Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 46 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
The Byakuya Gang saga heads toward its endgame as the heroes catch wind of their enemy's true intentions. Unfortunately, as the action heats up, the more thoughtful aspects of the story take a backseat. Although the show had been dealing with the theme of social inequality, this issue is resolved in a lukewarm, unsatisfying manner—which is particularly disappointing, given the story's length. While there's still time left for the storyline to redeem itself, it's starting to seem like the creative minds behind Boruto have bitten off more than they can chew.
After Shikadai discovers that the protests outside of the Kaminarimon Company's home office are simply a smokescreen for a robbery of Katasuke's laboratory, Ino-Shika-Cho and Team 7 set off in pursuit of Gekko, Ryogi, and the other thieves. Although they couldn't stop them from stealing Katasuke's “magnum opus,” the kids are able to corner their targets in the woods and immobilize everyone but Gekko and Ryogi, who escape and stow away on a train headed out of the country, only to be intercepted by Boruto and Shikadai.
Back in the Leaf, Denki reveals that the chief protestors are being manipulated by Gekko's seal instead of being driven by a genuine sense of class outrage. Following the removal of the seals and a vague, platitude-laden speech by Naruto, the protest dies down and its participants decide to rally behind the Hokage to make the village a better place.
While Denki noticing the seals on the protestors' necks at least gives the boy something to do—and helps establish him as a more observant, “intelligent” ninja than many of his peers—the seals themselves are so large and obvious that the police's failure to notice them sooner is strange. Even when it became clear that the protests were meant to serve as a diversion, no one on the Leaf's police force thought to keep an eye out for such a thing? Since the show never fully committed to it, the class warfare subplot was ultimately a waste of time, and Naruto's generalized promise that things can change for those who are struggling “bit by bit” if they try to do things in a more “honest” way basically undermines the value protests can have when there are actual injustices at play. Denki shrugging off the angry masses and casually proclaiming that “not everyone can be successful” a couple episodes back appeared to be setting him up for a lesson in humility, but it looks like that was yet another missed opportunity.
It's fitting that Shikadai uses shogi analogies to outmaneuver Ryogi, though like Boruto, he sees no need to inform the adults of his discovery before pursuing his targets. In the end, the friendship between Shikadai and Ryogi has proven to be the most interesting facet of this storyline, so Shikadai playing a central role in bringing down the Byakuya Gang is very much warranted, as is partnering him up with the titular hero for the final battle. Unfortunately, now that he's essentially wearing his true intentions on his sleeve, Gekko has completed his transformation into a boring, one-note villain. This story initially seemed primed to present a shades-of-gray antagonist, but it's now become fairly apparent that Gekko has been in it for himself all along, thus making him considerably less interesting.
With another ho-hum chapter under its belt, Boruto's latest storyline is bound and determined to slow-walk it to the finish. The subplot involving economic inequality and the downside of rapid expansion in the Leaf is concluded in such a lazy, slapdash manner that it may as well have never been attempted, and the conflict with the Byakuya Gang grows less interesting with each passing week. With any luck, this story will wrap up next week and clear the way for something better in the near future.
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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