“The generation below us is.. frankly not up to par.” I included that in the picture at the top of this post for a reason, I think that quote is phenomenally on point both in the context of Boruto as a story and what I believe about how Boruto should best fit into the Naruto-verse. This line comes up in a Five Kage Summit behind closed doors from latest episode of Boruto and the context here is that Naruto and Sasuke have discovered that Kaguya and her White Zetsu army are likely not the greatest threat the Ninja World will have to face – but they don’t know when this greater threat will appear. The worry here is obvious, the current generation – Naruto’s generation – doesn’t think the generation below them is strong enough, with the current Raikage claiming that a lack of real skills among the youth is a concern for every ninja village and that this lack of real skills is the result of the current united, peaceful world. The current Tsuchikage says it best though with the above quote though her literal words were closer to “Frankly the next generation’s level is too low.”
Now this is followed by Gaara and Naruto arguing that every generation faces the same scrutiny from the generation before them and that the kids may well surpass the current generation. I agree with them to some extent but I think it would be best for the Naruto-verse for Boruto’s generation to never exceed Naruto’s generation. This is because Naruto’s biggest problem is that the power levels got out of control and trying to write a story involving those power levels basically took Naruto away from the things which made it initially appealing. I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of there being an enemy greater than Kaguya but if such an enemy exists Naruto’s generation – not Boruto’s – should be the one to face it. Based on a few hints from the Manga and the very first scene of the anime it looks like the plan is for Boruto to somehow surpass Naruto even when he’s still a teenager – and that would be a death blow to the Naruto-verse. Keep in mind that most of the Jinchuriki are gone, there’s no Akatsuki anymore and there is no threat of war or great tragedy driving the kids to get stronger at such a young age. This is why I agree with the Tsuchikage and Raikage, this era can’t produce the same level of ninja, or at least the same numbers of ninja of a high enough level as the generation before them.
What then can be done to save Boruto? Because against all odds it’s been decent so far. There are minor details I would’ve changed but the overall feel is fine and some of the scenes featuring Naruto’s generation as parents have been the most well written Naruto moments in years. I found Naruto’s warm paternal moments with Sarada, who has lacked a father figure her whole life, to be especially good. And I loved the new Five Kage Summit and seeing all those kids from Naruto all grown up and handling adult problems – it’s been a blast to see character’s I’d largely gotten tired of become interesting again. To answer the aforementioned question I see only two solutions. 1 – The greater than Kaguya threat (henceforth GTKT) appears when Boruto’s generation is older. In this scenario Naruto’s generation would likely do something akin to the very first major arc of Naruto – basically give the kids challenging missions to hone their skills while adults supervise and step in if unexpected developments, like Zabuza showing up on a low ranked mission, occur.
The other option, and in my opinion the better option, is to have Naruto’s generation defeat the GTKT but to destroy themselves in the process. Basically it would be akin to Sasuke’s situation in Naruto, Sasuke has to deal with Itachi because there are no other Uchiha’s left to hunt him down. I don’t think Boruto would have to be that extreme but the idea here is for enough of Naruto’s generation to die or suffer crippling wounds when fighting the GTKT that they have no choice but to let Boruto’s generation to step up to the plate in the aftermath. In this scenario no enemy Boruto’s generation would have to face would be like the GTKT, instead they would have to deal with strong leaders from minor villages seeking to claim power now that threats like Naruto are no longer hanging over their head or something like a huge outbreak in mid-level criminal ninjas. The point is I don’t think Boruto’s generation should ever fight an opponent above the level of the Akatsuki and even then I think the Akatsuki’s power level might be too high for this generation to handle – but at least it could be done I think. This way Boruto’s generation could grow and struggle but it wouldn’t break the Naruto-verse the way having these new kids surpass their sometimes stupidly powerful parents would, especially if they did so before they were adults.
Ultimately Boruto’s greatest narrative challenge is in creating foes and scenarios which are tough for Boruto’s generation to deal with but not so dangerous that the parents feel forced to come in and curb stomp the problem. The Nue was a good example as the nature of the Nue made it something which Naruto couldn’t combat but Boruto could because Boruto was too weak to give the Nue any real power while Naruto would’ve given it more fuel for it’s explosion. So at the very least the staff is clearly aware of the problem and working on it. But the longer Boruto runs the trickier this challenge will be, and like I said I can only really see two ways out of the problem. And I for one, hope that Boruto doesn’t break Naruto for good.