Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
Episode 144

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 144 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?

As Kokuri's secrets are exposed and Tsukiyo sets his master plan into motion, Team 7's latest mission enters its endgame in an intrigue-laden Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. After Tsukiyo offers him all of the money Kokuri stole in exchange for moving the timid accountant to Hozuki Castle 2 (where other members of the Mujina Gang are housed), Benga attempts to recruit the money-obsessed Kamata as a spy. Not wishing to lose all the funds he's secretly squirreled away, Kamata reluctantly agrees and proceeds to follow Team 7 and Kokuri. After being fooled by one of Sarada's genjutsu, Kokuri reveals that he immediately donated all the stolen money to the aptly-named Medical Foundation—the same organization that supplied funding for Kamata's sick sister to receive treatment. Unwilling to betray his sister's benefactor, Kamata keeps the information he learned secret from Benga and is promptly transferred to solitary and given an extended sentence.

Shortly thereafter, Mujo attempts to fire Benga for his underhanded treatment of inmates but falls victim to a conveniently-timed cardiac episode while the corrupt warden is still in his office. With Mujo incapacitated, Benga declares himself lord of Hozuki Castle and agrees to Tsukiyo's bargain. Now that Kokuri (who was scheduled to be released on parole) has less than a week before his transfer, Boruto and company decide that their only option is to break him out of Hozuki Castle and bring him to the Hidden Leaf.

Despite telegraphing that Kokuri was a far more sinister figure than appearances suggested last week, the show pulls off a solid fake-out by revealing that he and the remaining guest characters are essentially whom they appeared to be from the get-go. This week's episode—combined with this arc's previous installments—does a great job of building up the mystery behind Kokuri's motive and then turning audience expectation on its head. While it would have been interesting to see Team 7 devote precious time and energy to protecting someone who's a villain at their core, it's a relief to discover that Kokuri is indeed someone we can root for. Even the perpetually self-serving Kamata can find no fault with his actions or motives.

After sitting on the sidelines for the past few weeks, Sarada is given a crucial role in extracting key information from Kokuri. Had she been more active in previous installments, the elaborate genjutsu she pulls off may have come as less of a surprise. The move understandably takes Kokuri by surprise, given that Hozuki Castle is supposed to be a ninjutsu-free zone, and it's a testament to his character that he makes an effort to protect one of the ninja tasked with protecting him.

Despite the episode's various strong points, it's hard to overlook the comically convenient timing of Mujo's medical emergency. Had Benga—or any of the other baddies—done something to facilitate this, it would be a different story, but Benga appears just as surprised as the audience by his good fortune. It's also still unclear why Team 7's presence had to be kept under wraps to such an extreme degree. One would think that the warden, of all people, would be kept in the know regarding such an arrangement. Perhaps Mujo knew that Benga was untrustworthy to begin with? And if that were the case, why didn't he move to fire him sooner?

This week's Boruto: Naruto Next Generations does a good job of further defining this arc's principal players and setting the stage for an exciting finale. With next week's episode covering another staple of prison fiction—plotting and enacting a daring escape—it looks like our heroes will continue to have their work cut out for them.

Rating:

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.


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