Our introduction to Kawaki is in the first chapter of Boruto, where the two are fighting each other. Introduced as an antagonist, the manga sure does make its way to make a strong bond between him, the Characters, and the fans as well. Often regarded as the best new character in the Boruto series, Kawaki is truly a tragic character, and for a reason.
While most kids go to the Ninja Academy, play with their friends, family and are oblivious to the “true” nature of people, Kawaki lived in the depths of what one can call hell. Away from most basic rights, he lived with his abusive, drunkard father.
During this dark stage of his life, he had no hopes of ever living peacefully. All that he ever wished for was a normal life, and it was completely out of his reach. He lived just to be a punching bag for his father, someone who was a liability to society.
As Kawaki spent his days, suffocating; someone arrived. Jigen, the leader of the Kara Organization bought him from his father. Kawaki was reluctant and scared of Jigen. Jigen does look quite intimidating, especially to a child. Moreover, Kawaki only knew about the abusive nature of adults, hence he was petrified. However, his new father tried to comfort him; he said that he’ll take all of his pain away and give him a new life.
While still unsure about Jigen’s motives, Jigen was a ray of hope for a child who had no dreams, ambitions or self-esteem; a child who never had a childhood. The constant berating from his father made Kawaki feel hopeless and powerless. He truly felt like he was nothing, and that he deserved nothing. However, Jigen became a sign of positivity in life. This is exactly what he was yearning for; a kind person to save him from the hell they live in.
But, all that Jigen did was push him deeper into the cave. He manipulated the child even further for his own purposes. Jigen told Kawaki that they’d truly become father and son after he gives Kawaki a gift, or rather the Karma seal. At this point, their relationship was already toxic. Moreover, Kawaki was awake during the end of the experiment; he saw other kids die as Jigen infested them with his Karma, and how they died. He knew that he was next and then Jigen said, “you’re not going to disappoint me…are you… Kawaki?”.
This was a big breaking point for Kawaki. Jigen clearly knew about Kawaki’s lack of self-esteem, and disappointing his new father was the last thing the boy wanted to do. Kawaki knew what happens if you’re a disappointment to a father, and he didn’t want that to happen again. The poor child was already at his breaking point and Jigen used every underhanded technique he could to make Kawaki into a vessel.
The Perfect Vessel:
This was just the beginning of Kawaki’s downfall. Jigen tormented him even more to make him a “perfect vessel”. Such treatment since early age made Kawaki quite submissive and petrified all the time. He couldn’t trust anyone, he could search through his whole memory and not find a single person who was kind to him. Filled with hate and rage, the only thing Kawaki could do about it was to let it all bottle in. There was no way that he could defeat Jigen, and every other form of revolt ended with an even severe thrashing.
Jigen made Kawaki dependent on his “father”, Jigen made him believe that he’s empty and that Karma is the only thing that could fill that void. This is something that Kawaki struggled with already. He never felt like he was worth anything, and Jigen made these feelings even stronger.
After being reduced to the value of an object quite literally, Kawaki kept on bottling in all the pain sadness and frustration. However, he then met Boruto.
The Start of A Journey:
As we know, their fates are intertwined, and Boruto played a major role in helping his vessel friend grow. Kawaki was truly saved this time. Since his arrival in Konoha, he learned so much about himself and people in general. He was able to explore his mind and feelings, and also comprehend them with the help of people around him. However, his trauma kept clinging to his back. He was always scared of the people around him, and he was scared of Kara.
Kawaki’s visit to Ino’s flower shop is the biggest indicator of the fear that Jigen created in his son’s mind, and something as natural as putting flowers in a vase reminded the boy of the experiments. This is also a very explicit symbolism of Kawaki’s memories that haunted him and ate him alive, and how he was still in Jigen’s shadow.
The symbolism gets deeper as it represents Kawaki, a broken person who can fill nothing and serves no true purpose. This is connected with Himawari’s vase, which Kawaki broke. The breaking symbolizes Kawaki self-destructing and Kawaki working hard to join the vase together represents his recovery and efforts to change. Whenever he felt like giving up, Boruto kept pushing him and deeply intertwined their lives.
Another crucial moment in Kawaki’s character arc was his conversation with Kurama. As Kurama stated that he and Naruto are quite similar after explaining Naruto’s life story; Kawaki asked Kurama if he could improve like Naruto as well. Kurama said that it’s not impossible for him, as he isn’t empty and tears fell from Kawaki’s eyes. This was enough validation for our boy to try to shine.
This was a true tear-jerking moment, as aforementioned was one of the rare moments where Kawaki showed any emotion other than hate, anger and distrust. This reminded me of when Iruka Sensei told Naruto that he would become a splendid ninja and how deeply it affected Naruto, and it did the same for Kawaki.
Kawaki and Naruto:
In his conversations, one can see the utmost respect that Kawaki has for the Hokage. Since the start, Naruto took care of Kawaki like he’s his son, and nurtured him. He even stood up against Jigen, which the boy couldn’t understand. However, he was truly grateful about it and was ready to sacrifice everything for Naruto but the Hokage would obviously not let that happen when he’s on the watch.
The magic of Naruto’s presence worked on Kawaki like magic, as he felt safe around him. Kawaki positively came out of his shell after Naruto hugged and assured him in Ino’s flower shop. Kawaki had never felt something like this before, he never knew that such a feeling existed. All of us have received at least some sort of comfort from our loved ones, and for Kawaki; this was the first. He didn’t seem to understand the feeling well, but he certainly liked it.
Konoha gave him so many new things that he felt indebted to the village and tried to go to major lengths to help the people around him. A good example would be him sacrificing his arm to save Naruto and Himawarai from Delta’s attack.
Kawaki comes full circle after Isshiki takes Naruto hostage and Kawaki has to choose between himself and Naruto. Here, Kawaki somehow breaks through the fear that Isshiki generated inside of him, and bamboozles Isshiki using a shadow clone. This is quite fitting, as Shadow Clone is Naruto’s signature technique, someone whom Kawaki deeply respects. This was a good choice by Kishimoto, as it strengthened Naruto and Kawaki’s bond while making it clear that the new generation is full of potential and completing Kawaki’s cycle of Karma (at least for now).
I say that Kawaki’s character came in a full circle is because he finally addressed the elephant in the room head-on. Kawaki overcame his nightmare and took flight. Somehow, this flightless bird managed to break through its cage and fly high.
Kawaki’s relation with Power:
While Kawaki doesn’t seek power, he certainly depends on it. This is because Kawaki hates Kara and Jigen/Isshiki with every inch of his existence.
Since his introduction, Kawaki has always used Karma to fight. Moreover, he even recommended Boruto to use it. While using the Karma will develop the seal faster, it’s power is the only thing that provides them with any real power against someone like Jigen; so he does have a point.
However, his dependence on Karma grew heavily, as he checks for his Karma seal first instead of worrying about Naruto after Amado tells everyone that Naruto, Sasuke, and Boruto are fighting a resurrected Isshiki.
This unhealthy obsession with power isn’t new to the series, as both the main characters of the Naruto series have faced it. While Naruto’s unhealthy obsession with the nine-tails power was momentary, whereas Sasuke became stronger by leaving everything behind.
Still, I believe his actions to be quite normal. Anyone’s instinct would be to pick up the thing which saved them countless times. Kawaki had convinced himself that he can use the karma seal, as it was his only hope.
Also, he has displayed jealousy at times. For example, when Amado stated how Boruto was more important in the fight against Isshiki, Kawaki throws a fit, which might seem irrational, his rivalry with Boruto could very well be the cause!
Kawaki is a beautifully written character thus far. His struggle with his past trauma and present is amazing. He tries to be as logical as he can be, for the most part, however, he does give in to his emotions at times. Kawaki proved the main themes of Naruto again, he showed the difference that one makes in one’s life. He showed how Boruto, Naruto, and the others saved him by helping him fill that “void” which the Karma widened.
The series has already built a high emotional connect between the fans and Kawaki and even the characters themselves. It would be heartbreaking to see him fight Boruto, someone whom he calls his brother, and his first true friend.
Moreover, it seems like Kawaki isn’t a free bird, still. While I know that Kawaki will get another Karma Seal, I really hope that he doesn’t. Well, what do you think of Kawaki? Let us know in the comments below!