The Naruto vs Sasuke fight is one of the most iconic anime moments. In the aftermath of the attack on Konoha and Itachi’s altercation with Sasuke, Sasuke felt deeply inadequate with his current skills. Taking advantage of the situation, Orochimaru lured Sasuke towards him with the promise of giving him greater power. Sasuke left Konoha one night with the intent of going to Orochimaru. The Konoha Ninjas formed a Sasuker recovery team and set out to get back their dear friend and comrade.
Naruto found Sasuke at the end of Konoha village, the Valley of the End. He pleaded desperately for Sasuke to return back. However, Sasuke was determined to leave Konoha and a fight ensued. The two went toe to toe for a while. However, Sasuke eventually gained the upper hand and knocked Naruto unconscious. Up till now, the two were fighting to the death. But when Sasuke had an unconscious Naruto in front of him, he chose not to kill his only friend. Let’s explore why.
Itachi and Sasuke
Itachi was Sasuke’s elder brother and a member of the Uchiha clan. One fateful night, Itachi slaughtered his entire clan, sparing just his little brother. Traumatized by the event, Sasuke set out to seek revenge on his brother.
Itachi challenged Sasuke to gain Mangekyo Sharingan before coming after him. According to Itachi, the only way to gain Mangekyo Sharingan was to kill your dearest friend. In the Valley of the End, Sasuke was seemingly determined to kill Naruto.
However, he changed his mind after seeing his unconscious friend and declared he wouldn’t follow Itachi’s path. Sasuke decided to find his own way towards awakening his Mangekyo Sharingan and thus left Naruto alive. Or at least that’s what he said. The truth might be a bit more layered and emotional than that.
Sasuke and Naruto
Sasuke’s relationship with Naruto has been a significant highlight of his life. During their childhood, Naruto empathized with Sasuke and wanted to become his friend. Sasuke however, was better than Naruto at just about everything. Soon, Naruto and Sasuke develop a mutual rivalry. Naruto started to think of Sasuke as a brother as they continued to operate as a team. Up until the Chunin Exams events, Sasuke respected Naruto more and regarded him as a close friend and opponent. Sasuke came to realize Naruto was beginning to surpass him and that he wasn't even close to being able to fight Itachi.
Eventually, he left Konoha to train under Orochimaru because he thought it was the only way he could become powerful enough to avenge his clan. However, even while taking his steps away from his village, Sasuke was overwhelmed with the ties he thought he had to sever.
Sasuke could barely say his goodbyes to Sakura, a person he barely cared about until that point. Or as is the case with everything else, Sasuke is kind of a brooding emo kid with very little self-awareness about his own feelings over things.
In the Valley of the End, a similar situation plays out but with more fists and kicks. Naruto and Sasuke do have a verbal lashing out at each other. Naruto tells Sasuke is like a brother to him whom he can’t let go of. Sasuke acknowledges their bond and declares he will sever it. The two engage in a head-on fight again and Sasuke’s Chidori clashes with Naruto’s Rasengan. When the energy dissipates, Sasuke stands over an unconscious Naruto with a conflicted face. Eventually, Sasuke leaves his forehead protector with Naruto and leaves for Orochimaru.
The Real Reason Sasuke Did Not Kill Naruto
The devil lies in the details so let’s dissect some key events at the Valley of the End. First of all, Naruto and Sasuke openly acknowledge the strength of their bond. The whole fight happens in the backdrop of Sasuke trying to sever a bond Naruto is so desperate to hold on to.
At the end of the day, Sasuke is just a soft-hearted albeit deeply traumatized kid, not a war-hardened mercenary. He isn’t old enough to have the resolve to actually achieve his goals with whatever means necessary. He comes close to being a heartless “do whatever it takes” kind of guy as his arc continues. However, during the events of Sasuke’s recovery mission, he is still deeply conflicted about his motives and desires. While Sasuke was prepared to do or die during his fight with Naruto, he wasn’t prepared to actually kill his only friend.
Secondly, the forehead protector has a huge symbolic significance for any Ninja. Even rogue defected Ninjas carry their headbands with them at all times. The headband is a metaphor for the root of their identities. However, when Sasuke leaves Konoha, he leaves his headband behind, in his best friend’s hands. This is very significant. This tells us Sasuke was never and did never consider killing Naruto. He left that headband behind as a sign for Naruto to await his eventual return.
It’s not that Sasuke abandoned his identity as a leaf village ninja. He just wanted that part of him to be in safe hands so he can always have a home to return to. In conclusion, the real reason Sasuke didn’t kill Naruto was true love…as friends.