This week’s Next Generations introduces the audience to yet another one of Boruto’s classmates: Rock Lee’s progeny, Metal Lee. Like Shikadai, Metal shares a lot in common with his old man, both physically and personality-wise (with one noticeable exception). While these similarities help drive home that Metal is indeed his father’s son, they don’t make for a particularly original character. Since Lee was one of the previous series’ most popular supporting characters, it makes sense that Boruto: Naruto Next Generations would want to feature a stand-in for him, but the end result is largely a watered-down version of Rock Lee.
Metal’s pronounced performance anxiety is the sole quirk that distinguishes him from his father. Although he spends the bulk of his time training in the mountains and honing various techniques, the hardworking youth consistently chokes the instant he becomes aware that people are watching him. After Shino (somewhat unfairly) sentences most of the core group to community service in response to Boruto’s reckless behavior during shuriken training, Metal’s anxiety results in even more damage to Naruto’s likeness on Hokage Rock. Although some educators would argue that there’s benefit in punishing a large group for the actions of one or two transgressors (the “community responsibility” model), Shino’s punishment extending to the victim of the attack (Metal) and several students who just happened to witness the fiasco (Shikadai, Inojin, and Sumire) seems a bit misguided. A well-intentioned but moderately harsh lecture from Shikadai soon dampens Metal’s spirits even more, and he comes to school the next morning under the influence of the same mysterious force that possessed Denki. Hoping to bring their friend to his senses, Boruto, Shikadai, and Inojin are ultimately able to subdue him through combat until he returns to his old self. Even though each of the three boys resolves to follow Metal’s example and embrace hard work, they’re back to taking it easy and playing video games by episode’s end.
Metal’s nervousness when he becomes the center of attention is an interesting way to set him apart from his oblivious, boisterous father, who never seemed to care how many eyes were on him. The episode would have been stronger if more time been devoted to exploring the origins of this unique quirk (perhaps his mysterious mother?), but the staff may be saving that for future installments. Since performance anxiety will likely be Metal’s main shtick, the producers probably didn’t want to run it into the ground this early in the game.
Of the episodes that have aired so far, this one is by far the most humor-heavy, but that’s not to say that all the jokes are particularly funny. For example, the “Temari is a domineering woman” bit, which basically reinforces Shikamaru’s negative view of women and being “tied down” in general, isn’t the least bit humorous. Some of the gags during the end-of-episode battle sequence also feel obvious and uninspired, most notably, “I’ve got a plan… Run away!” On a positive note, Naruto’s Hokage Rock likeness being continually defaced is a great running gag, as is the presence-lacking Shino frequently being ignored by his students.
While the “possessed and/or disgruntled friend of the day” formula might soon get old, it’s still in its infancy at this stage and hasn’t entirely outworn its welcome. I’m interested to see if this series will eventually tackle lengthy story arcs or stick with an episodic format for the foreseeable future. For the time being, Sarada, who’s been woefully underused so far, gets some time in the spotlight next week at last.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.