Naruto Shippuden's polarizing "Boyhood Arc" seems to be nearing its end, as the long-running anime's newest filler arc will be taking a break for two weeks. With the next Naruto Shippuden episode set to air on December 1, speculations are high that the series would soon adapt Naruto Gaiden: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring to anime format, as a means to transition the franchise to the Boruto era.
The long-running Naruto Shippuden series recently reached its inevitable final chapters. After years of filler episodes, Studio Pierrot eventually decided to explore the "Princess Kaguya" arc, which ultimately ushered in the definitive final battle of the franchise, with Naruto and Sasuke engaging in an epic battle against each other. By the time the climactic final battle ended, the Naruto Shippuden anime had already covered 699 chapters of the 700-chapter manga. Thus, the end of the anime seemed to be at hand.
True to form, however, and most likely due to the lucrative nature of the Naruto franchise, Studio Pierrot, the producer of the anime, opted to ease in one final filler arc. Called the "Boyhood" arc, the short film-type episodes focused on the past of a number of key characters in the franchise. Unsurprisingly, the arc polarized longtime fans of the anime, mainly due to the "Boyhood" arc's lower production values and its filler nature as compared to the previous canon episodes. Thus, as much as "Boyhood" was appreciated by many, it was criticized by just as many fans for exploring material that was beyond the franchise's original story.
Recent rumors, however, point to the notion that the "Boyhood" arc would be ending soon. After all, there is just so much filler episodes that the series' fans can handle. After years of waiting for the anime's conclusion, numerous fans are getting a bit impatient. Thus, it appears that the time is high for the Naruto franchise to go back to canon. With only one chapter to explore, however, it seems like there is nothing else that the anime can explore.
Fortunately, this is not the case, as the end of Naruto Shippuden also heralded the beginning of Naruto Gaiden: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, which is, in a number of ways, a sequel to Naruto Shippuden and a prequel to Boruto, the ongoing saga of the titular character's son. Naruto Gaiden so far only exists in manga format, but it is highly-acclaimed by the franchise's avid fans. Gaiden is set 15 years after the Fourth Shinobi War and focuses on the daughter of Sasuke and Sakura, Sarada.
Naruto Gaiden has 10 chapters, each of which explores Sarada's growth as a young ninja. Numerous important character development points for Sasuke were also explored very well. Considering that Studio Pierrot has practically mastered the art of expanding single chapters of a manga into a multi-episode mini-arc, it would not be surprising if Naruto Gaiden would run for about 20 episodes at least. Though Gaiden has not been confirmed by Studio Pierrot to date, the fact that it is part of the franchise's canon is something that would definitely be appreciated by fans.
After Naruto Gaiden's chapters are exhausted, the next step for the Naruto franchise to take would be to explore the next big series in line - Boruto. The story of the original trio, Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura, will officially end with the conclusion of Naruto Shippuden. However, this does not mean to say that the main characters would not play any role in the succeeding stories. This is actually one of the best things about the Naruto franchise. As the original characters in the series mature and finish their respective sagas, they also ended up passing the torch to the next generation. That is, Sarada, Boruto and their peers.
While an official announcement regarding the end of Naruto Shippuden, Naruto Gaiden and Boruto have not been released, there is a very good chance that Studio Pierrot would opt to explore these entries into the Naruto universe. After all, despite being on the air for decades, the Naruto franchise is still as strong and as lucrative as ever. With this in mind, there is a good chance that the coming of age story of young ninjas that was begun all those years ago would continue on for years to come.[Featured Image by cocamert|Flickr|Cropped and Resized|CC BY-SA 2.0]