Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
The Uchiha/Haruno family reunites as the Leaf's newest enemy fully reveals himself in a Boruto-less installment of Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. Viewers are given more insight into why Sasuke almost never shows his face in the village, though what we learn isn't terribly surprising. Episode 21 also marks the original Team 7's first on-screen reunion since the end of the Fourth Shinobi World War, which is a treat for fans of the parent series. On top of this, Sarada is forced to face some hard truths this week, as her long-awaited meetup with her father is far from the warm reunion she had hoped for.
Following a needlessly long recap of the previous episode, we open on Sasuke mistaking his daughter for an enemy. Although he quickly realizes his mistake, Sarada is understandably hurt. When Sasuke thoughtlessly dismisses her questions, Sarada decides that she'll need to track down Karin to get the answers she seeks. Realizing that Sasuke is doing important work in locating and stamping out Kaguya-level threats, Naruto encourages Sarada to give her father one more shot. Shortly thereafter, the group is attacked by Shin Uchiha from last week and his master, who also identifies himself as Shin Uchiha. Master Shin, whose body is covered with Sharingan eyes, reveals that his goal is to resurrect the Akatsuki. After Shin uses his weapon-controlling powers to stab Naruto with Sasuke's sword, Sakura arrives on the scene and knocks Shin out with a super-powered punch. However, this victory is short-lived, as Shin then transports himself, his cohort, and Sakura (though he meant to get Sarada) to his hideout, where a group of clones stand at the ready.
Sasuke's lack of interest in his daughter and continued selfishness (even in the name of self-sacrifice and atonement) is aggravating but perfectly in character. While it's true that he's currently the only person in possession of the Rinnegan, it doesn't seem like the Naruto-verse currently has enough Rinnegan-level threats to warrant his utter lack of presence at home. It doesn't even seem like Naruto supports the path his friend has taken. Still, when he takes a moment to briefly reflect on the fact that he almost stabbed his daughter, causing her to cower in fear before him, the viewer is at least given a small sense of his affection for her. Both Sasuke and Naruto are frustratingly vague in this episode at several points. Although a simple “Yes, Sakura is your mother” might have been helpful, their insistence on dodging the question seems to be purely for dramatic tension. Telling her this and having her continue not to believe it would have been a more believable approach.
Design-wise, Master Shin is a sight to behold, but in practice, he hasn't proven himself to be a particularly original antagonist. So far, he and his same-named cohort function more as obstacles in Sarada's path than interesting characters in their own right. It's a minor gripe—and the Shins may yet redeem themselves in future installments—but based on what we've seen, they haven't posed a substantial threat to our heroes. (Part of this probably has to do with Naruto and Sasuke basically being invincible by this point.)
Although Sarada is still curious about her parentage, seeing her parents interact and reaffirm their love for her appears to have cooled her desire for answers. With Sakura now a hostage, Sarada and Sasuke (and Naruto and Cho-Cho) will have to work together, which will presumably help them forge a bond. While the villains have yet to wow the audience, this arc's core themes of identity and family and its excellent character writing continue to make it a worthwhile watch.
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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