A return to the Hidden Leaf Village — Boruto: Naruto Next Generations

A lot of people like to condemn Naruto and I’ve never understood the appeal, although its overwhelming popularity and ubiquitous presence in anime fandom at large does make it an easy target. There’s something relatable about Naruto Uzumaki’s dorky nature which translates surprisingly earnestly within the series itself.

I personally enjoyed my time in the Naruto fandom. When I became bored with the pace of the anime, I turned to fanfiction. Time passed, I became interested in other types of anime, and whenever I thought back to Naruto, I checked in with what happened in the manga, never really caring about spoilers since I was long past wanting to watch or read it immediately.

Then a friend told me that Masashi Kishimoto had begun writing a sequel: Boruto. She also told me that it was hilarious.

I’ve previously written about returning to old favorites and the weirdness that can come of it. Returning to Digimon thanks to Digimon Tri felt intrusive — in a good way, if that makes any sense, since the kids had gone about their separate lives without me and I without them — where returning to Sailor Moon felt like coming home.

Returning to Naruto, even in anime form, felt like reading a fanfiction.

Whenever a work finishes, there’s always a burst of creativity that follows from the fandom, filling in any leftover blanks with what they want to happen — more often than not involving the pairings of their choice.

Enough time had passed in the Naruto universe by at the time of Boruto‘s beginning that I felt just disconnected enough from the characters. While I had gone about my Naruto-free life, more time had passed in the Hidden Leaf Village, meaning an immediate jump into an era that I had previously only seen as fanfiction territory. Yet, Kishimoto had also accounted for the passage of time. Alongside the introduction of Denki Kaminarimon, the heir to the Hidden Leaf Village’s new railway system is a a shot of the village, brightly-lit at night. While the progeny of Naruto, Hinata, Sasuke, Sakura, and the rest of the Naruto generation have grown up, so has the village around them, now with small technological nods here and there.

Fandom nostalgia isn’t the only reason I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of Boruto, although that’s undeniably part of the series’ entire presentation and existence. The opening episode introduces many intriguing plot threads that it may follow up on if it so chooses.

There’s the obvious, “Screw you dad!” regarding Boruto’s completely understandable hatred of his father, who is never home to see Boruto or spend time with his wife Hinata, or daughter, Himawari. Digging a bit further into this, part of the reason why someone, like myself, would return to Naruto involves stopping by to see how their favorite characters are doing as parents and what their children are actually like. Despite the ability to be with his children physically, unlike his own father, Naruto isn’t a great dad due to the massive amount of work that actually being a Hokage involves.

Part of me hopes that they do go full ‘This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin on Naruto and company. “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” is a classic sentiment for a reason, and when done with nuance and understanding of both parent and child, can be really affecting, especially when the viewer or reader already feels a connection to the characters involved.

There’s also the backdrop of the village itself changing. This first episode takes every opportunity it has to remind the viewer that technology and modern life are flowing into the Hidden Leaf Village. Coupled with the ominous opening sequence — which in and of itself shows that we’re in for another long haul with Boruto — the art of ninjutsu seems to be slowly dying, or at least fading to a more obscure and less necessary place than it occupied in Naruto.

None of these plot threads are innovative but they won’t have to be provided that the characters are as fun to be with every week as those of Naruto. I don’t know how long I’ll stick with Boruto, but based on this episode, it should be a fun time regardless.

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