This will be controversial, but let’s address the elephant in the room. Tenten is a useless character in the Naruto franchise, but I didn’t want to make a sweeping statement. I felt it deserved its own post, so here is my Tenten character study!
I don’t really like bashing a character for the sake of it, and I like to offer up my own constructive criticism. I want to be able to pick apart a character and maybe show them in a different light.
I will refer to the last episodes of Shippuden and The Last movie as Gaiden era, for lack of better phrasing.
I will admit I really like the simple design of Tenten, and I especially like her design in the Gaiden era (although I feel that all of the updated character designs in this era were the best, especially Temari and Sakura). I definitely feel that she always has cohesive looks and it at least shows that she’s dressed for being at least a shinobi, especially a weapons master. Her adult design is the best of the female designs, followed closely by Sakura’s.
I love the layer of added femininity in her Gaiden design, plus it makes her look more appealing. I want to see more Tenten because I want to see more of that outfit.
Her Input in the Story
I have to say this now, without the context of fillers, Tenten just doesn’t deliver. It’s very well known that Masashi Kishimoto could not write a female protagonist, but Sakura, Ino and Hinata respectively had hightlight moments – Sakura became a Medic Nin, surpassing her teacher, Tsunade, and also had that huge battle against Sasori. Ino went through Asuma’s death and then had to battle his corpse and pull Choji through that pain. Hinata went against Pain on her own, and later helped pull Naruto together shortly after Neji’s death.
However, for Tenten, she had none of those moments. In fact, her most memorable moment to this day ends up being brutally beaten by Temari in the Chunin Exams.
The worst thing about this situation is the lack of meaningful dialogue. Any line that she has could easily have been said by someone else, therefore doesn’t really give her any semblance of personality. She kinda feels like one of those fanfic characters where they’re clearly inserted heavily into the story and are there to take away some of the lines that others perhaps woud have said.
Sadly the swing that Naruto sat on in his first episode has more screen time than Tenten does.
This is what happens when you have two over-the-top personalities with Gai and Lee, and then the genius that is Neji. I feel that anyone would get overshadowed by that, but it’s worse when it comes to Tenten.
You see, despite the teams being supposedly balanced as claimed in episode 3 of the original series, this team is not. I mean, it’s not the only team to have this problem (see Team 8), but every member of the team solely utilises some form of Taijutsu, however Tenten’s Taijutsu in terms of weapons specialism is supplemented with her use of sealing scrolls which can be unsealed to bombard her opponents with weapons. But her ability is never really fully fleshed out and the time and attention is instead shifted to her teammates.
It’s funny really, she’s even overshadowed because everyone calls Sakura the most useless character instead. I suppose a lot of that comes from Sakura being one of the main three, so she gets a lot more spotlight. But it says a lot when you’re forgotten that often that you’re not even regarded as the most useless.
The Filler Problem
Unfortunately, a lot of Tenten-centric episodes in the series come from fillers, so are usually disregarded because of their low quality of writing, or not considered canon, so they do not actually opt to give her character some growth.
As for Tenten-centric fillers, even then there aren’t a lot to go over, aside from one-shots. She was even left out of the last pre-Shippuden set of fillers. This is most likely because one of the characters introduced, Matsuri, is afraid of weapons, and thus having Tenten there to help would actually be a detriment.
She did get her own centric fillers in the form of the Road to Ninja-esque Infinite Tsukuyomi dream that she has, with characters recycled from the Road to Ninja film as well as Menma Namikaze (wonder who that should be, hmm). Honestly, it’s great to have these episodes, as it gives Tenten a sense of belonging in a world that has come to appreciate her.
In an era of peace, she runs a weapons shop.
Let’s repeat that again. After the Fourth Great Shinobi War, after the Five Great Nations struck up a true alliance and the Shinobi Union was formed, she opens a weapons shop, that is empty due to the peaceful area.
That is all I really have to say on the matter.
The New Tenten
On this blog, I don’t like to bash a character or concept. All of the things I have listed as flaws I could use as a base to jump-start a new Tenten.
For a start, we’ll leave her outfits alone. Her outfits are great, that’s that.
In terms of team variation, Tenten currently is in a team full of Taijutsu users. She could still be a tools master, but use them completely differently. At least give her a sword to use! That way, she would have been able to utilise it in a similar way to Sasuke, with a Nature Release. I feel that she could have suited the Wind nature, and had tips on utilising it, just like Naruto did when he was training.
She could also have inherited the Flying Thunder God Kunai, as I’m sure she would have been able to utilise them in combat efficiently.
However, when it came to her using the Bashosen, she could have surprised everyone by revealing that she has the chakra capacity to be able to use it efficiently, thus giving the Allied Shinobi Forces the upper hand.
I know it’s corny, but there could have been emphasis on a ship between her and Neji, obviously cut short by his death. She could have changed her attitude at that point, and maybe not have gotten over that, but aiming to be the best that she can be, and the best that Neji believed her to be. That would have been touching, and give her some added depth.
I mean, it would have been better if after collecting every type of ninja tool across the world, she opened up a museum. I mean that would have been cool. As for any spares, she could have just opened up a storage underground so that if needs be, people could access spare tools. This way, she could have given guest lectures at the Academy about the different kinds of tools found around the world. And if Konoha is under attack for any reason (and it’s revealed straight away in the Boruto series that it is, with Kawaki being the antagonist here), it’d be very useful, because the complacent shinobi forces then have somewhere to go and evacuate civilians.
And, really, that is that. Unfortunately I’m not able to make Tenten a better character without making her too overpowered, compromising the rest of the team. Plus without a lot to go on in terms of her character, it doesn’t give me a lot of leeway to improve her.
I did give it my best shot, but what do you guys think? Did you click off as soon as I said Sakura wasn’t the most useless? Let me know!