Naruto: Will Technology Make Ninja Obsolete?

The role of ninja, or shinobi, in the Naruto series is mostly a military one, where trained individuals manipulate chakra through jutsus and physical abilities to carry out missions for their Hidden Village and defend it if the need arises. Ninja are loyal to their village and comrades with a strong mental strength that they exhibit even in their day-to-day lives.

Usually, the idea of ninja exists in a pre-technological age, so their unique abilities can be used in a setting where they really stand out. Boruto transcends that idea with massive technological advancements that change the way ninja operate from Naruto to Boruto. This increasing deployment of advanced technology raises a real concern: that the very advancements meant to make their jobs easier will eventually make shinobi obsolete.

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Although technology has always existed in Naruto in the form of mics, satellite dishes, cassettes, simple computers, etc., it is the minimalistic setting that allowed ninja to stand out. However, Boruto makes it clear that the shinobi way still has some life in it yet.

With a fresh series following the next generation, it's hard for new enemies to raise the stakes after coming off a series as massive as Naruto. The solution Boruto had was to create new threats by using technology, something that was never truly touched upon in the previous series. It presents a new threat almost completely foreign to the older generations, who didn't grow up with advanced tech. It's a clever way to allow Boruto's generation to make their own way in a world of greats, without diminishing either side or repeating anything from Naruto. 

Apart from new threats, seeing the everyday ways technology has improved the lives of citizens and its prevalence in Hidden Village life makes it clear that these advancements have been well-integrated and accepted. A major example of this being Naruto's prosthetic arm. While looking like a regular arm, it actually allows him to use jutsus via a chip hidden inside, allowing him to continue his ninja work unhindered. Additionally, because there is so much tech that absorbs jutsu, this forces shinobi to use physical taijutsu and kenjutsu more often.

Technology is clearly changing the way ninja work, but it's not erasing them. Kawaki stated that this age of ninja is over, but the very existence of Boruto and his peers prove that to be untrue. Even Kawaki himself is a part of the generation who will keep the way of the ninja alive and thriving in this constantly changing era. When used to boost their work, technology is a boon to the ninja world.

But while these new tools can put everyone on an equal playing field, giving anyone the ability to use jutsu without sufficient training can be disastrous. In the chunin exams, Boruto used the Shinobi Gauntlet, a device that can seal and release a jutsu at the user's will, to pass, but was rightfully disqualified for doing so in an exam meant to test a ninja's natural ability by showing off their training thus far.

This device would be incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands, as one doesn't need to possess any knowledge or ability to use it. It also diminishes the immense training a ninja undergoes in order to perform such jutsus. While placing people on an equal playing field may be beneficial to get around disabilities, like in the case of Naruto, allowing just anyone to use such powerful techniques without proper training could endanger civilian life and cheapen the overall concept of shinobi. And the Shinobi Gauntlet is just one of many tools like it.

But beyond that, many of the jobs ninja would've been recruited for in the past have been outsourced to technology. With modern weapons and surveillance, the role of a shinobi could be reduced significantly, unless the village is attacked and they are needed to defend it. But, by that point, we're looking at ninja as glorified city security.

The effect technology will have on the ninja world will depend entirely on how it's used. If it's fully integrated into the ninja world, then the Hidden Villages will always be safe. Scientific Ninja Tools, like kunai or shuriken, will become yet another tool in the massive arsenal of a well-trained shinobi, though the occupation will likely see some shrinkage. On the other hand, if technology is seen as "progress," the only way forward, then it's only a matter of time before ninja go the way of the dinosaur. Efficiency will prevail over the honor and training that comes with being a ninja -- technological advancement will become an end in and of itself.

While Boruto's world is seeing that trend towards efficiency and modernization, Boruto himself is fighting to preserve the ninja way of life and how the previous generations have lived -- and he's doing it simply by existing. The next generation is already in play, the ninja way is guaranteed for at least as long as they're around.

But, in order to prevent technology from wiping out the age of ninja in the future, Boruto and his peers will have to find a way to combine a need for ninja and a need for technology into a solution that benefits both sides equally in their day-to-day lives. That sounds like an impossible task, but Boruto is a shonen protagonist, so anything is possible.

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