Review - Shadow Star/Narutaru
[Keep in mind I am a girl in my late teens, so you can keep in mind how my age and gender influences how much I enjoy (and therefore review) a manga]
Target Audience: Older teens and above (due to nudity, sexuality and violence). Is geared more towards a male audience, despite the protagonist being a young girl.
Story: I found the first few tankoubon intriguing but then my interest dwindled. There are short bursts of great plot development throughout the whole series, followed by long, boring scenes. At some points I was thinking of dropping the manga but persevered. But was it worth it in the end? Well, yes and no.
If you've never heard if Narutaru then judging the series from the first volume is not recommended. It begins light-hearted and fun, with a preteen protagonist finding a mysterious creature, a "dragon child", and befriending it. But things soon get dark, and the whole story is one catastrophe and disturbing scene after another. If you love psychological manga, then I would recommend this without a doubt.
I felt that many characters were unnecessary and a lot of the scenes could be cut out. There is a lot of aviation techno-babble as well as lengthy dialogue sequences that were completely unneeded.
The author tries to continue the plot while concealing as much information as he can from the reader, which only causes more confusion than suspense. Many questions that arise from the very beginning of the series are left unanswered straight through to the end, which is quite frustrating. Although the author may have wanted to leave the ending open for interpretation, I thought it was excessive.
Despite all this, there is still something to take from this series. The antagonists' ideas of creating a "utopian" society, by killing off the weak, I found to be fascinating. This manga truly gives you something to think about. And underneath all this heavy material is a coming-of-age story, with Shiina struggling with the idea of becoming an adult. I also found the idea of shadow dragons to be well done and a refreshing turn in the sci-fi genre.
Art: Both male and female characters are drawn very thin and lanky. There are not any full busts and curves to the women in this manga. Sometimes the characters are drawn downright ugly. But as I continued to read I found an appreciation for the author's art style. His designs are more realistic than the characters seen in manga today. Planes and the creatures called shadow dragons are drawn beautifully. However I found the background to be lacking as well. There is too many squares of characters with white backdrop. However when the background was drawn it was done well.
Characters: The characters all seem very real and well thought-out. However sometimes it is very hard to differentiate between characters, as many characters tend to look alike. Unfortunately, lots of characters are introduced in such a short amount of time, and I was struggling to remember what each of their names were, and exactly which character did what. Another problem that arose was that the author decided to change the hairstyle of some of the characters and even the hair colour of one, which intensified my confusion even more. Despite all this, I really felt for many of the characters, and had my share of disliking too.
The Good: Intriguing plot; unique characters; quite the "thinker"; refreshing idea.
The Bad: Plot pacing is rather slow; many unanswered questions; artwork may be off-putting; many characters look alike.
Recommended to those who like psychological and/or apocalyptic manga. Although it may seem like there are too many cons to this series, I am very glad that I read it. If you are on the fence about this manga, I'd say to try it out. For anyone looking for a something a little "different" in the sci-fi-horror genre, this is a must-read.