While visiting her grandparents on a remote island, Shiina Tamai, our young protagonist, inadvertently finds a strange star shaped creature, which she names Hoshimaru. This creature, while seemingly harmless and unusual, holds many secrets. As Shiina and her new friend Akira soon find out, their creatures are much more than they seem to be...and against their will, they are thrown into a dangerous and hostile situation of trying to save the world from others who would use their dragonets to enslave it.
StoryIt should be said that regardless of the description, Narutaru has two very distinct sections to it (that aren't really integrated at all, for that matter). The first 7-8 episodes revolve around Shiina and Akira with their dragonets, and the web of destruction and death they are drawn into because of them. Sound dark? IT IS. What's funny is that the first episode makes you think something totally different. I watched episode 1 and remember coming away from it thinking this would be a light series, perhaps slice of life. In the episode, Shiina finds Hoshimaru on the beach, and that's about it. Unfortunately for her, it just goes downhill from there. This section of the series is incredibly violent and messed up, in more ways than one. We see tons of death (in gruesome ways), but the main thing that makes it disturbing is the contrast of how the characters (and dragonets) look in comparison to how incredibly evil they are. Think Alien Nine -- the monsters looked VERY cute, but also were incredibly destructive and cruel when used for evil purposes. We see a cute flower looking dragonet flying through the air with a cute expression, that then destroys planes, impales people, etc. I really think that's what makes Narutaru so disturbing: you are disarmed by the appearances of the characters. Anyways, the last few episodes COMPLETELY switch gears (a terrible transition, I might add) and become a schoolkid drama of sorts, except very messed up. It mainly involves one particular girl who is friends with Shiina, a girl who is bullied incredibly for being smart. I will say that episode 12 is easily THE MOST MESSED UP EPISODE I have *ever* seen, out of any series or movie, including real movies. There are actually two really horrible scenes in this episode. Prior to watching this, I remember when episode 12 was viewed by the general public, and everyone kept freaking out about how shocking it was. When I watched it, I saw the first of the two things (which is horrible as it is), and thought "oh wow, that's what they were talking about". Little did I know that there was a second and absolutely horrifying event that had yet to happen! The series ends, well, without an end, and leaves you feeling very unsatisfied. Supposedly it only covers a small bit of the manga. AnimationYou know, many people complained about the character designs of Narutaru, but I enjoyed them. Rather than designing way-too-endowed high school (or even grade school) students, who are all beauty queens, Narutaru opted for the more natural look. Lanky kids who don't have huge chests, and in general, are just, normal. They definitely did tend to have a fairly anorexic look, but most kids do tend to be on the thinner side at age 11 or so. Animation-wise, I really enjoyed the colors and imagery used, even in the super violent parts. The dragonets were especially stunning. Bright, vivid colors were used for pretty much everything, which made it interesting to watch visually. The violence scenes were especially.. violent, with many of the excessive scenes being fairly censored or shown at a strange angle, so the full force wasn't viewable. In general, I think the animation of Narutaru was a strong point. SoundThe intro song, as mentioned before, really does nothing to show you how insanely demented this series is. Most of the rest of the music is very mood-oriented, and fitting. The (few) happy times, upbeat and fun music was played. During the tense/violent scenes, the feel of the music was very eerie and chilling. Definitely stayed in the background, but was still noticable... which is a plus in my book. The voice acting was fine for everyone. CharactersThe two main characters of the series are Shiina and Akira. For both, we see into their pasts and understand why they act the way we do, and thus, there was character development. In addition to them, we are introduced to other more evil characters that truly come across as chilling, to say the least. For the first 7-8 episodes, there are a number of "bad kids" who control the evil dragonets. These kids are KIDS, just like Shiina and Akira, and yet they display such cruelty. There are a number of relationships that are going on, many extremely dysfunctional, and in general the characters are very disarming, just like the animation style. One of the evil characters in particular comes across like ice... he is nice to Akira and Shiina, but we know how devious and downright scary he is. Behind the scenes, he causes a great deal of devastation and loss of human lives. The relationships in the second part of the series are even more disturbing, because we see a poor young girl who doesn't know what to do. She's chastised by her parents if she doesn't get perfect scores on all her assignments and tests, yet she answers questions wrong on purpose so she isn't beaten up and ridiculed by all of the HORRIBLY cruel kids at school. Two kids in particular, a girl and her brother, are the ringleaders of the abuse, and you definitely end up hating them. In general, the characters are chilling and disarming, and very well done in my opinion. OverallThis rating was really hard to give. If it wasn't for the fact that this has no ending and resolves nothing (since it, like many others, is the intro to the manga), and/or the really heavy violence/messed up scenes near the end, I would have given this series a very high score. I like things that seem wrong or are "bad". I like crazy amounts of violence with weird monster/robot looking things. I like beautiful animation with bright colors and different character design. But Narutaru is something you probably should only watch once, and then will be too disturbed to watch it again. ;) It is unfortunate, I think, that things like this make you need to read the manga... because I don't like having to do that (and I don't). For those of you that are manga readers, perhaps you wouldn't mind watching this so much, since you can see where it leaves off. In general, I think this is a good watch, but ONLY for people who are OK with seeing very disturbing things, like watching dark/really violent/lots of death series, and/or are sick in the head. (I must be the latter ;) ) Check it out, just be forewarned...
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. Story: 6/30 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. Animation: 12.5/25 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. Sound: 6/15 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. Characters: 18/30 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.
Shadow Star NarutaruCentral Park Media/U.S. Manga CorpsComplete Collection - 13 episodes325 minutes$49.98 (2006)ISBN 719987245921English/Japanese Audio - English SubtitlesDirector - Toshiaki IinoStudio - PlanetSynopsis: 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.
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