The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
How would you rate episode 1 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
With Shippuden finally having come to a close, it's time for a new generation of ninjas. Boruto has arrived.
It was a weird feeling, returning to the Hidden Leaf Village. I'd fallen off the Naruto manga years before, but was still solidly familiar with all the main players, so watching Boruto's first episode felt even more like returning to a town I hadn't seen in a long time. Some people have left, others have gotten married, and nothing seems exactly quite how you left it.
Boruto embraces this spirit of change, much to its benefit. It's inherently thrilling to see the Hidden Leaf Village adopt a variety of faux-modern changes (Naruto has always embraced a pretty loose technological moment), and fun to see what all the old leads have been up to. As a love letter to existing fans, Boruto shines - but even on its own merits, this is a strong premiere.
For one thing, the show looks great. Long-running adaptations have a tendency to fall apart visually over time, but Boruto at least opens with stellar animation and great overall art design. Watching Boruto parkour over the pipes and pillars of his hometown takes great advantage of Masashi Kishimoto's detail-heavy architectural design sense, making the mere act of exploring this town into an adventure. The backgrounds of the Hidden Leaf Village are awash in detail and color, and strong animation is applied with equal effectiveness to acrobatic feats and small details of character acting. Even the opening sequence is full of dynamic colors and creative typography.
Story-wise this is all pretty routine material, but the episode has a sharp sense of pacing and a clear thematic center. Essentially everything in this episode gestures to either the passage of time or the relationships between parents and their children, from larger shifts like the technological changes to the course of the story itself. I winced a little when Boruto outright declared “staying on the tracks isn't for us” at the end (symbolism!), but other than that, this was a focused first step in a story that will presumably take a larger, multi-generational approach to its drama. Overall, Boruto's first episode is a rousing introduction to the next chapter in the Naruto saga.
With over 700 anime episodes and numerous movies under its belt (and that's without counting the Rock Lee and His Ninja Pals spin-off), entrance into the Naruto franchise can be daunting. This seems as good a jumping-on point as any, though, as little more than a passing familiarity with the franchise is necessary to follow the first episode. If you know the original series’ basic premise and who key characters like Naruto, Hinata, and Shikamaru are, that's probably good enough. Of course, long-term fans will get a lot more out of the first episode as they spy the offspring of various characters from the earlier stages of the franchise, but those are more bones thrown out than strictly necessary knowledge.
And while this series is listed in some places as a sequel to Boruto -Naruto the Movie-, beyond the prologue the events of this episode actually take place before the movie, as Boruto isn't yet part of the Ninja Academy. That raises the question of whether the TV series’ events will eventually mesh with those of the movie or outright replace them, but I'm guessing that it will be some time before we find that out. For now, the new series is off to a pretty solid start – better than that of the original series, in fact. Despite his physical similarity to Naruto at the same age, Boruto is definitely a different character. Instead of being a goofy, orphaned outsider desperate to fit in, Boruto comes from a stable family home and apparently doesn't get along with his Hokage father too well. Unlike his father at the same age, he is very personable and obviously quite talented, and as son of the Hokage a lot will doubtless be expected from him up front. The relationship he strikes up with Denki over the course of the episode already looks promising, as do the suggestions that he has a special eye which allows him to perceive some things beyond the norm, and the series certainly doesn't play second fiddle to its predecessor on the action front. The way the train car crashes in to Naruto's mountainside face near the end of the episode is also amusingly symbolic.
The technical merits seem pretty solid so far, too, with attention paid to a series of elaborate maneuvers that Boruto does early on. Naturally some of the appeal here is seeing familiar characters from the earlier series in their adult forms and their offspring (which is why I've always been a fan of generational stories), although it does smack of being a bit too coincidental that so many major characters have children all the same age. Be willing to accept that, though, and you've got a solid start to the next stage of one of anime's most voluminous franchises.
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