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        1. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
          Episode 154

          by Amy McNulty,

          How would you rate episode 154 of
          Boruto: Naruto Next Generations ?

          Boruto: Naruto Next Generations' latest one-off shines a spotlight on the youngest member of the Uzumaki household, Himawari. Unclear on whether or not she wants to pursue a career in ninjutsu, Boruto's little sis attends a trial day at the Ninja Academy with two other children: the soft-spoken Hinata-esque Yuina Itomaki and the brash Naruto-esque Ehou Norimaki. Despite having no formal shinobi training, Hinata quickly outshines both of her classmates and draws the ire of Ehou (who is singularly focused on becoming a ninja) when she reveals that she's still undecided on becoming a full-fledged kunoichi. Tensions with Ehou reach their apex when the trio is sent on a low-level mission to locate a lost cat. Not wishing to work with someone who's unwilling to commit to ninjutsu, Ehou kicks Himawari off the team and continues the mission with Yuina. Fortunately, a timely lecture from Iruka (who'd been stealthily observing the gang's progress with Shino) helps the dejected Himawari regain her vigor and rescue her teammates, who succeeded in locating the cat but fell down a well in the process. In the end, Himawari acknowledges that ninjutsu is “fun” but states that she'd like to explore other career paths before making her final decision. (Come on, kid. You're, what, 10? It's high time you decided on a job!)

          While previous Himawari-focused installments have been hit-or-miss, this week's outing is arguably the best episode centered around Naruto and Hinata's second progeny. Not only does Himawari get her first formal taste of the shinobi world, she also learns important lessons about teamwork and dealing with seemingly impossible individuals. Since she's led a very sheltered existence (at least in comparison to the previous generation of Hidden Leaf youth), placing her in a setting with less adult supervision than she's used to makes for an interesting change of pace. Granted, she doesn't find herself in mortal danger, but her practice mission presents a much higher degree of peril than the fluffy misadventures this character typically takes part in. Ending the episode with Himawari refusing to fully commit to ninjutsu and having the adults in her life understand that she shouldn't be pressured into pursuing a career path about which she's unsure is the right call. Allowing her to explore her options and enjoy the challenge of being a shinobi without forcing her down that path may ultimately strengthen her resolve to become a ninja should that be what she winds up choosing.

          Episode 154 also gives us a chance to check in with Shino, Iruka, and Anko, whose appearances have been few and far between since Boruto and company finished their time at the Academy. Since the comedy well of jokes about Shino being the Naruto-verse's Meg Griffin dried up quite a while ago, this week's installment limits itself to a couple of subtle digs about the man's lack of presence. Fortunately, jokes of this nature tend to be funnier when they're low-key, especially in comparison to some of the unbelievably cartoonish variants of this bit. (Shino becoming so socially isolated that he's driven to converse with children's toy, for example.)

          If there's a weak point to be found this week, it's Ehou and his relentless jerkiness. While his behavior is clearly meant to drive the central conflict and set Himawari up for an important lesson, the screenwriters go a bit overboard in this area. For starters, the fact that someone attending a trial day at the Academy is unwilling to fully commit to ninjutsu seems like an odd impetus for his anger, even if he's clearly jealous that she's more skilled than him despite not having his drive. Sure, this could've caused him to look down on Himawari, but his absolute refusal to work with her—and eventual physical assault of her—in response to her uncertainty feels overdone to the point of straining credulity. It's hard to picture the narrative or its moral being adversely impacted by keeping his meanness at a believable level. (Also, perhaps it's a testament to how peaceful things have become since the war, but it's kind of odd that only three children show up for this event. Maybe it's limited to three kids at a time, and different groups show up on different days?)

          With the show taking a break of indeterminate length, this week's installment is a sweet, if superfluous standalone story to go out on. By framing the shinobi experience through young Himawari's eyes, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations reminds us of Leaf ninja's core values: supporting teammates, protecting loved ones, and completing missions. In the Boruto timeline, the denizens of the Hidden Leaf have a much wider variety of paths available to them, and though it's likely Himawari will continue the family tradition, she's by no means required to do so.

          Rating:

          Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

          Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.


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