Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 48 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
Having wrapped up the Byakuya Gang arc, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations returns to telling single-episode stories in the lead-up to the Chunin exams. Team Udon, which consists of Denki, Iwabe, and Metal, is the first to receive its own story, and the results are a decidedly mixed bag. While there are some decent jokes and fun character interactions scattered throughout, the episode's overall message becomes muddled toward the end, and the general tone is more serious than a story like this warrants. Despite being a definite improvement over the latter half of the previous arc, Boruto's latest outing is far from the best self-contained episode this shown has given us.
Fresh off their recent suspension, Team Udon is tasked with a brand new mission—serving as the focal point for a documentary designed to increase the Ninja Academy's enrollment numbers. With this year's Chunin exams right around the corner, the perpetually held-back Iwabe is dead-set on proving his mettle and excelling at his team's latest assignment. Unfortunately, things quickly go south with the director, who's more interested in showcasing eye-catching jutsus than actually documenting the daily lives of his subjects. This eventually leads Udon to pull his team out of this mission, prompting the director to call his students “losers” and “dropouts.” However, following a failed stunt, the film crew find themselves in mortal danger, prompting their former subjects to come to their rescue and display how capable they truly are. As the audience learns through a fun bit of gross-out humor, Udon has turned his constantly runny nose into a powerful weapon. In the end, the director insists that Team Udon is the only group he wishes to document, and Naruto offers the boys hearty congratulations. (He also reveals that even at this stage in his life, he's technically never risen above the rank of Genin.)
While it's certainly true that there's more to being a shinobi than simply looking cool, it's understandable that the director (terrible person though he is) would want his film to emphasize jutsus. Not only do they look pretty cool, this type of content is more apt to encourage children to enroll in the Academy, so the question of whether or not the boys should show off for the camera is murky. (Watching pre-teens do menial construction work is unlikely to instill excitement in children.) Naruto lamenting the fact that Academy enrollment is down because of all the non-ninja careers that have sprung up in the years following the war is also slightly troubling. Isn't this type of lasting peace what the Leaf and its allies fought so hard for? One would think he'd be happy about a living in a world in which children didn't feel compelled to become covert ops and soldiers.
Though the climax at the rapidly collapsing abandoned building makes sense from a narrative standpoint—the camera crew is in over their heads and get saved by the kids in an actual life-or-death situation—it feels like Udon and his students go about the rescue haphazardly. Instead of simply grabbing the crew members and carrying them to safety, which would have taken two seconds, the show pads the sequence in an effort to give each character a chance to shine. Further solidifying his reputation as “the smart one,” Denki once again uses his netbook to analyze the situation, and just like in the Byakuya Gang arc, the discovery he makes is something that should be obvious to any other character: the building is going to collapse and the crew needs to get out. Since this is primarily an action series, it makes sense that each Genin has an opportunity to strut their stuff, but if the episode's core message is that ninjutsu isn't always flashy and exciting, needlessly drawing out the big rescue undermines that. For example, Udon waits until the film crew comes within a hair's breadth of being crushed by falling rubble to save them, when an immediate evacuation would have eliminated the need for this.
As a fun change of pace after the previous arc's disappointing conclusion, this week's Boruto: Naruto Next Generations revisits one of the franchise's central themes: even if it takes a long time, hard work and persistent effort will always pay off in the end. Though predictable and somewhat ineffective at communicating its message, episode 48 is fine for what it is—a self-contained story about underused supporting characters. With Sumire, Namida, and Wasabi set to take center stage next week, it looks like we'll spending even more time with Boruto's former classmates before the next big arc commences.
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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