Author has written 11 stories for Shaman King, Naruto, and Spirited Away.
WILL PROBABLY LEAVE THIS YEAR. SEE YOU LATER GUYS! IT HAD BEEN A FUN RIDE!
A Plea to Fellow Authors: Neji has died. When I found out my heart stopped and broke into a million pieces. I have spent seven years obsessing over him and NejiTen. I know that many people as we speak are losing faith in the NejiTen pairing. Please do not abandon it. Please! I believe Neji will come back somehow. This isn't the end. And if worst comes to worst and this is truly goodbye, please continue writing NejiTen in memory of him. Keep the NejiTen love and their story alive! To all my fellow authors who feel like they can't go on writing, please please please do not quit! I certainly won't! And to all of you who wish to start writing stories, please sign-up and get started! NejiTen needs you now more than ever! Please sign your name after mine and send this petition around to show there still are NejiTen believers out there! And to our caged bird, you are finally free. We all love you.
-Midnight Insomniac, FruitySmell
In Defense of NejiTen:
"The only evidence NejiTen shippers have is the fact that Neji and Tenten are always standing together or sharing scenes."
Oh, if I had a penny for every time I heard this… Being by someone's side constantly or whenever featured may seem like such a trivial thing, except that it actually isn't. The world is a huge place, and there's a reason why even in large halls or expanses, people flock together in groups or tend to stick together. To offer proximity in a vast space is deliberate, and it's done because people want to be close to each other. As much as I would like to claim that Neji and Tenten are always together because they're secretly in love or something to that effect, this would be a ridiculous notion and a huge oversight to the fact that others in the manga accompany each other always too. Case in point, Team 10. In reality, this translates into nothing more than them being nakamas, which depending on the translation can run the gamut from ally or teammate to friend who is like family.
However, this still dispels the idea that NejiTen is supported simply because "she's the token female on his team". As much as I am loath to admit, there are no canon couples in Naruto. There are confessions and such amongst the younger generation, but the only confirmed pairings are in the older set of shinobi. We cannot say that NejiTen is a viable couple because they are always together and side by side, but we can take this constant companionship of theirs as a form of friendship, and what is love but a higher form of that?Furthermore, the females in Naruto tend to be somewhat dependent on their male counterparts for panel time. (An issue which calls for a rant on gender and sexism in the manga, but I digress.) Sakura is introduced as Sasuke's fangirl (a phase she thankfully grows out of) and Naruto's crush; Hinata is introduced as an ardent admirer of Naruto. Even now, Hinata's main development has all been Naruto-related (which is also another issue), and her story arcs and dialogue tend to revolve or include him as well. (See Chapter 649, in which she reiterates her want to stay by Naruto's side.) Tenten rarely features without her team, and mostly with Neji, whether by sharing panels or scenes. For example, her longest appearance in Part I was narrating Neji's match with Naruto, and she made another appearance when she invited him to see Tsunade with her.
So what? What is the significance if them usually being featured together? The one blatant example of a heterosexual pair constantly featured together is Asuma and Kurenai, the latter of whom rarely featured except when with the former or her team. Yes, Asuma died, but before he did, the two were involved in a romantic relationship and Kurenai ended up bearing his child. (This is hardly an end I'd wish on Tenten, however, whether I ship NejiTen or not.) But again, this isn't a pairing with absolutely no basis whatsoever.
Compatibility from an astrological standpoint also exists between them. I don't believe in horoscopes, but if you're interested, knock yourself out here.
A good many characters have been speculated to follow certain mythologies, and just like the others (well, I've only seen the SasuSaku ones, but there are probably others) Team Gai has their own. Just like how each team has a theme, e.g. Ino-Shika-Chou (card game formation) or Kabuto-Yoroi-Tsurugi (parts of armour), Team Gai has theirs and are designed with a Chinese flair in mind. The hints are obvious with them: from Neji's Gentle Fist (Baguazhang) to Gai and Lee's appearance (Bruce Lee) to Tenten's dress (qipao). Some Japanese mythology originated for China and for this, the relevant article would be the ShiShin, or Four Guardians of the Compass. In summary, they're four animals that each guard a direction and correspond with a season, amongst others.
Tenten: March 9th Azure Dragon [Seiryuu]
This is mere speculation, but the descriptions fit pretty well. Genbu guards the north and corresponds to winter (January 1st) and what did Gai first appear with? Ninkame, the ninja tortoise. Byakko guards the west and corresponds to autumn (November 27th) and Lee's Drunken Fist is supposedly based on the Tiger Style of martial arts.
Seiryuu or Qinglong represents spring and the east; corresponding to the colour green or blue; and supports and maintains the country through rain, which is also the emperor's symbol of power. Often paired with Suzaku or Zhueque because the two represent both conflict and wedded bliss. Represents the Yang principle.
So how does this relate to Tenten? She was born in spring, and before the anime team made her shirt pink to give her a softer colour, her shirt drawn by Kishimoto was a light, sky blue. Azure, even. Her main jutsus involve dragons (Soshoryuu) and within Team Gai, her role is to support. (I'll touch more upon this later.) While she doesn't maintain the earth, she does make it rain weapons. (There is also the fact that Seiryuu corresponds to the element wood, and how ironic is it that this is how Neji's fate played out, especially since he didn't quite defy providence?)
Suzaku or Zhuque is a translation of Vermillion Peafowl, although culture has merged it with the Phoenix. For the most part, both are similar. It corresponds to summer, fire, and knowledge. Often paired with the dragon, with the dragon as the emperor and phoenix as the empress.
(If anyone's wondering about the tiger and the dragon, they're supposedly natural enemies. So while I love LeeTen friendship— they seem like they'd make a good BrOtp, haha— if we're following this theme, they're probably not compatible romantically.)
Or perhaps not.
In the first splash page of Neji vs. Hinata, we see that Kishimoto has portrayed Neji as the yin principle and not the yang one. The yin is what corresponds to the feminine side, the passive energy of silence, slow and relaxed moments, and deep darkness, amongst others. It also represents the moon. So technically, it could very well work with the dragon as yang and the phoenix as yin, or in other words, NejiTen would be a balanced couple.
But then some would say that it'd work with Hinata too, since she was the one originally portrayed as yang. Fair enough. So let's look at something else to build upon NejiTen.
So far, we've established that the emperor corresponds to the dragon, which symbolises the yang principle, which in turn is representative of the sun. Thus, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that dragon sun. In much the same vein, the empress symbolises the bird, which symbolises the yin principle, which in turn is representative of the moon. Thus, bird moon.
It's also stated that dragons "are often depicted chasing a pearl-like jewel object. The pearl may be though of as a metaphor for perfection and enlightenment, especially if the dragon represents the emperor. The pearl also resembles the moon." How many times have Neji's eyes been thought of as pearly or moon-like? Besides that, while I don't think Tenten thought Neji was perfect, she did think him near infallible at first. Furthermore, after the Neji vs. Naruto match, we see that her notions of genius always trumping hard work are shattered. So Neji has also brought her enlightenment, in some way or form.
"Frequently, the pearl is shown in flames, which symbolises magical powers and may represent the wish-granting pearl of Buddhism. The pearl can also refer to riches, pure intentions and genius in obscurity." The Hyuuga clan symbol is a flame, the clan itself is quite eminent and well-to-do, Neji wanted to show the world the horrors of the caste-like system of the Hyuuga, and what more needs to be said of a genius who was a caged bird that couldn't fully soar?
But then some may argue that Hinata can also be the sun, since her name is associated with it. (I'm actually excited for this part, because I love semantics. I'm so sorry if I ramble or anything. XD) Let's compare Hinata and Tenten's names. Hyuuga and Hinata mean the same thing, however neither name translates to the actual sun. Hyuuga is 'facing the sun'. Hinata is 'sunny place' or 'sunflower' or 'facing the sun'. If you're orientating yourself towards the sun, you are obviously not the sun itself. Likewise a sunny place is somewhere graced by sunlight, but not the sun itself. A sunflower may resemble a sun, but it's still a flower.
Now let's take a look at Tenten's name. There's actually a bit of a debate on this, because her name is spelled in Katakana and not a particularly Japanese name, so we can't determine the true meaning of it. However, the general consensus is that it can translate to several different things: 'sporadically' or 'here and there'; in Japanese, it can also refer to 'dot', which may allude to her hairstyle. But since she's the most-blatantly Chinese-influenced member of Team Gai, it wouldn't be a stretch to think that we can extrapolate from the original Chinese context. In fact, the repetition of names is an affectionate gesture in China, e.g Meimei (little sister) et al.In Chinese, Tian (or Ten in Japanese script) means 'heaven, sky, firmament' and is also used for 'god or deity'. In certain parts of Chinese culture, Tian or 'heaven' was thought to be controlled by the sun god, or sun tian. The semantics of Tian number to the teens, but we'll focus on the most relevant:
1.the heavens, the sky, the firmament.
Sound familiar? C; (There's also the matter of Neji's ultimate defense having the word 'ten' in it, which oddly enough is a Main Branch jutsu he defied fate to learn. But since Hiashi knows it too, it's not really counted, I suppose.)
Yes, I'm sure someone may attribute all this to chance. A very odd, coincidental chance. Or maybe it's just a fated and destined love. (Haha, oh my goodness that was so cheesy. I must be on something.)
"People only pair Neji and Tenten together because they're teammates."
I know some people just throw them into a pairing because they're teammates, etc., but I honestly ship them because I just feel that they're not only compatible, but also mutually beneficial to each other. I've seen someone say that Tenten doesn't offer much to Neji or vice versa.
Frankly, I find this pretty ironic. To me, they've always been able to help each other grow. Most of the time, in a similar vein to other major Naruto ships, it's an almost undisputed fact that the female offers more to the male, that there's little if any reciprocation or gratitude on the male's part whatsoever. For example, a lot of SasuSaku meta focuses on Sakura -- Sasuke, not Sasuke -- Sakura. Likewise, it's easier to dissect Tenten -- Neji rather than Neji -- Tenten. The reason being, of course, that the former is more evident.
Opposers (or apathetic casual observers) of NejiTen are quick to dismiss the pairing as training-based, in the sense that whatever development either character gains from each other relates only to the physical honing of their shinobi abilities. First of all, I see no problem with this regarding growth. The fact of the matter is that both Neji and Tenten are ambitious. They're hard-workers and the most shinobi-like when it comes to stoicism and rationality. In earlier posts, I've discussed how Neji is very level-headed unless at the point where he literally cannot take it anymore. An example regarding Tenten would be the furor in the fandom when she wasn't shown excessively grieving over Neji's passing. That they can bond over these goals of theirs, this need to grow stronger, is merely another base they can build their relationship on. They have common ground, and this is important in any lasting relationship, romantic or not.
My point of contention over this view is that it pretty much overlooks how Tenten (as well as Lee and Gai) have had effects on Neji's mental and emotional wellbeing. From the get-go, it's apparent that she wholly supports him. In fact, as the rest of Part I progresses, we see that she is one of the few, if not the only one, who does so constantly. In fact, during his match with Naruto, she's the only one in the stadium shown to support him unequivocally. Neji, having lost his father at a young age, is distant from his clan when we first meet him. Isolated from love and care, in a way. There is no mention of his mother or any other close ties to the Hyuuga that did not end up in animosity for a good part of his life. Within the Hyuuga, Neji lacked support: from the advent of his life, he was told that no matter how brilliant a prodigy he was, he would never be able to surpass the Main Branch. He would never be able to break the shackles of fate, because his father was born second. His doom was sealed with a curse mark. This, he was told, is how things go, and there is no other way to live than this.
But Neji presents a dichotomy. While he frequently shows himself a firm believer in Fatalism, in truth his actions reflected a pursuing of destiny. He broke the rules to learn the Kaiten, which was strictly a Main Branch jutsu. (And how ironic is it that his ultimate defense came through destiny?) Neji did this with Tenten's help. Whether she realized it or not, she was helping him defy gravity, aiding him in the quest for agency and destiny. Not only by physically training him for the technique— by giving up her own advantage, no less— but by always being by his side. Neji is self-confident, sometimes arrogant, but her unwavering faith in him bolstered what he needed to know most: that someone does believe he can be great, that he could surpass everyone else even if it was only through something as small as learning a forbidden technique.
A lot of times, Neji's near-parting words at the end of his fight with Kidoumaru are thought to be only in regards to Naruto. "… for the sake of those who believed me a genius…" (Chapter 197) But you know who believed he was a genius even before Naruto? Team Gai. (And I will probably never forgive Kishimoto for undermining this bond in the last moments of Neji's death, but this will just make me angry again so I'm going to drop it.) But if they were so important to Neji, some argue, why couldn't they have made him change his views on fate and the Hyuuga?
That's because the problem with Naruto is that Naruto does everything.
Yes, it is true that it's his series, but the fact that Naruto shoulders all burdens by himself not only makes the rest of his peers look completely weak and useless, it also reverses the theme of friendship that is continuously harped on in the manga. We will never know whether or not Tenten or Lee and G* attempted to help Neji through his issues, but in the end, the job fell to Naruto to highlight how he could save Neji but not Sasuke.
Also, some may say that Tenten's constant belief in Neji exacerbated his own unyielding faith in fate. (More so than Lee's own claims that Neji's a genius, because Lee was constantly trying to prove that even if he was a genius, he could still be beaten by hard work.) But the converse of this, a reality where Tenten who was his constant supporter disappears, is that Neji may have well been even more bitter and jaded. Without anyone to tell him that he could be great, he would have subscribed to an even more fatalistic view without trying to defy destiny at all through honing Kaiten et al.
It's Tenten that helps Neji come out of his shell. Not only through comparisons of how he refused to join her to see Tsunade, yet aceepted her invitation to the bathhouse in the RTN prologue. (And really, this means that their relationship is not merely training-based, but they are spending time together outside as well.) From when we first meet Team Gai, there is a bond between them. Kishimoto doesn't show it blatantly, but it's there. Team Gai works well together, but there is a small division within the cell: Lee often goes off with Gai, leaving Neji and Tenten to work together. How and why this partnership began remains uncertain, whether it was because she was simply the lesser of two evils or if Neji truly did wish to train with her. (It's interesting to note that while Neji disparaged Lee's dreams in the latter's flashback of Team Gai's first meeting, he didn't do the same to hers. Which is odd when you think about it, because if he really was the Door-to-Door Salesman of Fatalism, he would have torn down her ambitions too, considering she's not given a clan name or kekkei genkai.)
In Part I, she is one of the few we see Neji acting amicably, if not nice, to. They have a certain kind of understanding. After Neji first meets Sasuke, she reads his smirk and asks, "Are you interested [in fighting him]?" In turn, he understands her concerns when Lee is late in the FoD and doesn't just brush away her concerns. As discussed here, he's also somewhat shocked that she lost her match, showing that not only does he support her but also thinks well of her abilities. He thought she would win.
And here, we venture into Neji -- Tenten territory. (Although I'd categorize the Water Prison Scene mention and the above paragraph as part of it too.) Admittedly, there is less on this than Tenten -- Neji. Not because he doesn't care about her, but simply because by nature, Tenten is just a more giving person. (In fact, I'd venture to say that almost all the females are in Naruto: it's just a construction of traditional femininity.)
He believes in her. Perhaps not to extent that she does him, but he does and coming from Hyuuga Neji, I think that's pretty telling. Because her ambition is to become a great kunoichi, and what better way to bolster that dream than by having the support and faith of one of Konoha's verified geniuses? That's one heck of a stamp of approval, if you ask me. Besides that, he trusts her as evident when he reveals his curse seal in the arena. She's frowning, yes, but doesn't seem very shocked, unlike Naruto. Also, look at where her panel is: between the Third Hokage and Hiashi, people who know this story already. It's likely Neji already told her of this mark and that she has already seen it before. It hardly seems like information Neji would give to just anyone.
Furthermore, on the point that they're shipped just because they're teammates, or that if another girl was on Team Gai, people would ship Neji with her too— that is, in my opinion, at least, incorrect. Tenten may not be an important character to the plot at large, but she is vital to the world of Naruto. Things would have been extremely different if one were to substitute any other kunoichi in her place. There would be no team at all if Hinata were placed in Team Gai. Neji can't even stand Ino in the FoD, so the chances of them hitting it off in a team are slim. And Sakura, who was not very capable at the beginning (though thankfully that changed), would not have been able to grow at all, since Neji is self-reliant and expects the same from others. He does not have that same saviour or protector trait we see in Sasuke—or at least, not to the same extent, though perhaps an exception would be made for the Water Prison scene.
The thing is, Kishimoto could have drawn anyone to hype up Neji in the Chuunin exams. For instance, he could have made Gai the one who wholly supported Neji then, who explained everything about his techniques, who worried when it seemed that Naruto managed to land a defeating blow on Neji. But he didn't. He chose Tenten. Anyone else could extend social invitations towards Neji— Lee, for one— but he shows it through Tenten. Plus, he shows Neji finally accepting in the end, years later when he's mellowed down.
Honestly, there are reasons upon reasons I love them together, but at the end of it all, I suppose it just boils down to it feeling right. (It took ages to come to this conclusion, haha, but better late than never. Also, since it's been a year from the death scene, so I decided to just let it all go, which is probably why it's not a very linear post.)
P.S: Having this discourse made me ponder something regarding the Neji vs. Hinata match in the Chuunin prelims. I wonder why it is that Tenten's match happens before Neji's but not Lee's? Neji does care for his teammates, so if the point was to get him riled up before his match, then it would be logical for him to witness both. But then, while reading it again, I realized that Neji doesn't even comment before or after Lee's match. Does it mean that while he expected Tenten to win, he held no doubts about Lee losing? Certainly, Neji is seen frowning at the end, but he isn't shocked. This is up to interpretation, of course, but it seems that if Tenten were a representation of destiny to Neji, her loss would weigh more heavily on his psyche than Lee's. Yes, he's worried because Lee's injuries are severe, but in terms of ideology, Lee is a "loser" so he was fated to lose. Tenten wasn't. I don't know really, but I just find it odd that her match was before his but Lee's wasn't. Oh well, it's probably just me.
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