OP: 「Baton Road」by KANA-BOON
My experience with Naruto started back in Year 8 (U.S. equivalent 7th Grade), when this girl I had a crush began talking non-stop about it. Despite dabbling in it just to impress, even after her interest in the series faded all those years ago, I never gave up on Naruto because that’s my ninja way!
Despite adoring the Boruto movie, I had my reservations over a TV series adaption, since it seemed Pierrot was going one step too far in milking the franchise. And those excessive fillers in Naruto Shippuden did not help, as they had really created some trust issues for me. Admittedly, I do kind of wish this series didn’t have ‘Naruto’ in its name. Considering it’s not the original work of Kishimoto, I can understand why it is necessary to credit Naruto for being the universe of inspiration. But it still seems so awkward to have in the title. Even after learning that a talented lineup would be in charge of series production, the outlook felt pretty grim.
As luck would have it, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations pulled out an absolutely brilliant first episode, leaving me pumped, excited and wanting for more!
Naruto’s implied death at the start of the episode has me torn. While I think it’s an extraordinarily courageous move to kill off a character built up over more than a decade, the Cell Arc is my favourite saga in Dragonball Z and proves that overwhelming success is possible with these kinds of storylines. Conversely, ignoring the fact this might have given too much information away, I feel more attached to Naruto and simply don’t want to see him die. There were actually so many times in life where I came close to giving up on things, but remembering Naruto’s determination filled me with courage and inspired me to see things through to the end. Regardless of whether it stagnated towards the end, what made Naruto particularly special was its inspirational message and capacity to deeply move people.
Contrasting the bleak flashforwards, the opening theme displays a vibrant and colourful palette that is a real treat to the eyes. My eyes were literally glued to the screen and remained so with relentless action always being around the corner. The parkour sequence was a juicy feast allowing the series to hit the ground running in terms of showcasing Boruto’s fun spirit. I feel Boruto (Sanpei Yuuko) has the right mix between competent and obnoxious. His general aptitude and sense of justice alleviate prior misgivings I had towards his bratty side. Shikidai (Ono Kensho) has all the capabilities of a young Shikamaru alongside a healthy fear of his mother, motivating him towards taking action. He will certainly be successful in life, barring incredible misfortune. Denki may be timid, but there’s no doubt his future role will be to demonstrate the positive influence Boruto has on others and to support Boruto in his times of need.
But sometimes, you must wonder, it seems a touch too coincidental that a lot of these new generation shinobi just happen to be the same age. How come the older generation all ended up procreating around the same time? Dattebayo. Moving onto genuine concerns, what was that shadow snake which could only be perceived by Boruto’s mysterious and special eye? Was the snake an independent agent of evil preying off Denki’s vulnerability or was it arranged by Denki’s father as part of some Faustian cahoots with evil? Something is definitely suspicious and I have so many questions to ask. But I suppose we will have to wait and see what the implications of these events are later on. Nonetheless, I sense a deep friendship blossoming between Boruto and the next generation ninjas which will probably end up deciding the outcome of the future war that destroys Konohagakure.
What I love about these newer characters is that they still remain so refreshing and fun to watch despite arguable overlaps with the older generation – I think enough distinction is made for Generation Xerox to be averted. The script is also well-written enough for me to retract my statement that Pierrot were milking the franchise dry. Maybe the fresh creative direction resulting from a change in mangaka has a lot to do with this. Seeing the family life of the Uzumaki household was definitely cute, especially the close sibling relationship between Boruto and Himawari (Hayama Saori). Hinata is one my favourite characters in Naruto and I have always been cheering her on, so seeing her long-time love continue to bear fruit fills me with great satisfaction.
There is much to look forwards to in terms of where Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is heading. The upcoming action and fighting at the Ninja Academy is to be greatly anticipated, and I also can’t wait to see how the modernisation of Konohagakure goes, as it looks to be in the middle of an Industrial Revolution.
Times seem peaceful and prosperous, and maybe Boruto has no comparable problems on his plate to the younger Naruto, but every generation has their own complex struggles that should not be trivialised – even if they are supposed to have it ‘better’. Therefore I really hope we see some progress in Boruto’s relationship with Naruto in future episodes, as Boruto seems intent on finding his own path so he can avoid following his father’s footsteps. With a kage being one of the shinobi world’s pinnacles, it is certainly quite a difficult act to follow through as the next generation. However, if the introductory segment is anything to go by, Boruto will eventually come around to accepting the ninja ways.
Hopefully, people will give Boruto the chance it deserves. Although those unfamiliar with Naruto can treat it as a standalone spinoff and dive in straight away, they should go back and finish the original series in order to get the best experience possible. For old fans of Naruto, this is a fantastic experience that cannot be ignored.