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Narutaru

narutaru-1
Genre: Drama
Company: Kid’s Station
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 7/7/2003 to 9/29/2003

Tamai Shiina is a normal girl visiting her grandparents’ island. One night, she has a strange dream. When she goes swimming the next day, she comes upon a star-shaped creature but almost drowns. After she recovers, she discovers that the star-shaped creature is real and is quick to name it Hoshimaru. Shiina decides to take it back to her home when things begin to go horribly wrong as Hoshimaru’s true nature is gradually revealed.

summary by Eek

 

Reviewed: 11/27/2003 by
Grade: 77% av-Keitaro

Highs: Later episodes are frighteningly alarming; gritty, realistic characters

Lows: Incomplete story; awful character art; rushed animation

If I were to describe Narutaru in one word, that word would be “misleading”. By tricking the viewer into believing that this show is a Pokémon-esque anime where the biggest problem the characters face is training their cute little creatures, Narutaru‘s dark and twisted alter ego is so successfully horrifying when sprung without so much as a warning.

The first and second half of this series are polar opposites in terms of mood. Unfortunately, the first half is horribly boring and can be discouraging. The initial episodes serve to introduce the characters and the story but later prove to be a waste of time as many of the characters and questions that make up the plot are completely thrown out the window. Without going into so much detail about the story as to spoil it, I will say that no matter how much warning I give, there is no way to prepare yourself for the shocking turn that the later episodes of this show take. Not only does it get better by tenfold, it manages to send many messages to the viewer and creates an impression to last a lifetime. Sadly, this never does tie up those loose ends.

Aesthetics are clearly not a top priority in this show. Most of the time the art is downright sloppy, and the characters are ugly and poorly designed. The animation feels rushed, and voice acting is decent at best. Thank God Narutaru does not rely on these aspects the way that many anime do, and to be fair, has wonderful music that does a great job of setting a suspenseful mood whenever needed. Characters are more of a mixed bag. Development is rich and realistic, but Shiina, the lead character, is not as real and gritty as the rest of the cast. Her upbeat, predictable personality works in the beginning but no longer fits when the story begins to change and she doesn’t change with it.

This anime originally aired in Kid’s Station, but I would never subject a child to it. There is a long list of things that Narutaru could have done better, but if you want a genuinely shocking story about the troubles of adolescence, look no further than this diamond in the rough.

 

Reviewed: 11/30/2003 by
Grade: 77% av-Eek

Highs: Incredible shock value; creepy music

Lows: Incomplete; uninspired character designs

Honestly, I believe the manga creators of Narutaru were tripping on acid while they were in the planning stages, and the anime creators were no different. In stark contrast to a bright and happy opening, this ranges from light to incredibly dark.

Narutaru is the type of anime that will have you falling asleep from boredom one moment and biting a hole in your lip the next from sheer fright. Unpredictable and mysterious, this series starts out rather lighthearted, but after the first episode, it wastes no time to dive into some freaky and shady material regarding the world that kids live in. Children dominate a large part of the show’s focus, and the content surrounding them relates strongly to well-thought out beliefs that they hold as well as typical problems that grade school children usually face (bullying, loneliness)… only gone horribly wrong. The music also gives the series that extra edge of creepiness; it is simply amazing how it can go from calm and serene to jaw-chatteringly frightening. This especially helps in the latter half as it continues to become darker, and the music for some scenes makes Stephen King novels look like camp fire ghost stories by comparison.

Undoubtedly, by the time the last episode rolls around, your eyes will not be able to unglue themselves from the screen… and then it ends. As the anime kicks itself into high gear, the final episodes are already upon you. The ending may try to drag some attention away from a pressing issue: the fact that the series is largely incomplete. A lot of characters and interesting avenues are opened, but most of these avenues are not closed or followed through to their proper conclusion. Had this anime been extended for another thirteen episodes, it would have been rather nice to see how Shiina and everyone else shape the show. To a lesser extent, character designs are meant to be the antithesis of the series’ direction; while I have no problem with this at all, they are awfully mundane and slightly repetitive. Sometimes, it is even difficult to distinguish male from female and vice versa.

This is the sort of anime that will give nightmares and it comes at no surprise that the manga has been banned from multiple countries. If you liked Serial Experiments: Lain and Boogiepop Phantom, then Narutaru is definitely your kind of series.

 

Narutaru can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.

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