In the end, it all comes down to the writing doesn’t it? Boruto NNG continues to be a show that’s stuck somewhere in between being a children’s show and being the successor to the highly successful shounen franchise Naruto. Its quite obvious that, up till this point, the writers in charge of this series have been trying to write their cake, and then eat it as well. The end result of that approach? A show that has a real identity crisis and continues to not do too well because of that.
For some strange reason the show insists on a lighthearted tone, and refuses to go too dark. I’m not sure if that’s a mandate from the production committee, manga owner Shueisha, or just a decision from the anime production staff itself, but its flat out contradicting the events that are taking place in the anime themselves. This week’s major title event had Kagura basically both finally take a step forward towards his eventual goals, and then regress towards the proverbial dark side a few moments later. The resulting amount of whiplash from this odd shift, is really what ruined the episode as a whole.
Here’s the thing, I get that the general idea of what’s happening here, and I’d even go as far as to say it’s interesting. Kagura has this dark past that’s been haunting him, he meets Boruto, is inspired to finally overcome his demons, he does that, only to have an even bigger darkness come back from his past and turn him astray. If there were a template for a classic Naruto villain, I’m sure this would be very much it. And as a concept, I think the idea can and should work.
It doesn’t though, and a big part of that is how the show proceeds to turn Kagura from a confused aspiring hero into a manipulated villain. The first and most obvious thing that is done wrong here, is the pace at which this all happens. Its just jarringly fast. Last week had us seeing an unsure Kagura interact with Boruto and co and gain some confidence. It was already a bit of a leap that the kid then went and basically took on this huge responsibility that he’d been unsure of taking on for what seemed like quite a while.
But okay, I’ll give it to the show, there’s an argument to be made for the fact that maybe Kagura was always just a few inches away from moving forward, and it was Boruto that gave him that final push he needed. I could’ve lived with that, but then we see Kagura pretty much passing the candidacy test for his new sword, within the first few minutes of the episode. What is this test? We don’t even know, he just kinda gets the sword, and before we know it, Kagura is now a Kirigakure Mist Swordsman.
THAT in itself is fast, but the show barely waits one second before Kagura calls Boruto, and then makes his sudden transformation towards being a bad guy. And once again, I get the basics of what the show is trying to do here. Its clear that Shizuma has been mentally playing with Kagura all his life, and waiting for this one moment. Its also clear that despite whatever progress Kagura has made, he still doesn’t quite believe that he’s actually a good guy.
But the problem I have here, is that Kagura’s slip into the dark side feels so unearned, and is so counter intuitive to literally everything we’ve seen of the character thus far. Kagura’s the nice peace loving dude who has a bit of a self worth problem. Regardless of what he thinks of himself, he shouldn’t be capable of doing something that would cause choas and unrest, and threaten the peace that he holds so dear. That’s what the anime has shown us thus far, that Kagura is so traumatized by his own bloodlust that he refuses to take on further responsibility. Now, suddenly, the show wants us to believe that he’s totally okay with basically going the exact opposite route, i.e inciting a rebellion. Wait… What?
I’m sorry but, it just can’t work like that. I mean, yes, the ingredients are all there for a good villain origin story here, but they just haven’t been allowed to cook for long enough. And you know something really funny? I actually don’t have to go too far to provide an example of how this whole thing COULD be done well, because you have the first cour of this very series, to take a gander at.
Remember the Inchou (The Class rep)? THAT is how you properly do a transformation for a character from a loveable idiot to flat out villain. With the Inchou, the show did a stellar job of spending a good 7-8 episodes before it finally revealed its hand and made her into something other than what she seemed. There was time to settle into the idea of “Okay, this is a girl who’s really nice” and then there were still two episodes spent detailing her big reveal as the mastermind behind all the village incidents. Then after that transformation, we had ANOTHER episode which spent a good chunk of its time revealing her true intentions and feelings, before it all got resolved.
Kagura, has had two episodes, and in those two episodes, the focus hasn’t been on him. We’ve had stupid comedy sections, and slice of life moments where the show has tried to do both Boruto and his pals having a good time, and also tried to shove in Kagura’s whole journey as the arc’s secondary antagonist. That’s what I meant when I made my whole “cake and eat it too” analogy earlier.
A good show can’t afford to do that sort of thing. A good show can’t afford to juggle two very contrary elements of comedy and darkness and still build to something good. Boruto is therefore, not a good show (at least at this point in time). And to give another example of what I’m talking about, from this very show, look no further than the Naruto Gaiden arc from a few weeks ago. At that point, the show was completely focused on Sarada and developing her growing pain and issues with her family. There wasn’t any useless fluff, beyond the occasional stupid line from Chocho, and everything the show did was to really drive the point home about how messed up Sarada was, and how much she needed some closure on her issues.
That’s why when Sarada met Sasuke, her father, everything just clicked. That’s why when there was a question about whether Sakura was indeed her biological mother, the emotional scene between her and Naruto worked so well. It was earned, through hard work, focus and slow, meticulous build up.
The whole Kagura thing here? It just felt lazy, quick and therefore the results, as nice as they would be, felt unearned. I’m not entirely sure what the rush was for, either. This latest arc, is a filler arc, and therefore, isn’t taking anything from the manga. It also doesn’t seem like Boruto isn’t ending anytime soon. So, if that’s the case, then why not take a few episodes to build up to the whole moment of Kagura turning bad?
The answer to all of that is simple; bad and inexperienced writing. Simply put, whoever wrote the scenario and script for this arc just isn’t all that great at it, and it just flat out shows in the work itself. And look, its not just Kagura either, but Boruto himself has really suffered from the bad writing.
Here’s the thing, Boruto got owned by Shizuma and his crew, and that’s a really important moment. If this were Naruto (sorry, I held out for as long as I could!), then this would’ve been a real turning point for the main character here. Boruto failed to stop his friend from going to the dark side, and Boruto failed to be able to fight against the bullies that he was up against. The guy barely made it out alive out of that whole situation, so at this point, it would pay to see some frustration, some sense of development from Boruto as a character.
This was a prime opportunity, actually, for the show to really have us invest in Boruto’s mission. Some growth and self reflection from Boruto here, would’ve gone a long way towards getting the audience to invest in his whole conflict. But instead of something more substantial, we get this childish scene with Sarada basically saving his ass, and then Mr.No Pants coming in and dumping some more exposition on us.
And at the end of it all? Boruto decides that he, Sarada and Mr.No Pants are enough to go and take on Kagura and Shizuma? Are you serious? No really… Are you, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, really serious about this? This isn’t some little Denki kidnapping at this point, its a frigging civil war happening inside an entire shinobi village. Things need to escalate a bit to feel believable. Boruto and two other kids taking on Shizuma and the rest? That’s not only not believable, its just stupid.
Why not have Boruto go back to his friends, rally his forces, and decide to have everyone in his class help him go against and stop Shizuma and Kagura? It just makes no friggin sense, and all I can guess is that the show just wants to rush into the next phase, which is Boruto taking on his enemies in this story arc.
And speaking of rushing things, how do the “new” Seven BloodMist Swordsman just walk right in and get the rest of the seven swords? Is there no security around where the swords are kept? I mean, if there isn’t, and the swords are just kept in one secret hideaway, then they almost deserve to be stolen, sure. Having said that, the whole “hidden in one area” thing is also super convenient for Shizuma and co, and that’s why I see it as lazy rather than something truly intended and well written.
Look, what I’m trying to say here, in this post as a whole, is that this was just a bad episode, in spite of all the good ideas that were present in it. I just have to say that whoever is writing the story arcs for this show, who ever is doing the scripting, the directing e.t.c for each episode, they are failing here. What makes me so sad, and what makes me write a post as long as this one, is the simple fact that this is a show and this was an episode, that for all intents and purposes, should have been good. Its the pure lack of skill on the people responsible for the storytelling of the show, that is really preventing it from being anything good, let alone something truly special.
And in the end, all I can say is that I can’t wait for these filler arcs and episodes to be over. If we ever get to the manga content in this series, then I think this show will actually be a good one. Its well animated, and the production values are actually pretty darn good. But I think none of that will matter, if the show ends up losing its entire audience before it actually gets to the ultimate good stuff. I’m honestly not sure if I’ll hold out, myself, so I do wonder about the show’s long term prospects.
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