During her summer holiday at her grandparents house Tamai Shiina, a young and cheerful schoolgirl, meets a strange looking creature. They befriend each other and Shiina names it "Hoshimaru: The Round Star." When Shiina returns home after the summer to go back to school, she starts meeting other kids that also have befriended a strange creature like Hoshimaru. But she soon finds out that not all these creatures and their masters are as friendly as Hoshimaru.
(this review may have some slight spoilers. I apologize)
Now here is an anime, that decieved the masses completely. The opening, and the entire first episode, leads one to believe this is a childish anime. It gives off a little "pokemon" or "hamataro" feel to it, and apears that there is little here that will apeal to older veiwers. BUT, this anime is nothing like that. It turns into the most distrubing, scary, dark, insane, and twisted anime series ever made! This anime should NEVER be watched by children, and only mature veiwers, ready for some freaky stuff should watch it. Don't look for a happy
go lucky series, this show is very depressing at times. The anime makes a change at the end of episode 2, and with each episode it gets darker and darker. The final few episodes will make the most insensitive people cringe. Horrible things happen in this anime, and they happen to kids 12, or 13 years old.
This anime is about a girl named Shiina Tamai, and her new-found "friend" Hoshimaru, an odd creature (known as a dragon child). The anime follows Shiina and her eventual encounters with other children who have also befriended these creatures. Some of these children have planned horrible uses for their dragon children.
This is a really great anime, but not without lots of faults. One of the major problems with it, is the plot. There apears to be little direction in this anime. The plot goes all over the place, and opens up multiple plot lines, that by the end of the anime, only one is "solved" or completed. In fact what apears to be the "main" plotline is not even closed. It feels very "thrown together" at times. Perhaps the inexperience of the director is to blame, or the low budget, or both. Perhaps the director was hopeing for a sequel, or thought the manga had too much going on to properly adapt... Whatever the reason the plot has major problems.
However, for what it is it's pretty interesting. The story starts off a little slow and childish, but picks up by the end of the 2nd episode and start of the 3rd. From then on, it's mad decent down the rabbit hole. This entire anime has you questioning "how far will they go", and by the last episode, you finally know the answer, although you might wish you didn't. For what it is, incomplete and badly directed , the plot is decent. It gets you very interested at what's going to happen, and has lots of surprises and plot twists. Sometimes it is a little hard to follow, but by the middle of the anime, it all starts to make some sense. It's still a good story, very brilliant, just the incomplete story and directing really brings it down.
Just like NGE, almost all the characters seem to have something mentaly wrong with them. From sadistic freaks, to suicidal teens, to unfeeling mothers, to Khmer Rouge wannabees. This anime has a characetr for almost every mental disease on the book, and makes them all very interesting. It may seem a bit out of place, unrealstic, and forced, but it does work. Sure some more work may have been needed to develop the characters, but they do their best with the short amount of episodes. I have little if any problems with the characters, besides the fact it feels a little forced to have almost every character sick or crazy in one way or another. Shiina, the main character is remeicent of Shu, from Now and Then, Here and There . Her endless optimism, cheerfulness, in the face of danger, while dealing with horrible things, while not being the brightest lightbulb in the pack, makes me think of Shu all the more. And just like Shu, Shiina will have to grow up real fast, as some horrible things are about to happen to her and her friends. This is not a bad thing however, as she is still very much her own character, she never comes off as a copycat character. If anything she feels like the most "real" character in the anime, and you can't help to feel for her. Her father is another great character, and it's like you can almost touch the love they have for each other, it's just oozeing from them, and it feels so very real. Hoshimaru, the main dragon child, is a cute, yet some-how spooky little creature. The expression on it's face, while first silly, later comes off as more disturbing then anything else. Akira Sakura, a friend of Shiina(from fencing class), is a very timid and shy character. She is two years older then Shiina. The director described her as a very "inward" character and Shiina, as her foil, a very "outward" character(straight from the director's commentary on CPM's dvd box set). Akira has no other real friends besides Shiina, is sick (she passes out and throws up inexplicably), and is very depressed. Hiroko Kaizuka (often called "Hiro") is another of Shiina's friend (from her school, they are in the same class), who is very bright, yet is bullyed in school (unknown to Shiina of course). Her parents only want her to get better grades, no matter what, with her father especially putting a lot of pressure on her. Both of her parents seem unloving, and the only real friend Hiro has is Shiina. There are many other interesting characters in this anime, but I won't go into them all. I will say this though, that you get a really eerie feeling when you notice a character has just SNAPPED, gone out of their minds, and starts doing something insane and disturbing! A factor that probally inspired those who later created When They Cry(something that anime seems to focus more on, it's not however a main focus of Narutaru, althought it is there). In fact there are many things that link this anime to When They Cry...
This anime's biggest problem is it's art. While it shares many things with the much later anime When They Cry, amazing animation and art is not one of them. The art while passible, is just plane bad in this anime.I've seen worse, but even long running series can have better animation then this has. Sure the character designs are "ok" and the dragon-child designs are decent, but everything looks bad together. There are problems they wait all flows together, and it's noticable. I guess this helps with the illusion that this anime is for children in the first episode, but it really weakens the series as a whole. At times the characters legs even seem streched way out of proportion. While this anime screams low budget, I still think they could have done better. The opneing and closing animation look very nice so I will discuss them as well, sense there is not much to say about the animation of the episodes, besides that it is pretty bad. The Opening is very interestingly done, in a "child-like cute" manor, useing paper cut outs of the characters. The Ending is also nicely done, but done in the style of the anime, rather then the opening sequence.
If anything is perfect in this anime it is the music. The music is amazing in setting the mood. From a childish (yet later eerie) opening, to amazingly creepy background music, to a spooky yet some-how settling ending theme. I have not heard any other anime where Susumu Ueda has done the music, but I think he is a master at what he does. I hope that he is in charge of the music in anime in the future, becuase this was just great! Sure not everyone is going to acually like the music, no one ever does, but it sets the mood of the show, and feels a perfect fit to the series. While I don't think people are going to listen to the music from this anime, like they would from FLCL or Cowboy Bebop, the music is still perfect.
As far as the dub goes I didn't include that in with sound. I ranked music a 10/10, the dub would have brought that down a lot, and it's just not fair to include it in this review. I normally include dubs (since I am a dub fan after all), but for this I'll make an exception. The english dub was pretty bad overall, with a few spotty actors, and great actors giving their worst performances of recent memory. Although at times it really does sound good, but sadly not for the majority of the show. So I have to question jut what the hell happened? Shiina is a like it, or hate it kinda voice, althought the acting is decent, it won't win any awards. However I will say this, Kelly Ray (Yuri Otani in "Alien Nine") is perhaps the best person on the planet to play Shiina. So the casting of her had a lot of thought in it. However, half the time she seems like she is giving it her all, and other times it feels like she doesn't know where she is going with it. Shiina's father, played by Josh Mosby, is very well cast, and the actor does a great job when he gets a chance. Overall I find Mosby to give the best performance in this entire anime (which sadly doesn't mean much :( ) . I always felt Flora Stanberg was a little miscast as Hiroko Kanzuki personally. She does do a decent job some of the time, and a terrible job at other times. Which is a real shame as she seems to have a lot of talent, sad it's wasted like this. Renee Gloger however, was a perfect fit for Akira Sakura! Her voice really maches well with that character and I couldn't ever imagine another person playing her. And her acting is alright as well, at times. Other times the quality of her acting slips to pretty bad levles, like most of the actors in this dub. Renee Goldstein is very well cast as Satomi. She fits perfeclty. Her acting is very strong all the way through too. So it's even sadder that she almost is always too far away from the mic when recording her lines!!! And you can even hear background sounds when she speaks sometimes (Like really WTF background noise? I mean I hear her moving around in the booth! Your shouldn't hear such things in a dub!)!! The school bullies (shown in the last acrh) seemed to fit perfectly with the japanese actresses, despite what other critics have said. I found they did more then justice with all the scenes involving them (and they are very important). The side characters are sometimes alright, and other times outright terrible. It's not consinstent at all.
Personally I place the blame on the ADR directors Kip Kaplan (who did the terrible and unintentionally funny dub for "Garzey's Wing", so it's no wonder he is responsible for this train wreck) and Ross Lefko (who luckily enough for us has not directed [and ruined] anything else). I actually think the director wasn't really there for some recordings, as I can almost "hear" the actors directing themselves sometimes...
Another problem with the dub is many of the characters talk (as ANN calls it) in a Shatner-like way. (They...talk like...this...just to match the...lip......flaps...which...makes...me...very mad.) Really what the hell was up with that? Also so many times as I watched this I thought to myself "that line should have been re-recorded" or "That line somes awkward" or " WTF background noise??" or even "GET CLOSER TO THE MIC!!!". While there are moments of greatness, most is not impressive. The dub is really something that gives New York City a bad name for dubs overall.
And before anyone thinks I hate all dubs, I don't. I watch most shows dubbed, I like almost every dub I've ever seen, and I LOVE dubs with fresh voices in them. I am even a huge New York City dub fan, and love when a dub goes to that city, as I feel they really give us something LA and Texas fail to sometimes. Vancouver is also a favorite of mine, but like I said, I like almost ever dub I've ever seen. And I'm very sad to say this is one of the worst ones, on one of the best series too :( . I would have liked to see more work go into this dub, but I can still some-how watch this. As although there are a lot of problems, there are moments of sheer awe, that inspire me, and make me hopeful that this isn't a total bust. I'll watch it dubbed, but I won't like it.
I can't say I "enjoyed" it, in the same way I would enjoy a comedy or action anime. In fact many scenes make me wonder if the creaters should be alowed to roam the streets, rather then rotting in jail! It makes me feel like these people are insane, and could do real harm to others! I mean WHAT in the hell where they thinking?BUT I did LOVE this anime!! I loved it in the same way people like movies like Saw, Schindler's List, or The Silence of the Lambs. I loved this anime, in the way people like When They Cry, Now and Then Here and There, Kite, Ganzt, or Grave of the Fireflies. It's not like I enjoy seeing horrible things happen to people (many of them innocent, and/or children), or that I "enjoy" watching people get hurt, bullyed (well they call it bullying in the anime, I call it something far worse), or die in horrible ways, but I did like this anime. It's stunning, twisted, demented, and disturbing. But it's still amazing! It's also very interesting to note this anime adresses some issues (most involving children) that many people are afraid to address. It gets a little deep, but don't look for the emphases on it, like in NGE or Kino's Journey I won't spoil what exactly they are...
Some major problems with the plot (directing needed major work, many plot holes/plot lines left open, incomplete ending), and the animation is weak, this anime still exells at breaking the norms of anime, and blows you away. This anime pushed what was acceptable to put in an anime at it;s time. The anime is a clear inspiration for the anime/game When they Cry (and sequels), among many other anime. It has some very interesting and messed up characters, and amazing music. It has some real gruesome scenes, and at times will make you very uneasy. Kitoh (the original Mangaka) is know for taking innocent ideas and corrupting them to hell. In this anime he takes the idea of having a pokemon-like pet thing from something innocent and just cool, to something disturbing, terrible, and sickening, and much more realistic. I mean what would really happen if a bunch of children could get powerful creators? Not Pokemon thats for sure, probally something more like this. And after this series, Kitoh went on to write Bokurano, which disects the mecha genre, and corrupts that. I mean it must be really cool to pilot a giant robot and fight bad guys right? I mean that be really fun right? No! Kitoh writes what it would really be like. Just like how William Golding wrote "Lord of the FLies" to write a realistic story about what would really happen if children got stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere, Kitoh writes his mangas to show what would really happen if children got pokemon-like creators, or powerful mechas to pilot. And just like Golding he wrote his stories partly to criticize other works (and as a response to them. And FYI Golding wrote Lord of the Flies as a response to "The Coral Island").
Highly recommended, especially to When They Cry fans (and other fans of the "killer loli" genre ).
I can't figure "Narutaru" out - this is one strange, strange series. It succeeds to be both lighted hearted and dead creepy, and in fact, it succeeds in doing a lot of things that it's meant to do, including freaking me out, but it kind of fails as a whole because its many aspects doesn't quite come together.
"Narutaru" follows the adventure of a happy-go-lucky school girl Shiina as she meets and bonds with a rather dopey looking creature. You would think this would lead to something in a similar vein to Pokemon, but no, soon after the odd encounter in the beginning, "Narutaru" then
promptly switches to a kind of pedestrian, slice of life mode. This kind of thing doesn't just happen in the beginning either, as "Narutaru" is a bewildering mixture of many genres - one moment, it can be pretty normal and laid back, but then the next moment everything goes a bit crazy, only to return to the laid back state soon afterwards. If it's possible that an anime can suffer from schizophrenia, then "Narutaru" is surely one such patient.
The style of the artwork in "Narutaru" suits its more laid back moments, but its animation is often flakey. Characters often seem disproportionally drawn and move around as though they are made up of elbows and knees. It works out for the main character since it appears to me that she is meant to be a lanky tomboy as opposed to a more graceful girl, but all the other characters suffer from the awkward movement issues as well. The character designs are also not distinctive enough as it took me a while before I figured out who's who.
The cheesily cheerful opening credits is hugely misleading. It's either not very well thought through, or it's the production team's idea of a very sick joke. Looking at it, you would never guess how horrifyingly dark this series gets later on. In fact, I would say that the main strength of the "Narutaru" stems from the fact that its creepier side is done extraordinarily well. It's incredible at building up suspense and atmosphere. Even when everything looks to be relatively normal, hints dropped by the anime such as the eerie background music and also the creepy looking fonts used for episode titles gives it a sense of almost constant anticipation, as though it's teetering on the edge of darkness. I was not disappointed - in the last few episode it finally falls off as all the tension that had been built up to that point is finally released, and it turns into something akin to a full blown horror. The stark violence is shocking, sickening enough to tie a knot in the pit of your stomach. It makes makes "Elfen Lied" look tame in comparison, despite not being as graphical... and it was absolutely brilliant...
...but at the end of the day, the question still remains - just what are the creators trying to do with the show? It has a barebone premises that seems to miss out more than it reveals (it's basically crying out for a sequel); it's all over the place, trying to be a lot of things (sci-fi/fantasy, horror, slice of life and er, Pokemon) and ends up being neither here or there; it has quirky characters that are mostly undeveloped and even more under-used that their introductions seem bordering on pointless. Basically, this anime is a mess... but it does have its merits. Perhaps the horrifying and monstrous intensity of the last few episodes alone is enough to make watching this worthwhile. It's not a great anime, but it is great in places.
In the early 2000s, there were 3 anime that came out that were extremely controversial. The first of these 3 is obviously Elfen Lied - which, similar to how Cowboy Bebop is the most popular (and has the most critical acclaim) of the 3 "Space Western" anime, is the most popular and highest rated of the 3. The second one is Gantz, and it's one that I wouldn't be surprised if you had or had not heard of it - it's the "middle of the road" title in terms of popularity and critical reception. So, what title is the Outlaw Star of
this group? Narutaru.
Story - 2/10
Did you think that Digimon Tamers wasn't edgy enough to be a deconstruction of the "mon" genre? Then this show will be right up your alley!
The show actually starts off decently - it shows what you would expect of a typical "mon" show: our heroine, Shiina, gets her Dragon's Child (the name of the "-mons" in this show) and names it Hoshimaru. However, the next episode is extremely jarring - it shows someone attempt suicide! That's not the most shocking thing. I would go into further detail, but I feel that you should watch it if you want to see how shocking it is.
Art - 5/10
The art is actually passable. It's not great, but it's not terrible instead. I just don't particularly like the style they used here.
Sound - 3/10
The sound mixing is actually pretty good. However, the sound used is very jarring - especially when it comes to the opening. I expected a show that was basically Pokemon meets Mushishi when I started this. I got something that was basically Pokemon meets Mnemosyne when I was done with this. And while a combination like that is something that sounded awesome before I started watching it, the end result is absolutely terrible.
Character - 2/10
Most of the cast is very unlikable by the end of the show - the only characters who I really found to be likable were Shiina and her dad, since they were the only good people on the show (sure, some of the other people were nice, but Shiina and her father were the only people who didn't do anything extremely shocking in the show).
Enjoyment - 1/10
This show was way too jarring for me to enjoy. I found myself suffering from whiplash by the end of this series.
Overall - 1/10
Did you think the anime adaptation of Akame ga Kill! was edgy? Narutaru makes Akame ga Kill!'s anime adaptation look like Chi's Sweet Home. Did you find the original ending to Neon Genesis Evangelion to be a letdown? It will look like the ending to Gunbuster when you compare it to the ending of Narutaru. Did you find the cast of Gantz to be unlikable? You'll find them to be as likable as the cast of RahXephon by the time you're done with Narutaru.
I know what some of you are probably going to ask: Is this worse than Master of Martial Hearts (which, for those of you who have not seen my reviews in the past, I declared the worst anime of all time)? I'm going to say no. Mainly because this show does deconstruct the "Mon" genre without being guilty of most of the things that it's trying to critique. So if you're looking for a really shocking deconstruction, give this a shot - you might enjoy this more than I did.
Alternative recommendations: Mnemosyne, Bokurano, Madoka Magica, Higurashi
Ah Narutaru. One of my first "killer loli" anime experiences...except it's not really killer loli...it just gives off that really creepy vibe. However it never really achieves the effect that it tries to create.
Story: Storyarcs. There are a couple of them, all of them about pain and suffering. The first one really doesn't count all too much, but the second is where they show what they want Narutaru to be. However it comes off as immature, they try to create a disturbing aura, an effect that Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni achieves perfectly, and it falls flat on it's face.
The problem is that the stories are shallow and don't really shown too much real pain, they explain things too simply, they skip over alot of the details that create that painful emotion and sense of sympathy with the characters.
Art: I did not like the art all too much. It was bland and did absolutely nothing to support the mood of the piece. The character's designs are also deceiving, but definitely not in a good way. They seem like nice and kind, not necessarily innocent-looking, and then they try to change and warp other characters into being in alot of pain, which doesn't work. The worst character design is the dragon creatures. They're just there.....the good thing is that they don't remind me of pokemon or digimon, but they're still....terrible. There are some that are meant to be "evil" but they just look stupid.
Sound: The sound is creepy, the only emotion I felt in this entire anime was due to being manipulated by the music. They definitely did a great job on the music and leading to some tense moments (music-wise).
Character: Boring, Flat, 2-D, Shallow. Those are the best adjectives for the characters of this series. I found myself not caring about them at all, it was always "Wow, this girl hates herself (that's not a spoiler...that's pretty much every character) see how little I care!" Every character was just so incredibly annoying and stereotypical that I wasn't entranced by them at all.
Enjoyment: In case you can't tell already, I didn't enjoy this anime at all. 13 episodes of pain. After watching it and thinking about it for awhile I came to the conclusion that the creators were just too lazy to put a serious amount of work into this anime. I guess that people who enjoy the whole cute girls killing sub-genre might enjoy this.
If you watch this and aren't satisfied, which I wasn't, and totally write off this deeply frightening genre, don't. Watch Higurashi no Naku Koro ni instead. It does a MUCH better job at being supremely frightening and disturbing than this does. Narutaru pulls punchs, softens things down, makes characters shallow, which greatly diminishes the effect of the entire piece.