Boruto: Naruto Next Generations episode 204 aired this past weekend and finally brought manga-readers’ shock to those who only follow the anime. As with most of the anime’s episodes spotlighting Naruto and Sasuke, this one was incredibly popular. For one, the main protagonists of the original Naruto series have a chance to fight all out.
Anyone who has followed Boruto knows that the anime adaptation of Boruto: Naruto the Movie practically broke the internet with its incredibly animated fights featuring Naruto and Sasuke. Secondly, and just as importantly, episode 204 brought the Boruto anime’s leading antagonist, Jigen, to the battlefield.
Then why the rage with this episode? Quite frankly, because characters fans previously acknowledged as the strongest got the absolute taste slapped out of them. Naruto and Sasuke typically prevail against almost any threat when they work together. Both of them were powerful enough to beat previous villains like Kaguya and Momoshiki Otsutsuki. But that doesn’t mean they can (or will!) beat everyone forever.
It makes sense that Jigen is so strong, both based on his abilities, his lore, and the situation Naruto and Sasuke found themselves in. To be fair to anime-only viewers, I won’t be including spoilers from the chapters in the Boruto manga. Even with that limitation, there’s plenty we can look at to understand how Jigen came out on top. Episode 204 made it abundantly clear that Jigen is using the power of the Karma seal and acting as a vessel for Isshiki Otsutsuki. That alone should make you hesitate to assume he’s just another throwaway villain for Naruto and Sasuke to beat.
Two things are true about the last two main Otsutsuki we’ve seen: both of them had mental states that made them much less effective in combat. For Kaguya, she developed a massive god complex after obtaining incredible power. This complex extended to not just power residing in her, but all chakra originating from her. At one point, Zetsu suggests Kaguya kill Naruto, something she had numerous chances to do. But she was reluctant to destroy Naruto and his chakra because to her, that would be destroying something that rightfully belonged to her in the first place.
In Momoshiki’s case, he had a mindset that the Boruto series pretty directly compares to a teenage boy using cheat codes. He felt tremendous pride in his abilities and felt the need to constantly show off the extent of his power. This makes him arrogant and reckless, leading him to waste chakra and not fight strategically. This isn’t to say Momoshiki would have beaten them with a cooler head; just to say that even a weaker villain could have done better. Kaguya, in flashbacks, was deeply afraid of the other Otsutsuki, and for good reason.
Before even considering the power he holds, Jigen (or realistically, Isshiki Otsutsuki) has a much cooler head. He’s calm and quiet to the point that it enhances his character. He goes as as far as apologizing for entering Naruto’s home without shoes. He’s a much more strategic fighter and that only bolsters his fighting style.
Before heading off to pay a visit to Kawaki and Boruto, we saw Jigen absorb the chakra of an infant ten tails. This gives him a massive amp on top of what was likely formiddable power. Naruto fans will remember that multiple characters defined the ten tails’ power as akin to a bottomless pit. While he clearly didn’t get the increase in power that the previous ten tails would have given him, it’s still clearly a large increase.
On top of that, Jigen / Isshiki’s ability is, as Naruto and Sasuke put it, simple but very annoying. His ability to shrink and manipulate the size of objects lets him land multiple clean hits on both Naruto and Sasuke before they ascertain the workings of his ability. Moreover, he’s able to absorb chakra from the rods he stabs them with. Meaning every time Naruto and Sasuke are hit with his sneak attacks, he gets stronger and them weaker.
On top of that already broken skill, Jigen is capable of using the Karma seal. This, especially with his ability to shrink things, makes ninjutsu-based attacks practically useless. As we saw in the fight, this makes all of Naruto and Sasuke’s ninjutsu useless. And unlike Momoshiki, he’s able to fight them on uneven footing by using his shrinking ability alongside taijutsu. If not for Isshiki’s vessel, Jigen, hitting its physical limit, it likely would have been trivial for him to use even more of his power.
In addition to losing chakra every time Isshiki pierced him with his rods (which was…often), Sasuke lost incredible amounts of chakra from moving himself to Isshiki’s dimension and fighting with Naruto. He lacks the incredible chakra reserves that Naruto has and the Boruto series makes frequent note of how taxing his techniques are. Finally, as he himself notes, he has to constantly maintain a small reserve of chakra for any possibility of escaping Isshiki’s dimension.
While Naruto was able to keep fighting somewhat after Sasuke was down for the count, he obviously had little chance against someone as powerful as Jigen. Sasuke constantly suffered mortal wounds and lacked the capacity to quickly heal the way Naruto can. The Karma is a hard counter to ninjutsu-based fighters like Sasuke. His lack of high or biju-augmented chakra makes an already difficult fight even harder for him.
This, to me, is both the most unsatisfying reason as well as the most compelling one. To fully understand this sort of power progression in Boruto, it’s helpful to understand a concept called power creep. Of course, the definition of power creep varies across time, person, and context. Generally thought, it refers to new content and characters slowly outstripping the power of older, alternative content and characters. In the Naruto series, this was most visible during the 4th Shinobi world war. During that conflict the entire Shinobi world stood in irrelevant shock as the main characters dominated the battlefield.
Boruto as a series is practically forced to up the power of Naruto villains. This is because Naruto and Sasuke, having achieved nearly god-like power in their teens, make any typical threat pretty trivial. No matter what happens, the story lacks tension if the viewer knows Naruto or Sasuke can swoop in and save the day.
So, while Isshiki / Jigen being as powerful as he is feels strange, it has to be this way. For the Boruto storyline to progress, Naruto and Sasuke need to be less able to deal with every threat. There are obviously a variety of ways to do this. But, inserting someone stronger than them is obviously the easiest route.
Fans of the Boruto manga know that the anime is approaching the current spot in the manga storyline. This means, as most watchers can probably guess, a lot more amazing action and development is coming. For the narrative, this episode was a taste of a necessary change to the tone of the series. And the anime even did Naruto and Sasuke some favors — they got beaten much more handily in the manga. For the first time in a very long time, there is an unbeatable threat. Ultimately, if Boruto and the others are to survive, we will have to see even more powerful protagonists.
In any case, Jigen is strong. His abilities make his fighting style uniquely powerful. His lore, which future episodes of the anime will likely cover, makes his intense focus and incredible resolve even more clear. Fans of the anime are justified in their frustration at seeing their favorite due get curb stomped. But, sadly, this is just the reality of battle anime with old characters very much in the spotlight for a long time.
Images courtesy of VRV
BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS ⓒ 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2017 BORUTO. All Rights Reserved.