The 7th Hokage of the Hidden Leaf Village, Nartuo Uzumaki, spent his childhood and adolescence becoming one of the most powerful ninjas in the world. When the Shonen Jump Naruto manga concluded after nearly 15 years, readers were treated to some final scenes that jumped ahead in time to show an adult Nartuo, who is married with kids. Boruto, his son, had taken over as the main character of the new Viz Media series. It focuses on his efforts to be noticed by his busy father, featuring the children of many popular Naruto characters who are his teammates and friends. Is it good?
Writer: Masashi Kishimoto & Ukyo Kodachi
Artist: Mikio Ikemoto
Publisher: Viz Media
For those that didn’t follow the Naruto story or see the anime, a little background is in order. Naruto is a young ninja-in-training who is an outcast from the rest of his classmates–partly because of a nine-tailed fox demon that is locked away inside of him, and partly because he likes to act obnoxious to get attention. As he went on missions and grew up, he also grew in power and learned to harness his fox demon’s energy to become the strongest ninja in the world. His former teammate, Sasuke Uchiha, who Nartuo considered his best friend and rival, leaves the village on a quest for revenge against his brother’s killer. They end up on opposite sides, with Sasuke determined to wipe out the Hidden Leaf Village for their part in his clan’s destruction and Naruto determined to bring him back as an ally. The series ended with a final confrontation and Sasuke relinquishing his vendetta against the village. He teams up with Naruto to stop an enormous threat to the world, and because of those actions is forgiven for his past crimes and decides to become one of the village’s Shinobi.
Fast forward to the start of the new manga, which opens in the future, with a destroyed Hidden Leaf Village and an older and scarred Boruto facing off against a previously unknown enemy. He’s serious and looks powerful, but after the prologue the storyline begins and we find a very different Boruto starting out. He’s doesn’t have any motivation to be the Hokage like his father and often looks for the easy way to do things, whether it’s cheating at video games or using a ninja tool to replicate ninjitsu without training. Socially he seems to be accepted by his peers, unlike his father, and his teammates trust him and find him capable, even if he does still annoy them with his attitude.
The relationship between Boruto and Naruto form the major conflict in the first few chapters of the manga, as the only thing that does get a rise out of Boruto is the fact his father never has time for his family. Naruto even sends a “Shadow Clone” of himself to his daughter’s birthday party, rather than be there in person, much to Boruto’s chagrin. Bortuo is finally convinced to join the Chunin exam as his teammates suggest that if he did well it would be a good way to get his father’s respect and approval, which he wants more than he is willing to say.
Overall the manga is familiar territory for Naruto vets, as much of the first volume takes place in the Hidden Leaf Village, even if it is more modernized. There are lots of returning characters, including classmates of Naruto who are now the main Shinobi in the village, who have paired off and have kids of there own who are Boruto’s classmates. The storyline follows Boruto and his teammates Sarada, Sasuke’s daughter, and Mitsuki, as they enter the Chunin exam to be ninjas qualified to take on real missions for the village. There is an extra chapter at the end featuring the background of Mitsuki, who has a surprising parentage that is sure to cause some turbulence in the future.
The art is on par with a Naruto manga. Many of the characters have a cartoony look to them and their expressions, rather than a more realistic and gritty tone. The battles are still highlights as there is no shortage of jutsu and cool things each of the ninjas can do, and the action isn’t too hard to follow if you are a manga vet and know the correct direction to read it in.
It’s a nice start to the series and ends in the middle of the Chunin exam, so it leaves you wanting to know how the event will play out. There’s a large threat the heroes are only vaguely aware of, which I imagine will take up the majority of the first arc of the series, and big boss battles are where the Naruto mangas really shined. As an introduction to the new characters, the manga has some extra scenes and background on the various teams that are competing in the Chunin exam and aren’t included in the Boruto movie, so if you’re looking to see both, you should start here. It contained enough hints of the future that I am looking forward to the next volume and would recommend the book to any Naruto fans, or fans of action manga that would start out at the beginning of what is most assuredly going to be a long series.