After a few years, Naruto has returned in a sequel series! Focusing on his son (and no longer with people who assisted Kishimoto in the past), we have Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. Is it good?
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Creator and Supervisor: Masashi Kishimoto
Art By: Mikio Ikemoto
Script By: Ukyo Kodachi
Translated By: Mari Morimoto
Lettering By: Snir Aharon
Several years since the events of the Naruto series, Naruto has taken over as Hokage and is running the Hidden Leaf Village. He settled down with Hinata and had two kids, one who is named Boruto and this series’ star. Due to Naruto putting so much attention into his duties running the village, he has been neglecting his family and frustrating his son to no end. Boruto wants to take him down a peg or, at the very least, get his attention for once. Also, we get a bonus story by Masashi Kishimoto focusing on Mitsuki!
The first volume of Boruto, and the rest of the series from what I’ve read in Weekly Shonen Jump, is a mixed bag. There are elements to enjoy, but there are also problems that need to be addressed as well. The first issue right away is accessibility: can a newcomer try this manga without having read Naruto before? The answer to that is an unfortunate no. Unlike, say, UQ Holder!, you need to have read Naruto before reading Boruto. This series really builds off of everything that came before it and for anything to have real meaning or impact, you’ve got to read Naruto first. So, for newcomers, you are best off just ignoring this until you give the original series a try. For older fans or returning ones, you shouldn’t have any real trouble jumping into this though.
Sound like cheating to me.
The second problem is the story to a certain extent. I did not know about this until I did some research, but Boruto’s first storyline is actually an adaptation of the movie, Boruto: Naruto the Movie. There are probably a few differences between the manga and the film naturally, but that fact alone hurts this manga. From my understanding, Boruto was pitched as its own separate entity and the movies were more supplemental material meant to fill in the backstory between this new series and the previous one, which makes the volume just feel like a rehash of something of we’ve already seen before. For people who don’t know or for people who just haven’t seen the movie, the volume’s plot won’t be much of an issue if you haven’t experienced it yet, but this isn’t a great idea to kick off a new sequel to a beloved series by just retelling a story that’s already literally been told.
Outside of Boruto and Naruto, every other character just kind of fades into the background or doesn’t have much in the way of personality. Obviously, this is limited by the movie this storyline is adapting, but it could do a bit more to expand on them. For instance, most of the kids feel like counterparts of their parents when they were young in the original, while they’re just mostly cameos themselves. Naruto himself is pretty good here at least, being shown now as a responsible adult having to juggle massive responsibilities while desperately trying to be a good father as well (even though it doesn’t really work). His position is very understandable with having to run the village and prepare everything for the Chunin Exam, though I do think he could have at least taken one night off (especially when he has someone who offers to cover some of the work) for his own kid’s birthday. Boruto himself is an interesting counterpart to how Naruto used to be; he has similar traits, such as rashness and determination to get better, but has absolutely no interest in being hokage in the slightest and his goals are more trying to get his dad’s attention.
As for the story and writing itself, everything is just okay so far. The idea of the story isn’t bad, with Boruto trying to get his father’s attention and approval, since he’s always busy and barely around for him; however, the whole thing is kind of hazy and a bit too quick for its own good with how overcomplicated things get. There’s Boruto also apparently wanting to take down his dad as well for being neglectful to his younger sister. There’s the whole Chunin Exam going on as well (much safer than it was back in Naruto’s days) and this subplot about a new piece of technology that allows ninjas to perform any number of jutsus, even if they aren’t trained in them. There are a lot of moving pieces here, but there’s really not a lot of time given to many of the subplots and characters. If the creative team is going to adapt the movie, they might as well expand significantly on the movie and take time to explore a lot of different areas of it instead of doing so little with everything.
Oh god, it’s you again… I’m trying to read here! Beat it kid!
The artwork by Mikio Ikemoto isn’t too bad though. It definitely captures the look and feel of the original series’ art, but is also different enough in areas so that it’s not a carbon copy. The characters look slightly different than they were in the final chapter of Naruto and the Seven Springs spinoff, but everyone is still recognizable regardless. The artwork can be pretty good at capturing expression and body language and even hitting the right emotions at the right time, like during the birthday scene with Boruto’s younger sister. Backgrounds are actually drawn in most of the panels and the layouts are put together pretty well. The only weakness I feel is that the art isn’t particularly strong when it comes to capturing motion of a character or an action scene, since things end up looking stiff and static at points. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is a problem I noticed with the manga.
Last to note is the small one-shot tale in the volume called Naruto: The Path Lit By the Full Moon, which I believe Masashi Kishimoto wrote and drew himself. The story acts as a sort of origin tale of Mitsuki, one of Boruto’s squad mates, focusing briefly on his time with Orochimaru and how he eventually left him. I say it is interesting, but it feels like one half of a story, lacking in context for how things got to that point in the story and how Mitsuki actually ended up in the Hidden Leaf Village. It’s not badly written with decent characterization for Mitsuki, solid artwork (much better looking action), and giving some background for one of the characters in this series. However, it just doesn’t do a lot by itself. I feel this needed some fleshing out or its own mini-series given how fast things go and where it starts off.
Is It Good?
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Vol. 1 is not particularly great. There are flashes of greatness within the manga, but it’s held back by not being able to forge its own path and is stuck adapting a movie currently in its first storyline. Most of the characters are just kind of there and storylines don’t feel very well-fleshed out currently either. At this point, I would just suggest checking out the movie rather than reading the manga.