Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 98 of
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?
After a smattering of self-contained installments, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations reenters multi-episode arc territory. Team 7's latest mission finds them joining forces with Team 15 and an eccentric bird expert named Tosaka to investigate a recent wave of bird attacks taking place in a village on the outskirts of the Land of Fire. While en route to their destination, the gang is set upon by bloodthirsty birds and a familiar-looking muscle-bound monster. Although they're able to fight their way through, they make a shocking discovery upon arriving in the village: every villager who's suffered a bird attack now bears curse marks. Things become even more complicated when an unconscious Jugo is found by a nearby river and brought to the village. When questioned about his presence, he fails to provide an answer.
Shortly thereafter, one of the curse mark bearers regains consciousness and proceeds to attack villagers indiscriminately. After subduing the man and removing his curse mark, Jugo warns Boruto to stay away from the river and makes his escape. Hoping to get to the bottom of this mystery, the Genin split up and begin searching for Jugo. Eventually, Boruto and Sarada discover what appears to be an underground prison, where they find Jugo struggling to contain a curse mark. His efforts ultimately prove unsuccessful, and after succumbing to the mark, he turns into the monster the gang had encountered earlier.
Pairing the main trio up with Team 15 is an interesting change of a pace that makes said team's solo excursion from a couple of weeks back all the more relevant. (It also adds new relevance to their first solo mission, which also involved animals.) Since the majority of the screen time typically goes to the children of the previous show's central players, it's easy to forget that the current crop of Genin has plenty of fun characters who aren't descended from Naruto's closest friends. Sumire becoming disconcerted after her encounter with the fully-transformed Jugo will hopefully pay off in a meaningful way down the line. (Perhaps the gang's latest enemy is connected to one of her father's experiments?)
So far, Tosaka (voiced by the ever-prolific Takehito Koyasu) has proven to be a reasonably entertaining guest character whose eccentricities are good for a few laughs. (His habit of licking everything he finds interesting and his general aversion to danger are particularly amusing.) Based on how these arcs typically play out, it's easy to see him having an important connection to the curse mark incident, although hopefully he doesn't turn out to be a villain. More intriguing right now, though, is Jugo's reemergence. Despite his silence on the matter, he seems to have a pretty solid understanding of what (or who) is behind the curse marks. (Orochimaru's name may only have been mentioned as a red herring.) If nothing else, the character's contemplative, introverted side and affinity for nature make him a welcome presence in a story that relates to wildlife.
While Boruto's latest arc appears to be off to a promising start, it's too early to make any broad predictions about its overall quality. This show (and its parent series) have had arcs that started strong, only to fumble the ball and quickly wear out their welcome, so a decent introductory episode doesn't necessarily portend consistent quality. Still, with the appearance of Jugo, the inclusion of the franchise's first all-kunoichi team, and the introduction of a fun guest character, this arc will hopefully ultimately stick the landing.
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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