Matsuri is introduced in the final arc of the original Naruto series; Ultimate Weapon Arc (Anime only). She is shown to be a studen of Suna's new ninja academy. At the beginning of the weapon-handling lesson, she asks if weapons are just dangerous. As the teacher ponders about the question, Gaara surprisingly replies with, "Your weapon is like.." Pondering to herself, she feels as if Gaara was trying to tell her something and therefore is the only person out of her entire class brave enough to choose Gaara as her teacher. Gaara then teaches her how to use a Johyo, sensing how she was hesitant with weapons. They bond quickly.
Later, Matsuri is kidnapped by the Four Celestial Symbols Men because of her importance to Gaara. Gaara, his siblings, and Konoha 11(excluding Tenten) come to her aid. After being freed by Naruto, she repays him back by saving him from a fatal attack using her Johyo; the weapon Gaara taught her how to use and finally realising that weapons can be used to protect comrades. After the enemy was defeated, she returns back to Suna along with Gaara and his sibling. But before she left, she asked Shikamaru to tell Naruto that he made her understand what Gaara had been trying to tell her, and that she would continue as his student.
During the night before the second exam Kiba insults Gaara and Matsuri becomes enraged, resulting in a food fight.
Gaara appears restless and agitated whilst cooped up in the central tower, refusing dinner and often walking to the window from his chair. He watches Matsuri's team with his third eye as a massive sandstorm brews up on the night of the second day, slipping past his guards to protect them in a sand sphere.
In the morning, Gaara encourages Matsuri and her team to carry on with the exam. She and her team are captured to lure Gaara from the central tower of the Demon Desert during the second exam. Gaara arrives in time to free them. He helps Matsuri stand, ordering them to leave, and is caught in the trap. A priest wielding a lute attempts to seal Shukaku's chakra. But once out of earshot, Matsuri insists on running to the central tower by herself in order to get help. She collapses from exhaustion on the way, and is found by Team Neji. All four run back to where Gaara and Fuu are trapped. Neji saves the two jinchuuriki. Later, Matsuri voices her relief at finding Gaara unharmed. He seems nervous at first, but smiles in return.
Kazekage Rescue Arc
In the anime, after Gaara is kidnapped by Akatsuki, Matsuri is assigned to a team led by Temari. When they start doing border patrol, Matsuri complains that they should be instead trying to rescue Gaara. Later, as Gaara wakes up, she voices her concern over him, and is seen standing next to him as everyone returns to Sunagakure.
Shinobi World War Arc
In the anime, Matsuri is seen along side a couple Sunagakure shinobi. gushing over Gaara after he unites the troops with a speech. She is seen here and there as comedic relief during the war, and is also seen waking up from her Infinite tsukuyomi dream at the end of the canon episodes.