Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is pretty great.
No, that wasn’t some attempt to be contrarian, nor was it an attempt to be humorous before proceeding to tear this apparent “cash cow” a new one, but a genuine conveyance of my positive feelings towards it.
I like Boruto. It’s been an entertaining and enjoyable ride. The characters are pretty fun, the overarching plot is intriguing enough to hold my attention and the fight scenes have been providing that good old Shounen action that I always have a craving for. It has all of these components and it handles them well enough to be a fairly competent offering.
Yet, despite being a fairly fun show with its own identity, separate from its parent series, Boruto manages to rise above the realm of “competent” into the higher plane of “great” through one, simple element:
Boruto’s greatest strength as a series is its uncanny ability to invoke feelings of nostalgia, to make many of us who grew up with its parent, Naruto, look back at a time where life was simpler and Anime was a fresh, new and exciting thing in our lives. For many of us, Naruto was one of our first Anime. It was a series that, along with several others, helped prod open the door to a whole new and exciting medium of entertainment.
We’re all aware that in its later parts Naruto flew off the rails, but early Naruto is something very few people really complain about. The early parts of the story are packed with moments that many of us hold dear to our hearts and remember quite fondly. They were inspiring and extremely memorable.
In every step of its story, Boruto has done everything it can to recreate those nostalgic moments. Be it Boruto’s tendency to get into trouble like his father before him, a three on one fight against their teacher in the woods or a versus battle in the very same arena that the Chunin Exam Arc took place, Boruto knows what it’s doing, and it’s doing it extremely well.
There’s just something about Boruto that is incredibly reminiscent of the early days of predecessor. It has that same coming of age feel to it that I haven’t seen from a Shounen series in a very long time. It has the same sense of humour and the same attitude towards everything it does. Even the fights feel like early Naruto, with a heavy focus on close combat and a tactical application of techniques as opposed to the mountain destroying, earth-shattering nonsense we were subjected to in the later installments of the series. Boruto even shares the pacing of its predecessor, taking its time to settle us into its world and characters, which many will view as a problem, but I’ve never had much of an issue with a series spending its time familiarising us with everything, especially if it’s going to be hundreds of episodes long.
The whole thing is just a wonderful trip down memory lane. It’s full of so many inventive and evocative throwbacks that do an excellent job at connecting the audience to the series. It strengthens it in just about every way imaginable.
And to further all of this, the series also gives us a pretty in depth look at the cast of the original show and how they’re doing. We get to see Naruto as a father and a leader. We see Konohamaru as a teacher and mentor. We even get to see how minor characters, such as Anko are doing.
Seeing these characters that we grew up with now adults, just like us, is quite the treat, so much so that their appearance in an episode often becomes the highlight. Boruto is always at its best when its cast interacts with the originals because we’re reminded of these characters and the events they went through. They even occasionally make reference to their past endeavors, often humorously, with Hinata in particular often looking back on Naruto’s past antics with an embarrassed smile.
Of course, most of this only really applies if you’re nostalgic for Naruto. A lot of people didn’t grow up with the series, and even amongst those that did, there are many who lack the fond memories I speak of.
But for those that do have positive feelings towards the early days of Naruto, for the people that long for a simple, coming of age, Shounen action series that harkens back to the early 2000’s era, Boruto is a real treat.
A lot of what I’m saying may make it sound like Boruto is simply just more of the same, and in a lot of ways that is the case. It’s not the most unique series, and it relies heavily on its ability to evoke nostalgic feelings within its audience. However, it’s also a competent series that’s capable of standing on its own two feet, and when combined with its nostalgic value, it’s quite the unique and rewarding experience.
Naruto was far from perfect and it left much of its fanbase disappointed in the end, but I feel that Boruto is a way for everything to start over and bring back life to an iconic franchise that many lost faith in years ago. Maybe, just maybe, it can keep holding on to those early days and do what the original series should have done from the beginning and keep it there.
Or history could repeat itself and the cycle will begin all over again.
Regardless, I look forward to seeing how things turn out.
As it currently stands, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is pretty great.
It’s not a cash cow. It’s not a soulless sequel. It’s not “trash”.
It’s a throwback to a time where things were simpler and everything was fun.
And as I’ve said twice before, that’s pretty great.