There's been a whole lot of to-do ever since #693
came out, and though I'm not as involved as I used to be with Naruto, I couldn't pass up commenting on this controversy.
As with all manga, Naruto is still a form of literature, and thus involves common plot devices and literary tactics.
Considering this, I don't think SasuSaku is officially "dead". Until the manga sees its final chapter, I don't think anyone can say anything is impossible.
Before I get into reasoning as to why I think there's still a chance for SS to be canon, I'd like to state that I'm going to try and not be biased on this - I do enjoy the ship, but it's not going to devastate me if it doesn't happen. Essentially: if it happens, great; if not, oh well - life goes on.
I'm going to be drawing points from a fantastic post by Tumblr user angel-chu for this journal, which I suggest anyone who's interested read completely if they have the time (Find it here
- Increase in interactions between Sasuke and Sakura (within recent chapters) - angel-chu started her post with the perfect point in this ship's survival in my opinon. Kishimoto is taking the time to display more exchanges between these two than we've seen in a long time. Everything happens for a reason - especially in literature - and I agree that it'd be odd for him to take the time to write out these scenes unless they were going to be worth something.
- "...if I could have taken all your pain onto myself to comfort you, I would have..." - Not neccessarily a point towards SS still being a possibility, but that is amazing compassion from Sakura. So much she says in this panel is incredible, and I wish people would give her more credit for her astounding capacity for love. She has tried so hard to become strong enough where her feelings for Sasuke do not hinder her ( "...still all I can do is sit here and cry! I'm so pathetic!") but she cannot make that love go away. If there is a point to be made here, it's that Kishimoto is again having Sakura state her love for Sasuke (take a look at angel-chu's post for a better analysis on this scene).
- Sasuke's steps falter during Sakura's dialouge - No one can deny that he does this - it's in the lower left-hand panel of the page discussed above. What angel-chu comments on in this panel is extremely significant; to directly quote her: "IT’S THE HESITATION WE SEE IN SASUKE’S FEET AS HE HEARS HER WORDSTHAT ONCE AGAIN TELLS US, HIS ACTIONS BETRAY HIS WORDS.I mean, it says SHAKE next to his foot up there. He was LEAVING to go fight with Naruto. What happens when Sakura starts confessing all over again? HE FALTERS. HE WAITS. HE LISTENS. JUST LIKE HE DID THE NIGHT HE LEFT KONOHA. ... Did he HAVE to listen? Did he HAVE to wait? And what’s with the hesitation? Not very Sasuke like, is it? WHY WOULD KISHI WASTE A PANEL WITH THAT IF IT DIDN’T MEAN SOMETHING. HE WANTS US TO SEE SASUKE HESITATE. For someone who just wants to get this battle over with, it seems like a bit of a waste of the mighty Sasuke’s time to spend five minutes listening to this silly girl he doesn’t even care about."
- Parallels to the night Sasuke left Konoha - to continue from the previous point, these panels did have several similarties to the aforementioned scene. There's even a portion of this scene ("Thank you") a few panels back that Sakura is remembering.
- Sasuke's smirk/"You're such a damned annoyance." - I really cannot put this into words as well as angel-chu has done, so I will paraphrase the key points. First of all, cover the lower portion of Sasuke's face (just his mouth) with your hand and look just at his eyes and brows - there's sorrow/regret there. "Why would Kishi make him look PAINED? Why the dark lines under his eyes? Why would he give up an entire panel to express such an emotion? This is RAW emotion from Sasuke. It’s genuine - and what is even more mind-blowing is that he REMEMBERS the last time she said similar words to him and professed her love." Sasuke's quote in this panel is another reference to when he left Konoha: "...Meaning, she’s even MORE annoying than she was before. It’s like his expression and words are saying: SIGH. SAKURA. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH YOU? Oh, I know you’re going to get in the way, SO I’LL KNOCK YOU OUT AGAIN because FUCK, I can’t DEAL WITH YOU any better now than I could when I was TWELVE. ...and Sasuke has NEVER forgotten that night when she confessed the first time. He even remembers how to reply in the exact same manner he did back then. The sadness in his face suggests he was HOPING she had known better and moved on. Given up on him the way he has clearly given up on hope for himself. ...Kishi stresses the memory of the last love confession, and makes a direct parallel scenario here. The difference is, Sasuke’s face is much more EXPRESSIVE.Compare Sasuke’s face HERE to the blank one he gives Naruto/everyone else. This is a genuine SMIRK. Sakura’s words have once again REACHED HIM. No argument about it. Once again, he LISTENED."
- The Genjutsu - Just like everyone else, when I first saw this panel, I thought he'd killed her. Fortunately it was only an illusion that only Sakura saw. Again, I'll use the brilliant analysis of this scene up to angel-chu: "He pierces her in her HEART. As if he wants her to STOP. To LET GO. This is so cruel, and he knows this is Sakura’s greatest fear - losing him, dying before she could save him. ...Because he wants to traumatise her MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY enough to MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE THAT SHE WON’T BREAK OUT OF HIS GENJUTSU. ...Guys. ITACHI DID THIS EXACT SAME THING TO HIM. MIND FUCKED HIM. To try to get Sasuke to HATE HIM. ...Now Sasuke, recognising how much SAKURA loves him (which reminds him of his unconditional love for his family, later on, and how much THAT hurt him), does the same to the girl who is so hopelessly in love with him. To get her to hate him - to maybe make it easier should he die at Naruto’s hands? ...if Sasuke didn’t give a toss about Sakura, why would he bother knocking her out to keep her out of harm’s way?" Then there's some commentary between Sasuke and Kakashi after Sakura is unconcious: "Sasuke says he has no reason to love Sakura. Actually, I can’t believe Sasuke is even talking about this subject, it’s so bizarre. But here’s the thing. CAN SAKURA HEAR HIM. NO. DOES SHE KNOW HE HAS SAID THAT. NO. HE SAYS THIS WHEN SHE IS KNOCKED OUT. ... He didn’t mock Sakura like this when she was awake."
- "...I hope that they could find and regain that lost love ... but for Sasuke too, a love different from the one he had from his mother." - It seems to me like the Sage of Six Paths is hoping that Naruto and Sasuke can both come out of this and bring love back into their lives. Naruto has obviously had the support of his friends for the most part during the series, but Sasuke has spent a lot of that time by himself. As this is said following Sakura's confession, perhaps the Sage thinks that Sasuke could find that much needed love with Sakura, who is obviously willing to deal with his demons and be there for him.
That's all I've got to say about that.