For almost a year now, the story of the Naruto franchise has been continuing in the form of the Boruto: Naruto Next Generations manga, and as of April 2017, the anime series of the same name has started. At the time of this writing, three episodes of the series have aired, so now seems like a pretty decent time to give my early impressions of the show.
Just like the manga, the anime adaptation starts in the middle of a battle between a teenage Boruto and a ninja named Kawaki, with their battle taking place in a destroyed Leaf Village. Kawaki states that the era of ninja is over, and that he will strike down Boruto the same way that he did the Seventh Hokage.
Boruto, sword in hand, dons a ninja headband, and opens his scarred right eye to reveal something akin to the Byakugan, with the show then flashing back to the present day. Just to get out my only major complaint with the series so far, I wasn’t a fan of this in the manga, and I don’t like it any more here. Not so much the idea of Kawaki or the village being destroyed (though this plan is really old at this point), but Boruto’s mysterious powers.
Since Boruto was first introduced to the world, my favorite thing about him is the fact that he’s mostly a normal ninja. Although he does come from two of history’s most prestigious clans, he doesn’t really have anything special outside of the strong life force and chakra that come from his Uzumaki heritage. And unlike his little sister, he initially didn’t even show any signs of inheriting the Byakugan.
Outside of characters like Sakura, Rock Lee and Tenten, the original series didn’t really focus on normal ninja. The two major exceptions were Kakashi in his youth, and pre-revival Minato. I was really excited to see Boruto grow as a ninja, especially seeing how in his debut movie, he was already skilled in various styles of elemental ninjutsu.
At some point, Boruto is going to get an upgrade that I’m sure is comparable to either being a Jinchuriki or having a Dojutsu, but I really hope they continue to play up his skills with basic ninja abilities, which to be fair, the first three episodes of the anime do a really great job of.
The first thing we see Boruto do in the series is dart and dash around the village with way more style and finesse than his father ever did. To go a bit further, Boruto displays his skill with the Shadow Clone jutsu before even being enrolled in the Ninja Academy. The second episode features a match between Boruto and an unruly classmate, and seeing his potential to grow was a really cool moment.
Speaking of the Academy, one thing that I love that the series does from the perspective of a long time fan of Naruto, is the way in which the Academy has adapted to fit the new era. For most of its existence, the Ninja Academy served only to prepare young shinobi for missions and battles. But since the world is at peace, the Academy now offers courses in varying subjects like science and machinery.
I talked for quite a bit about Boruto’s ninja skills, but for me personally, the highlight of the show so far is his character. When I reviewed Boruto: Naruto the Movie, I stated that Boruto has the personality of Naruto, but the skill of someone like Minato. But after seeing his portrayal in the anime, I don’t really feel this way anymore. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations has, so far, made Boruto into a wholly unique character.
Boruto’s a cool dude, but not try hard cool. He genuinely doesn’t care what others think of him, which makes him seem kind of efforlessly cool. He’s friendly and approachable, even to his classmates that deride him for getting by on the coattails of his Hokage father. He never even lets these insults get to him, always brushing them off like they were nothing.
But the one thing that can stir Boruto’s anger, is injustice. In the first episode, Boruto sees a boy named Denki being picked on by a group of bullies. Without hesitation, he swoops in to save the day, all while making a new friend in the process. Another example is his sparring match in the second episode, as it is the direct result of his opponent, Iwabee, pushing his ideals on the other students.
I’m really loving Boruto so far. He’s cool and care-free, but not exactly careless. He’s very socially adjusted, and is really good at making friends. One thing of note is the fact that he doesn’t do a lot of talking when he’s trying to prove a point. His dad has become rather infamous for persuading people with his words, and while Boruto is definitely a loud mouth in his own right, he’s much better at expressing himself through his actions.
Two big praises that I can give to Boruto: Naruto Next Generations so far are the extended cast and the Academy setting. The original series glances over the group’s Academy, days mostly giving us insight through flashbacks. This time around, we’re actually getting to see the young shinobi grow up together. While characters like Boruto and Shikadai (Shikamaru and Temari’s son) are already acquainted with each other because of their parents, most of the new class are meeting for the first time.
This gives us plenty of time to get to know each individual kid, as well as their relationships with the others. The best example so far is the third episode and its focus on Rock Lee’s son, Metal Lee. He has all the skill and power of his father, but he has crippling performance anxiety, a trait that makes him really endearing.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is off to a super great start. There are one or two things that I’m not super jazzed about, but I’m overall really pleased with the direction the show seems to be headed. Compared to the manga, the anime had a much stronger and engaging start, and I’m definitely excited to tune in for the weeks, months and likely years to come.