Naruto fans have not been receptive to the sequel series, Boruto, however most of Boruto’s big flaws were also present in Naruto’s manga pilot.
With a series as well-loved as Naruto, it’s surprising to see its successor Boruto get as much hate as it does. Though the sequel series undoubtedly has its admirers, most fans of Naruto have found the series uninteresting at best, and actively annoying at worst. While it might be tempting to view this as a sort of creative decline, many of Boruto’s biggest flaws actually appeared in Naruto’s manga prototype, which was very different than the series it would become.
First debuting in a 1997 issue of Akamaru Jump, Naruto’s prototype is wildly different from the series that is known and loved today. Naruto is actually the nine-tailed fox’s son who has taken human form to try and fit into society. Instead of living in a ninja world, the only real ninjas present are Naruto and the prototype’s version of the Third Hokage, here referred to as the Village Chief. Instead of meeting people organically, this version of Naruto is ordered by the Village Chief to find friends. Overall, the story has potential but is decidedly rough, and almost two decades later its worst elements would crop up once again in Boruto.
One of the biggest elements that make both the prototype and sequel such slogs are their protagonists. While some consider Naruto the least interesting part of his series, he has two concrete goals that make him compelling to follow, become Hokage and redeem Sasuke. On the other hand, proto-Naruto and Boruto both have goals that are much more nebulous. Proto-Naruto wants to be less lonely while Boruto wants to make a name for himself. Both goals are admirable but are also non-specific. More than just the main characters though, this is felt most with other characters. Boruto sets up an interesting supporting cast with the new characters, but almost completely brushes them aside over time, a bad habit it inherits from the Naruto prototype who has very thinly sketched characters in general. Unfortunately, this is especially true of the female characters. There are basically none in the prototype while the few present in Boruto like Sarada and returning characters like Sakura and Hinata just don’t get much to do.
The larger problem at play is that Naruto creator Masahi Kishimoto had to continually refine Naruto in order to shape it into the global sensation it would become. The prototype isn’t even Kishimoto’s first version of Naruto, as he wasn’t even a ninja originally. However, his editors kept on pushing him to try new things. If Naruto had just stayed like its prototype, it never would have gained its massive popularity. This is what readers are seeing with Boruto. So much of it feels like a first draft, like a story that was never meant to continue beyond Boruto’s original appearance in Boruto: Naruto the Movie.
Still though, it would be wrong to imply that either Naruto’s prototype or Boruto are completely bad. Both show Kishimoto’s eye for character design and also his ability to find creative uses for classic ninja techniques. It’s just unfortunate that Boruto seems to forget the lessons that Naruto learned from its first rough draft.
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