It’s been a while since I last reviewed Boruto. I enjoyed the series’ clean line-work and well-written dialogue, but I wasn’t yet fully immersed in the world. I recently finished reading through all of Naruto though, so my interest in the franchise is at an all-time high. Viz Media recently released Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Vol. 5, in which we learn more about the mysterious Kara, scientific ninja tools, and interpersonal dynamics between Boruto’s squad members. So, how does Boruto stack up against the smash hit which preceded it? Is it good?
Art-wise, Mikio Ikemoto continues to knock it out of the park. His line-work is extremely thin and clean, and he imbues the manga’s world with an airy atmosphere befitting the fast-paced lives of ninja. The action scenes here are great, easily among Boruto’s best thus far. There’s a particularly good fakeout early on in a fight between Boruto and Naruto. The new scientific ninja tools introduced in this volume include automated guard puppets, and as someone whose favorite characters in Naruto included Kankuro and Sasori I love them. Their designs are a lot of fun, combining dramatic cloaks with mechanical parts that deviate just enough from the human form to be unsettling. The human characters also look great. Ikemoto’s facial expressions and body language work capture their various personalities effectively, as well as provide some nice humor.
This volume also has solid writing courtesy of Ukyo Kodachi. Though Boruto himself remains at the forefront, there are some nice small moments interspersed throughout showing his dynamics with his teammates. The Kara also make good early impressions. Their ruthlessness toward both opponents and each other makes it clear that they have no time for anyone who gets in the way of their goals. The ethical questions surrounding scientific ninja tools also continue to receive a lot of consideration, and all sides around the debate are well-written. While the more rational segments about how there’s nothing inherently evil about tools are certainly correct, it’s easy to understand where Boruto’s reservations come from. It also continues to be enjoyable seeing technological advancements feature so heavily in a series known for its fantasy roots and influences. The pacing throughout the volume is also quite good.
There aren’t a lot of cons to this volume, but the problems that are present are reminiscent of those found in the original Naruto. The most puzzling scene is easily one in which a minor character asks Sarada how she feels about other women being attracted to Boruto. The pair has no romantic tension nor have any situations arisen that would lead other characters to speculate that they did. Sarada’s continued lack of development five volumes in is worrisome, especially when much of her page-time concerns her relationships with male characters. Besides this, the fight between Boruto and Naruto doesn’t feel necessary. It has some cool moments, but from both a plot and character standpoint it doesn’t actually contribute much.
All in all, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Vol. 5 is a very good read. Ikemoto’s art continues to be remarkably clean and fluid, and the plot points regarding scientific ninja tools are well-written. On the downside, Sarada receives disappointingly little page-time that doesn’t revolve around potential feelings for Boruto. Nonetheless, I continue to be impressed by this series.