Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 43 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
As a new story arc commences, Team 7 meets its newest foes: the Byakuya Gang, a band of noble thieves who steal from the rich and give to the poor. Unlike Boruto's previous adversaries, these thieves don't appear to have much in the way of raw power, but their spot-on deception abilities and unique jutsus ensure that they aren't a threat to be taken lightly. Although this week's installment is all but devoid of action, it presents some thought-provoking moral quandaries and introduces us to an interesting new character.
We find out early in the episode that Haguruma's botched bank robbery had merely been a diversion for a much larger theft. While the authorities were tied up with the disenfranchised game designer, the Byakuya Gang made off with a vault full of priceless jewels and effortlessly made their way around a seemingly ironclad security system. (One of the thieves can lower his body temperature to zero degrees, ensuring that his presence isn't detected by any heat sensors.) Despite his peers' admiration for the group's Robin Hood-esque mission, Boruto reasons that stealing is wrong under any circumstances and vows to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, after it's revealed that a portion of the profits made from the stolen jewels were used to pay for desperately needed water wheel repairs in a poor rural village, Boruto begins to feel conflicted. Meanwhile, at his father's behest, Shikadai begins studying shogi and unknowingly strikes up a friendship with the Byakuya Gang's youngest member.
It's odd that Team 7 is so invested in taking down the Byakuya Gang, especially considering how minor their crimes are compared to those of previous villains. Still, this is likely being done in service of setting up a moral dilemma for Boruto, who's historically seen things as black-and-white. As Shikadai develops a closer relationship with the yet-unnamed thief, it will become more difficult for him and his friends to enforce the law. It's interesting for Boruto, who's wanted for nothing in his life, to be confronted with a situation where he has to think about what constitutes “right” and “wrong” in helping the less fortunate. He still appears to be in the “stealing is always wrong” camp, but when he sees the good things the thieves have done with their spoils, the spark of internal conflict begins to flicker.
Shikadai receiving some individual focus is a welcome change of pace. He's still very much a child-sized clone of his father, but seeing him operate outside of the usual group makes him seem more like a character and less like a sounding board to his more energetic peers. Also noteworthy is the appearance of harried scientist Katatsuke, a secondary character from Boruto Naruto the Movie. Since the film in question is set to be re=adapted in the near future, it makes sense to establish a preexisting relationship between him and the titular character. He's decidedly goofier in this incarnation—Boruto shrugs off his obvious stalking of Naruto and the entire Uzumaki family—but not to the point of being unrecognizable, and it's easy to see him taking on a more prominent supporting role as the series progresses.
When the so-called “bad guys” aren't evil incarnate and a clearly defined antagonist is absent altogether, stories tend to become less black-and-white. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, like many shonen action series, has often leaned toward conflicts that are fairly cut-and-dry, so seeing it tackle a storyline that establishes shades of gray is an intriguing prospect. Let's just hope the creative minds behind Boruto are able to pull it off.
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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