Naruto: From Fantasy to Sci-Fi

Naruto: From Fantasy to Sci-Fi

Introduction

The original Naruto series was a fantasy story, but over the years it has been moving away from this genre. With Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, we’ve officially moved into the realm of sci-fi instead of fantasy.

However, there are still enough similarities between the first entry in the franchise and the most recent for us to consider them one continuous story. The genre and some of the major themes may have changed, but it’s still recognizable as the same series.

Naruto

While Naruto may not be the classic medieval type of fantasy we’re used to seeing in the West, it is without a doubt still a fantasy story. There are two main concepts I’ll be using to illustrate this: magic and talking animals.

Although it’s called “ninjutsu” in the world of Naruto, what we’re really seeing the ninja use is magic. They can make animals appear out of thin air, shoot elemental energy out of their hands, and even hypnotize others with their eyes or hand movements.

Sure, they do use ninja equipment such as shuriken and kunai, but for the most part their fights are settled with the use of magic, which is a staple in many fantasy stories. This brings us to the second thing found in many fantasy stories; the talking animals.

There are talking toads, slugs, snakes, dogs, cats, ostriches, you name it. There are even people who are essentially demi-humans such as the old cat lady who lives in the ninja cat village or the Inuzuka clan Kiba is a member of.

Orochimaru, Tsunade, and Jiraiya (from the anime Naruto: Shippuden)
Legendary Sannin using the Summoning Jutsu

Naruto: Shippūden

So we’ve established that the original Naruto series is a fantasy, but this begins to change over the course of Naruto: Shippūden. While the fantasy themes we just discussed are still in play, Shippūden also begins to introduce sci-fi elements into the mix.

First, by the latter portion of the series, the fights are now too big to even use standard magic. Naruto, Sasuke, and their opponents are too strong for simply magic to be effective, so they resort to fighting with mechs.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “but there are no mechs in Naruto!” and you’re right, there aren’t physically mechs, but there are mechs made of magical energy. Sasuke’s Susanoo (especially the full Susanoo) and Naruto’s (and Killer B’s) Tailed Beast Mode function just like mechs.

Looking at Sasuke’s perfect Susanoo, he even resides in the head of the humanoid figure just like mech pilots generally do. However, the introduction of mechs for battle isn’t the only step towards sci-fi in Shippūden, we also get alien beings.

Kaguya Ōtsutsuki and her direct descendants are not human (her children are half human, but she is full alien). Kaguya comes from outer space, and has otherworldly abilities such as the ability to fly, which do not appear to be directly linked to the established “magic” of the world.

You may not need me to tell you this, but aliens tend to be found in the sci-fi genre, not the fantasy genre. However, as I mentioned before, all the other fantasy elements from the original Naruto series are still in play so Shippūden hasn’t yet become fully sci-fi.


Boruto

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations has gone even further into the sci-fi genre than either of its predecessors. Magic is still used, and talking animals still exist (although we haven’t seen them as much yet) so there are still some fantasy aspects, but sci-fi has taken over.

The Boruto series doubles down on the alien aspect of Shippūden. While Shippūden just had Kaguya and her two half-human sons, Boruto has even more members of the Ōtsutsuki clan including Toneri, Urashiki, Kinshiki, and Momoshiki.

Not only are there aliens, but some of them live in a civilization they created on the Moon. That alone is pretty sci-fi, but wait, there’s more!

Boruto also introduces new technology to the franchise. While there are a lot of hi-tech computers and other modern technology in the series at this point, there are also technologies which go even further beyond what we have today. The Scientific Ninja Tool is one of them.

Boruto wearing the Scientific Ninja Tool (from the anime Boruto: Naruto Next Generations)
Boruto wearing the Scientific Ninja Tool

The Scientific Ninja Tool is a piece of futuristic technology which simulates magic. Not only does it simulate magic, but it simulates magic that’s even stronger than the magic the user would normally be able to summon.

However, the introduction of these new technologies brings about something else we frequently see in the sci-fi genre, the idea that advanced technology is dangerous to our current way of life. This is basically the whole story of Boruto.

While Naruto was a story about a kid who wanted to be the greatest sorcerer in his village, Boruto is a story about a kid who’s already a fairly powerful sorcerer, but who wants even greater power. Boruto then resorts to using technology as a shortcut instead of practicing his magic.

In the end, Boruto learns that while technology can make him a little stronger quickly, he can’t rely on it if he wants to become truly strong. While technology isn’t necessarily bad, it’s not necessarily good either.

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