Anime Observations: Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Thoughts
Here's how I know I'm a sucker for massive universes: I was never a big fan of Naruto, but three episodes in and I'm almost completely sold on Boruto. The fact that you know the background characters--their loves, their successes, their failures--made me far more invested than I would've been if this had been a completely new series.
Boruto continues the story of the Naruto universe, but it's been over a decade since the Last Great Ninja War, and all of our favorite kids have grown up and had children who've grown up to be old enough to enter the Konoha Ninja Academy themselves. Only, in the decade-plus since they were young, the world has changed: technology has flooded the world. Railcars and video games mean industry has become a much larger driving factor for the world economy over the ninja. So the Ninja Academy has changed too, teaching it's students much more than merely ninjustsu.
What I love about Boruto is all of the call backs, getting to see how these characters have grown in their age--how it's either mellowed them out or otherwise made them grow up. Shikamaru settled down with Temari of the Sand Village and has grown up to be an aid to Naruto, while Shino has become a school teacher alongside Anko Mitarashi. They're still very much themselves, but there's a logical progression in terms of their personalities that make sense in the face of both the time passed and the level of peace they've experienced.
Our new protagonist Boruto is probably one of my favorite main characters to come out of the Spring season. In some ways he's so much like his father--headstrong, friendly, and eager to make his mark on the world. And yet, Kishimoto doesn't use him as an excuse to write the same character all over again. Raised as an orphan, no matter how much he smiled and how brave a front he put up, there was always a sad desperation to everything Naruto did. He was trying to prove to himself and the world that he actually mattered, and it was that drive that carried him from being "the worst ninja in the school" to eventually reaching his dream of becoming the Hokage. He wanted to connect with everyone because for most of his childhood he couldn't connect with anyone, and his drive to prove himself and his never-ending ability to care for those around him eventually broke down the barriers of even some of his toughest opponents. He garnered their respect, even if he couldn't quite manage to be friends with them.
But Boruto has been cut free from all the burdens his father had. Growing up in a loving home with his mother Hinata and his little sister, there's an air of confidence Boruto that could have only come because he always felt like he belonged from day one. Without the Nine-Tails Chakra working against his own, and with his mother being a talented ninja, he doesn't have to work as hard to measure up at school because he's already there. He's the Hokage's son, and it shows in his natural talent for ninjutsu and taijutsu. Where his father was literally often the worst at everything, Boruto ranks consistently high in everything ninja-related.
....Granted, it doesn't mean as much when ninja are starting to be viewed as outdated things in this peaceful society, which makes him look a lot less like an overpowered character. No one cares if you're a great swordsman anymore either, after all. In the face of such great peace, what purpose does a soldier have?
There's also Boruto's troubled home life. Hinata is the perfect wife and mother, but Naruto invests so much time into being the Hokage he's never home, and when he is he never spends time with his family. It's something you have to respect after spending 700 chapters/800 or so episodes watching him nearly kill himself over and over to achieve this dream--by no means is he half-assing it. But when examined from Boruto's POV it just makes Naruto look like a jerk that doesn't care about his family, which explains why the only time Boruto ever lets his temper flare is when someone tries to say he's relying on his dad. That kind of damaged relationship is a story that couldn't have been told in Naruto--Kishimoto is taking this opportunity to walk down every road the circumstances of Naruto made impossible.
Like Dragon Ball Super, Boruto is a monthly manga, which means its only a matter of time before they catch up and ruin it with the same kind of filler that made me give up on Naruto, but for now Boruto is easily one of my favorite series coming out every month.