With little fanfare Boruto: Naruto Next Generation quietly released an important episode for the series and the franchise as a whole. While the episode itself was pretty great and reminds me that Boruto can reach the highs of its predecessor it was important for another reason. It marks the last time (that we know of) that Masashi Kishimoto’s own work will be adapted into a Naruto anime, making the episodes placement as Boruto’s final episode of its freshmen year all the more fitting.
Based on the one shot manga Naruto Gaiden - The Path Shone by the Full Moon’s Light the episode centers around one of the most mysterious characters in the Naruto canon currently, Mitsuki. Opening cold after the opening song the episode delves in the meat of the one shot. As Mitsuki wakes up in a lab quickly revealed to be manned by Sugetsu and Orochimaru, however Orochimaru is also present with a hooded figure the episode does not reveal to the viewer.
Later it is stated Orochimaru is Mitsuki’s “father” after Mitsuki and Sugetsu engage in a minor game of fisticuffs. In this scene the first major adjusted to the manga is made, while Orochimaru does indeed look much younger then he once did. His youthful and more feminine features from the manga have been replaced by a more lithe look, its a little sad as Orochimaru’s also cute look contrasted nicely with his past and snake like personality. It also lessens the impact of Mitskui’s “are you my mother or father” and his response of “meh, doesn’t matter” back and forth.
It is explained Mitsuki is with Orochimaru because a certain masked ninja, seriously what is with masks in this series, has stolen his memories. At this point unlike in the one shot there is uncertainty if this is happening in real time or not. As at the point of the one shot there was actually no main story line to follow. Its also revealed that the masked ninja has the ability of memory manipulation and as such they need to go on a mission to make everything right.
Despite the one shot potentially having the ability to be split into two episodes with a bit of filler padding, like Naruto Gaidens adaption a few months back, the manga is adapted almost scene for scene. Making this episodes pace a breeze, never once slowing down for pointless details that could bog down the main plot. A certain other fantasy anime about being the best in the world could learn from this...
Jumping from the lab to some underground temple, Mitsuki and Orochimaru have the task of securing a scroll to restore but first they must break a barrier. Which surprise surprise, Mitsuki has the ability to do so only he’s forgotten.
As the plot progresses we met the mysterious masked Ninja Log, who engages in a repetitively well animated and entertaining fight with Orochimaru. It is always a pleasure to watch Orochimaru fight as his abilities are just so alien, in the right animators hands they can really pop. Here despite its short run time manages to capture the spirit of Orochimaru well.
Eventually following the fight after it looks like Orochimaru lost but didn’t, the Snake Sannin leaves to recover the scroll, Mitsuki now recovering from paralysis from earlier is left alone with Log. Despite being paralyzed by Orochimaru Log begins to talk to Mitsuki, asking the young Ninja to remove his helmet, explaining everything will be revealed if he does. Mitsuki acquiesces to the request of the older shinobi, stupidly.
With the mask removed it is revealed Log is in fact an older “Mitsuki”, merely an artificial human. Which is actually the first time I’ve heard “Jinzōningen” properly translated as the English dub of Dragon Ball Z famously referred to them as “Androids” despite actually being cyborgs. He explains the Mitsuki line is basically one long running experiment of Orochimaru’s to become “Snake Cups” and fulfill Orochimaru’s desires.
With this revelation all the plot contrivances of earlier in the episode makes sense, such as why Mitsuki was able to break Logs barrier. As effectively it was also Mitsuki’s own barrier, though that raises plot holes in and of itself. Or does it?
As Orochimaru returns with the scroll he finds a situation slightly changed then the one he left. Mitsuki now torn between his “Father” and “Himself”, both now engaging in a moralistic argument on the philosophies of creation. Log eventually tries to force Mitsuki to make a choice and turn on Orochimaru. Even in anime form, despite liking this story quite a bit my eyes were seriously rolling as everything was just so cliched. It almost feels as if it was a Naruto Best of Story.
As the two elder shinobi pull Mitsuki in opposite directions, the younger decides upon a new path all his own. Unleashing his version of Sage Mode Mitsuki breaks away from both and escapes with the Ninja Tool and Scroll. This is interesting as Mitsuki’s version of Sage Mode is unlike any we have seen before.
As we know from the original series Sage Mode is powered by Nature Chakra, requiring an immense amount of training to achieve it. As shown by Naruto and the fact Jiraiya never fully mastered it, despite being one of the greatest Ninja’s of all time. This leads me to believe, along with its shared characteristics of a Tailed Beast transformation, Mitsuki’s Sage Mode is different.
The difference being, that he is channeling internal Sage Chakra rather externally generated Chakra. This would explain its sudden appearance and why it is so radically different to Kabuto a fellow Snake Sage. Furthermore, while the animation on the sequence was gorgeous I do think it loses something from the manga chapter which was some of Kishimoto’s finest.
Following Mitsuki’s escape the two remaining Shinobi discuss the events that transpired and reveal - surprise surprise - they were working together all along... in an attempt to set Mitsuki on an as of yet unknown path. It is here where the episode confirms itself as a flashback, as the scroll sets Mitsuki out to find Boruto. Making Orochimaru’s grand plan likely an attempt to give his “Son” something he loved, but foolish tossed away a family.
At the end this episode and the manga that proceeded it has all the hallmarks of Masashi Kishimoto. Great fights, family melodrama, unexpected but kind of predictable surprises, it was Naruto without Naruto in a nutshell. It also shows that once again Boruto can be a great anime if it wants to be, it is just a shame its so often buried under piles of pointless material. With Kishimoto releasing a new series in 2018 this will likely be the last of his direct involvement with Naruto/Boruto but as 2017 comes to a close its a fitting end.