I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
Boruto Episode 168 came out as of writing this article and it was necessary to convey how that episode provided a means to contextualize the progression of Naruto and its cast in terms of their ability to overcome battles.
From my experience watching shonen anime, Naruto is among the few series that goes through the rigorous process of showing us how powers are developed and the limits they possess. In the case of this series, training arcs are the highlights in terms of presentation.
In this article, I will provide a brief summary of the key points of Boruto Episode 168 and how the episode is a synthesis of the Naruto training arc formula. At the same time, I will also go over how the training arcs function in terms of developing the skills of the characters and contextualizing the challenges they face.
Boruto and Sarada's Training - A Mirror into the Naruto Formula
Setting aside the opinions of the fanbase regarding the anime product, the Boruto series has grounded its new generation characters somewhat to show how Naruto the series presents growth in power.
The spectacular Episode 166 revealed how outclassed the new Team 7 were against an elite ninja. Now, we see Boruto confirm his own limitations and find a few nuances to the character that help us dismiss the idea that he is too overpowered for his age.
Kakashi repeats this during his training with Boruto - he lacks the large chakra reserves that his dad, Naruto, has. This was already established since Boruto could only conjure four shadow clones. From there, we can tell he is nowhere near the chakra Naruto has when he was Boruto's age. However, while Naruto has the Nine-Tailed Fox as a chakra bank, he only mastered one jutsu that only he could perform, the Multi-Shadow Clone Jutsu. As this jutsu allows the user to create over thousands of clones, it was an easy accomplishment for Naruto. Apart from that, Naruto had little skill in the ninja arts. This powerful, forbidden jutsu was the only one he could pull off at the time (that and his penchant for transformation). Boruto, on the other hand, was clearly more talented, possessing knowledge of basic ninjutsu and even mastering an elemental jutsu. Naruto did not even know about the basic elements. It is on the talent aspect that makes Naruto's personal growth so ingenious for the author, Masashi Kishimoto, to put on display. Naruto is different because he has little talent but so much power. This is the right excuse to explore the world of the Naruto series and explain the power system as it unfolds.
We have seen countless shinobi throw fireballs and spit out water torrents. However, we were never told how these were made, besides the comments on fire jutsu requiring much chakra. By Naruto Shippuden, we were given a full explanation courtesy of the anomaly known as Yamato. Yamato had the cells of the First Hokage, the holder of the unique kekkei genkai known as Wood Style. This particular chakra nature was a combination of earth and water. Although only someone with the blood of the First Hokage can properly fuse them into Wood Style, Yamato's demonstration provided a sufficient base for the not-so talented Naruto to understand the concept of Change in Chakra Nature and begin his training to apply Change in Chakra Nature to the Rasengan, a jutsu that was already the highest level of what is known as the Change in Chakra Form, where the shape, range and movement of the technique can be increased for greater clarity and power. It so happened that Boruto knew of Chakra Natures in the Academy (along with learning a Wind Style jutsu for his signature Boruto stream attack) and was adept enough to not only master the Rasengan in a short span of time but unknowingly apply a Change in Chakra Nature by adding Lightning to create the fast and unpredictable Vanishing Rasengan. All he needed to do was mastering the concept, this time by applying his dominant Chakra Nature, Wind, to the Rasengan for an increase in cutting power. Boruto had one goal for his training with Kakashi: to create a stronger Rasengan.
On the other side of the spectrum, Sarada is an Uchiha who recently awakened her Sharingan. The deal with Uchiha is that they have kekkei genkai or bloodline traits, which allow them to harness unique powers that no one else can do. The Sharingan gives one excellent visual prowess and the ability to see enemy movements clearly. What is interesting is that the Sharingan has its own limitations, courtesy of a visual cue known as a tomoe. A fully-matured Sharingan has three tomoe but a fresh Sharigan only has one. This allows the Uchiha to see movements and read signs. However, this is not enough, as even a One-Tomoe Sharingan requires much mastery. Sasuke notes in Episode 168 of the Boruto series that intense emotion and events are what allow a Sharingan to mature. However, Sarada, by this point, had yet to acquire the necessary experience to awaken a second Tomoe, much less master her Sharingan's initial form. Her goal for the training arc is simple: to improve her current skill set.
Boruto and Sarada had similar starting points. Both may have been talented by their talents alone were not enough. This is what makes the Boruto training arcs fresh ground to remind old fans and draw in new ones to the appeal of the series. However, what I feel the current training arc does is make the Naruto formula even better. And what exactly is the Naruto formula? To simplify, it is where characters are better contextualized in terms of their place in the world while learning, along with the audience, what they were missing. But there is more to that.
Naruto's Personal Limitations
As explained before, Naruto had more power but less talent than the geniuses of the series, like Sasuke and Neji. However, since he had to work with several characters for much of Part 1, we may not be able to see what made Naruto unique besides the Nine Tails. Even more so, we may forget what Naruto's limits are.
So this is where the training arcs come in. During the Chunin Exam, the first two phases reveal that Naruto is not smart and has yet to be placed in situation where he needs to fight for his life. The former requires study while the latter requires mission experience, both of which Naruto was clearly lacking. The battle royale phase revealed another limitation: Naruto's limited arsenal. From Episode 1 until the Chunin Exam, we see Naruto already master at least two jutsu: the Sexy Transformation Jutsu and the Shadow Clone Jutsu. Meeting Jiraiya changes things.
While Kakashi already taught Naruto basic chakra control via creating chakra pads on his feet to walk on water or run up trees, Jiraiya taught him how to refine that chakra control and release his full power to master new jutsu. During the Chunin Exams, he learned the Summoning Jutsu, which did not help him in a lot of situations, except for saving his life in two unexpected occasions. During the Tsunade Retrieval Arc, Naruto learned his then-unknown father's magnum opus, the Rasengan. What we see here is an example of a proper growth journey. Step-by-step, we see Naruto acquire powerful abilities that allowed him to develop his weak spots, namely his chakra control.
To be continued.
© 2020 Mar Louie Vincent Reyes