Boruto‘s Otsutsuki clan use Karma to cheat death, but how does this apply to Kaguya, the very first member of the mysterious alien race to appear in Naruto? The Boruto sequel series introduces countless fresh concepts to Masashi Kishimoto’s iconic series, but Karma is undoubtedly the most important. As explained by Amado in Boruto episode 214, Karma is essentially an Otsutsuki back-up drive. Clan members can “infect” suitable vessels with a compressed copy of their DNA, and the data slowly spreads over time. When the process is complete and the Otsutsuki dies, they’re reborn inside their Karma’s host.
Karma has only been deployed by 2 Otsutsuki characters so far – Momoshiki (on Boruto) and Isshiki (on Jigen and Kawaki) – but what about the franchise’s other major Otsutsuki (and Naruto‘s final villain), Kaguya. Did the Rabbit Goddess ever afflict someone with Karma to ensure she could resurrect in a worst-case scenario? In real life, Karma obviously hadn’t been thought up when Kishimoto was writing Kaguya’s epic battle against Naruto and Sasuke, but are there any in-universe clues to suggest whether or not Kaguya had a Karma back-up plan?
Since she’s only sealed away (rather than killed outright) it’s impossible to say for sure, but Kaguya leaving a vessel on Earth is highly unlikely. For starters, the Hidden Leaf surely would’ve noticed if someone exhibited the same dangerous markings as Boruto and Kawaki. More importantly, the Otsutsuki are also extremely arrogant. Kaguya claimed to be immortal, meaning she probably didn’t make contingency plans for her own demise, while Momoshiki and Isshiki both waited until death was imminent before giving someone their Karma mark. If Naruto had killed Kaguya, perhaps she would’ve infected him seconds before, just like Momoshiki with Boruto.
But a popular Boruto theory provides a more interesting explanation for how Kaguya might’ve used Karma – and it completely changes the ending of Naruto. When Kaguya was sealed by her sons, long before the Naruto story begins, she released a black blob called Zetsu, who paved the way for her resurrection. Ultimately, Zetsu infests the body of Madara Uchiha and transforms into Kaguya Otsutsuki. Although Naruto describes Zetsu as the “physical manifestation of Kaguya’s will,” many Boruto fans suspect the creature was some kind of living, breathing Karma. Not only are Zetsu and Karma both characterized by their jet black coloring, but Zetsu contains enough of Kaguya’s DNA to revive her in a different body. Weirdly, he serves the very same purpose as Karma.
The huge differences between Zetsu and Karma can maybe be attributed to Kaguya not getting killed. For Karma to work, the original Otsutsuki must die, but since Hagoromo and Hamura only locked their mother away, her technique would’ve been useless. Creating Zetsu might’ve been Kaguya’s way of utilizing Karma to free herself without dying, spawning a living back-up of her DNA that doesn’t require implanting directly into a host. The drawback is obviously a much longer loading time. In Boruto, Momoshiki and Isshiki are able to revive themselves only a year or two after implanting their Karma, whereas Kaguya waited centuries before Zetsu could reincarnate her. It remains to be seen whether this technique is unique to Kaguya, or whether all Otsutsuki could turn their Karma into a Zetsu if they were threatened with imprisonment.
If Zetsu really is a variation of Karma, Boruto might be less canon-breaking than previously thought. The sequel series has changed lots of Otsutsuki mythology, and the Karma rules in particular can’t stop fluctuating. If the concept was already established back in Naruto, however, Karma might be more an evolution than an outright retcon.