Boruto‘s time skip has been teased since the very first chapter of the series, but it will serve a different function compared to similar plot devices seen in other franchises. For the most part, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is not a future-facing open-ended story, but rather a backward-looking string of recollections that lead up to the conclusion fans have known about from the start. While this might seem a peculiar way to organize a manga story, it may yet again prove creator Masashi Kishimoto’s genius.
In the final episode of the first (very long) season of the Boruto anime, fans were treated to a recast of the show’s first-ever scene featuring the older Boruto and Kawaki challenging one another on Hokage Rock over a destroyed Konoha village. It’s a great reminder, for fans who have forgotten, that the story will feature a time skip of game-changing proportions. At this point in the anime, not only Boruto and Kawaki are brothers united to defend the community against the threats posed by Code, Eida, and the remnants of Kara, but also neither seem anywhere near as comfortable with their powers as they do in the images of the Hokage Rock confrontation.
The Time Skip Makes Boruto‘s Story Unpredictable
Boruto needs a time skip to reconnect the story to the prime timeline that fans witnessed in the manga and anime’s very first moments, but then never saw or heard mention of again until the last episode of Part 1. While time skips are a common trope in anime, few are presented at the story’s beginning as Kishimoto does in Boruto. This allows the author to do anything he wants with the content, from crafting traditional Naruto-like ninja story elements to experimenting with non-traditional plot lines involving the alien Otsutsuki and divine powers such as Omnipotence, before the time skip returns the story to the prime timeline, which in this case is the fight between Kawaki and Boruto, seemingly the last two survivors of the decimated Konoha Village. Kishimoto has indeed taken the story down more than a few “rabbit holes” some of which drove fans away.
With the time skip, however, Kishimoto could literally wipe out everything that has happened before. Fans are certainly familiar with the looming theory that Boruto‘s story is just a dream, perhaps one that Naruto is having while still trapped in Madara’s infinite Tsukuyomi. More likely, however, Kishimoto will keep those parts of the story relevant to the Kawaki – Boruto showdown and jettison everything else. Even if everything that happened before the return to the prime timeline remains as part of the “canon,” the reality is that it will only serve as background and context to the main story.
Fans should not be surprised by this approach. Kishimoto delivered a low-key version of it in Naruto where after building up the last part of the series around Madara’s threat, the author suddenly and forcefully made Kaguya Otsutsuki the final villain of his story. Hopefully, the fan backlash that resulted from that choice will make Kishimoto think twice about introducing such a sudden development in the Boruto finale, and instead use the time skip to build up the foundation of the final conflict.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Part 2 will premier in Fall 2023 on Crunchyroll.