“Boruto,” Episode 11: “Shadow of The Mastermind”

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Initial reaction to this episode?

Dang, Naruto! I know I wanted you to toughen up on the boy, but I didn’t expect you to start going all Sakura on ‘im!

Ha, that little tidbit off my chest, let’s get right into it! Buckle in, because it’s gonna be one heck of an episode!
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Right off the bat, the creative team lets us know that some serious schist is about to go down. Rather than giving us that usual preview where we see maybe a minute or two of the episode before going to the theme, we dive right into the theme sequence from the beginning. This accomplishes two different things:

1. It creates a sense of mystery and anticipation. (And after that whole deal with the preview of this episode having contained spoilers, it’s nice to see them reverse course and make us wait a bit.)

2. It prevents the theme song from interfering with the mood of the episode. They basically get it out of the way immediately, so that then their creation of the mood of the episode can take place without that interrupting it.

3. I don’t know if this was the case for most viewers, or only for ones using the video source that I do, but it’s typical that after the opening sequence and preview segment, they’ll reshow some of that preview while the theme plays in the background, just before they go to break. In this case, we had no preview segment to begin with, so instead it actually jumped ahead and showed a very ticked-off looking Naruto confronting his visibly agitated son in a hallway. If that doesn’t make you go “Oh, carp,” I don’t know what will!
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I can definitely give a hearty well-done to the team already, and we haven’t even gotten past the opening sequence yet (of course, that theme sequence has always been a masterpiece to me anyway, even before the additional tweaks for this episode.)
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Finally getting into the episode proper, we open up with the classmates—Iwabe, Sarada, Cho-Cho, Inojin, Denki, Metal Lee, and Sumire’s besties, whom—until I find out their names—I am referring to as Explosives Girl and Animal Girl. Sumire herself is confined to a hospital bed, being visited by the others.

However, her injuries aren’t nearly as dire as the end of episode 10 might’ve led us to believe; while she does have a head injury, she insists she’s fine, and is alert and also well enough to sit up and converse with her classmates.

The two girls who were with her at the plant also have injuries, but those are more minor and they’re well enough to be up and about. They emotionally thank her for having saved them, although there’s no further elaboration about what her actual role was there.

Not surprisingly, Sumire deflects the praise, insisting that their safety was due to the fact that the Hokage had happened to be nearby at the time of the incident.
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Meanwhile, poor Shino is once again feeling despondent about how his ideas for the class have been turning out. I think it’s silly for him to blame himself, though; they were doing a quite reasonable and practical assignment, and the Chakra Monster attack was not the kind of thing you would plan for ahead of time. (Although I will admit that episode 10 did leave you questioning the judgement of some of the people supervising the children…)

Hopefully he listens to Cho-Cho’s advice and stays upbeat about it all; the guy’s way too hard on himself.
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Moving on, Iwabe notes how frequently the incidents have been taking place, and the rest of the students puzzle over it as well, with Denki and Metal Lee describing their first-hand experiences with it.

Shortly thereafter Denki notes the absence of our core trio, which Metal
Lee sees as a good thing because—
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—nevahmind!

Given the urgency with which he rushes in, I presume that Boruto’s absence was due to his still having been at or in transit to the plant earlier, not knowing that the situation had already been attended to and that Sumire and the rest were at the hospital.

In any case, a visibly stricken Boruto apologizes to the Class Rep, puzzling her by insisting that her injuries are his fault.
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Sarada soon steps in however, figuring that his vague ramblings are just stressing out the patient.
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After he’s banished to the hallway, we get to see a far more pensive and sober side of Boruto than we’re used to. We also get to see that “moral of the story” that I previously noted was absent from Episode 10:
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While they can’t know for sure how things would’ve played out, they can definitely say that the previous day’s poor performance lessened their ability to patrol and thus their chance of getting out ahead of the attack before it escalated to the point that it had.

We’re not left with much time for such contemplations, though. You know that little preview from earlier? Oh, yeah. Dad’s in the house, and he is NOT a happy camper.
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Completely ignoring his father’s mood, Boruto frantically asks to be filled in on the situation, knowing his dad has been tracking things as well.
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Ahh, be careful what you wish for, kiddo! I can’t resist captioning this one: “Oh, you wanna know what’s going on? I’ll show you what’s going on! Get your azz over here!”

Like I said before, I wasn’t quite expecting that reaction, but as many dry slaps as this boy has clearly been spared up till now, he’s way overdue. Besides, his father could’ve just given him a response like this:
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Instead, with Shika & Mitsu in tow, Naruto gives his son an up-close view of the attack’s aftermath: Sakura steadily working to heal the formerly possessed civilian, whose body has been reduced to a shriveled husk of a human being.
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However, having giving his son a bit of what he’s asked for, Naruto is unequivocal in letting him know that he is way out of his depth here, and that his “playing detective” here—especially with his current lack of training and experience—is an unacceptable risk.

I actually got a bit of a chill during this scene, when Naruto made that statement about his son not yet understanding the horrors of war. I feel like in my time watching “Naruto” & “Shippuden,” it’s probably become somewhat easy to get detached from that sense of things.

On the one hand, absolutely—we see all these losses and tragedies, we see main characters killed off, we see the emotional suffering of everyone. However, through all that we also have the silliness, plus Naruto’s astonishing resilience and ability to keep moving forward. Plus, we don’t fully see the impact that it would have on someone in real life. We haven’t exactly seen him suffering from PTSD, you know? This guy has been fighting and killing since the time he was a preteen, but he comes off as a very normal and together individual, other than his parenting difficulties. Frankly, he’s pretty much the opposite of someone like say Raiden from Metal Gear—who is also an orphan and former child soldier.
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[Image Credit: https://imgflip.com/i/q9ocf#FGi5Q6e4JKpvuWwl.32 ]
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So that one little statement by Naruto somehow gave me this sense of being reminded of what Naruto has truly lived with and through, and the fact that he does appreciate the gravity and pain of what he’s been through himself. Such a simple statement, yet also very haunting when you consider everything that one sentence encompasses.

Anyway, back to the main scene. Boruto insists that he does appreciate the gravity of the matter, and objects to his dad’s order to stand down. However, before things can continue, who should come to the rescue but Shino Sensei?

He takes the blame for the situation, saying that he encouraged Boruto and Co to pursue the investigation, since such things are what they’ll be facing in their careers as ninja. (And this is at least partially accurate, since he DID give them that hint about picking an occupation that would allow them to continue their…extracurricular activities.)

Less heated now. Naruto nonetheless maintains that the children are too young to handle and respect the danger of what they’re dealing with, but Shino encourages his old friend to give them a bit of credit. He believes that the children have shown an ability to handle things, and that increased responsibility is the best way to draw that out and help them mature.
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Our Hokage and Concerned Parent relents, trusting his friend’s judgement. (No pressure there…!!)
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Now back on assignment, our prodigal mail carriers return to work…and then realize that they might be very screwed, because in all likelihood they’re still in hot water with the Bureau Chief for the previous day’s fiasco.
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However, it turns out that Tayori, knowing that the boys had their reasons for wanting the job in the first place, has put in a good word for them and convinced the B.C. to give them another shot.
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I gotta say, Boruto, Shikadai, and Mitsuki are so darn lucky and blessed to have people around who have their backs like this. I really hope they show their gratitude in the long run by living up to their potentials and the expectations of those who’ve stuck their necks out to support these kiddos.
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…And currently that seems to be their plan exactly.
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It warmed my heart so much to see that these guys aren’t taking it all for granted, and to see the kind of maturity and character growth they’re already starting to show. I actually tear up some talking about it. Part of me worries that there’ll be something of a catch and they—Boruto especially—may end up reverting back to type in the future. But my HOPE is certainly that, although I realize they’ll still have their flaws and continue to make mistakes, they’ll still continue on a consistent and reasonable upwards arc, rather than devolving randomly in ways that make no sense relative to their previous growth.

In any case, this time determined to do their jobs properly, the boys meet with Taori and take a look at the map and the route assignments. As it turns out, there’s a pretty huge amount of territory to cover.
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With that in mind, there’s going to be a considerable area not being patrolled at any one time, and they’re limited detection-wise to whatever is within Boruto’s visual range.

Alright, time for me to mention one of the very few things that bothers me about this episode:

Why are they acting like Boruto is the only one who can see the Chakra Creature?

In Episode 5, “The Mysterious Transfer Student,” Mitsuki essentially indicates to Boruto and Shikadai that he can also see the “Ghost.”
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It bothers me that this has been basically ignored by them since then. However, I am willing to cut them some slack here. Perhaps, in the circumstances, they were too distracted by the raging construction worker and Mitsuki’s very abrupt appearance to actually process what he was telling them. It’s a lot easier to notice stuff when you’re not actually in the midst of the situation yourself.

If that’s the explanation, okay, I can deal with that.

(And I will note that when I went back to find the exact comment, it was a bit more vague than I recalled, although the gist and effect are still the same; his awareness of the presence and visibility of something that’s invisible to most others suggests that he himself can also see it.)

In any case, Boruto’s solution to the issue at hand is to bring in his shadow clones. Well…make that “would-be solution.” Fittingly enough, his clones give him back some of that attitude he’s always throwing at his own elders, and they also reveal their limitations.

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I thought this was a great move on the writers’ part, because it (yes, I love my lists…) :
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A. Shows the limitations of Boruto’s power, especially relative to that of his father (both as an adult and in younger years)

B. Explains why he couldn’t have used them the previous day. Now, it doesn’t explain why he didn’t at least THINK to use them back then, but it’s entirely possible that he didn’t think they were necessary (indeed, he got the job done quickly without them—just quite sloppily) or it simply didn’t occur to him. I think we’ve all had moments ourselves when we’ve missed seemingly obvious things.

With the clones of no help here, our boys just have to knuckle down and deliver things what I’ll call the semi old-fashioned way.
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I mean, they ARE ninjas. And their problem in the last episode wasn’t that they used their abilities—it was that they used their abilities sloppily.

In the meantime, we pay another visit to Sumire and her own two besties, whom are being released from the hospital. They’re a bit guilty about leaving her behind, but she assures them that she’ll be just fine and understands that their families are waiting.

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And speaking of families…major props to Dre Plays for his comment about Animal Girl’s eyes! I hadn’t even thought of them that way before, but his comment about their being cat-like, now further bolstered by my observation that she has slightly more pointed canines than usual, really has me thinking that she’s the daughter of Kiba and the cute cat-loving girl that he met near the end of “Shippuden.” It makes way too much sense! Affinity for animals, cat-like eyes, sharp teeth just like Kiba…ah, and even the right hair color, no less!
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In any case, Sumire looks on from above as the girls meet up with their parents, and the melancholy scene form her end of things definitely has me thinking that she’s likely an orphan. If so, I certainly wonder what happened to her family and how she’s being cared for now.

After that scene ends, we get back to our mail-carrying duties and find the boys on break, waiting for Mitsuki to return from a shopping trip of all things. Here we get a little more character development, I feel. Even though this isn’t his first time playing this role, something about Shikadai’s counseling here really felt like a classic moment, and like it emblematic of his playing that advisor role for Boruto long term—like a mirror of the adult dynamic between their fathers, but with a major head start. (It’s also one of the elements I love about this series; rather than simply imitating the friendships of the previous two series, by having the younger generation repeat them, we’re getting to see the children develop different match-ups and dynamics. While yes, Naruto and Shikamaru are close now, they didn’t always have such a relationship, so it’s a change to see their own boys hanging out so much.)

Fortunately, Boruto doesn’t have much longer to wait; Mitsuki returns—Spidey-style of course—and with urgent news.
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(At this point I’m finding it increasingly fishy how Mitsuki keeps going off and “happening” to find out about the latest incidents.)

Once again, the boys arrive too late…
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And once again, Sai’s on the case, continuing to document evidence of the Hashirama cells presence at the attack sites.
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Following that now-familiar scenario, we get a wonderful scene where we see a new layer to both Sai and the role he is playing in the series. This investigation is about more than simply apprehending the culprit; assuming they are from the Foundation, Sai wants to rehabilitate them as well, the way he was. It really feels like he’s found a true calling of sorts. Or an additional one, anyway, because the investigative route feels like it’s suiting him well.
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Back to the gang, we arrive YET AGAIN to another possession scene being wrapped up. As frustrated as the audience likely is by now, the boys put on their thinking caps and openly surmise that perhaps it’s more than a coincidence that these incidents keep taking place outside of the range the boys are operating within.

Meeting back at the post office, the boys take another look at the map and examine the spread of the incidents, which further confirms for them the fact that they’ll need to increase their numbers if they want full coverage. Fortunately, Shika’s already on the job.
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(Oh, yeah. You’re definitely that villain from the beginning, buddy…)

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This was another big “warm and fuzzy” moment for me. These themes of family, friendship, and community unity play to the heart of the two previous series, and are most definitely something that’s a joy to see continued here. We’ve already gotten to see the two adults—Tayori and Shino—helping the boys in their mission, and now we get to see the peers joining in.

Ah, and thanks to X–TheBoyWonder for pointing out that Sarada is missing from the group; I hadn’t even realized that before. However, I’m not particularly suspicious of her, especially since it was already mentioned back in Episode 9 that she is an honor student and thus has an extra workload.
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X also commented on the box of fireworks that Iwabe had from the factory, which they were to use in place of flares. I honestly just assumed that they were given to him and Denki as souvenirs…although I will admit that’s a pretty significant amount. Still, it’s nonetheless possible that the children simply asked for them and that the staff consented.
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Unless somebody comes for their heads, I’m just gonna assume that the fireworks were NOT stolen.
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In any case, with the plan in place the team sets out, ready to split up along the four routes in order to ensure full coverage.
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(And for anyone wondering….)
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Of course, since they’ve got the rest of the village covered, this time the incident is going to take place in the one place the team isn’t right now: the post office itself! (And credit to Dre Plays here; he predicted the guy’s future possession darn-near the instant he laid eyes on him!)
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Man, whatever happened to all that business about neatness and organization?! On the other hand, I can definitely relate to the sentiment, heh…

You’d think this about beats all—the possession showing up in the one place the teammates aren’t—but in what I consider the biggest HECK YEAHHH moment of the episode, we find out that things aren’t quite as they seemed.
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I had been wondering if maybe they were still nearby, and I was thrilled to have those speculations confirmed. GOOOOOO, TEAM!
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Oh, but before we get into the fight, can we just take a brief moment to appreciate one of Iwabe’s various reactions as the teams explains how they outsmarted their opponent? While it was absolutely a clever plan, it’s not like it was super complicated or hard to understand. If simply hearing the explanation for it reduces the guy to cold sweats, no flipping wonder he’s been failing at the academic side of the academic. Heck, how is he even supposed to be a ninja if he doesn’t understand simple tactical explanations? Geez, man!
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Anyway, on to the fight! The masked mastermind (hm, gotta wonder what the connection is…The Foundation? Orochimaru? Kaguya? Toneri?) strikes out then quickly heads for the hills. Is Boruto worried? Pssh, please!
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While Boruto, Tayori, Denki, Iwabe, and Shikadai take on our Possessed Postmaster, a quartet consisting of Cho-Cho, Metal Lee, Inojin, & Mitsuki boxes in the Puppetmaster himself.
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Cutting right back to office, we get to watch the battle unfold.

Boruto’s clones prove to be of more use this time around, but the Bureau Chief retaliates and the team is forced to take shelter behind one of Iwabe’s mud walls.
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Meanwhile the B.C. continues with his rampage….
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(Never say that to a perfectionist!)

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…and finally sparks a fed-up Tayori to take action. Oh, you thought he was gonna sit this one out? Nah…this guy is gonna grenade-dive a package and protect that fudger like his life depends on it.
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Part of me wants to call this guy an idiot for risking his life to protect a package, but part of me wants to give this guy a frigging medal for Mailman of the Year. Lord knows I’d appreciate his dedication if that was one of my packages, ha!

Tayori’s valiant mini-speech about the importance of the job is enough to weaken the possession for a bit. Further distracting him is a kunai thrown by Denki, and the combination is enough to open the window needed for Iwabe and Boruto to perform a double takedown (with Boruto continuing to use the characteristic open-palm Hyuga Taijutsu moves! Ah, happiness is mine!)
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This leaves the Bureau Chief free at last, but as Boruto says….
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Determined not to let the creature get away, Boruto fires an explosive kunai off at the creature as it tries to disappear into what seems like some sort of portal, possibly self-generated.
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It’s not enough to stop the monster, but the resultant explosion does alert the rest of the team to its presence—since only Boruto could see the creature itself, they were essentially staring into what looked like empty space until the explosion took place.
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We don’t have long to ponder this situation, however, because we’re thrown right back into our secondary squad’s pursuit of the Mastermind. Running well ahead of both Inojin and Cho-Cho, Metal makes a valiant attempt to pursue the culprit but ends up in “the drink” instead.
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Alright, time for another of the rare peeves I have with this episode: water walking. When Metal Lee asks for a hand, Inojin replies that they (and presumably the rest of the classmates…) don’t yet know how to walk on water. Now, how the heck is it that with the jutsu and skills these children are already showing (and they noted in an early episode—3, I believe—that their parents had made them practice ninjutsu prior to even having entered the Academy), they somehow don’t know how to walk on water yet? Maybe I’m just being too hard on them—I don’t know at what point this would typically be taught, but it does make me wonder why they don’t know this skill yet.

In any case, our Mastermind shows up a moment later in what appears to be a part of the sewer system. Ah, but he’s not getting away so easily! Who else is there to stop him but Mitsuki, who is easily one of the most skilled fighters of the peer group. Get him, Mitsuki!
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Ehm…any time now…!
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The heck, man?! Ya know what? We’ll get to back this. This ain’t over, boy-o.
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Returning to the post office, we see that the Bureau Chief is back to his usual meticulous self. And it’s also worth noting that, with the possession having been promptly put to rest by the team, the Chief is in far better shape than the other recents victims. He definitely doesn’t look WELL, but he’s not a shriveled, unresponsive or barely responsive husk like the others have been.
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Assured that our B.C., will be OK, the team turns its focus back to the investigation. Mitsuki and the rest of the secondary squad reunite with the others, informing their companions that the Mastermind has escaped.
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Boy, if you don’t get your Mr. Fantastic tail somewhere…!

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In any case, the team is understanding, and in fact sees that there’s been progress made even without an apprehension: they have now confirmed their theory that a person has been controlling the creature and its attacks.

And Shikadai raises a troubling possibility here: the culprit could well be someone close to the group.

But again, we aren’t about to sit around and dwell on it too much just yet—not when there’s still work to do! Oh, what? You thought we were done? Heh, *not quite…*
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And juuust when you think the episode has reached its conclusion…we find our answers drawing ever nearer. More chakra collected, the seal is nearly complete, and the Nue is about to be awakened.
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Something tells me that THIS…is gonna be quite the ride.

Well, time for the preview and the episode wrap-up.
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In the preview we get to see that Mitsuki has some sort of confession to make to Boruto. To be perfectly honest, I think this is likely a red herring of sorts; I think the revelation will simply be about the fact that he can also see the chakra creature…or perhaps that he knows exactly what kind of eye Boruto has and how it functions.

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Nevertheless, this IS a good time for me to discuss that scene in tunnels, which I said I’d return to. If you watch the scene, you’ll notice at the end that although he was previously smiling, after the Mastermind disappears, Mitsuki’s face falls. For me, that little moment hinted at a lot. While I do get the impression that Mitsuki is indeed in some way familiar with the Mastermind and likely aiding them in some way, that change in expression suggests remorse, and makes me think that he is a reluctant helper in this, and thus inclined to change sides. Perhaps he has newfound doubts or reservations about what it is he’s embroiled in.

However, I have once again found that it’s the father-son dynamic that intrigues me even more than the main storyline. But in this case, it’s a rather sad thing to see. This statement, made by Boruto in the preview….
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….just hurt my heart! Boruto…he has no flipping IDEA the kind of man his father truly is, and the kind of Hades he’s been through—and the fact that the value of friends and friendship and loved ones has absolutely been a core value in his life. Boruto’s perceptions of his father run absolutely counter to who the man truly is, and it really pains me to see that he really thinks of his father that way. I may have already said this before—can’t even remember right now—but we need to put this boy under some Genjutsu or something, so he can see who and what his dad REALLY was and is. Let’s a little trip down Memory Lane, Junior!

Anyway, now it’s time for the episode summary, and of course the theories section. Frankly, even though we don’t know what their whereabouts have been, I honestly don’t find myself feeling a whole lot of suspicion towards Explosives Girl, Animal Girl, Sumire and especially not Sarada. I also disagree a bit with X’s perception of the height here. I didn’t get the impression that it was a child—maybe somewhat short adult, but they didn’t seem THAT short to me.

And really, I don’t think it’s going to be anyone we already know from the series thus far. I earlier listed four possible connections for the Mastermind, and I think our answers lie more along those lines. And remember, while I mentioned Mitsuki’s likely involvement, the question here is the identity of the actual Mastermind.

Unless…holy carp, I just thought of one thing…can Mitsuki use Shadow Clones or anything similar? That coupled with a Transformation Jutsu could theoretically mean that he’s actually using clones to do his work…which would also explain why he keeps getting out of sight right before informing the other children of the Ghost’s appearance. Although if that’s the case then it likely just further confirms that there are even larger forces at play, because the reluctance he expressed makes you think that there’s an outside force putting pressure or expectation upon him to do this.

I literally just thought of the clone theory right as I was typing this. Hm.

In any case, I don’t think it’s any of the children, nor any of the other characters we’ve seen thus far…except possibly Toneri, although I don’t get what his motives here would be and how they mesh with the message he sent to Boruto about saving the world. Then again, we know what Madara’s idea of saving the world looked like, so…Toneri might have entirely different ideas in mind than we do!

Alright, now to my thoughts for the episode overall. The number-one thing I gotta say about this episode is HO-LY COW! This episode kicked so much butt, people! We got to see and learn so much here with these characters, and watch them evolving. All these dynamics and changes and explanations going on…ah!!

We finally got to see Naruto showing his son some real fang, if you will. Even if he doesn’t want to listen, I think Boruto now has a new-found appreciation for the fact that his dad both can and will pull rank on his butt and shut him DOWN.

What’s more, Boruto also gets a chance to see how even people who’ve been adversely affected by his behavior—a harried teacher and overworked mailman—are willing to extend forgiveness and put the difficulties aside to continue helping him in his journey here. There’s a real sense of community in that.

And my heart was just bursting during this episode because of things like that, and because of how proud I am of Boruto and the rest of the crew. The gratitude and humility he displayed in response to the help he got from everyone, the proficiency and maturity with which they conceived and executed their plan and dealt with the aftermath of it, the fact that after the fight they—and HE—made sure to stay around and clean up that disaster zone of a warehouse…just wow! WOW.

And I also appreciated the attention to detail the writers showed in making sure to explain to us things like the limitations of Boruto’s clone abilities and the reasoning behind Shino’s approach of supporting their investigative attempts. Even little details, like the why the other children had the free time to help out—they’d finished their assignments already—were addressed. There were also Iwabe’s hilarious reactions to the plan’s reveal, which I’m pretty sure was interned as a nod to his academic struggles.

There was so much that went on in this episode on emotional and mental and relational levels, and then there was also the sense of kick-butt action during that fighting sequence. I mean I was already hyped up just to see everyone assembled there to help, and then that dramatic ambush, and the way they carried out the fight and how Boruto aggressively continued to pursue that monster…whew!

This episode was just so darn good.

Coming up with a score here was very easy for me, in contrast to how it was last week. 9/10, without a doubt. I am very reluctant to ever rate anything a 10/10 or 100/100 score, since to me that would basically mean perfection, flawlessness, but that was an easy 9 for me. I did briefly consider docking it to 8 for the issues or possible inconsistencies I pointed out earlier—Mitsuki’s visual abilities, Boruto not having tried his clones sooner, the water walking issue—but when I considered it I promptly got the sense that an 8 simply didn’t do it justice, so it was right back up to 9, and there it shall stay for now!

This episode even gave me greater appreciation for the less illustrious Episode 10. Although it still isn’t the most interesting thing in and of itself, I was very pleased to see that it was not a primarily stand-alone episode and that in fact it really did set up the events we got to see in this one.

Obviously to some degree each episode up to now has been connected to the next, but I still thought elements like the school assignments would just be one-off things. Knowing that the storyline was actually continued and has lead to growth and development for our cast as both individuals and a whole makes it feel SIGNIFICANTLY more worthwhile.

Now, my expectations for Episode 12 are that it will likely be an 8/10—just as with Episode 9, I think we’ll have this stellar episode followed by one that doesn’t make me quite as crazy with happiness. But I still think I’ll enjoy it significantly more than “The Investigation Begins.” An 8 seems like a very reasonable bet here.

And while I’m not expecting as huge a revelation from the Mitsuki as the preview suggests, I think it’s still going to be an interesting episode, and I’m also quite curious as to what exactly prompted Boruto’s words in the preview.
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