Welcome to my second review on Anime-Planet, as always comments and reviews on my review will be appreciated appreciated. Please enjoy the following review on Shadow Star Narutaru, it felt weak in some areas but in others it was very strong. That said, here's the review and thanks for reading it.
Story; The synopsis and tags should be a pretty clear indication of what the series is about. It's pretty bloody, disturbing and not for the weak. I've seen some disturbing anime before but this is definitely near the top of the best. My initial reaction was "Aw, this series is so cute and wonder-- OH MY, WHAT THE HECK" and I felt deceived but they had hooked me. The only complaint I can say I had about the series was the ending. I was satisfied but it could have easily gone into my favorites. One can always pray that another season or remake comes through, but I highly doubt such a thing can and will occur.
Animation; The animation is pretty weak when compared to other anime series that came out in 2003. There is not much that can really be said about the animation. It's not really unique in any way, shape or form. If it was, I am sure I could say more about it. It was just boring quality and style. That is really all you about this series' animation. Booorrrrring.
Sound; There is really only one word to describe Narutaru's soundtrack and that word is sinister. Spine-tingling and intense at times, the background music is the most powerful asset this anime has to offer. I would say Narutaru is second to Boogiepop Phantom in the background music area. The opening song looks pretty friendly and cute but when you read the lyrics of the full song, it is really scary stuff. As for the ending song, it is also a catchy song but it's also very sinister in its own way much like the opening.
Characters; The characters are another strong point. Each of the characters have serious issues that I will not begin to spoil. Deep down, these are all weak people but they hide behind this strong facade. The characters are still kids and naturally, kids have issues. These kids see things that nobody should see. Death, murder, mayhem and the like. Hoshimaru is pretty darn cute and some of the monsters are downright ugly or disturbing. The character designs are pretty generic but the monsters are an unique breed all their own.
Overall; In conclusion, while being weak in the animation department and an acceptable and satisfactory story, Narutaru is still worth watching. It's a dark, disturbing and twisted tale that hit all the right notes for me for the most part. There are two things I look for in a great anime - style and substance. You might be the same way. Narutaru may not have the style, but it does have the substance. If you are looking for a strong character piece, this should be worth looking into at the very least.
I downloaded this anime after reading a review of GANTZ, stating that this would also be pretty messed up. In the end I can agree, but it takes a while to see why the comparison was made. Not that I was really waiting for that but... I guess this whole anime is just unexpected. And after watchin it, I really do wonder why they haven't made a second season or why they hadn't waited for the manga to finish, because there is no end to it. It's really REALLY frustrating, because I feel like we are only halfway through the story.
So what I recommend you to do if you're interested in this, is what I am going to do.
Read the manga.
I just looked up a few pages to see if it would be much different, and it is! So chances are quite a bit larger there will be a proper finish to the story as well.
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.
Shadow Star Narutaru
Central Park Media/U.S. Manga Corps
Complete Collection - 13 episodes
English/Japanese Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Toshiaki Iino
Studio - Planet
Synopsis: Shiina visits her grandparents for the summer and is rescued from drowning by an innocent-looking, star-shaped creature. She names it Hoshimaru and takes it home to live with her and her father. Hoshimaru transforms into a floating surfboard for Shiina to ride on or disguises itself as a backpack for her to wear in public. Everything is fine until she meets a girl named Akira with her own creature. Akira is profoundly depressed and suicidal due to the psychic link she shares with her creature, Ensof. Shiina's bubbly personality wins over and the two become friends.
Both girls uncover a secret group of psychic teenagers bonded to similar creatures called Dragon's Children. Each creature is different in appearance although display similar powers, but the level of control and focus varies greatly among the teens. The teens are waging a silent war against the Japanese Self-Defense Army and plan to create a better society after the grown-ups have soiled the current one.
Dragon's Children offer power to the inexperienced teens and an irresistible temptation to use it. Shiina is an innocent caught up in an incredible situation where everything she holds dear is imperiled. Can she possibly protect those she loves from the dangerous game these teens are playing?
Pros: Captivating concept, shocking revelation of the true underlying story, the contrast of Hoshimaru's innocent appearance and actions completely blindsided me!
Cons: Ending felt abrupt and not enough explanations were given, soundtrack is forgettable, pacing was slow and then rushed at the end
Conclusion: Deceptively cute at first and blindly malicious by the end, this story is definitely not for children. I put this show on for my friend's 8-year-old daughter and quickly turned it off after the third episode. Don't let the Pokemon-esque creatures fool you -- this is a dark series exploring the depths of human cruelty. The teens are largely corrupted by the power of the Dragon's Children and I enjoyed this angle to the story. It was all about contrast -- cute Shiina and Hoshimaru thrust into deadly confrontations with evil teens. This series is based on a notoriously graphic/violent manga and only covers about half the full story (which is why the ending to the show felt abrupt). Based solely on the anime I was disappointed and recommend checking out the manga instead for a more satisfying (if wholly twisted) experience.