Many of the arcs in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations have had the hallmarks of many arc across the franchise. Characters learn of a great and rising evil, slowly gain exposure to danger, ramp up in power to match the evil, and ultimately overcome it with a devastating technique or combination of forces and grit. The latest chapter of Boruto has taken some of the core elements of those dynamic plots and reduced them to to flat, dull versions of themselves. Chapter 79 of Boruto: Naruto Next Generations released on English through Viz on March 19th (with plenty of leaks ahead of time) and unveiled a plot twist that is perhaps larger in magnitude than any other throughout both Boruto and Naruto. Unlike other twists in the past, this one felt formless; there was little realistic build-up to the substance of the twist itself and most of its appeal stems from its magnitude rather than its execution.
Obviously, talking about it will include spoilers for the Boruto: Naruto Next Generations manga up to and including chapter 79. I’ll reference the plot of Naruto as well, but I’d be hard pressed to imagine there are many Boruto readers who didn’t at least read the broader strokes of Naruto’s plot.
The Twist and Its Implications
The crux of this chapter is the revelation of the full extent of Eida and her power to charm others. Kawaki, while evading capture from Leaf ninja after injuring Boruto, finds himself out of chakra and unable to fully erase his presence. Eida uses her Senrigan to quickly locate Kawaki and rush to his side. The latter quickly begins to spew an emotionally frustrated rant, lamenting his desire to protect Naruto and the village being impeded by the necessity of killing Boruto, someone he sees as a brother and who Naruto and village would protect without question. Eida reacts strongly to this, and it’s actually quite consistent with her character. As someone who longs to receive what she feels is genuine love and affection, Eida respects it from others and typically acts to protect it. She insists Code spare Naruto after witnessing how much Kawaki adored and looked up to him. She even grew to feel connected to Boruto after witnessing him speak affectionately toward Kawaki. I personally even predict (and this is very much a guess / headcanon) that part of why Sarada and Sumire were unaffected by her power to charm is the two’s crushes and romantic feelings toward Boruto, something Eida is both aware of and relates to strongly.
Eida’s eyes lose their characteristic crescent moon pattern and her and Kawaki are both surrounded by energy. After some time, the surging power ends, Eida’s eyes return to normal, and the Leaf ninja who were hunting down Kawaki suddenly treat him as an ally. Momoshiki explains that the true nature of Eida’s power is Omnipotence, which is exactly what it sounds like. Eida has invoked that power to essentially swap the lives of Boruto and Kawaki, modifying the memories of the world to believe that Boruto is an outside and Kawaki Naruto’s biological son. Like Daemon and Code, Eida’s power ties to her name at least somewhat; Ada Lovelace, who inspired the character’s name, is said to be the first computer programmer and was instrumental in the theoretical development behind computers’ use for algorithmic calculations. Momoshiki refers to this power as a divine programming language capable of creating worlds.
It feels likely that Eida is unable to invoke this power without some strong motivating feeling and contact with an Otsuksuki. Momoshiki remarks that her lack of Otsuksuki DNA is why she cannot control it and she only activates it while in direct contact with Kawaki. Even more, given how her eyes shifted, it’s likely that she invoked it subconsciously, just as she does with her ability to charm. The situation feels quite reminiscent of The Coordinate in Attack on Titan, right down the ability to massively alter the memory of others. The revelation of this power creates ready and accessible means for nearly every character in the story to instantly be twisted to suit someone’s emotions and manifest tension for the Boruto manga’s plot.
Why This Method is So Unsatisfying
Put simply, among the many forms of plot twists, this one comes off as a poor deus ex machina. In fact, this is quite literally what the original deus ex machina in looked like: the will of a God instantly transforming the story in ways that are otherwise impossible. While the very beginning of Boruto’s manga implied that there might be some heroic role reversal between Boruto and Kawaki (from Boruto donning Sasuke’s slashed headband and sword to Kawaki first appearing above Naruto’s stone monument), nothing was ever done to suggest that this sort of universe-editing power would be the means. This twist of fate is a “big twist” because of the magnitude of the shock and nothing more. It doesn’t do much to recontextualize former scenes of the story beyond Momoshiki’s prophecy (the “blue eyes” ended up referring to Eida, not Boruto). Even in terms of establishing how Boruto came to seem so unheroic in the opening chapter, this is a hollow resolution of many possibilities.
Good plot twists, both in general and in the Boruto / Naruto franchise, come from the introduction of information organically over time or reversals of fate that emerge naturally from the progression of the plot. They work like sleight of hand; an author might divert attention or obscure an action and surprise the eager watcher with an outcome that deviates from what was expected. The surprise feels unique not just because it was a surprise. It spawns feelings of curiosity and a desire to investigate. It makes you rethink everything you’ve seen and wonder just what else you’ve been missing. These sorts of strong reveals induce a viewer to immediately draw a path of logic in their head by which they could have guessed that what they’re seeing would happen. Continuously watching the events prior to the big reveal, like watching a magician guide your attention everywhere but under their sleeve, builds up a tapestry of beliefs that are eventually unsewn by the twist.
Eida’s power neither emerged organically nor built incrementally onto other character traits. One might be tempted to call this reveal organic since some plot twist was expected and it had been established that godly powers exist in the series. But that confuses the foreshadowing of a plot twist with the foreshadowing of this plot twist. Almost in acknowledgement of this very point, Momoshiki notes that even Amado, who used DNA from an Otsuksuki god to grand Eida power in the first place, had no way of understanding the extent of this ability from only seeing one result of it. It feels as if Kishimoto is speaking to the reader in those panels and acknowledging that this series of events was unpredictable to anyone who could not literally see the future. On top of all of that, the continuous introduction of greater and greater powers into Boruto alienates most everyone besides those with Otsuksuki abilities. This certainly isn’t anything new, but at the very least earlier instances of this high power ceiling were surmountable by sacrificial powerups like Might Guy opening the eight inner gates at the (intended) cost of his life.
Looking Forward in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
I grew up watching and reading Naruto, which means I saw the years of buildup that went into some of the series’ most satisfying and unsatisfying reveals. I remember reading through the thousands of pages of arguments on online forums over who the man in the orange mask could be, seeing well reasoned theories for it being anyone from Sasuke’s dad to random Uchiha who only existed within fanfiction. I can recall the collective frustration when Madara, a character who didn’t appear on page until hundreds of chapters of hype after he was first mentioned, was usurped as the final antagonist of Naruto Shippuden by Kaguya Otsuksuki. And now once again the story is being twisted inorganically to raise the stakes and stoke tension. It’s unsatisfying.
At the very least, this use of Eida’s power will lead to interesting contradictions in the story and its characters’ experiences. Sarada, for whatever reason, is unaffected by the power. Sasuke, who stops sprinting just after the power takes effect, seems clever enough to understand when his mind has been altered. More practically, the mere swapping of common knowledge regarding Boruto and Kawaki doesn’t resolve things such as Kawaki’s scientific ninja tool body, Boruto being a spitting image of Naruto and knowing the Rasengan, or the likely physical documents that exist in-universe regarding the events of the Boruto manga. I’m curious to see how Boruto will handle this, and I’m excited to see a twist of fate, but I’m quite disappointed with the method. I would have much rather seen Boruto become a rogue ninja as a result of performing a positive action from the shadows that looked bad on the surface, similar to how Sasuke explains his role of the “Shadow Hokage” or how Itachi retroactively became a hero (there are issues with a man being a hero for committing genocide, but that’s a whole different article).
Ultimately though, this was a twist that wasn’t preceded with suspense. There was no coalescing of multiple desires and actions into an inevitable catastrophe, just a power that someone happened to have explaining one of the earliest mysteries of Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. But who cares, right? It’s flashy and bright and probably will look incredible when it’s animated. It’s certainly not something anyone saw coming, because there was nothing that would lend itself toward this chapter happening as it did. I doubt many people will dislike it in the end. But, truly, this is a twist that has my suspension of disbelief at its limit.
Images via Crunchyroll
BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS ⓒ 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2017 BORUTO. All Rights Reserved.