Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
Less than two weeks after the conclusion of Naruto Shippūden, Naruto's impetuous son, Boruto Uzumaki, inherits the starring role from his old man. From the outset, it's clear that this sequel series intends to play the long game, though it's far too early to say whether it will have the staying power of its predecessor. The brief flash-forward the episode starts with suggests that the audience will be privy to the titular character's entire adolescence, so it's safe to assume that the brains behind this operation see Boruto: Naruto Next Generations as a years-long affair.
Following that flash-forward, which finds a teen or adult Boruto fighting an enemy known as Kawaki, the story officially begins on the eve of Boruto's entrance into the Ninja Academy. Resentful of his perpetually busy father, who's currently serving as the village's Seventh Hokage, young Boruto doesn't share his dad's lofty ambitions, content to spend his days having fun. After saving a brainy young man named Denki from some local bullies, Boruto is surprised to learn that his new friend is the heir to the Kaminarimon Corporation, the Leaf's foremost electronics company. Although Denki's overbearing father wants him to take part in the Academy's ninjutsu curriculum, Denki himself is mostly intimidated by the idea. Dejected, Denki is soon possessed by an unseen evil entity, which entices him to settle the score with the bullies from earlier by killing them in a train crash. Fortunately, Boruto soon catches wind of what's happening and brings Denki to his senses before any loss of life can occur. The story culminates in Boruto and Denki arriving at the Academy's entrance ceremony in an off-the-rails train car, which they crash directly into Naruto's likeness on Hokage Rock. His father was infamous for defacing this landmark, so as Boruto proves, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Taking the audience through Boruto's time at the Ninja Academy represents a potentially interesting change of pace, especially since he's already a genin and part of a three-person cell at the beginning of the Boruto -Naruto the Movie- feature film and the Boruto parent manga. Aside from a handful of flashbacks and anime-original fillers, we didn't see much of Naruto as a student, so watching the protagonist tackle the Academy's curriculum may prove fascinating. A number of other successful shonen series have featured superpowered school settings, and on paper, Boruto seems like a good fit for this type of backdrop.
The lack of prominent supporting characters introduced this week is yet another indicator that the show is in it for the long haul. Whereas previous iterations have immediately introduced teammates Sarada (Sakura and Sasuke's daughter) and Mitsuki (Orochimaru's child), the first installment of the television series features only a few seconds of Sarada, and Mitsuki makes no appearance outside of the opening credits. Aside from Shikamaru and Temari's son, Shikadai, and Choji and Karui's daughter, Chocho, no other Hidden Leaf 11 offspring make any noteworthy appearances this week. Pushing the children of the previous series' supporting players to the side in favor of fleshing out Denki may be a conscious effort on the staff's part to distinguish Next Generations from its predecessor and avoid just giving viewers more of the same. Shikadai, for example, is practically a carbon copy of his father in both appearance and personality.
While this episode proves enjoyable for the most part, Boruto's freshman outing is fairly by-the-numbers shonen fare, in everything from the carefree hero to the nerdy and ostracized sidekick to the mysterious villain lurking in the shadows. Fortunately, the show is able to make many of its familiar elements feel fresh while preventing its main character from feeling like a rehash of his father. Speaking of Naruto, his rocky relationship with his son has been a central plot point in nearly every piece of Boruto media, and I wouldn't mind seeing it downplayed for a while, if for no other reason than it's already starting to feel played out. Based on the limited screen time he receives this week, Naruto may not be a major presence on the show, which should prove beneficial to Next Generations' efforts to carve out its own identity. For the time being, if Boruto continues to adeptly blend familiar elements with fun new ideas, subsequent installments should prove just as riveting.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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