Featured Image By Rebecca Henderson
Whether you love it or hate it, the original Naruto manga has left a permanent mark of influence on the world of anime and manga with its fifteen year run from 1999 to 2014, including an anime adaptation that spanned hundreds of episodes. With the ending of the manga serving as a relief to some fans, others wondered what this would mean for the legacy that Naruto would leave behind; it was presumably (at the time) the last installment in the series for the foreseeable future. Soon after this announcement, author Masashi Kishimoto announced an informal sequel series, Boruto: Next Generations, that would chronicle the adventures of Naruto’s son Boruto as he comes of age. With the anime adaptation of Boruto now eight episodes in, is it accessible to new viewers have no prior familiarity with Naruto?
The short answer: absolutely. To make this judgment, I used the three episode test that many viewers apply to anime to get a succinct impression of the show and what it sets out to accomplish. In the three episode test, if an anime fails to set up a primary plot, the foundation for character development, or shows general signs of poor quality (or more than one of these criteria) it is often dropped in favor of other shows airing concurrently. This method is extremely helpful for anime bloggers and reviewers, who often have to process several new anime airing at the same time for each new season.
What I commend Boruto on most is its ability to keep focus on the new plot points it focuses on while giving adequate nods to previous fans of the series. Most prominently, getting to see which characters from the original manga got married and now have the children who are the focus of Boruto. Naruto and Hinata have gotten the most screen time in the first three episodes, followed by Shikamaru and Temari. Many of the new character resemble one or both of their parents in either their physical appearance or behavior, or often times both. This can also be tiring sometimes, especially when the children are repeating the exact tired phrases from their parents, like Shikamaru saying “what a drag” ad infinitum.
As a fan of the original manga for almost ten years, Boruto definitely drags a little bit as many of the same themes and plot threads from the original series have already been repeated within the first three episodes. While Boruto has indicated absolutely no interest in being anything like his father, now the Seventh Hokage, there are definitely times where I feel as though I’m watching the same show for a second time. I imagine this feeling will probably disperse as I continue on into the show and there’s room for each of the primary characters to grow and develop. However, I would honestly prefer to be a brand-new viewer to Boruto so I could enjoy what it has to offer on its own merits and go back to the material it follows afterward. There’s definitely potential for the cast of Boruto to win me over, but I find myself wanting to go back to the original series and enjoy it again instead at this point.
I would highly encourage anyone interested in seeing what Boruto has to offer to watch at least the first three episodes. The barrier of entry for prior knowledge is very low, and the show offers a charming combination of solid animation, endearing characters, and the potential to tell a stories comparable to those from its predecessor. It’s definitely early to make judgments of overall quality, but there’s room for everyone, old fans or new, to experience a bit of the magic that has kept Naruto around for so many years through a fresh, rejuvenated lens.