So this is my second review ever, let’s get going!
Narutaru is an anime that I got as an option in the «secret santa» game held on anime planet. I looked up this anime and it quickly got me interested. Just keep in mind that this anime is NOT for children. Do not let the first episode and the opening (which I will get to later) fool you. I have watched my fair share of horror in anime and Narutaru is probably the one that has made me feel the most uncomfortable. It has it all; brutal violence inflicted on both adults and children alike, implied rape, Psychological breakdowns, VERY dark theme and atmosphere, sadists, despair, some of the worst bullying I have ever seen and just a lot of crazy things sane people wouldn't do. If any of this turns you off, you should drop this show. For others this show should be a suspenseful and twisted ride.
A heads up: I will be mentioning things like "twisted" and "disturbing" a fair few times. When I say that I'm referring to one of the things above in one way or another. If you wanna know exactly what I'm refering to every time I think that alone merits enough of a reason to give the show a try.
Akira Sakura and Shiina Tamai looks like your ordinary school girls. This only lasted until Shiina found a creature called a «Dragonet», who she later named Hoshimaru. From there on everything goes to shit for both of them and stuff starts hitting the fan. Throughout the series they will encounter several people with their own dragonet’s, all of them having their own design and powers. Some of these people will help them out, while others will try to slaughter both Akira and Shiina while chasing their own twisted goals. With such a thrilling ride, it really is a shame there isn’t much of an ending. However, if you live by the words «it’s the journey that counts» then you are gonna have a good time.
There are many twisted people in Narutaru and most of them are children. Remember all those things I mentioned under «BE WARNED»? Think about it when you hear that most of the twisted people are kids. Our main characters Shiina and Akira had some backstory (which I will not spoil) that helps us understand them better. I would say that Shiina is one of the more sane people in the show, except for a few occasions. You can’t say the same for Akira. She is practically broken; always looks afraid, stays in her room all day and eventually started skipping school. Seeing people get killed and being threatened on her life takes a heavy toll on her. Despite the fact that some of these characters help out Shiina and Akira, some of them are also killing other people. This creates a little conflict, they are helping Shiina and Akira, but they are still murdering people. Like or not to like?
Character interactions only gets more and more disturbing. With this I’m particularly referring to some bullying incidents happening at the school Shiina and Akira attends. A poor girl has to go through some absolutely horrendous scenarios. This all at the hands of a few insane classmates, where a couple of them are really enjoying themselves. It’s all very twisted and anger inducing.
What I really like about this show is the fact that it does not look refined. It's like a diamond in the mud. Colors are often dark and gloomy which suits the show really well. Character designs has more round shapes and looks more natural than those sharp and pretty shows we see so often. It feels really refreshing, but those are a bit of an acquired taste. Most of the kids looks a bit too thin, but I guess it is normal for kids around the ages of 11-12. The animation itself (obviously) can’t match today’s standards, but it still looks nice when it has to and you really can’t ask for more than that from a horror anime. I’ve gotta talk about the opening. The opening is a stark contrast to the actual show. All the colors are bright, everyone are portrayed as some chibi paper like figures and are just doing silly and cute things. What is really fun is seeing how some of these cute things that happens in the opening are possible to tie up to something that has or will happen in the show. The opening is both cute and smart, but also messed up if you are able to connect it to what is happening in the show. The ending theme mostly consists of pictures of the characters floating about and a little bit of video towards the end, nothing special.
The soundtrack of Narutaru often shifts between being lighthearted and gloomy. While the lighthearted music sounds like the typical music you’ll find in a regular slice of life show, it does it’s job well enough. The gloomy part of the soundtrack is great. It serves as a BIG asset for the serious and despair riddled scenes, which there are a very big amount of. It’s also good at helping the suspense build up. All in all it's a great part of the soundtrack. The soundtrack consists of 30 songs and they are split around 50-50 between lighthearted and gloomy. The song for the opening suits everything which is happenig in the opening’s theme and animation. It is really hard to get the song out of your head once it sticks, it’s a really nice song though, when you get used to it. The song in the ending is also really nice. It might not suit the show perfectly, but it’s really pretty.
I chose to watch the show subbed, so I can’t say anything about the dub. The sub however, is really good. The voices fit the characters really well and suits the many insane personalities perfectly.
This is a show that any anime and horror fan owe themselves to watch. It is dark, grim, downright insane and full of suspense. It really is sad that this show is so underrated. Narutaru is truly a hidden gem and one I won’t forget any time soon. I will give this show a 16+ age rating and not any lower. While the rape was only implied and the violence is not directly shown for the most part, it’s still more than enough to rule out anyone under the age of 16. Now, if you are any interested at all get out there and watch it, it’s worth you time!
That ends my second review and I hope you enjoyed it!
After having enjoyed the anime Bokurano, the other works of mangaka Morihiro Kitoh piqued my interest. This is a review of the Narutaru anime, coming from someone who has not read the manga. I would suggest reading the manga, because sources indicate it's a much more complete product. I had hoped that the negative feedback surrounding this series was simply misplaced. Unfortunately for me, I've come away from Narutaru disappointed.
Without spoiling anything, in essence, the anime is about a girl named Shiina Tamai, who lives in a world not unlike our own. During her summer vacation, she discovers a star-shaped creature known as (depending on the translation) a "dragon child" and, for the most part, keeps its existence a secret. Shiina names the creature Hoshimaru, and the show revolves around a series of events that take place after she discovers other people with their own dragon children.
The series was adapted by a team of writers lead by Chiaki J. Konaka, who, as far as I'm concerned, has a very good track record writing anime. However, with Narutaru he dropped the ball. Certain characters are introduced and appear for a few episodes with seemingly some purpose, and are either completely dropped, or show up with little-to-no explanation; the story drops one plotline for another (which feels like filler) leaving the first "arc" inconclusive, gives a conclusion to the "filler" arc, then starts up an entirely new arc, leaving a variety of threads dangling by the end of the series. The "arcs" aren't self-contained and seem to bleed into each other without warning.
One of my biggest issues is that the existence of the dragon children is never explained, which would be fine, except that none of the characters seem to know the reason they exist either. If you're writing a story about mysterious creatures, the audience will want to know why they're around.
I don't always remember the names of secondary characters. When the plot abruptly changed, for a short while I was under the impression that Satomi Ozawa was the same character as Aki Honda, due to their similar appearances and attitudes, coupled with the fact that I was still wondering what became of Satomi and her allies.
There is nothing perticularly special about the visuals of Narutaru, they conform to the standards of early 2000's anime, being fairly drab and unpolished. Many shots are merely still frames or simple motion tweens. Even the action scenes aren't very intense, being kind of sluggish. Characters are depicted with bizarre proportions (legs being longer than their heads+torsos) and inconsistent heights: certain scenes will make characters look very tall, while others depict them as short. Until the last story arc, emotions aren't portrayed very well, as most characters generally seem unphased by anything that happens in the show, even when it's meant to be a big shock.
I can't say I enjoyed the soundtrack for this series, as it consisted of various dissonant pieces. It added to the tense atmosphere of most episodes, yes, but in some cases I felt it was overused to the point of being annoying. If it wasn't tense, dissonant music, the background audio was probably buzzing cicadas. Again, overused. The voice work for the show is where Narutaru scores its points. The characters' voices fit them well and sounded natural.
Sometimes, even if the story is bad, an anime can be enjoyable with the right characters. Although Narutaru's best score is from its characters, even that turns out to be rather low. I wouldn't describe any of the significant characters' personalities as "likable" aside from Shiina, the heroine, and I wouldn't describe any of them as "attractive" either. However, in regards to their personalities, they're portrayed well enough, usually being affiliated with either of two camps: unlikable pricks, or pitiful wretches. With only one cours of 13 episodes, the characters aren't developed as deeply as something like Evangelion or Bokurano, although I can see how the series wanted to go in that of direction.
In conclusion, the manga can only be better.
There are plenty of ways to go about deconstruction of genres, and it is not an easy thing to do right. Evangelion tries and fails to give value to the deconstruction of the mecha genre, while Madoka succeeds spectacularly with the magical girl. As such, Narutaru is a mixed bag of messed up and plain disturbing in the deconstruction of the family friendly monster shows. I'll be gentle when I say that the creators have a deep loathing of human nature, and express it very clearly.
It is a monster show with all the makings of the family friendly type, but don't let that fool you. Not a single character is unscathed from cutting criticism into all forms of people. Nice people get their ugly side dragged out for the world to see, charming people get shown to be just as ugly as everyone else, the meek are shown to be just as monstrous as everyone else when they have power, and the people that are bullied into darkness are not exempt from the darkness becoming part of who they are.
There are no happy endings. Not for anyone. The monsters don't solve anything, they just show who their users are. There is nothing elegant or beautiful about how they fight. And the worst part is when you finally figure out how and why each monster is connected to a human. They don't say it outright, but the last few episodes clarify a lot of the series for you in that way.
Of course, I will have to mention the episode. If you've heard Narutaru is messed up, it is because of that one episode. Well, it's there. And it is not easy. I heard that it caused quite the uproar, with a mass of people raging at the show on many levels. Allow me to say that it is quite understandable. It isn't graphic, but there are some harsh happenings. Not for people who can't stomach terrible things.
Writing (Story and Characters):
Do you know that famously creepy Pokemon fan theory that the main character is in a coma, which explains why he never ages and basically half of the things that don't make sense in the show? Many people will say that the writing of Narutaru isn't good. Well, it actually is rather interesting, and has that kind of creepy story built in. The first ten chapters raise a lot of questions (why? how?), and the last three give the (very) disturbing answers.
You'd never guess where Narutaru was going from the start. There are a lot of small arcs, with a semi-episodic structure that raises three questions (well, two and a half), and finally answers them (well, half answers, but you can figure out the other half). Unsurprisingly, this sounds familiar to anyone who watched Higurashi - the questions first, half-answers later structure of that show is an evolution of this. While in themselves, the arcs rely a bit too much on the animation to deliver (it doesn't), they are still interesting and give time for the characters to develop.
Narutaru has a cast that is a hatchet job on human nature. They get to develop, they get their backstories, and they all have resolutions of sorts. But dear god, is this an uncomfortable bunch of people. Every single person in the show is a killer, in one way or the other. There is not a single exception... and the nicer they are, the harder they must fall in order to do that. There is not much subtlety in the characters. You aren't supposed to like them very much. And no, not one of these characters belongs in a family friendly show except the people you see only in the first episode.
Overall, the writing manages a thorough deconstruction of the family friendly monster genre. Narutaru is not the pinnacle of deconstructive works, but is also well above the abject failures that most of those are. Story and characters combine to tell a chilling tale of murderous intents and the dark underbelly of adolescent psychology.
Art (Animation and Sound):
I'll be the first to say that the artwork of Narutaru has aged horribly. The animation is stilted and at times grating, the sound effects cheesy and outdated. It feels like it was made in 1993, not 2003. And yet, there is some redemption. Still, it has to be pointed out that the artwork (and especially the animation) is the weakest point of the show.
Visually, Narutaru is unimpressive. The character designs do have one thing going for them: no one tried to make anyone idealized. Children are lanky, bony, no one has model curves, and so on. The characters are distinct and each has their own look. The backgrounds themselves are not diverse nor technically all that good, but fit the show's purpose. Everything has a (somewhat) redeeming feature until you get to depictions of movement. Considering that movement is perhaps the most important thing in animation, this complete catastrophe cannot be ignored.
I will say that the soundtrack (excluding the opening theme) is a magnificent fit for the show. It tends to be a tad minimalist, but overall sets the mood just right, and does so especially well in the more light hearted scenes. Also, there is clever use of ambient noise to replace silence in order to keep a more tense edge to the going ons when needed. The voice acting is rather good, though not spectacular in any way. The main fault of the sound in Narutaru is the effects. Cheesy, out of place at times (unforgivable in the modern era), and overall draw attention away from the screen. Still, it's only effects and the opening theme (which is a ripoff of a semi-famous song, and completely out of character for the show) are minor details overall, and while the flaws are big in those two, the audio section is strong overall.
One would wish that giving Narutaru some credit for the art would be possible. But really, the movement of characters is so terrible that it takes away a whole lot from the series. Perhaps us viewers have been spoiled since. That still doesn't change the fact that the problems with the animation are what hinders the show from truly being a top notch show.
You aren't supposed to enjoy Narutaru. And I didn't. What I did was find it thought provoking and disturbing at times. Going so far as to say it is a great show is too much, but it is a good show with terrible animation. If you feel like human nature being not only criticized but torn to shreds, give Narutaru a shot.
When discussing the story of Narutaru it would be wise to begin with addressing the lack of a proper ending; just like Berserk the show ends right in the middle of things leaving viewers with more questions than answers. As fatal as this can be, the final product still managed to strike me as nicely scripted which is a priceless virtue when it comes to something so bizarre. What makes it so bizarre you might wonder, and the answer lies in the first episode setting the stage for a calm slice-of-life where our protagonist finds and befriends a cutesy pokémonesque creature. What follows, however, is a dark psychological tale of gruesome slaughter and some of the less charming aspects of human emotions in a grotesque mixed bag of adorable creatures and genital mutilation. Not convinced?
Well, except for a few side stories that aren’t really necessary with the abrupt ending in mind the show remains relevant and neatly paced featuring both battles between the destructive “dragon’s children” and clever dialogue. Lots of threads remain loose and it might even be appropriate to say that the entire show is more like a commercial for the manga, but even so I feel like the main storyline and all its pros is far above average in its execution.
Character designs are very simplistic but nicely enhanced with bright colors in similar fashion to the background scenery. You sometimes forget that what you’re watching is by no means a children’s cartoon, but rest assured, you will be reminded constantly with scene after scene of gruesome violence. It never really shows the malicious murders in explicit detail, which is definitely a good decision since the show does unspeakable things to its preteen characters.
Most of the battles are somewhat unimpressive since the budget definitely doesn’t allow for much fluid movement. I still found that the visual direction had some pretty clever ideas on how to depict scenes of danger or depression which left me ultimately satisfied with the animation despite some flaws.
Narutaru comes with a very minimalistic soundtrack. Much like Boogiepop Phantom it relies more on very eerie and unconventional sound effects that boost the atmospheric value to very intense heights. Occasionally, the bizarre sounds are replaced with jolly and more lighthearted tunes for a change of pace which is much appreciated.
Voice acting is not a problem at all with capable actors managing to pull off the more emotional moments with splendor.
Some of the villainous motivations aren’t really expanded upon very much due to the limited time and you don’t always know why a person wants to take a specific course of action. Other than that, the character development of the show surprised me with decent amounts of depth and interesting trauma.
The main character herself is a somewhat bland girl but her friendliness alone grants her a very important and appreciated spot amongst a cast of dysfunctionals. Throughout the course of 13 episodes you will witness very young characters doing very repulsive things to each other as they try to come to terms with their pasts and hideous emotions; as well as the occasional outburst of suicidal thoughts and depression. I sincerely hope I haven’t failed to emphasize just how dark this show can get.
One thing that surprised me was the inconsistency in tone. In one episode the main characters witnessed the slaughter of countless individuals. They were admittedly scarred and even broke down in tears, but in the next episode they went fishing… it seemed to me like they overcame the horrible things they saw way too quickly but it might just be nitpicking.
I really wish there was more to this show. If it had ended properly and kept up the same quality in writing as the first 13 episodes it would definitely be standing amongst my favorites.
On most anime databases, Narutaru tends to be scored somewhat lowly which comes as a great surprise to me. The psychological depth might not reach the same level as, say, Evangelion, but at least it skipped philosophical nonsense and visual pretension. I’d recommend this to anyone searching for a disturbing tale with terrific writing and an interesting insight into darker realms of the mind.