akari had to transfer school and that’s when Takaki is left behind. They were kids, they didn’t make their own choices back then and it struck Takaki as he couldn’t do anything for her, knowing that she didn’t want it to happen either. When it was time for Takaki to transfer, they decided to finally see each other. Now 13, it was the first time for Takaki to be travelling so far to a place he’d never been to just to see Akari.

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When they had set the date, March 4; it was supposed to be Spring and Akari was looking forward to seeing Takaki and hoping that the cherry blossoms would fall on that day. However, just as life had started for them when they were kids, it’s nature this time that’s somehow hindering them. It rained then it snowed hard, and when that happens, one should know what to expect. But despite the worry that she might have gone home, there was no going back for Takaki.

It felt so nerve-wracking to see Takaki as he waits for every extended train stop due to the weather, as if every passing hour is killing him. His mind filled with thoughts of losing the chance to ever see Akari again.

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It was like against all odds. I was half expecting that she wouldn’t be there for what seemed like forever waiting for Takaki to appear. This is by far, one of the best moments and one of my favorite scenes. It made me happy that they were able to share this moment with each other, after that separation and their deep longing to see each other again.

“In that moment, I felt like I knew where eternity, our hearts and our souls all lay. I felt as though we had shared all the experiences of my 13 years. And then in the next moment, I was suddenly filled with an insufferable sadness. Akari’s warmth and her soul… How could I take them in, and where could I bring them? I felt that sad because I didn’t have those answers. I clearly knew from that point on, we wouldn’t be together forever. The overwhelming weight of our lives to come and the uncertainty of time hung over us.” – Takaki 

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From the very start, everything was just so scenically beautiful for me. The cherry blossoms, the bullet train, and the snow. But then again, despite how everything seems to be beautiful; life knocks you over back to reality.

Act 2 – Cosmonaut

The dream

The dream

“It must really be a lonelier journey that anyone could imagine. To just press forward through the true pitch darkness. Barely encountering even a single hydrogen atom. Wholeheartedly believing you’ll come closer to discovering the secrets of the universe within the unfathomable abyss of space. I wonder how far we should go. How far can we go?” – Takaki 

The cosmonaut

The cosmonaut

In act two, there was no presence of Akari at all in Takaki’s life, not even those exchange of letters. Instead, Sumida Kanae, a surfer girl who’s in the same class as Takaki is often seen with him after school. Despite how noticeable that Kanae has feelings for Takaki, she even waits for him so they can go home together; Takaki remains oblivious about her feelings.

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There were scenes in the film that Takaki was seen writing messages. I instantly assumed that since it’s the era of the mobile phones, communication between them has become easier. But there’s always a catch to it, he never actually sends them to anyone. He writes on his mobile a brief story about a dream he had with a girl in another planet walking in a field, but he says he can’t make out her face. Of course, that’s how dreams are but as a viewer, I clearly know that it was a dream with Akari. And the fact the even in his subconscious, Akari’s presence is largely everywhere; it tells me that he’s been stuck there. He may have been doing things in life normally but inside him ever since that day, everything had no real weight for him anymore. He stopped having strong emotions, no special memories, no happiness neither sorrow, not even scars.

This stage of Takaki’s life reminds me of Tsukuru from Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Like him, Tsukuru had been distraught by a rejection he suffered from four of his best friends, to the point that he deliberately started wandering from life. And while Takaki and Tsukuru’s experiences are not in the exact manner, they share one thing: the shadows of the past. For both Takaki and Tsukuru, it’s those mixed memories of the past that’s been bogging them down, affecting their relationships with other people without them even having to say it.

Act 3 – 5 Centimeters Per Second

“Then one day I realized that my heart was withering, and in it there was nothing but pain.” – Takaki

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On a day when cherry blossoms start to fall, Takaki was walking at a train crossing and passes by a girl. He looks back to see if it was Akari just when the train passes by, stopping them to confirm each other’s identity.

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In this final act, it shows how different the lives Takaki and Akari pursued. At first glance, it could be said that Akari had very well moved on and seemed to be content with her life. It is heartbreaking to see how there will always be that one person who had moved on, who seemed to have found that line where life and love get along well. Although still having those memories, she carries it with her as only things that remind her of a blissful past that will no longer affect her present.

Between Takaki and Akari, for me it was more difficult for Takaki. Having to bear and feeling helpless with the growing distance between them that’s setting them apart, and eventually having to go on with his path with those feelings from when they were kids still clinging to him like a shadow.

Despite having promised to write to each other, at some point one of them got tired and stopped writing letters or rather both of them had been weakened in the process; by then the ever growing distance and life’s unpredictability had caught up to break them.

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But then again, had they gathered up their courage to say what they wanted before saying goodbye here; things could have been different. And the letters that were meant to be read with words they wanted to tell each other were forever left in the past.

FotorCreatedThe film is something for people looking for introspective realism in animated films, without the fluff and common romantic drama themes. I highly recognize the creative use of metaphors, with the train that connects people but also sets them apart, the cosmonaut that Takaki indirectly likens to people’s lives and at how life can be so indefinite and unpredictable, and the cherry blossoms that represent the impermanence of people’s relationships; at how humans often come together and slowly drift apart and the sluggishness of life.

But then again, I would have wanted them to have experienced all those memories as adults rather than as kids.

 

Book Love – A Geek in Japan

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I’m finally able to snap my very first travel related book acquisition after not seeing my camera for (4) months.

I missed you Canon, you’ve been away for (4) months without me, at least one of us got to go away this year and had a really long vacation. I’m so envious, you got to see places I didn’t see. 

I bought the camera last January and been looking forward for another trip by myself this year and having to use this camera, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do so this time. It’s a promise I made to  myself but having failed for the first time ever since I started it, I just feel bad about it.

In any case, I’m loving this book. On An Extremely Brief History of Japan (page 10,chapter 1), it says that Japan was born of the love between two deities: Izanagi and Izanami. These two deities had a daughter named Amaterasu, and the long dynasty of Japanese emperors descends from her.

When I read the names Izanagi, Izanami and Amaterasu; I was like “Oh my, Naruto!” Kishimoto Masashi must have taken inspiration from Japanese history to create the Uchiha clan’s signature Izanami, Izanagi and Amaterasu jutsu.

When I got into Naruto years ago, I heard that tailed beasts like Kurama for instance came from Japanese folklore. But I didn’t know much about it other than that basic information, so when I read the chapter about visiting shrines and temples in Japan, I found out that sacred foxes or “kitsune” in Japanese is a common sight in Shinto shrines. They are believed to be messengers of Inari – the god of fertility. A sacred fox’ power can be determined by the number of its tails, the more tails it has means the more powerful it is. When it has nine tails, the highest number of tails it can have; it means it is of the most powerful kind.  I instantly thought of Kurama and nothing else. This just shows how Naruto is so attached and faithful to its Japanese heritage and history.

A Geek in Japan is definitely a great buy. It’s like a one-stop shop of everything Japanese, an efficient way of learning about the basics on culture and people without being seriously academic.

 

The Promise That Was Kept: Kakashi,Obito and Minato

Minato stopping Kakashi before he’s able to kill Obito

Awww. Minato and his students Kakashi and Obito. 😥 My impression upon seeing this photo from Naruto Shippuden Ep. 387 – The Promise That Was Kept.

Just watched the episode and wow, what a moment among the three of them. So many feels. Indeed my favorite scene of this episode and definitely one of my favorite episodes now.

It starts with Naruto offering his hand to Obito. At some point, Obito was about to shake hands with Naruto but suddenly changed his mind and strangled Naruto. Naruto punched him hard to free himself. And when Obito stood up, he saw his younger self in Naruto and recalls a day with Minato, Kakashi and Rin as if experiencing it again.

While still seeing his past, his younger self tells him that Rin won’t even turn to look at the present Obito and drags him. Snapping into the present, his younger self turns into Naruto. This is the perfect exploration of Obito being haunted by his past, despite his efforts to forget all those memories.

Obito talking to Kakashi, telling him that he has nothing left in his hole heart.

Sasuke was about to charge against Obito after all the tailed beasts were extracted from him, but stopped when Kakashi appeared. Kakashi says,”I was once his classmate and friend. So please let me take responsibility for him.” He was about to stab Obito when Minato stopped him.

That moment when he stopped Kakashi from stabbing Obito, proved how much he loves this two. He says, “Obito, when we had that chakra tug-of-war just now, I got to see inside your heart. It seems like my son nagged and lectured you quite a bit. I think he might have gotten that from his mother.” Naruto was slightly embarrassed when his dad Minato said he got his talk-no-jutsu from his mother Kushina. Well it’s true anyway. Then while talking to Obito he turns to Kakashi, “But that duty falls on you. I think the one who truly understands Obito and should talk to him is you, his friend, Kakashi.” He looks at Naruto and says, “Isn’t that right, Naruto?”

Naruto and Sasuke

Naruto and Sasuke

And Naruto realizes what he has been doing all this time for Sasuke. He looks at Sasuke with that serious realization, how he had never given up his hopes for Sasuke, how he never managed to hate and severe his ties, or simply abandon and forget about Sasuke – his only best friend, close to him like a brother. Just as Naruto and Sasuke are the same, Kakashi and Obito are the same as well. So it only makes sense that Kakashi, the one in a more logical state of mind should be the one talking Obito out.

On a side note, it warms my heart and makes me smile to see how Naruto and Sasuke are fighting together for the same goal, at how finally they’re on the same page and Sasuke finally accepts and understands what Naruto has been trying to tell him all this time. ヾ(@^▽^@)ノ

I feel like I’m drowning watching this moment, being drowned by feels. This episode is full of brotherly and mentor-student love.

Minato is just so forgiving, he couldn’t even bring himself to hate Obito for what he did that made Naruto an orphan and everything else. He could have let Kakashi kill Obito right there, but he knew it would also hurt Kakashi to do it, just as when he had to do it with Rin.  Instead of hating Obito for everything, but first and foremost for destroying what could have been his wonderful family; he is saddened by what his student had become. He feels disappointed at himself, for his shortcomings for not being able to guide him better. Had he been there for him, he would not have turned out this way. 

Naruto meets Kushina, his mom.

In the same sense that Naruto managed to put aside his personal emotions, as he was able to put out his hand to reach out to Obito. He’s a stronger young man now, he understands Obito, despite that one fact that Obito was the reason he lost his parents on the day he was born. 

Kushina telling Minato of the baby news. This is the sweetest ever. I just love how they’re both overjoyed.

It’s just natural for him to be angry or even hate Obito for it. It’s how humans fundamentally are. Obito not only destroyed Naruto’s chance of a family, to grow up with his parents; he also damaged Minato and Kushina’s chance to be there for Naruto. A perfect revenge it may seem. 

Naruto meets Minato for the first time and finds out The Fourth Hokage is his dad

I recall that episode when Naruto was so angry with Pain (Nagato) during his battle with him for killing Jiraiya. That anger was one of the strong catalyst that caused him to lose it and have Kurama gain control over his entire body. He was entirely losing himself to Kurama, he was at the brink of hopelessness until Minato appeared before him in his psyche. Eventually, he learned of Pain’s true nature and his reasons for being what he is.

He had learned a lot from that event to not let his hate/anger overcome him this time with Obito. I think it’s also one of the things he had gotten from his dad Minato, as Minato is naturally like that and after Minato shedding some light to Naruto about the cycle of love and hate that drives the whole shinobi system.

Team Minato – Minato, the Fourth Hokage and his students Kakashi, Obito and Rin

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“I think you were younger than Naruto is now. Do you remember? All the missions that the four of us went on. As a medic nin, Rin did her utmost to protect you two. She would never have wished for a situation like this.” Kakashi drops his hand holding the kunai and Minato let go of his arm. “But what caused this is my responsibility.” Then we see the flashback of that fateful Kannabi Bridge battle.

“It’s no coincidence that I, who should be dead is standing before you two like this. Perhaps it was Rin who made it happen. Her way of scolding me for failing as your teacher. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect Rin.”

Team Minato on their mission at Kannabi Bridge

I seriously do not agree about the idea of Minato taking all the responsibility. Yes, he was responsible for them, they were his students but at the same time, there’s just simply no way he could have controlled or be responsible of everything. It wasn’t his fault Rin died. Kakashi understood that. If only Obito had a more open mind back then, if he tried to find the real answers from Minato and Kakashi; Minato and Kushina would still be alive.

“Rin was my only light and hope. After I lost Rin, the world as I saw it, changed. It became a pitch black hell. There was no hope in this world. Even with my Sharingan, I couldn’t see anything. There was nothing to see,” says Obito.

Kakashi killing Rin

Minato and Kushina’s sacrifice for Naruto and the village

Somehow, I kinda feel bad for Obito cause all this time he allowed himself to be engulfed by so much darkness and hate after losing Rin and be used for that. But Kakashi was no different either; he thought he lost Obito, he lost Rin and even had to do it himself and eventually he lost his sensei Minato. It was equally as hard or even more difficult for Kakashi to deal with all that.

Obito giving his Sharingan to Kakashi as his gift to him for being a jounin.

And as Kakashi tells Obito that he himself went through the same experience as him, it brings both of them back to that moment when Obito gave Kakashi one of his Sharingan. Kakashi tells him that he tried his best to see the world through Obito’s eye and that as long as he had Obito’s Sharingan and words, he could see it. To which Obito answers,”And what you saw is Naruto?”

Obito is still unconvinced at how Naruto’s path would be successful than his. But Kakashi instead believes more on Naruto’s strong perseverance on his dreams and reality. And his natural talent for drawing people closer to him, making them give their full support to reach his goal more than his chances of failing.

But I am glad Minato is there, if not, Kakashi would have really finished Obito for good and it would leave Kakashi deeply scarred again. Had Obito died here, he would die still deep in his darkness, full of hate and still not realizing his mistakes. Rin would not be happy to welcome him when they meet again.

Naruto Chapter 694 – Sasuke being all dramatic

Best Friends: At Odds

Finally, I get to see Sasuke admitting Naruto is the closest thing to a best friend he’s ever had. It’s the same as he’s saying that Naruto is the only other person he loves besides his older brother Itachi. And this alone brings tons of NaruSasu feels!!!!!!!!! I haven’t even read the whole chapter and just seeing this drowns me with so much NaruSasu feels,endless NaruSasu feels. NaruSasu forever, and to be honest NaruSasu is the cannon couple of Naruto.

Sasuke baring it all

It gives me the giggling feeling as if Sasuke is confessing his love for Naruto. A lot of NaruSasu fans are beyond happy with Sasuke spilling his heart out. And that we finally get to see that Sasuke isn’t exactly evil, that he’s no stone heart after all, and that he’s capable of revealing his real feelings after all this time.

With the manga nearing its epic finish next month, Nov. 10 as I saw from one Tumblr post; it gives me that bittersweet feeling – a mix of huge excitement to how it’s all gonna wrap up and sadness because it’s about to conclude.

Naruto and Sasuke fighting together against Obito

That same feeling when the last book of Harry Potter was finally released. But then again, fans still had the movies to hold onto. Just like with Naruto, even after the manga has concluded, fans still have the anime series to hold onto. But when the series also concludes, just as when Deathly Hallows II was released; I am surely gonna be really sad about it. This is something no one can ever be prepared for, emotions will just get the best of you.

I may not always be updated with watching the latest episode or reading the latest chapter, but Naruto is always on top of my big favorites because I just so love the story and the characters.