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.