I'll admit straight away: I have no idea what happened before the first chapter titled Naruto and Sasuke. I stopped reading completely some time around the Founders' backstory and I couldn't be bothered to pick it up until I found out the manga was officially ending (bc let's face it, it has been "ending" since its ten-year anniversary). So... I know Neji died. Everyone else seems to be alive. Whatever.
Basically, I have no idea what Sasuke was even babbling about when he talked about his super-great plan, but considering that everything he said up until the last couple of chapters sounded freaking insane anyway, I figured I didn't need any more background. From what I understood, Naruto's epic strategy ended up just annoying Sasuke with not dying until they both nearly died. XD Good job, bb! I always did love how pig-headed Naruto was.
The last two chapters, epilogue notwitstanding, honestly felt like reading a fanfic. A good fanfic. A fanfic by some of my favourite authors. Actually the final scene appeared in my own fics too. XD Except when I did it, Naruto left with Sasuke. Writing-wise, I would say some things felt rushed (like not showing any trial for Sasuke, not even mentioning it, I think; Kakashi was just kinda: Normally we'd imprison you FOREVAH but eh, you kinda helped, so...) but Sasuke finally admitting that he was a douche and jealous of Naruto's inner strength all this time was beautiful. Because duh, that was obvious to anyone with a brain XD Also, Sasuke smiling, laughing and bickering with Naruto when they were both on the verge of dying was bittersweet, funny, cute and all kinds of fanfic-awesome XD I think when the corresponding anime episode comes out I'll even watch it because Sasuke laughing! And not the muhahaha-laughter of evil! XD
The whole blood from their torn hands connecting was a bit corny but oh, well, symbolism XD Honestly, whatever ship is canon, you will never ever EVER persuade me these dorks love anyone more than each other. Yes, it's freaking unhealthy and borderline creepy but it's deep and real. Certainly more deep and real than their canon wives, which is what I will eventually rant about.
So anyway, I might have teared up a bit. With all the agressive fluffy emotions and prosthetic hands and looks and the return of the headband.
That's a whole lotta emotions for something I don't really care about anymore.
Chapter 699 with its open, beautiful ending would have been a perfect place to put the full stop, but nooo, apparently we had to have the saccharine HP-style epilogue. The only cool thing about it was that it was in colour. And okay, I'll admit: I like Bolt. I mean, sure, he's a copy of Naruto, but the circular feeling the scene at the Hokage mountain had was a welcome one. It harks back to the first chapter of the manga and it's fun to watch Naruto deal with the same problems that the Third had to deal with when Naruto was a kid XD
I'll conveniently ignore the fact that this is Hinata's son. No but look at his hair! It's Sasuke's hair, except yellow! I refuse to see Hinata's genes here XD
I'm not necessarily against the idea of a future tidbit like this because obviously life doesn't stop and when they grew up they'd want kids and stuff. It's interesting to see how they look as adults (a moment of silence for Naruto's haircut, he looks boring, I was hoping for something cuter like the Yondaime had). What I don't understand are the two main het ships. Of course we all knew that Sasuke/Naruto wouldn't be canonically confirmed, but let's be fair: we never needed it. It's obvious in every panel they share and in every word they say about each other. THIS is how you do a pairing! No offence to the girls (though I still dislike Hinata, she never grew on me), it's not about het ships vs slash ships or any ship wars, it's just that I see neither logic, nor chemistry, nor any need for these two ships aside from providing Naruto and Sasuke with heirs. I don't know if Naruto and Hinata had shared any romantic moments in the manga; to me, it still came out of nowhere. But Sasuke/Sakura is an even worse ship because there is literally nothing in their interaction to suggest that Sasuke has any romantic feelings for her. Yes, Sasuke apologizes to her - big deal. There is literally no one in this manga he shouldn't apologize to! (One other thing that annoys me is that there is no panel where he's forced to apologize to the entire bloody village! There should be!) When Sakura asks him to take her with him, he tells her his sins have nothing to do with her. I don't know how other people interpret this, but the way I see it, Sasuke keeps fixating on something selfish all the time (his revenge, his evil plans, his redemption), leaving almost no room for anyone else. He's the type of person who just doesn't connect with other people, so I don't see him whipping up a connection with Sakura all of a sudden. The forehead poke (a gesture of affection borrowed from Itachi) may look promising, but let's not forget: Itachi often used it when he said stuff like: later, not now, kthxbai. It looks condescending instead of romantic or even cute. Even when Sasuke says he'll be back, it doesn't sound like anything more than a promise to a friend. Sasuke might think of Sakura as a friend, but it doesn't change his horrendous dismissive treatment of her throughout 699 previous chapters of the manga, so why should it suddenly be any different? Of course people change, so perhaps at some point Sasuke returned to the village, reconnected with Sakura, realized he was in love... Except where is all this? The pair-offs in chapter 700 look suspiciously like a coin toss, as if Kishi (or his editor) couldn't choose who to pair off with whom. In fact, given that Sasuke is once again wandering somewhere in the future, it makes me imagine that at some point during his redemption track he suddenly remembered that he had a genetic line to preserve, so he popped back into Konoha and was like: Wussup, Sakura, wanna restore my clan with me? Y/N? And Sakura obviously thought it was a great idea!
My problem with both SasuSaku and NaruHina is that it encourages the Twilight level of obsessiveness. Arguably, so does SasuNaru but at least with Naruto, his main objective is to bring Sasuke back from darkness and teach him to be a normal person. He doesn't actually make it very personal. He says: "I'm your friend," but he doesn't demand much friendship in return until Sasuke finally gives it willingly. (IDK, maybe he does in the chapters I haven't read but it doesn't look that way.) SasuSaku and NaruHina basically leave us women with a charming message: Be patiend, wait for years and years, and your boyfriend will make kids with you. To men, these ships say: You can be a total asshole to the girl who loves you but when you need kids, she'll give them to you. Sexist much? I guess I might have been okay with Naruto/Sakura (of all the main het ships they had the best foundation and some plausible slow build), but Naruto/Hinata is implausible and pointless, seeing as they completely lack chemistry and I always had a feeling that Naruto's main function in relation to Hinata was to give her confidence and make her feel good about herself, which is never a good basis for a romantic relationship. On top of all, Sakura (and probably Hinata too?) look like housewives in the future, which is not to say it's not a valid choice, but while Sasuke is off in the woods somewhere doing hell knows what, Sakura appears to be sitting at home doing nothing. She's a brilliant medic, was it so hard to show her in a hospital??? Or on a ninja mission, idk.
Finally, Salad (seriously???) having a thing for Bolt is not cute. It's like an amalgamation of Team 7 OT3: the weird SasuSaku hybrid having a thing for bb Naruto (who is not a hybrid bc he has a sister who seems more like Hinata, so there). Except it's het so it's entirely possible they will eventually hook up. (On that note, yay for Chouji not marrying anyone from this village, though - Karui? Srsly? XD)))
Anyway, sexist ending or not, it's been quite a journey. Beautiful, emotional, glorious journey and whatever faults the story has, it's still one of the Stories with a capital S for me.
So once again, thank you, Kishi. And thank you, Naruto. <3