Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 97 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations keeps the side-story train rolling this week with a solidly Shikadai-centric outing. After Shikadai flubs the Shadow Paralysis Jutsu on several consecutive missions, Enchu, the Nara Clan's elder, decides being a professional ninja may not be the best career path for the young man and suggests that he go into politics. Enchu even goes so far as to secure Shikadai an apprenticeship with the Fire Country's feudal lord and promises to stop meddling in his father's affairs if he agrees. To the great surprise of his peers and parents, Shikadai accepts Enchu's offer and announces his intent to quit being a ninja.
Denki, who's recently helped his father's company develop a cutting-edge wind-powered electric plant, takes the news particularly hard. Although he understands loyalty to one's family, he also believes that even the worst situation can be changed with enough work. The boys' conversation is cut short when a malfunction at the plant threatens to cause a gigantic explosion. Aided by Denki's technological know-how, Shikadai is able to remedy the situation with his mother's Wind Style: Dance of Turbulence—and not the Nara Clan's Shadow Paralysis Jutsu. (Though he is able to save Denki's life with the latter.) Rather than limit himself to his father's signature technique, Shikadai vows to stop placing barriers on what he can do and decides against going into politics.
In his youth, Shikamaru often exhibited a greater degree of responsibility than his peers, but he never experienced familial pressure on such a grand scale. As the prodigy of one of the Leaf's most prominent clans and the Sand's royal family, Shikadai feels obligated to live up to two impressive legacies, and he can't afford to adopt his old man's laid-back approach to life. As it turns out, a lot of the pressure Shikadai feels is self-inflicted. For example, he's limited himself to using the Shadow Paralysis Jutsu because of a mistaken belief that his father would be hurt if he branched out into Wind Style techniques. Even though his parents don't pressure him into acquiescing to Enchu's wishes, he does so because he believes this will make things easier for them. The lesson he takes away from all this—it's fine to carry on your family's legacy, but doing so shouldn't come at the expense of your own happiness—is a fairly predictable one (and one that other characters in the franchise have already learned), but Shikadai's short journey provides some interesting insight into the character's general mindset and helps distinguish him from his father, of whom he often appears to be a carbon copy.
Though their backgrounds are notably different, Denki shares Shikadai's burden of familial expectations, so it's fitting that he's the one to provide Shikadai with his light-bulb moment—even though the two haven't had many onscreen interactions since graduation. Denki delivering his inspirational speech in the midst of a looming plant meltdown kind of strains credulity, but since said meltdown facilitates Shikadai using his mother's technique, this is ultimately forgivable. (It's also a little strange that aside from Denki, the plant appears to be completely unmanned.) In the same vein, while it serves to set the story in motion, Shikadai consistently flubbing the Shadow Paralysis Jutsu seems inconsistent with past stories. While he may lack his father's mastery of the technique, he's been perfectly proficient at it in a number of high-stakes situations. He even came incredibly close to beating Boruto during the Chunin exams despite the latter's cheating.
Of the current crop of Leaf Genin, Shikadai is arguably the closest in personality to his parents—at least on the surface. In fact, he bears such a strong resemblance to his old man that it's often easy to forget he's a different character. While this is still true in many respects, episodes like this help set Shikadai apart from his father and establish him as a separate entity.
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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