Is Naruto really dead at the start of Boruto: Naruto Next Generations? Many fans were skeptical when, shortly after the completion of the long running Naruto story, a sequel series was announced centered around the adventures of Naruto Uzumaki's son, Boruto. Adding to these misgivings, the new project would only have superficial involvement from original creator, Masashi Kishimoto. Nevertheless, Boruto opened in blistering fashion, with a debut episode that rocked the entire franchise.
Starting with a flashforward, Boruto is in his late teens, brandishing a sword and covered in strange markings. Surrounded by the ruins of Konoha Village, Boruto is facing off against a mysterious opponent called Kawaki, a boy of the same age with similar patterns glowing over his arm and face. As the duo prepare to do battle, Kawaki threatens Boruto with the line, "I'll send you where I sent the Seventh Hokage." At the time, most fans interpreted this as a death threat, and proof that Kawaki had killed Naruto. This theory gained further traction when Kishimoto spoke out saying that he believed Naruto's death might allow the sequel some freedom to strike out on its own.
Since that shocking introduction, Boruto has dived backwards in the timeline to explore Boruto's childhood during his father's reign as the Seventh Hokage. Until recently, there was very little indication as to when or why Naruto would be killed, but recent chapters have gradually started to introduce key story elements that give context to the flashforward. Kawaki finally made his long-awaited debut, and the formidable Jigen is established as the new main villain. At present, Kawaki appears to be a tortured protagonist in the Sasuke Uchiha mold, rather than an outright villain, and his friendship with Boruto is starting to blossom.
In Boruto chapter 37, however, some clues as to Naruto's fate may have finally surfaced. The issue sees Naruto go one-on-one with Jigen in his own home, attempting to protect Kawaki from being recaptured by the villain. During the clash, it's revealed that the Karma power possessed by both Boruto and Kawaki has space-time capabilities, as Jigen bursts into Naruto's family home by activating the Karma on Kawaki's own body and walking through a portal. Later in the fight, Jigen attempts to defeat Naruto not by killing him, but by trapping him in an alternate universe.
This puts a new spin on the "I'll send you where I sent the Seventh Hokage" line. While Kawaki's threat may have seemed like a reference to Naruto's death initially, the new focus on using Karma to create portals might suggest that Kawaki hasn't murdered the Hokage, but isolated him in a parallel world, and intends to do the same to Boruto.
This theory is supported by later events in the chapter, as Kawaki offers to be taken by Jigen willingly, so long as he doesn't hurt Naruto or his family. This scene displays a strong bond between Kawaki and the Uzumakis and although there's still plenty of time for that relationship to sour, Kawaki's desperation to save Naruto from harm perhaps demonstrates that, even as a future villain, he wouldn't be able to bring himself to kill the Hokage in cold blood. Unwilling to actually finish the Hokage off, sending Naruto to another dimension might be a palatable alternative for Kawaki, and the same goes for Boruto.
Even back when the first chapter was released, many fans smelled a rat with regards to Naruto's supposed demise. After all, Shonen series are generally reluctant to kill off any significant character, let alone the face of a 20-year franchise. Now, however, Boruto is beginning to show glimpses of exactly how the great Seventh Hokage might've been defeated in the future.