10 Point Discussions – Boruto: Naruto Next Generations: “The Steam Ninja Scrolls”

by Sage Ashford

Boruto-Next-Generations

Team 7 takes a break for a few episodes to make room for another ninja from the Hidden Leaf: Mirai Sarutobi! Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! It really helps. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, please hit me up @SageShinigami.

1. After complaining about this series focusing on the same character for almost a fifth of its existence, it feels like the writers finally listened to me and gave someone else a focus arc. And not just someone else–a character we barely ever see: Mirai, daughter of Asuna and Kurenai. Up until now, we had no clue who Mirai was, other than the chuunin who gave Team 7 a solid beat-down back before they knew what it meant to work together. Back then she seemed stoic with a hint of cocky confidence as she easily managed to embarrass three of Konoha’s best genin.

This arc shows there’s much more to her, and arguably gives us a greater glimpse of Mirai than we’ve seen of anyone else. There’s constant mental monologues and even little cartoons of “inner Mirai” where we get to understand her emotions and concerns while having to deal with this insane mission.  Initially, Mirai’s told she’s working on a mission “beyond S Rank”, where she’ll be protecting the Sixth Hokage Kakashi and his best friend, Might Guy.    She believes it’ll be for a few days, but by the end of the episode learns their mission is in fact for the next three weeks, and that she’s only watching over them while they’re on vacation.

2. Alright, let’s talk about how Mirai nearly caused an entire city to start fighting just to take a bath.  Having packed improperly because she misread her mission briefing, she finds herself alongside Kakashi and Guy in a city which halfway belongs to the Land of Fire and half belongs to the Land of Steam.  Normally they have friendly relations, but every year they have a festival celebrating the animals they believe brought fortune to their city–one half of the city believes it was a dog messenger from a dog god, the other half believes it was a cat messenger from a cat god.  So they wind up splitting down the middle, one half celebrating dogs, the other cats.

This festival leads to all of the hot springs being either shut down or too busy for Mirai to bathe, so she sets out to resolve the issue.  She speaks to the leaders of both sides (more on that later) and her attempt to get them to reconcile nearly causes them to come to blows. Then later, she takes advantage of another aspect of the town’s legend by using her genjutsu to create a “god of destruction” that’s part cat, part dog to tell them to stop fighting.  It works, but only barely, since Guy Sensei immediately attacks it (because even with one leg, Guy can take on a flaming god), with the resulting destruction finally calming the city down.

3. This arc has a ton of guest appearances for old Naruto alumni.  And unlike the main story, whose guests tend to include a certain snake guy who should be at the bottom of a cell, these are guests people might actually want to see.  Episode 107 briefly includes Kiba, who found his way to this city of dog and cat lovers and became the leader of the dog fans (because what else would he be), while his girlfriend lead the cat worshippers.  Fortunately in the end neither side had to bow down, because that would’ve been ruff for their relationship. Later episodes bring us Tenten and Choji, reminding us that there is a world outside of Team 7 again.

4. If it wasn’t obvious before, by episode 108 it becomes clear this bodyguard trip is something of a joke.  It should’ve been clear before, since between Kakashi and Guy together they’ve got more battle experience than Mirai’s entire ninja class.  There’s a reason the two of them spend every episode soaking in hot tubs and ignoring any potential danger around them–they’re so powerful they’re never in any danger.

But then we learn Tenten was free but no one actually asked her to come along–she just shows up to bring Mirai some fresh clothes to help her for the trip.  On top of that, they bring along a young girl named Tatsumi who’s had trouble making her way to her destination because she’s run out of money. Mirai volunteers (because even she forgets she’s meant to be guarding them) and even Tatsumi seems to care more about being an inconvenience than anyone cares about messing up the “Super Important Trip”.

5. Much of episode 108 centers around discovering the “ghost” haunting the latest hot springs our heroes find on their journey. The episode winds up being something of a Scooby Doo episode, where the ghost most people were complaining about is actually a young girl hiding in some hidden tunnels and stealing food to survive her journey.  But like any good comedic ghost story, it turns out there’s actually a ghost present as well. It’s mentioned at the very end Guy actually witnesses a ghost clad in samurai armor (which had been warded away until Mirai peeled away all the talismans keeping him out during a “security sweep”), and it spent the night haunting the halls of the inn.

The big question is: why is anyone creeped out by a ghost?  With the notable exception of Guy, who hilariously realizes Fighting types aren’t effective against ghosts (“Taijutsu doesn’t work on ghosts!”), everyone else has seen all manner of supernatural creatures. Naruto has a fox made of chakra living inside him. Chakra itself only exists because of the actions of a space alien.  Is a ghost really the line everyone’s going to struggle with?

6. Episode 109 sees our protagonists reach yet another village with hot springs (who knew they’d take the Land of Steam so seriously), only…this village’s hot spring has been sealed up thanks to a giant rock rolling down and covering up the springs. The town tried to ask for help from the Steam country’s ninja, but they’ve been busy dealing with a case of kidnapped girls, and they simply assume the Village of the Hidden Leaf would only send scrubs because they’re so far out.

Luckily they have a former Hokage there to hear their story, so the village actually receives help from Choji, the Leaf’s strongest ninja.  Of course, since Choji runs on calories, by the time he arrives he’s too tired to help out, so much of the episode involves fixing sufficient food to help him; specifically, potato chips. But Frito-Lay Hulk isn’t able to handle it all by himself, and Mirai winds up inspiring the rest of the village to help them out. This is one of those episodes that feels like filler, but leads to something more important later.

7. At the tail end of 109, Tatsumi explains to Mirai she’s been lying, and her real reason for traveling is to visit a hot springs where she can see her dead mother once again. Bringing it up to Mirai, she asks if the two of them can go together…and after some brief waffling, Mirai decides to tag along to protect her in the dead of night. After so many episodes of comedy and more slice of life-y stuff, we’re finally back to being a ninja show…and we’re reminded Mirai is pretty capable at it.   She’s able to effortlessly guide Tatsumi to the hidden hot springs, but more than that, she’s able to keep her wits about her when they run into trouble.

Mirai’s something of a prodigy, so despite being brought to a location meant to trick her and a bunch of other young women into surrendering their lives for a sacrifice, she instead manages to outsmart her “captor”, giving her a chance to go on the offensive.  Of course this last hot springs is a giant trap, because speaking to Asuma is the opposite of the point of Mirai’s character arc. The goal isn’t for her to get peace of mind by speaking to her father, but to understand what he died for, and how he affected the people who cared for him while he was here.

8. The last three episodes of this arc wrap things up so well it makes up for a weaker first half.  There’s tons of callbacks to earlier episodes and the roster of unused characters are both refreshing yet make perfect sense for the story we’ve set up.  Kakashi and Guy were some of Asuma’s closest friends.  Choji was one of Asuma’s last pupils.  And when Mirai faces off against the villain of the arc, he’s a follower of the Way of Jashin, as well as Hidan, the man who murdered Asuma. Like Mirai, Ryuki wonders about his place in a world of peace, but unlike Mirai he blames the era instead of turning his questions inward, and seeks to bring about more bloodshed.

It all feels so perfect it’s easy to think this was accidental, except even in-universe this seemed to have been Kakashi’s intentions from the very beginning, as he explains their mission was always tracking down the missing girls.  Well, that and potentially finding a hot springs which could heal his friend Guy, proving Kakashi to be the best ninja once again.

9. The mystery of the “king” has been passed down for the second generation, but Mirai probably figures the answer out easier than anyone else.  Shikamaru brings the riddle up in a flashback in episode 108, then by episode 111 she already has the answer.  It’s insane how much ground they covered in just a six episode arc: they managed to introduce her character, help us understand what sort of person she is, explain her core wounds of growing up without a father and wondering what her purpose is as a shinobi in a world of peace. They even managed to partially heal her wound by allowing her to meet so many of the people who her father affected during her life, giving her a greater understanding of who he was.  Moreover, by understanding the identity of the “king” shinobi must protect, she realizes her purpose in this peaceful world is to keep things peaceful.

This is exactly the kind of arc I was hoping we’d get to once everything stopped focusing on members of Team 7 for longer than one or two episodes. If Boruto is going to continue and follow a manga that’s updated once a month, they need to try to flesh out some of the other characters in Konoha or its going to be a slog to watch every week.

10. Next Episode: Looks like it’s about time to figure out who gets selected as a Chuunin!  It’s been quite some time since the Chuunin Exams, but now that things have calmed down they’re finally able to get to it. There’s every chance this winds up being another goofy recap episode, but if not…I mean. It definitely can’t be Boruto, right? Yeah, he’s responsible for saving the village but sooner or later everyone’s responsible for saving the village if they’re in Konoha. Give Himawari a training arc and she’ll do it without even knowing how to write kanji yet. Hopefully, a guy who’s had his headband taken once and nearly twice is only considered for a few seconds, at best.

Presumably it’ll go to Sarada or Denki, the kind of dark horse pick the early Chuunin Selection exams are known for.

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is available for streaming on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.

Sage Ashford

A writer with way too many hobbies, Sage can often be found catching up on the latest anime, or reading a stack of comics between Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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