It’s that time, yet again where I talk about Boruto: Naruto Next Generations as if it’s the most important thing in the world, and at the moment, given that I’ve turned in my thesis and Kingdom Hearts III isn’t released yet, this is the most important thing in the world to me. Especially given the latest episode that aired today, I’m really pumped for this next arc. But first I’ll talk about the previous two arcs, well mini-arcs, I guess.
Boruto’s First Mission
So last post I made about Boruto four months ago I said, “[…] the series should continue to stray down the path untraveled in order to claim its own identity outside of the shadow of its predecessor, even if that deals with making some experimental moves.” I don’t know why I thought the series writers/ producers would somehow go for that move, and it was evident that the series still wasn’t fully willing to go the path untraveled, because Boruto will always somehow pay homage or draw parallels to Naruto. And when I saw the preview for Boruto’s first mission, I said to myself, Oh. It’s a washed down Zabuza arc. And of course that was sort of the case. It was a mission that was supposed to be meant for Genin, so a D-Rank mission, but instead it was a B-Rank mission. Automatically one would think of Naruto and the first mission/ major arc of that series. The main difference was that it didn’t last nearly as long and the villains weren’t nearly as memorable. I couldn’t even tell you if the villains for that arc had names. Rather than exposing the rookie ninja to true danger it served a purpose of having Boruto accept or at least acknowledge his legacy or his role in the participation of Naruto’s legacy, drawing parallels to the plight of Kiri.
This arc was also a good chance to put Konohamaru’s skills on display, even if it felt like the showing-off-the-sensei’s-strength moment–something quite similar to what happened with Kakashi in Naruto. But it was also a cool moment because we had known Konohamaru previously, we’d seen him as a child, we’d seen him as a pre-teen, a junior for Naruto and it was fun seeing him as a big time threat, someone who could hold his own and obtain the title of Jonin. So for the most part this small arc, this first mission, was fine. It gave Boruto his experience and taught him that he couldn’t just do everything on his own, but also built towards a character arc he’s going through and that I believe he might continue going through in the upcoming arcs.
Byakuya Gang Arc
I, as soon as the first episode happened, looked forward to this arc because it was just fun to see a group of “villains” give the village some trouble. I didn’t want anything Akatsuki level yet, but something that could be menacing was fine. This arc does a lot right, but it also feels as though it didn’t stick the landing it had intended which might be for various reasons one of them being demographic the other being something I’ll get to later.
From the get go you could tell that this was an arc where, sure, Boruto would be there, but he wouldn’t be prominent for the arc. He’d exist. He’d have his center stage maybe for a moment, but he wasn’t and would not be the star of the arc which is always a weird spot for a show with a character’s name as the title. Unless you’ve truly gotten to know the side character well, most wouldn’t be all that okay with a side character taking the spotlight for a few episodes. Luckily before Denki, Mitsuki, or Iwabe appeared, Boruto’s mainly seen friend he shared scenes with was Shikadai. Quite a few fans have called Shikadai a Shikamaru clone, and for the most part, I believe that this arc separated them. Shikadai may have an attitude close to his father and look nearly like a carbon copy of him save for the green more bishonen-esque eyes, but their struggles are kind of different. Shikamaru’s personality came from a source of laziness and an intelligence that was too good for him. In a lot of ways his intelligence and knowledge of the odds stacked against him emphasized an assumption that Shikamaru was lazy. And while Shikadai may call things a drag as his father once did, he’s more willing to partake in activities and attempt to learn. His character depth, the struggle in it came when finding out the boy he had been playing shogi with was one of the villain bandits. How do you confront a friend. Rather than effort his flaws were in the category of decisiveness. And this arc played on that quite well, I enjoyed his progression in the arc regardless of how small it may have seemed.
Now outside of talking about Shikadai, this arc had some problems, quite a few. First was the message that the arc was trying to deliver. Throughout the arc, it sort of pointed out the inequality of class via corporation. There was a commentary on how much companies abuse their employees/ exhaust their abilities while employees get not much in return. And while I enjoyed that they tried to speak on it, and label it bad, one of the missteps might have been taking the focus off of that issue and back onto the Byakuya Gang. That arc might have been more efficient and truly put everything up the wall if they were a true Robin Hood-like gang rather than one exploiting the plight of lower classes in order to just steal stuff and make themselves rich. Had the leader never been shown as truly despicable, which we the audience could tell from the beginning, this would have been a truly compelling arc with a fair share of social commentary. Now why this couldn’t have happened is because: A) I wouldn’t know how to make sense of that issue to a younger demographic especially when B) (I don’t believe) the writers had an answer, a true solution, to that issue and C) if the leader had been truly just it would’ve made our heroes morally complicated, thus pulling off a fight at the end would have been difficult or left viewers with a bad taste in their mouth. And though that effect is good in certain narratives, this plotline wouldn’t have carried on for anything. These villains were merely meant for a few episodes.
The other problem is that the vibe just felt like a Zabuza and Haku 2.0, and now we’re on the third time I’ve compared an arc to the Zabuza arc. It’s problematic. Tough warrior guy plus a younger small kekkai genkai user guy will always remind people of the Zabuza arc. I don’t even know why I liked that arc so much, if I were to look at it again, I probably wouldn’t, but my rosy tints refuse to be removed. Anyways the issue was that this series seriously needs to do whatever it can to stay out of the shadow of its parent series.
Filler and Recaps
Unlike a good number of anime fans I, JP Cromwell, do not necessarily hate filler. When it comes to filler it’s a case to case business. Filler can be enjoyable if employed correctly, but it becomes a hassle when the filler is used as an entire arc and then never mentioned again for the overarching narrative. For the three episodes of filler between these the Byakuya Gang arc and the current arc going on, it was more of a fun time and insight into how the rest of the extended cast was doing. Picking up on the issues with the original Naruto series and Naruto Shippuden, I enjoyed that other characters got their shine. We got to see Sumire’s transition into being in a squad and fitting in despite her troubled past. We got to see Iwabe go through an interesting character struggle and for his crew to understand that being a ninja isn’t about being cool. And though I enjoy the action oriented nature of Boruto, I quite enjoy the moments where we get to chill out and hang with the characters. A lot of what I like in a series is when we get to explore characters and understand them better, get insight into their lives and those first two episodes really did that job.
Now what should have irked me was episode 50 which was a recap episode. Even though watching Korra taught me the importance of recap episodes (budget issues usually), I still don’t quite enjoy recaps, but this felt different especially since we had been forty-nine episodes in until this blatant recap episode. What helped was that there was still a story going on. It was a discussion about which genin units should participate in the chunin exams. Also it was good exploration into the unit leaders and their opinions on this new generation. The interaction between them was fun, Konohamaru and Hanabi’s interaction were even more so particularly due to their relation to Boruto. For the most part because it carried something along, I enjoyed every second and laughed along the way.
Episodes 51 & 52
All right, not gonna lie, these episodes were hella problematic and I say this as a man in love with this show. My biggest problem with these episodes is that Konohamaru should have been able to handle the white Zetsu that appears in these episodes by himself. He is Naruto Jr. with an inclusion of utilizing fire jutsus. Use some shadow clones and rasengan that Zetsu into oblivion. We didn’t need to show Konohamaru struggle. It was as if the writers decided to dock his intelligence. It was bad. The episodes would’ve been better if, once again, they gave Konohamaru something to fight on his own while giving the Team 7 genin an opponent too. While redundant and playing off the themes from the mini arc for Boruto’s first mission, this would have added the same depth for Boruto but without making Konohamaru seem weak. Boruto’s issue in the latter of the two episodes is that he wants the world to acknowledge his strength without putting it in the shadow of his father, so he makes a dumb move of going for the kill and breaking apart from the plan. Instead of killing the Zetsu, he gets mollywopped. He understands his weakness. Once again, if the genin were given their own Zetsu to fight while Konohamaru was preoccupied with his own, we could have still had the same effect, but without Konohamaru being dumb and essentially nerfed.
Now for the good parts. First of all, the episode Boruto’s Birthday was a great episode on an emotional level because it highlighted the tension of Boruto and Naruto’s relationship while also showing it again on a level above simple child angst. In this episode, though he’s disappointed, but won’t admit it, that his father didn’t show up to his birthday, he’d be even more angry with his father if he didn’t show up to his sister’s birthday. The episode pulls at some strings and shows their innocence despite being in a world of ninja. The first half of that episode made me sympathetic for everyone involved and it was good that the show didn’t merely show Boruto’s perspective on the situation.
On a more important level, this episode showed more of Boruto’s current character arc that’ll flow into the Chunin Exam arc. Boruto is realizing how weak he is in comparison to higher beings. He’s realizing he lacks strength even though others have pumped him up as strong. He knows he has to get better and that’s a great point of character development instead of his old thought of just being able to tackle anything thrown at him. But the best part is that they’ve mentioned Sasuke. My guy is already a thought in Boruto’s head and has been established as a ninja on his father’s level. Sasuke was noted as the ultimate ninja. Boruto now has something to aspire to and we haven’t yet gotten to the Chunin Exam arc yet. So while this is good for Boruto’s character development, it also shows that the writers for the anime are going to approach this arc differently than the anime did. The ending also reveals this by showing the third Otsuki member.
Though the differences may seem small, it’s made me really look forward to this next arc especially since it seems as if Boruto will face off against Shinki. That’ll be dope. So hopefully there will be some vast changes in the next arc. In a good world we get to see Sarada and Mitsuki’s fights. We’ll get to care about the other characters. And based off the new opening, though it could just be that Boruto is hiding the device, it doesn’t really seem as if he’s cheating. I know that he will, and I know that a previous episode has essentially implied that he’ll get his hands on that jutsu device, but it was weird that it wasn’t clearly visible in the opening. Also sidenote: the animation for the new opening is bad. It makes me disappointed cause I like the new song better than the second opening, but the animation took such a drop in quality.
So yeah. I think that’s it. I can’t wait for the next arc. I wonder what they’ll do with the third Otsuki member, and I wonder how Boruto’s dojutsu will come into play. Will there be more Toneri? Who knows. I’m unfortunately not a staff writer. Super sidenote: someone hire me. Later days.