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Ramble time! A couple of people have commented (negatively) on my characterization of Orochimaru, as I tend to write him more sympathetic than most, so I wanted to get something out there that reflected how I see everyone’s favorite snake bastard. He’s fascinating, from what few half-seen glimpses we have of his past. So you have this little boy obsessed with seeing his parents again, who half the shinobi in the village see as some sort of “incarnation of evil” to paraphrase big-scary-mofo Ibiki, who admits to trembling in his boots whenever Orochimaru walked past him. They don’t hide it, either, that they're terrified of/horrified by/repulsed by this kid/shinobi/weapon. And at the same time you’ve got a prodigy, someone so ridiculously good at killing things that it makes his own teacher wary of him, and also ridiculously good at breaking people down into their component parts, either scientifically or psychologically. But it’s fine, because this killer/prodigy/lost little boy has a team, and through that team he’s got at least some connection to humanity. Through Tsunade, mostly, because she has Nawaki and then Dan, and that’s good. Orochimaru knows them, accepts them, lets himself care for them.

Except it’s not good at all, because Nawaki dies on a mission under Orochimaru’s command, and that’s the first crack in the foundation. Then they go out and fight Hanzō to a standstill, become The Legendary Three, and afterwards Jiraiya just up and…leaves. He chooses to stay with three orphans in the middle of nowhere over returning home with his team, and that’s the beginning, that’s the second crack. No more Three, just Jiraiya in Ame and Tsunade and Orochimaru in Konoha. And it only gets worse when Dan dies, because even if Tsunade loved him Orochimaru liked him too, and he’s obsessed with death already, but now cheating it completely becomes the goal. No more loss. Crack number three.

And of course there's only one place for things to go from there, and that’s downhill. Tsunade leaves the village, doesn’t even look back, and suddenly instead of having a team and a friend and a buffer from the rest of the village, Orochimaru is entirely alone, just like he was after his parents died. That’s the fourth crack, but Orochimaru moves on. He gets a student, a place in the village, picks up a stray orphan with a talent for blending in. He takes missions and does well, is the kind of genius born once a generation, and eventually Jiraiya wanders back into the village and he can be…content with that.

But there's a problem, because Jiraiya—Jiraiya who abandoned him, who was the first of his team to leave him—Jiraiya has this student. He’s brilliant. He’s a genius even among other geniuses, but he’s different. People like him. Namikaze Minato has charm and charisma and friends and people who love him, everything Orochimaru has never been able to get. Orochimaru is almost forty, he’s been a shinobi for all but six of those years, and he’s been working for decades to become powerful enough to be a candidate for Hokage. And then Sarutobi—his teacher—dismisses Orochimaru as a possible candidate and picks this bright, cheerful, twenty-year-old genius instead.

One last crack and the whole structure comes tumbling down.

That’s not even glancing at what happens later, but I like to think that even that much history can be a good gauge as to Orochimaru’s mental status—mainly, a slightly traumatized, somewhat sociopathic, completely obsessive, socially inept genius with abandonment issues and enough neuroses to stock an asylum. Just—yeah, I think he did evil things. Yeah, I think he’s definitely a bastard to whom morality is completely foreign subject, but he did grow up in a culture of child killers while fixating on the possibility of escaping the death-rebirth cycle to the exclusion of everything else, and for me at least it’s hard to hate him. He’s too complex for something like that, and with his recent Heel-Face Turn—for Sasuke—he’s moved from ‘villain’ to ‘anti-villain’ at the very least. And to somewhat more psychologically steady ground, which is always a plus. o/

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
forever_melody
Apr. 25th, 2015 07:29 pm (UTC)
I personally love your characterization of Orochimaru. You don't always make him a character that can be redeemed or forgiven, but you do give him depth- something that is often lacking whenever he appears in writing.
I've always seen him in the same way I view many of the characters from Naruto- including Naruto himself, and others like Kimimaru, Sasuke, or Gaara. If only they had been given a chance, if only the people around them had attempted to help them and not just viewed them as a tailed monster, a bloodline limit. Ah well.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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