Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 44 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
As the Byakuya Gang continues to rob the Hidden Leaf's top 1% blind, our young heroes are driven to question what truly constitutes right and wrong in a reflective Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. In an interesting departure from the typical kid-centric shonen series, the current story arc doesn't force a narrow notion of good and bad on its audience—opting instead to present them with a range of opinions that allows them to draw their own conclusions. Although there's nothing particularly new or interesting about the Byakuya Gang as characters, their presence has helped imbue the show with a surprisingly mature tone.
With their manpower stretched to the limit, the Leaf's police force decides to allow the newly-minted Genin to assist them in their pursuit of the Byakuya gang. However, there's a catch: these inexperienced rookies are only allowed to track and tail their targets, and a seasoned Chunin or Jonin must be contacted as soon as the gang is spotted. Unsurprisingly, this rule is broken almost immediately, resulting in Metal incurring a broken arm, courtesy of Ryogi, the son of the gang's boss and Shikadai's new friend. This only strengthens Boruto's resolve to bring the perps to justice, although even he is forced to acknowledge their desire to help people. When the gang's latest heist is interrupted by Temari, Boruto and Shikadai are called upon to assist her, but the latter proves hesitant and ineffective, resulting in a quick getaway—and possibly hinting that he's figured out the identity of his new chum.
In much the same manner as Boruto and his friends, Ryogi appears set to inherit his parent's legacy. His conversations with Shikadai about the gray areas that exist within traditionally-defined “good” and “evil” are reasonably thought-provoking, especially for a franchise built around action and comedy. He's rather reticent to speak about anything else, but he comes to life when discussing the righteous causes that drive the gang's action. In an interesting parallel, the perpetually deadpan Shikadai becomes noticeably excited when Boruto shows him the video games he borrowed from Katatsuke. The contrast emphasizes that Shikadai, despite his Shikamaru-esque maturity, is still a child at heart, while Ryogi has been groomed for bigger things and forced to mature at a faster pace than most kids. His refusal to tell his father and fellow thieves about his games in the park with Shikadai suggests that he's afraid to reveal his childish side. (Though it's equally likely that he's afraid he'd be accused of fraternizing with the enemy.)
While episode 44 does a decent job of discussing moral gray areas and raising the issue of class inequality, it's also one of the show's most action-lite episodes to date. Even though it features Temari's first instance of fighting someone outside of her family, none of her attack scenes are particularly impressive. The field trip arc from a few months back was able to balance out heavy subject matter with the usual fisticuffs and wacky hijinks, and it's a shame the staff didn't look to it as a template for future adventures. Still, if they're trying to avoid painting the Byakuya Gang in too villainous a light, this might have been unavoidable.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is taking its time to develop the friendship between Shikadai and Ryogi while working Boruto's own opinions on morality into the story. Although the slow-burn approach has worked okay for the current arc up to this point, the next episode would be an opportune time to pick up the pace. Now that the story's core messages have been thoughtfully communicated, ruminating on them for much longer isn't likely to serve much purpose.
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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