Virtuous entertainment doesn’t just function as mere escapism, but often speaks volumes about our world at large. Take the recent theatrical release of Boruto: Naruto The Movie, a film which details Naruto’s tribulations after becoming the seventh Hokage. While fans might have an inkling of the workload faced by the appointed village leader, they’ll might be surprised by Naruto’s new role. Even more unexpected are the changes that have affected setting, with both hero and Hidden Leaf used to discuss life in contemporary Japan.
It turns out that Naruto’s realized aspirations have resulted in the encumbrances of the average salaryman. Mostly, the great shinobi sits at a desk, flanked by stacks of absurdly stacked papers, a setting reminiscent of the opening scene of Kurosawa’s High and Low (Tengoku to Jigoku). Crisis erupts during his daughter’s birthday, where the hardworking Hokage is so busy, he’s forced to send a shadow clone to the celebration. While Boruto: The Movie is likely aimed at the shōnen audience, it’s hard to imagine these scenes not resonating with busy parents hoping to bond with their children during a weekend trip to the movies.
But Naruto’s efforts haven’t been completely in vein. During the last fifteen years or so, the Village of the Hidden Leaf has transformed from an industrial-era hamlet to a sprawling metropolis. Progress is ever-present, from the emails the oft-absent Naruto uses to try to connect to his frustrated son Boruto, to the glowing LED signs which adorn the middle of the township. But for Naturo’s creator (and Boruto screenwriter) Masashi Kishimoto, technology isn’t always innocuous. The introduction of high-tech machinery that endows anyone with the ability to wield jutsu becomes a major plot point in the film, revealing the tension between a ready-made tools and the honor of dedication.
Much of the film dwells on the detachment between Natuto and his son Boruto (roughly translating to “Bolt” an interpretation seemly verified by the presence of a hexagonal nut in the film’s logo). While the film plays with the impetuous youngster falling in with the wrong crowd, here Kishimoto is too smart to slide into simple dichotomies, instead exploring the juvenile-era appeal of other parents. For the majority of the cast, the grass does look greener in other families, with many of Boruto’s generation seeing the allure of a different parental style.
Unfortunately, nuance is lost in other others of Boruto, with villains existing mainly to bookend the film with action sequences. Don’t be mistaken, these scenes are pure, retina-searing spectacle- endowed with fluidity and a massive sense of scale. They also give a surround sound and sub-woofer system a vigorous workout, with a barrage of thunderous detonations representing a heated exchange of chakra. But look past the exposition of flash and crash, and there’s little narrative investment in these fights other the fate of our beloved heroes.
Get past the lack of villainous elucidation, and there’s plenty to enjoy in Boruto: Naruto The Movie. While Naruto’s tensions were often timeless, detailing the hero’s grueling path toward self-actualization and acceptance, Boruto endows the anime with a modern sensibility. It’s a bit of gamble, but largely the film makes the most of its premise, exploring the role of parenting and technology that’s thoughtful without being preachy. If you able to fit a showing of Boruto into your schedule, just make sure to stay until after the credit, as there’s an ample amount of fan-indulging material to be found in the epilogue.
Boruto: Naruto The Movie showtimes can be found here.