“Boruto” has reached its 50th chapter and it features a battle against the strongest opponent ever written into the “Naruto” franchise.
Despite the significance of the conflict, though, the way it’s being presented is comparatively lackluster to battles that built up to this.
Most particularly, the way Sasuke is fighting doesn’t make sense to what we know he is capable of doing. He’s a quick thinker, incredibly skilled at chakra manipulation and has the strongest defense of any living character. Yet, the only jutsu he’s used in the fight thus far is his basic Chidori.
At any time Sasuke has the capacity to activate his Perfect Susannoo, yet he’s consistently being speed blitzed and physically pummeled. And when he does have the opportunity to attack, he keeps choosing to go short range with the basic Chidori instead of using its derivatives that are faster and long range.
Sasuke wouldn’t keep doing the same thing and failing. He’d adapt and use his techniques that will actually help him win.
Meanwhile, Naruto fares a little better, but there are still plenty of issues with his battle sequence.
Not only does Naruto misname his own ability, one that debuted over a decade ago during his fight against Pain, he’s also using attacks that are objectively not as useful. He has a vast retinue of Rasengan variants that could come in handy, yet none of them are being utilized.
At this rate, the battle will be forgettable.
The issue with it all, though, is the overly liberal use of speed lines to create the illusion of rapid movement.
Used sparingly and with tact, speed lines are a fantastic way of conveying to the reader that a character is moving at high speeds. However, there’s a four page chunk where each panel only has a single character surrounded entirely by speed lines.
Body blurring and after images are one way in which the illusion of rapid movement can be achieved. Had more dynamic drawings been utilized, combining these various strategies, the battle would feel far more natural.
However, the chapter does have one segment that is not only enjoyable, but critical if one is examining character motivation.
The Kawaki story arc is one that has readers fascinated because it’s the beginning of the chaos that was teased in the very first chapter of “Boruto.” In chapter 50, we finally see strong progression toward what his major turning point might be.
The battle cuts away to a simultaneous conversation between Shikamaru, Amado, and Kawaki back at the Hidden Lead Village, and there we get clarification on Kawaki’s status and the win condition for the fight against Isshiki.
Themes of freedom, death and fate are pushed in this conversation, with death being a shadow hanging over protagonists and antagonists alike. This is likely hinting toward a bigger picture for the story arc, and could provide clues to what comes next.
You’ll want to read it and come to your own conclusions, but the juxtaposition between the battle at hand and conversation — along with the extended metaphor — carries a weight that lifts the story from being a mere battle manga, to a narrative with real meaning behind it.
However, because the chapter is combat focused, yet fails at depicting it in the way it deserves, the chapter is an unfortunate “meh.”