Few series exemplify the necessity of reading something before judging it more than Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. I saw plenty of criticism of Mikio Ikemoto and Ukyo Kodachi’s spin-off comic before reading it, and I admit to having had hesitations of my own. Once I actually experienced it for myself, however, I was quickly impressed by Ikemoto’s visuals and Kodachi’s strong character work. The latest tankōbon collection, Vol. 6, is now out from Viz Media. How does it stack up compared to its predecessors?
So, what’s it about?
According to the official summary from Viz Media:
Boruto and his teams’ mission to rescue Konohamaru gets complicated when Ao shows up. Ao may be old, but he has experience and powerful ninja tools at his disposal. But what is this mysterious vessel that Ao, and the organization known as Kara, are after? And how is it connected to Boruto?
Artistically, Ikemoto continues to impress as always. I’ve loved his work ever since seeing his special anniversary illustrations for the original Naruto, and his current work features many of the same strengths. The line-art throughout this volume is impeccably clean, and there’s a cinematic quality to the way the fight scenes are composed. The angles from which actions are shown vary but consistently heighten the drama, with lots of good shots of characters’ split-second reactions to their opponents’ moves. The visual sense of flow is great, and Ikemoto successfully slows and hastens the pace of reading on many occasions.
With all that said, some of Ikemoto’s weaknesses are also apparent in this volume. Much of it, even though very strong technically, just feels flat. This is partially due to a complete and utter lack of texture throughout. There’s very little sense of softness or toughness, of how the objects in the manga’s world feel in a tactile sense. This can make the some of the backgrounds seem a bit dull. This remains the case even in panels where the backgrounds consist solely of motion lines. With little creativity or variety in how they’re utilized, they get boring to look at.
This volume also has some notable flaws story-wise. One of these is how boring Ao is as an antagonist. For the most part he just comes across as a necessary but interchangeable flunky, fulfilling a brief role in the plot. There is some last minute character work concerning his relationship with Boruto, but it’s too little too late. The conflict here also lacks punch, as it doesn’t feel grounded in the characters’ emotions or major motivations. Both sides of the conflict are just kind of in each other’s way. There’s at least some discussion of the ethical implications of using scientific ninja tools, but the execution is a bit hokey and the narrative build-up to Boruto’s conclusions isn’t fully satisfactory.
Nonetheless, the writing here isn’t all bad by any means. Ikemoto and Kodachi have done a good job making the smaller conflicts feel relevant to the larger picture, and we get more glimpses of Kara. Kawaki makes his debut as well, and the mysteries introduced in the last chapter build suspense for the next volume. Most of the dialogue throughout is also quite good.
All in all, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Vol. 6 is a solid book but not the series’ best. Ikemoto’s line-art is clean as always, Kawaki makes a promising debut, and anticipation is built up for Vol. 7. With that said, there’s a certain flatness to the visuals that dampens the excitement. Ao is also a dud of an antagonist. Nonetheless, this isn’t a bad volume by any means.