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Anime Review: 'Boruto' (Episodes 1-15)

I've been an anime fan since the 90s and have blogged about anime since 2010. I've seen it all, done it all, and gotten the t-shirt.

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Boruto is a continuation of the story of Naruto Shippuden focusing on Naruto's teenage son, Boruto. It appears to be a more modern era in the Naruto universe, with more technology being available. Naruto is constantly busy as the seventh Hokage. Though the title comes with great prestige, since Naruto is always working, Boruto never gets to see his old man. This causes Boruto to resent his father.

Other characters show up at ninja school, most of which are the spawn of various Naruto characters. Metal Lee, Rock Lee's kid, looks exactly like him. Most kids at this school have powers similar to those of their parents. The show has its moments of intense action, but in these beginning episodes at least, it's mostly about the kids making their debuts and making friends at school.

Plot & Characters

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The plot (of the first 15 episodes) revolves around Boruto awakening his abilities, while he's also becoming friends with all of his classmates. It's also about different fighting teams of young ninja working together, learning how to master their powers, battle strategy, and teamwork. Some of Naruto's old buddies now show up as either parents or teachers. The plot of these beginning episodes progresses from light-hearted to serious, feeling like any of a number of "magic academy" type anime. What makes this show different is the distinctive Naruto feel of it, and the way the show focuses on the strain raising a new generation has on the old.

The New Main Characters:

  • Boruto: A less emotionally effusive version of Naruto as a boy, which is a good thing. His main inner conflict is that he wants to be seen for who he is as an individual, not just as the son of the Hokage.
  • Chōchō: A "chubby", brown-skinned girl, who loves her snacks, but is also very strong. At first she seems like a token/comic relief fatty, but the show gradually explores her inner complexity as a character.
  • Mitsugi: The mysterious transfer student, resembling Kaworu from Neon Genesis Evangelion a little. He acts as Boruto's right hand man and has formidable snake-related powers.
  • Sumire: The class rep, with purple braids. Seems to lack self-confidence.
  • Sarada: A girl with black hair and glasses, who's pretty deadly with shuriken. She has a serious personality. She's Sakura and Sasuke's daughter.
  • Metal Lee: His shtick is that he'd be a lot more powerful if he didn't have social anxiety.
  • Denki: The computer nerd.

Info

Title:Boruto: Naruto Next Generations

Episodes:

93+ (Ongoing)

Studio:

Pierrot

Director:

Noriyuki Abe, Hiroyuki Yamashita (Episodes 1-66), Toshirō Fujii (Episodes 67+)

Source Material:

Manga Written by Ukyō Kodachi, Illustrated by Mikio Ikemoto

Year:

2017 - present

Review

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I found myself surprised by how much I got involved with, and enjoyed, this anime. During the height of Naruto's popularity, said popularity caused me to check out. I stopped caring about it, and I got sick of all the cosplayers, fan-fic writers, and absolute fanatics who only watched Naruto (and maybe Bleach) and never any other anime. I barely considered such people "anime fans" since they were really just Naruto fans - and that caused me to have to separate them from fans of anime in general whenever I wanted to try to interact with other anime fans.

So I see Naruto, not as a show or a manga series, but as a personal headache, a kind of orange wave I had to weather, now, finally, past. Behind me. But now that I'm no longer being battered by the wave, I can look at, study, and talk about Naruto more objectively. I can separate the art from the behavior of its fans, and from their sheer number, which was infuriating to me back then because it was, like I said, a snub to much better anime that existed.

The main reason I never really liked Naruto was that I could not bring myself to like the characters. That's a major flaw for a serialized, long-running manga/show. If you don't like the characters, why would you invest so much time to be involved with them? I didn't like angry road cone, I didn't like Hot Topic boy, and I definitely didn't like Bystander McForehead, the neutralest of all neutral females. I mildly liked their teacher, but he was not enough to make the show interesting for me. I got sick to death of all the "jumping through forests while talking and nothing else happens" episodes.

For me, then, I anticipated Boruto with cynical dread, extremely pessimistic expectations. But it turns out I was wrong about that - Boruto surprised me by giving me characters I found myself liking and rooting for. Oh and girls aren't passive bystanders now, they're just as active in the conflict as the boys. That was another thing I really liked.

Boruto was engaging, getting and sustaining my attention in a way that anime series rarely manage. Boruto as a character had all the good parts of Naruto as a character, without his annoyingly orange clothing or his annoyingly over-the-top loudness. He seems like a nice boy with a good head on his shoulders, who will one day be well-suited for leadership himself. He was a little spoiled, but that creates room for character development. The truth is I never saw so much potential for leadership in Naruto when he was young. I just saw a whiny, yelling, annoying kid. Watching Boruto grow and learn is more satisfying because it feels like Boruto, in a matter of a few episodes, stands out as a leader among his classmates.

Another great thing the show has going for it are the visuals. Ninja world is updated, has more modern technology, and the animation looks amazing. I also appreciated the character designs, which looked more refined than original Naruto. Although they recycled the unfortunate bowl cut with Metal Lee. Every frame of this anime pops with vibrant color, and each character has a memorable, unique appearance.

Some fans of Naruto thought Boruto is a relatively weak series. It certainly doesn't have as much high-stakes action, at least in the very beginning. The show escalates midway through, and characters gradually move up from play-fighting to really battling evil. In this arc, Boruto himself did a lot of maturing. But, it would have been nice to see more of these side characters (who I came to like) play a more active role in the conflict too. My hope for later episodes is that they will all become important to a battle against a bigger threat, and that they will end up working well together in teams. It will also be interesting to see more of the show, to see what changes and what stays the same in the Naruto world.

© 2019 Rachael Lefler