Sunday, April 2, 2017

REVIEW: Boruto Anime Movie & Manga Debut

Naruto was one of the first manga series I ever read, back when Shonen Jump magazine was popping up in Gamestop every month. I lost interest long before the cast grew up in Naruto: Shippuden, but I always wanted to get back into it as the years progressed. The long-running story of a boy ninja finally came to an end in 2015, but now Naruto’s got a son named Boruto and he’s blasting onto the scene with a new manga series and feature length movie.

Disclaimer: I received copies of Boruto: Naruto the Movie and Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Volume 1 courtesy of VIZ Media. Opinions are my own.

The movie and the manga both tell the same story of Boruto and his ninja team taking the chunin exams. Being the son of Naruto, the seventh Hokage, isn’t as cool as it might seem. His father is never around, spending most of his time in his office while sending his signature Shadow Clones to do TV interviews, help out around town, even attend his daughter’s birthday. Boruto straight up despises his father for never being around for him or his sister, envious that Naruto grew up an orphan. Boruto asks Sasuke, the only ninja equal to Naruto, to be his master so he can train to one day stand up to his father.

The new generation has had it easy compared to the war that Naruto and his friends lived through. Boruto doesn’t even care about the chonin exam at first, more interested in playing video games with his friends at McDonald’s. Yeah, that’s a thing. Similar to The Legend of Korra, technology and culture have evolved between series. I love this detail. One of my favorite things about the original Naruto series was how it wasn’t just generic feudal japan world. There was limited technology like phone lines and simple LCD screens. In the time of Boruto there are television broadcasts, fast food, video games, even internet. The three-man ninja teams even have comlink earpieces because in 2017 you can’t be a superhero without one.

The rise in technology also serves a major, sinister side story going on. Ninja scientists have developed a way for anyone to use powerful, advanced jutsu without chakra. The battle between science and “magic” is one of my favorite themes, and it’s used really well here. Boruto sneaks one of these chakra gauntlets things to show off during the chonin exam, which is technically cheating, but he’s really just doing it to look cool in front of his father.

The bulk of the chonin exam highlights one thing I don’t like about most anime/manga sequels and epilogues. Everybody who survives the first series gets married to each other and has kids who look just like them. However, they didn’t kill off the entire original cast between series like some sequels would. Instead, Naruto, Sasuke, and others are still major players in the story, so it’s more like Dragon Ball Z to Dragon Ball than Korra to The Last Airbender.

Volume 1 of the manga covers only a portion of the film. However it does feature a special bonus chapter. Everyone knows from the cover that Boruto is the son of Naruto and Sarada is the daughter of Sasuke and Sakura, so who is their blue-haired third member? No, obviously it’s okay for a character in the story to not be directly related to one from the previous, but the special bonus chapter goes into his backstory and man is it good. It’s briefly mentioned in the film’s end credits scene, but the manga goes much deeper into it.

Other special features on the Blu-ray include an art gallery, clean version of the ending, storyboards, and most notably a short OVA depicting the day of Naruto’s inauguration, which is interrupted by his daughter tapping into her ninja powers and knocking him out cold before on Boruto.

If you’re a long-term follower of the Naruto franchise, the fanservice isn’t annoying or cliche. If you’re like me and you fell out of the series earlier on, you’d still get a blast of nostalgia. And of course, fan or not, the story of the son of the greatest ninja ever in a time when ninjas aren’t really needed is fun, heartwarming, and full of really cool action!

Boruto: Naruto the Movie is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations releases on April 4th, pre-order it now.