Boruto is back with a fresh round of anime-continuity content! For those new to the style of Boruto’s story, I’ll explain what’s happening with Boruto episode 221. Generally, anime, and especially action ones, stick to the story of the original manga. That storyline is the canon storyline. Conversely, any content and story added to the anime are typically non-canon. For Boruto, things are a bit different. The anime and manga feed off of each other. In other words, some of the material added into the Boruto anime ends up becoming canon for the series. The manga even reinforces this practice; some characters introduced via the anime (like Sumire) pop up later in the manga. This isn’t always the case, and sometimes the anime blatantly differs from the manga. But, the introduction of brand new events tends to be consistent.
Boruto episode 221 just began a Chunin exam arc taking place immediately after the fight with Isshiki. In the aftermath, the Leaf sustained heavy losses. Even more, the optics within the village aren’t great. The village witnessed Isshiki’s attack and suffered the trauma of an evacuation. Just like prior times where the village was attacked, the aftermath requires rebuilding not just the village, but its image. A Chunin exam allows the village to bolster its forces and demonstrate a strong pipeline of talent.
Overall, I think this is a strong move for the series. Narratively, that is. I am a bit disappointed with the pacing and style of this new story. In discussing that, I will obviously be going over the plot and details of Boruto episode 221. Read with that in mind.
A New Chunin Exam
The Chunin exam this time around is different in two key ways. For one, each village is hosting its own Chunin exam. This is absolutely major as a change. The Chunin exam, back in the Naruto series, was something ninja touted as a means of peaceful competition between nations. Just like the Olympics, different villages hosted, often alongside others. This time Leaf ninja are competing amongst themselves. Secondly, the phases are a bit different than last time. This change is one I actually enjoyed. The first round of the exam is the classic test with plenty of cheating. Round two, unlike the team-based capture the flag of last time, is an individual challenge to rescue injured ninja.
This change is the biggest signal for what the Leaf wants out of Chunin. Rescue doesn’t require tremendous power and emphasizes a lot of usually ignored ninja skills. Naruto, Shikamaru, and Sai take care to note that other disciplines of ninja, like medical and scientific ninja, will have space to shine. Boruto episode 221 also emphasized a lesson classic to the Naruto franchise: that those who abandon their comrades are scum. While Boruto’s passing felt very Harry Potter Goblet of Fire, I appreciated that moment for his character to set aside individual goals to help someone.
The final test seems similar to past Chunin exams. 10 Genin made it to this point, meaning 5 will survive one-on-one battles. This seems somewhat antithetical to the goal of bolstering ranks, especially since many Chunin might be on the same team. For viewers, however, I was grateful they didn’t leave this segment out. As I’ve been saying for a few weeks, I am absolutely dying to see some side character growth. The non-Team 7 ninja have some very unique abilities that I want to see in action. Plus, the samurai character, Tsubaki, is absolutely amazing looking and I anticipate the show will take her far in her fight.
What it Means for Boruto
Looking at this exam holistically, I have two complaints so far. One is a bit more meta and about the series from a viewer angle. The other is more about what happens within the world. Looking at the in-the-world problem, this exam seems pathetically easy. Bolstering ranks and promoting Chunin does seem great on paper. But, having Chunin die in missions far too hard for them seems far worse for morale. Plus, every other village is conducting their own exams as well. If they manage to advance beyond what the Leaf manages to, then that poses each village to start mentally making plans for battle apart from each other. For any Otsutsuki level threat, survival will require cooperation. And given the other Kage’s discomfort with Naruto’s decisions around Boruto and Kawaki, I am incredibly surprised the characters would make the choice to go solo.
My meta complaint has to do with pacing. Back in the original Naruto series, the first phase of the exam was several episodes. The second was an entire arc. Early Boruto had a pretty fast Chunin exam and this was an opportunity to correct that. Instead, the pacing is even faster and the structure of the exam barely gave any characters a chance to shine.
Moving forward, I hope one of two things happens. Either the battle portion of the exams needs more attention or the filler arcs after this need to be good. The manga releases too slowly for the Boruto anime to catch up any time soon. Given that, we’re likely going to get an incredibly long run of filler. The series had a great spike in appeal during the previous arc. Bad filler will potentially ruin all of that and doom the arcs to follow.
Boruto episode 221 images courtesy of VRV
BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS © 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2017 BORUTO. All Rights Reserved.