Boruto closes out his latest adventure and a new mystery looms on the horizon in an action-packed Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. Having tracked down the Mujina Gang’s base of operations, Boruto wastes no time in taking out Shojoji’s underlings and making a play for the man himself. However, as he quickly discovers, Shojoji possesses the ability to detect and dispel any jutsus that are thrown at him, making it virtually impossible to land a blow on him. (He also reveals Kokuri’s true fate to the aghast Boruto.) Thanks to a well-orchestrated tag-team attack, Boruto and Tento are able to temporarily knock their opponent out, but this leaves Boruto powerless and results in the mark on his hand taking on a new form. Shojoji seems to recognize this symbol but refuses to reveal too much, and before he can finish off the energy-drained Boruto, Sarada and Mitsuki arrive on the scene to subdue him.
With Tento safe and Shojoji behind bars, Ikkyu and Tento (who’s sworn to work hard and become someone worthy of supporting his father) head home. While seeing them off, Boruto returns the rare card that Tento gifted him in the previous episode, which is revealed to be a vintage Sasuke. While being interrogated, Shojoji reveals to Sasuke that the mark on Boruto’s hand is a symbol of a secret organization called Kara. Although he claims he doesn’t know too much about them, it’s pretty clear that even a villain as fearsome as Shojoji is afraid of these mysterious figures.
Featuring some truly impressive animation, the fight against Shojoji is briskly paced and a visual feast for the eyes. However, if there’s one nitpick to be found, it would be how easy such a purportedly powerful figure is taken out. Never mind the fact that his underlings drop like dominoes, Shojoji’s ability to dispel jutsus can’t even weather a tag-team attack from two children, one of whom isn’t even a ninja. To be fair, Boruto has now gone head-to-head with two Otsutsukis, and Shojoji may not be much by comparison, but considering how much time has been devoted to building him up as a threat, it doesn’t take much to incapacitate him.
On the plus side, Tento’s direct involvement in weakening Shojoji is thematically appropriate and helps drive home the importance of hard work—something this franchise has never shied away from. Since Tento has never really had any friends, seeing him learn the value of teamwork is particularly gratifying. (The fact that neither Tento nor Ikkyu seem at all affected by Yamaoka’s death is a bit troubling, however.)
Sarada and Mitsuki lend a hand just in time, proving that Boruto should have asked them to have his back rather than running off without sharing the details with them. Team 7 accepting that they’ll still be facing discipline for bailing on their assigned mission is another testament to the long-running Naruto-verse theme that even if abandoning one’s mission is a terrible thing, abandoning one’s friends is the worst thing one can do.
Despite telling a familiar story and featuring equally familiar narrative beats, Boruto’s latest adventure is able to get by on good presentation, characterization, and pacing. Even if you haven’t followed this franchise since its inception, odds are you’ve seen this story told across multiple forms of popular media, and perhaps realizing this, the creative minds behind Boruto have gone out of their way to make things feel fresh. The mysterious mark on Boruto’s hand and its apparent connection to the sinister Kara (and the sleek new intro) may suggest that major changes are on the horizon. Even if the last two arcs have been meant to serve as a preamble to a larger conflict with Kara, the noticeable growth and maturity Boruto has displayed throughout these stories make them worthwhile additions to the Naruto-verse canon.