~ scattered, real-time accumulating musings on Naruto and the “Sharingan” and the power of the eye.

A singular image from childhood that, maybe more than any other, sparked my wondrous imaginings into anime, into art, into the power of the eye — is that of the Sharingan.

I can distinctly remember reading a 2003ish English-edition Shonen Jump collection issue, purchased from my elementary school’s Scholastic Book Fair, with an early chapter of the Naruto manga within it. Chapter 26: “The Sharingan Crumbles…!!” and/or 27: “Awakening…!!” to be exact.

It was my first foray into Japanese comics {i.e. manga}, and I had no idea what I was looking at! They were in English, of course. But the drawings, the style, the characters, the action — it was all so novel to me. And I instantly loved it! The prime series in the issue that I haphazardly picked up and read {and re-read} were: Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, Shaman King, Yu-Gi-Oh, Sand Land, and others I cannot remember right now…

Naruto, the battle shōnen series depicting ninja using mystical “jutsu” abilities fighting one another for control and glory and power within the “Ninja World”, was my principal concern {even beyond Dragon Ball Z which I watched on Toonami, or Yu-Gi-Oh!, which I was already playing the card game of at that point in elementary…}

Created for young boys, the ninja series was full of wacky characters with big hair and striking gazes and bombastic battles with ninja stars and magic teleportation (“shunpo”). Hero ninja and villain ninja fight with words and violence in multi-issue affairs of escalating conflicts full of surprising turns yet predictable ends. Naruto was good fun! Naturally, right up a fifth grade boy’s alley.

In the manga issues that graced my eyes, the art design and overall demeanor of the main mentor character, Kakashi, struck me with profound inspiration. His sheer cool factor oozed off every panel.

Just look at him!

I can distinctly remember being drawn to start drawing him myself. I used to sketch Kakashi as practice, the white-haired, one-eyed ninja can be throughout my childhood notebooks.

Kakashi: an introverted, part trickster, somewhat asexual man of honor, a teacher and fighter carrying hidden past traumas that he only ever shapes into light to shine into the world and onto the people around him. Definitively, he is my favorite character from the Naruto universe.

In the story, as the teacher of the three main protagonist ninja, Kakashi is a main character in those initial chapters. And when the series moves beyond the safety of the ninja school and into real battles against dangerous killer ninja, the reader anxiously anticipates the reveal of his true mystery powers as an older, stronger ninja.

And you are waiting for him to show his face, to lift his headband off his left eye — which you have yet to see…

In that issue, in the fight against villainous {yet sympathetic!} Zabuza, the “Demon of the Hidden Mist”, Kakashi is forced to finally reveal — and use! — his hidden eye, an eye wielding the mystic Sharingan.

It’s showtime!” ~ what could be cooler than this sequence? C’mon.
Kakashi vs. Zabuza Full Fight

The Sharingan is a key — perhaps THE key — component of Naruto lore. A red eye of power that allows a ninja to perceive more, faster, with the graceful power of supernatural insights to the present and future. The Sharingan is the manifestation of the mystic power of the eye itself; the Sharingan lets the user see more, but also by its sight in Others, carries the capacity to change the people around the user.

In mythology, there is the Eye of Horus, the Eye of Ra, Odin’s missing eye, the gaze of Medusa and of vampires and of the cockatrice!

In anime… well, there is a lot. Eye ‘powers’ in anime are common. They dramatically alter their characters’ ability to fight and control and … see the present, past or future in supernatural ways that we cannot fully imagine but love to watch!

The many, many anime eye powers
Code Geass
Cowboy Bebop

In Naruto, the Sharingan provides insights into the world around the ninja seeing through its power. Born from the Uchiha clan’s bloodline, the Sharingan is borne of the long-mused upon “Curse of Hatred” native to that clan, but can be transplanted into non-Uchiha members {such as Kakashi…} Known as the “copy wheel eye”, the Sharingan first lets a ninja mimic the energy and abilities of other ninja they can see. The Sharingan can see chakra itself {a ninja’s inner life force energy governing their jutsu powers.} The Sharingan, in some such as Sasuke, can see the cellular structure of others. It also allows one to gaze into the souls of other ninja, such as with Itachi, hypnotizing them, trapping them or controlling them via audiovisual suggestion to their ends.

At the highest levels of its power, as with Madara, the Sharingan can allow a ninja to defeat death itself…

Heavenly eyes that see the truth of all emotion without obstruction.”

The Sharingan, in sum, allows for near-term future sight, with minute clarity, into the world or the psyche of other beings. Naturally, such vision carries the capacity to predict, and thus, warp reality in dramatic ways; the Sharingan, and a ninja’s Dōjutsu powers more generally, are power incarnate.

~ the Sharingan’s “eyes of hypnotism” techniques, the Izanagi and Izanumi, can rewrite destiny and imprison a mind in an infinite loop respectively… at great future cost to the user.
~ I like to think of the Sharingan as giving the user a glimpse into the metaphysical superpower of “Laplace’s Demon”, from the thought experiment of the same name developed by Pierre-Simon Laplace. Laplace’s Demon wields the power to see all of the causal connections of the world — such as the precise locations and momentums of every atom in the universe — truly on a quantum level, thus allowing the beast the ability to tell the future with perfect accuracy, and thus … do righteous demon ish in response to such perfect predictive power. I like to imagine the Sharingan, in the supernatural fiction of Naruto, does the same but on a lesser scale…

Eye powers in fiction and myth service the notion of an implicit power in a creature’s gaze, human or no: the eyes govern attention, a living being’s most powerful resource.

The eye is the “window to the soul.” By looking in one’s eyes, you find out who they truly are.

The Sharingan is awakened by extreme emotion.

By looking at the world with eyes burning with inner passion or conviction, full of insight or malevolence for the other souls around you… you move through the world with devotion. That focus allows one see the whole world as a path to your goals, every advantage taken, patiently or pathologically.

The Sharingan crafts the enhanced powers that draw out of such preternatural ocular ability as only being capable of being awakened by extreme emotions. The Sharingan becoming alive, spinning its multifaceted crimson wheel of progressing power levels — in its many forms — is contingent entirely upon the loss of or the desire to protect someone close to the ninja wielding its inner potential.

The focus of the ninja’s Dōjutsu is drawn up from either love or hate; the enhanced perception, reaction time, and thus, ability to move faster and more effectively in the heat of combat, is all awakened as the warrior moves toward that which they want to protect — or kill.

The philosophical implications here are clear — our gaze reflects our moral agency. It is the ultimate manifestation of our desires and fears. The eye, and its power to direct our course toward the ends that we desire or away from the ends that we fear, is an all-encompassing truth-teller to the course of our existence.

Monsters and Man both use their eyes to build the future that they wish to see. Whether in creation or destruction, the eye is ambition and motive and devotion and desire.

The eye is a spotlight. The eye shines upon concerns local – and existential.

The eyes, what they *must* focus on for our emotional balance, are awakened by the heart and then direct the hands to act in the world for the heart’s sake, broken or mending or enlivened beyond our dreams.

Truly, the eyes are the windows to the soul; they are the watchtower for the heart, the ever-burning lighthouse of our beingness.

Yes, Kakashi’s Sharingan reveal to Zabuza circa 2003 Shonen Jump, in black and white panels from the Naruto manga, has provided me such insights to share with you today.

In fact,

*lifts the headband from my left eye*

it’s showtime. ~

If comrades that you trust gather around you, hope can take physical form and become visible. That`s what I believe…” ~ Kakashi
Kid Kakashi