This post references spoilers, though not really any that we couldn’t spot coming from a mile off.

While watching the conclusion of Boruto episode 38, “Formation of the Three-Man Squad?”, something caught my eye—or more accurately, my ear.

Sarada, Mitsuki, and Boruto have been named the new ninja “Team 3”. Sarada, however, wants it to be “Team 7”, after the team that her parents and Boruto’s dad were on way back in the original Naruto series. They make their way to Naruto to ask for this favor.

Listen to the music leading up to 21:21, as Sarada, Mitsuki, and Boruto present their request to Lord Seventh: The tune sounds nice and calmly upbeat, but doesn’t particularly stand out. When Naruto responds, exactly at 21:21, we suddenly hear a few bars from Toshio Masuda’s original “Naruto” main theme. This is then blended back into the new music as Team 3 officially gets renamed Team 7. As the three young ninjas deliberately take up the mantle of the previous generation (even, in a certain sense, Mitsuki), old and new are symbolically combined. It’s a really subtle and beautiful gesture.

On a larger and more ‘meta’ level, the music symbolizes what the entire Boruto series is trying to do and be. On the one hand, the writers have the entire Naruto canon to keep in mind and to be respectful of; on the other hand, they have to do something new or the series will get boring really fast. And I admire how well they’ve managed to navigate between these two requirements. While I can certainly nitpick aspects of the series so far—personally I feel like the show has been a bit more cautious about breaking new ground than it has to be—I understand why the writers have made the decisions they have and the results are so far mostly solid. They’ve managed to carry the legacy of the past into the present without merely rehashing the old.

In a word, the writers are making good use of their tradition. While the term “tradition” is sometimes used to mean “the old stuff as contrasted (for better or worse) with the new stuff”, that’s not really an accurate meaning for the word. Tradition is what has been passed on from the previous generations to the present one, for the new generation to adapt, build upon, and enrich. The Latin traditio comes from a verb meaning “to hand on”, like the passing of a baton from hand to hand in a relay race.

I’ll wrap up with an appropriate quote from the Gospel of Matthew, just because I think it’s cool:

And he [Jesus] replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” [Matthew 13:52, New American Bible translation]

That image, the man or woman who can bring out what is old and new as needed, has captured my imagination. I don’t think most of us can do this without practice. But if being richer means having more, then the one who is richest is the one who keeps everything, rejecting neither the old nor the new, and blending them together fruitfully.

Going into a new year and a new anime season, here’s to hoping we—and Boruto—can do the same!

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