If you had told 2005 Me that thirteen years from now, I'd be deeply invested in a show about not Naruto, but Naruto's kid, I would've told you that that sounds like a parody of an actual human existence. But here I am, in 2018, kickin' it to Boruto. And one of the reasons that I've become trapped in the simultaneous heaven and hell that is being an anime fan is that I really wanna see Naruto become a good Dad. Yeah, sure, I hope Boruto gains more knowledge and power and gets better at Doing His Boruto Thing. But my biggest concern when it comes to Boruto is Naruto's parenting acumen.
There is no handbook for being a father in real life, and even less of one for being a father in an anime. And while real, fleshy, human Dads are given advice like "don't let it play in the street" and "try your best not to drop it," anime Dads get nothing. They spend their whole lives partaking in laser punch fights with superpowered fighters and demons, and then immediately head on to training for the next laser punch fight. Not a lot of time to squeeze in a chapter or two of The Expectant Father.
It's also not like anime Dads have any good examples to follow. Yeah, I know that you should want to take care of your child, but it's nice to at least have another Dad that you can look at and say "Hey, he's doing a good job. I should do a good job, too." Imagine being a Dad in the One Piece universe. I'm sure that Monkey D. Dragon would be a much bigger figure in Luffy's life if all the Dads on the Grand Line didn't decide "Hey, I just had a kid! Better go explore the death sea now."
Obviously, Monkey D. Dragon is the leader of the Revolutionaries and that's important business, but maybe sending a Christmas card would've been a nice treat in Luffy's childhood. The same goes for Goku. Goku seems to at least enjoy Gohan's company, but one of the reasons that Goku is often derided as one of the worst fathers in anime and/or fiction is that he's super flippant when it comes to his parental duties. Gohan may have wanted to play a game of Saiyan catch in the yard every once in a while, but nope. Goku heard someone whisper about a fighting tournament on Jupiter that he now has to go shout his way through.
This extremely hands-off parenting style can have some weird effects. In Gohan's case, it basically leads to him becoming the adopted child of every other lead combatant in the series. In the case of HunterxHunter, Gon chooses his entire career based on the fact that it'll bring him closer to finding his Dad. If Ging had put a little more effort into planning Gon's birthday parties, HunterXHunter would've been a delightful show about a little boy with big hair that likes to go fishing. Instead, it's a great show about a twelve-year-old that gets the crap kicked out of him in every other episode.
And in the case of Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, his Dad's method of "I must find a way to stop my curse, and I can only do it by abandoning my family for ten years," just leaves Edward furious... and I don't blame Edward for being pissed off. In a world of outrageous magic and science and magic science, SURELY there are better ways to handle your own fears than going on a no-kids-allowed field trip for a decade.
This brings me all the way back to Naruto and Boruto. Now, Naruto has all the pieces aligned to be an awful anime parent. First of all, he's an orphan (at least for a while), which doesn't immediately disqualify anyone from being a good father--but in anime logic, it almost absolutely dictates that you'll be cold, distant, and possibly a warlord. Second, most of his growth as a person came from his mentors, the mentors that also trained him to fight better. So many of the personal, inner achievements that he has are irrevocably tied into his ninja stuff.
As rad as ninja stuff is, having it as the backbone of your emotional progress may not be the healthiest thing to ever happen to a person.
And lastly, he follows the "chosen one" path that other dudes like Goku have. He can't really focus on raising a family when he's expected to protect the whole world and has "Helped Save Humanity" on his resume.
But Naruto tries. He's not there all the time. He's the Seventh Hokage, so how could he be? However, Naruto at least attempts to be a positive influence on his son's life. Many lessons in shonen anime, regardless of what they started off as, end up becoming a variant of "THE INNER STRENGTH YOU EARNED THROUGH COMBAT IS THE GREATEST STRENGTH OF ALL." And that's neat. But you get the sense that Naruto kind of wants Boruto to be a good person, too, and to make good decisions that don't necessarily involve being a ninja prodigy.
And most importantly, like any good father and son relationship, Naruto and Boruto learn from each other. Boruto wishes that his Dad was around more, but eventually comes to respect his Dad's job and all of the burdens that are attached to it. On the other hand, Naruto learns from Boruto that he has to approach fatherhood in a way that he's never had to approach anything before. Most of Naruto's life was dedicated to becoming Hokage, becoming the best, becoming the "Chosen One." All of that is fairly impersonal stuff to everyone who isn't Naruto. And so Boruto basically forces Naruto to be more open and loving.
I remember not wanting to watch Boruto, because I figured that it would be a Naruto remix. I'd already watched Naruto grow up. What could his son have to offer? But by giving Boruto a chance, I realized that there's a bigger story being told: one about a boy that grew up without parents eventually learning how to be a good parent. And while that story is caked in rad martial arts contests, and Dojutsu, and doing finger signs with your hands when you want cool stuff to happen, it's still kind of beautiful. So if you're staying away from Boruto because you figure that it's the same story that you've seen a thousand times, check it out under this new lense. It reignited a spark for even a seasoned Shonen fan.
Man, Naruto. I never knew you had it in ya.
Daniel is a writer for the internet. He, like most of the people on this planet, has a dumb Twitter.