Shadow Star Narutaru Vol. 2

Holy freak show, Batman!

After digging into the first volume of this oddity that is Shadow Star Narutaru, I came away quite surprised. A show that features the evil of 13-year-olds? Although our lead characters are pretty straight arrows, it seems that Narutaru is dedicated to showing us children at their worst. That being said, Narutaru is also intriguing, even as this second set of episodes leaves us with more and more questions. It's not as gory as Elfen Lied or as brutal as Gantz, but in its own way, it's just as disturbed. (And if you haven't watched the first volume or read the review of same, this all might be a little confusing and even go read the first review and come back. Go ahead, I don't mind.)

In this volume, more kids with dragon children start popping out of the woodwork. One has an angelic-looking being that attacks fighter planes, and it winds up fighting Shiina's father. Although Shiina has to deal with the possibility of his demise, luckily, he escapes with his life. However, it's becoming more and more likely that Akira and Shiina might not be as blessed. Already on the edge, Akira is abducted by one of the dragon children. Although Shiina comes to her rescue with the help of Enof and Hoshimaru, mentally Akira is devastated. Meanwhile, the kids on the evil side of the street don't give away their plans, but it seems they are preparing for something big. What, we don't know, but with kids this messed up, it's sure to be wicked. At least we do find out that the psychic link between dragon and prepubescent is not easily broken, so when dragons are hurt in the fight with Shiina and Hoshimaru, so are their maybe there's hope for them to be stopped yet. And then there's this weird naked kid wandering around...gah!

Although I thought the animation on the first volume was bad, the second volume of Shadow Star Narutaru is even worse. Do you remember Colorforms? You know, those cartoon cutouts with the special coating that would stick to a background picture? Well, I've come to the conclusion that the artwork in Narutaru was done by taking Colorforms and photographing them. Everything's a pan or a scan or motion that's not so much motion so much as something scooted across the landscape. The character artwork is still pretty strong, but wow...this is budget anime at its cheapest.

Again, though, it turns out that a show with poor animation can still be good if there's a strong story supporting it. I'm finding myself growing more and more interested in Narutaru despite the way it looks. It's bizarre and disturbing, but somehow believable. When Akira finally gets ahold of a gun, for example, you're not all that surprised at the result. A couple of these kids are pushed to the brink. The others -- the evil ones who will commit murder without a second thought -- are slightly terrifying in their nonchalance. It's like Lord of the Flies with dangerous toys.

What's problematic at this point with the show, though, is that we just don't know enough about what's going on. With only six episodes left, I'm not sure they can really finish up properly. We've met a lot of psycho kids, but is there an underlying payoff to follow? Unfortunately, Narutaru is playing its cards a little too closely to its chest. I'm intrigued at the possibilities but not convinced the show can yet deliver. And as before, the opening is completely out of character with the rest of the show. Just skip it and start with the feature -- it saves you time, as well as the mental energy it takes to make the leap from the cuteness of the OP to the viciousness of the show itself.

Although the show's problems make me give this second volume a lower grade than I would like, there's lots of good stuff here, and if you liked the first volume, this is more of the same. Until volumes 3 & 4 reach us, we'll have to hold judgment on how the whole series plays out...but if you've already started watching, make sure to pick this one up.

Shadow Star Narutaru Vol. 2 -- brief nudity, violence, disturbing subject matter -- B