Another character unbashing/study, cross posted in one of the FCs.


Gai: A Love Stronger Than Spandex

----Playing with Fire----

One of my favorite aspects of Gai's character is one that most people don't seem to consciously recognize.

It is his true attitude towards everything: fighting, loving, living, etc. On the surface, he seems to be a character without any form of maturity or gravity; he's the comic relief; the person who's tear-filled eyes and full-throated yells break the tension of nearly any scene he enters. However, the fact is that Gai does not intend to be that way, and he certainly does not see himself as a man of frivolity.

Konoha's Green Beast looks at the world around him not as one of play but as one of utter and complete seriousness. When the spandexed man runs crying to embrace Lee, he is deeply feeling a sense of love and caring for the boy. Gai's hearty battle laughter is never heard without the certainty of pure joy ringing throughout the foolish man's heart. And, his trademark thumbs up promise complete with smile is a sincere oath, freely offering himself and his services up for the sake of someone he cares for.

In the shinobi world where nothing is as it seems to be, Gai attempts the most dangerous trial, that of living his life with sincerity. Ironically, being true to himself in every way forces Gai to appear as though he is doing nothing more than playing with the fires of Konoha, forces him to appear other than what he is: a man whose carefree, joyful attitude is one that's cultivated from a true and serious outlook.

----Strong Arms to Carry Those Who Can't Carry Themselves----

Hinata offers to let Naruto copy off of her exam paper, understanding that the boy can't answer the first nine questions without her help. Iruka takes pity on that same boy who's familiar lack of parents and love resounds with the chuunin academy teacher, supplying him with thousands upon thousands of ramen-based meals. Sakura attempts to be nice to Naruto before the Time Skip, trying to apologize for constantly misunderstanding him and in praise of his battle prowess. Whether its directed towards Naruto or any other character in the series, true altruism doesn't find much of a place within Kishimoto's story. When someone helps someone else, they are conscious of the effect their actions will have, while also having their own personal reasons for acting in such a way.

The exception to this rule is Maito Gai.

Some might claim it's due to the fact that the man is just a tiny bit oblivious to things, in general (understatment). And, because of this he doesn't truly realize the effects of his actions. But, whether Gai is dragging Kakashi's nose out of his porn novel and forcing him to confront the real world (if only long enough to play a game of paper-rock-scissors) or whether he makes sure to be the one closest to holding Neji back from killing Hinata using his words and actions (keeping the boy from losing himself in his hatred), he commits each of these acts without understanding the true meaning of their effects. And, that is because he doesn't do them with any form of hidden intent or agenda.

Unlike others in the series who learn the meaning behind being good or bad, moral or immoral, Gai bypasses the psychological conflict. He doesn't make good choices; he is good. He doesn't attempt to help others; he helps them. Even Rock Lee, who's goodness we all know and love, trains and helps others out of the desire to be recognized, loved, and to fulfill the promise he's made to Gai by asking for the man's training.

Therefore, this supposed obliviousness transforms Gai's good will from "staple of the series" into a thing of unique beauty.

----The Tortoise and the Hare----

One of the main aspects of "Naruto" that comes to my mind when Gai-sensei is a topic will always be his rivalry with Kakashi. This is because the spandexed jounin is partially defined by the ways in which he opposes the personality/actions of the copy nin. Where Kakashi's team often suffers from neglect, Gai's suffers from an overabundance of their sensei's attentions. Where Kakashi attempts to hide himself inside the pages of a book, Gai runs at his swiftest pace to meet the world head-on; training every single day to increase that speed and his understanding of the life found around him.

However, despite their respective paces, in the race of life, Gai will always be the tortoise to Kakashi's hare. Kakashi with his Mangekyou Sharingan and Neo-Sannin students surpasses the other man easily in ability, seemingly without even trying. While Gai pushes himself and his students each and every single day, desperate to catch up.

But, regardless of that fact, regardless of who has the 49 and who has the 50 score in the calculation of their petty rivalry, the true winner will always be Gai. Gai, the tortoise, the one who keeps at training everyday; the one who spends each waking moment with his students rather than leaving their problems to become aggravated and greater with time; the one who is able to be happy.

Gai wins the race between Kakashi in himself not because he is greater in skill or intelligence, but because he lives his life fully rather than existing through it like a shadow of swiftness who's growth stopped when he was but a teenager. The fact is that the tally between Gai and Kakashi is far less competitive than we have been led to believe.

On one side we have Kakashi with a score of 0.

And, come Gai's 30th birthday, his tally will have reached somewhere around 10,950.

A point for each day that he's been living or maybe it's a point for each day he's lived a more satisfying life than Kakashi, but more likely its a point for each day he's felt more alive than any other citizen of Konoha.

Because, let's be honest, Kakashi isn't the only hare in Konoha. Slowly but surely, Gai beats every single one of the other shinobi, in his own way.

----The Youths of His Springtime----

If there is one thing that's almost entirely absent within the bounds of "Naruto", it is the presence of a solid, loving father, who has always been there for his son and has in no way contributed to them having some form of immortal beast raging inside of them that will eventually lead to pain and suffering. Even the least reproachable figures such as the Sandaime or the paternal head of the Akimichi clan remain guilty to some extent of the crime of neglect. And, looking even closer still at the story, parental figures, in general, remain noticeably absent.

But then, we have Gai-sensei.

In some ways, it's a little redundant to mention how passionately Gai "raises" Lee and contributes to the growth of his other students, emotionally or psychologically. It is similar to saying that fire is hot, that snow is cold, or that Minato's a pretty fast guy. Still, it would be unfair to the character, if nothing was said at all.

Giving without asking, pushing for his "children" to be the best of all their possible selves, and loving without restraint, Gai lends himself to his students in a way that no other teacher has been shown to. And, in the process of raising them up as powerful Konoha shinobi, he manages to become the best father figure that the series has to offer.

Not only is this of thematic importance, but it has given birth to some of the series' most touching moments, as Gai focuses his attention on saving Lee from others and the boy's own crushing insecurities. Seeing Gai dispel Gaara's murderous sand and keeping it from destroying Lee, watching as he encouraged a younger Lee who's spirit was disappearing fast beneath the weight of failure, all of these and more are scenes that have contributed directly to the high quality that certain parts of this series enjoy.