Hey guys! Yeah it’s been a while since the last article, the one where I said I would be doing more of these after my oral surgery. cough. Anyway, a new anime season cometh, with heavy hitters like Boku no Hero Academia Season 2 and Attack on Titan Season 2. But an even more significant debut occurred this spring, the start of the next Naruto series, Boruto: Naruto the Next Generations. Unlike Shippuden, Boruto is completely ditching, as far as I can tell, the narratives of the old cast and focusing solely on…well, the next generation. I consider this a good thing, as this way Naruto did in fact end, and this is now a new story, something we haven’t had from a long-running Jump series in a while. Unfortunately, not a lot of people are on the Boruto train, pun intended, because it is seen as a continuation of Naruto, something that was sought to end a long time ago. For me, I was okay with the concept so long as things didn’t get absurd and it was more light-hearted. However, the cold opening of the first episode indicates a dark and destructive future for the series. Begrudgingly, I watched the rest of the episode despite that, and found myself really enjoyed by it. For a concept that has yet to prove itself to audiences, that was a great way to start it out. But not everything is perfect, and there is one major problem that many people see with it. I understood their concerns at first, but thinking about it more, it could actually catapult the series to even better story-telling and character development than it predecessor.
The main problem people find with it is Boruto himself. His father Naruto was the rambunctious trouble-maker that had a dark past, and as such, the audience grew fond of him. Seeing him grow into a hero who literally saved the world and became the Hokage he always wanted to be, there was a lot of joy there. Here’s the issue. His son Boruto is kind of just a dick in comparison. Naruto doesn’t have as much time as he had before he became Hokage, and so Boruto is beginning to feel estranged in this critical time of growing up. Not to say that estranged parental figures isn’t a good way to get the audience to relate, but compared to the crap that Naruto put up with, it’s quite the stark contrast, one that puts Boruto at a disadvantage…at first. See, there’s actually something very acute with this kind of setup. The anime is in a perfect position to execute a certain type of development that Naruto had no chance of doing. And it’s because Boruto is such an ass.
The problem with rags-to-riches protagonists is that they are rarely in a position to be questioned by others. Naruto never did something to directly harm someone out of personal gain, and he was always hated for something he had no control over, being the Jinchuuriki for the Nine-Tailed Fox. As such, all character interactions that abhorred Naruto himself always seemed unjustified. By the point that they understood him, there never really was a point where a character put their foot down against Naruto, because Naruto was always right in the end with the backstory he had. Boruto, on the other hand, is very well-off with a loving mother, sister, and albeit estranged father. The kid doesn’t really have the right to complain or be a little turd as much as Naruto did. And this at first is a big problem with the series, the cadence of the protagonist to complain about his problems. But, thinking about it another way, there’s a better chance for another component of story-telling that can take hold and make the anime out a lot better than I initially thought.
Character interaction and importance. Boruto doesn’t have the ultra-sad backstory that Naruto had, but he’s just as vocal about his issues. So the logical give to this situation is that other characters now have proper cadence to call him out and prove him wrong. In the very first line-up of Boruto’s ninja team gives a very different feeling than Naruto’s squad. Naruto was the screw-up, Sasuke was the cool guy with the cool moves, and Sakura was there kind of. Boruto’s team has the unique dynamics that you would expect of a team with super-powered pre-teens. Boruto is a screw-up, but he can hold his own. Sarada, ironically compared to Sakura, is the mental head and a destructive force. Mizuki is mysterious, but he knows how to crack a joke and be reliable. This is an actual team, and it feels that way because Boruto doesn’t hold the same presence as his father did. As a result, other characters are actually there, and not fodder for Boruto to either impress or prove wrong.
With this comes the possibility for actual development for a protagonist. Granted you don’t need the protagonist to be flawed to give them decent development. My Hero Academia pulls that off fantastically with Izuku, but that’s just because Horikoshi is best mangaka (fite me broseph). But it sure as hell makes it a lot easier to make a character grow if they’re not as altruistic as others. It’s one of the reasons Re:Zero was so memorable, because its protagonist had to fix the very core of his flawed and grotesque personality in order to save the people he cared about. Having a character that has no other characters question his actions because of super-leet backstory leads to blander development. In this sense, Boruto not being a very good protagonist opens up the doors for other characters to come out of the woodwork and give him a piece of their mind.
If the anime can pull off this kind of story-telling, then I may end up liking it a lot better than expected.