Friday, January 01, 2016

'Boruto: Naruto the Movie' Renewed My Enthusiasm for the Franchise

It’s already 2016 (Jan. 1) as I write this review, but Boruto: Naruto the Movie is the last movie I’ve watched in 2015 – watched it during New Years’ Eve.  So this is still filed and reviewed as a 2015 movie – this should be the last one.

Coming into this movie, I was intrigued, but I wasn’t particularly excited about it.  I used to extremely adore the Naruto property, but I was much dismayed by its messy last arc that I was no longer as enthusiastic about it as much as I had been before.  So with Boruto (will just mention the movie as such for the rest of this article), yes, I was intrigued, but only to the extent of my desire to know more of the new post-time skip status quo that the manga’s epilogue and the mini-series Naruto Gaiden: The Seventh Hokage and the Seventh Spring had introduced.

To my delight, Boruto offered more than what I was expecting.  It isn’t perfect, and it didn’t necessarily blow me away, but it’s definitely better than The Last: Naruto the Movie – which, prior to watching Boruto, I had deemed as the best made Naruto film ever.  It has heart, fun, surprises, and tons of amazing kickass action.

The movie is set after Naruto Gaiden: The Seventh Hokage and the Seventh Spring, in which several years have already passed after the Fourth Shinobi World War and Naruto is now the Seventh Hokage of Konohagakure.  Much of the background and the new characters of this movie were already introduced in the main manga’s epilogue and the The Seventh Hokage and the Seventh Spring mini-series, so it’s very much advisable to read those first before watching the movie – it will make more sense this way.

As what is obvious from the title, the central character of the movie isn’t necessarily Naruto, but his son, Uzamaki Boruto.  As what had already been revealed in the manga, Naruto is very busy serving as Hokage that he has significantly neglected his role as a father to Boruto.  Thus, Boruto has grown bitter against his father, but at the same time, is longing for his attention and approval.  A large part of the movie revolves around this issue between father and son.  This might seem to look like very much a clichéd drama, but this aspect has been executed quite effectively and genuinely by the narrative.  In addition to this, here are some other important details at play in the plot (minor SPOILERS!):
  • Boruto convinces Sasuke to take him up as his disciple.
  • Chunin exams.
  • A revolutionary, new ninja gadget that launches mini-scrolls containing sealed ninjutsu has been invented.
  • The antagonists are a pair of mysterious shinobis from another planet/dimension named Momoshiki and Kinshiki.  In parallel with the ninja gadget, Momoshiki consumes chakra pills to enhance his powers.

This movie somewhat awakened the Naruto fanboy in me – or, at least, reminded me of what I used to love about this franchise.  Some examples:
  1. Seeing the original characters – especially Naruto and Sasuke – growing into mature adults and magnificent badasses reminded me of the terrific characters arcs they had undergone to get there.  Sasuke’s quote about Naruto embodies what I mean: “He was full of weaknesses.  He was a good-for-nothing.  But he pulled himself up with his own strength and become the Hokage.  You don’t need to understand who Naruto is now.  You need to know the Naruto who made it all the way here.”
  2. The well-animated, stirring fight scenes in this movie reminded me that the anime had spades of fights scenes like these.
  3. Featuring the Chunin exams reminded me of Naruto’s rich mythology and worldbuilding.

I enjoyed this movie a lot.  Not only is this about ninjas punching each other – though this aspect is also exciting – but it probably has the most depth among Naruto movies.  The themes of this movie are certainly worth reflecting on.

It doesn’t have a perfect script, and the story points don’t make sense sometimes, but they aren’t exasperating and distracting to derail this movie.  Its notable weakness, however, is its weak villains – weak, not in the sense of power, but in characterization.  Naruto and friends have grown very powerful through the years; thus, since they were capable of taking down someone as powerful as Otsutsuki Kaguya (boring character), subsequent antagonists need to be hyper-powered to make the threat they bring believable.  However, because of this, they unfortunately succumb to the same problems that Kaguya has as a character: one-dimensional and shallow characterization.

In the end, I feet that Boruto is… incomplete.  It ended nicely, but not in a satisfying way.  There are a couple of unresolved matters, and I really want to see more of the developments of these new characters.   At the present, there’s still no announcement for a new movie, but I hope another one is made soon – another one should be made.  Or better yet, a new ongoing Boruto manga and anime series.  There’s still a lot of fascinating stuff left unexplored.   

Miscellaneous musings (with SPOILERS!):
  • I love how Boruto’s character arc is handled, which both has interesting similarities and differences from Naruto’s.
  • I also love that one of the main differences is that Boruto is not driven to become a Hokage.  I like what he said about it: “For me, the Hokage is just a road.  Just because grandpa and my father were Hokage doesn’t mean I have to walk on the same road.”
  • On the other hand, his teammate, Sarada, Sasuke’s daughter, wants to become Hokage.  And Boruto wants to become her “assistant” when she becomes one, to play a role similar to that of Sasuke to Naruto.  I love to see how this plays out – to see them work towards their dreams (thus, again, we need a new series).
  • I’m also fascinated with Boruto and Sarada’s teammate, Mitsuki, who is revealed to be Orochimaru’s son.  It’s a nice twist.  I understand that Orochimaru is serving as somewhat of an ally to Konohagakure now under Yamato’s watch (as revealed in Naruto Gaiden: The Seventh Hokage and the Seventh Spring), but I still want to know how Mitsuki was allowed to be enrolled to Konoha Academy and become a shinobi for the village.  Also, how is Mitsuki the son of Orochimaru?  Is he a sort of clone?  Or does he have a biological mother?  This character is wrapped in mystery, making him mightily intriguing.
  • Also want to see more of this new generation of kids, and learn how much of their parents’ qualities are in them.  For example, will they adapt techniques and styles from both father and mother, or just one parent?  Aside from Sarada, I think I haven’t seen one that manifests the styles of both parents.
  • Was Killer B killed?  It wasn’t clear to me.
  • I was disappointed with the lack of Kakashi, my favorite Naruto character.  Sakura was also underused.
  • If a new Boruto series is made, as I mentioned in my review for The Last, I prefer that a couple of filler episodes set in the time period in which Kakashi is serving as Hokage are done first.
  • I badly want a new series to be made.

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