Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 86 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
With the endgame within reach, Ohnoki lays his motives bare in this week's somber installment. As Ku and his minions carry out a coup d'etat in the Hidden Stone, Ohnoki decides to tell Boruto the truth and hope he sees fit to cooperate with his plan. As the old man reveals, the plan was set into motion by the death of his grandson Kozuchi, who was killed while trying to prevent thieves from making off with village secrets. Reasoning that no more young shinobi should die in such a manner, Ohnoki joined forces with the as-yet-unnamed mad scientist figure and used White Zetsu cells to craft the five Fabrications, as well as the Akuta they'd command. However, since their life-forces are so unstable, Ohnoki is hoping to learn the secret of how to create studier Fabrications by studying Mitsuki. Having seen the Fabrications in action, Boruto points out that they clearly posses personalities and individual will, so expecting them to die in the place of human shinobi is immoral. Frustrated by Boruto's lack of cooperation, Ohnoki decides that the two are now enemies again just as Kakou, who's been tasked with locating his master, appears on the scene.
On one hand, Kozuchi's death provides some much-needed context for Ohnoki's actions. On the other, fridged loved ones, especially children who want to become their village's top shinobi, have become one of this franchise's most woefully overused tropes. The fact that these youngsters have big aspirations is supposed to make their untimely deaths all the more tragic, but at this point, it's been overdone to the point of feeling like self-plagiarism. Unsurprisingly, Kozuchi bears a strong resemblance (both physically and personality-wise) to Naruto and Boruto.
While Ohnoki is likely to experience some degree of redemption by the end of this arc, the fact that a character who was once firmly in the “good guy” camp has taken on the role of chief antagonist is certainly noteworthy. Sure, Sasuke, Orochimaru, and Kabuto (among others) have all gone to the dark side and later experienced varying levels of redemption, but unlike Ohnoki, they were always colored with shades of gray. Assuming the old man makes it through this story alive, it seems unlikely that he'll be fully forgiven for what he's done, especially since his creations have murdered Leaf shinobi. However, regardless of whether he lives or dies, his role in the Naruto-verse has been permanently altered.
While Ohnoki's reasons for crossing over into well-intentioned villainy are very by-the-numbers, they help explain why he's so hellbent on seeing his plan through to the end—and why he refuses to accept the obvious truths Boruto hits him with. It's not a particularly unique impetus for villainous actions, nor does the flashback have time enough to elicit much empathy in the audience, but it's serviceable, if nothing else. With Kakou and Boruto set to duke it out next week, it's entirely possible that an action-packed third act will help this arc finish strong.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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