Saturday, 20 June 2015

First impressions #1 - Narutaru (aka "Shadow Star")

Narutaru by Mohiro Kitoh (1998-2003)

First impression: (technically I wrote this a month or two before my created my first blog post)

Wow. Just wow. Mind blown. I have flown through this manga in 4 days, and that is saying something! Clearly this work merits a more thorough commentary, but I have to simply write down my impressions or lose my mind instead!

Narutaru is untiringly introducing new concepts in basically every chapter, sketching them only slightly, and seemingly dropping them in favour of new ideas. This is both a blessing and a curse in multiple ways.

I for one would have (as usual) preferred the story to stay away from shifting too much focus on the supernatural plot elements. The character of Shiina, while lacking depth, is very likable. I would have preferred to see the aftermath of the drama happening in the first part (and especially the first third) of the manga played out a lot more visible. Akira (who is unfortunately ignored for most of the second part of the manga (Vol. 8-End)) falling apart mentally due to the bad things happening to her was easily one of the best parts of the entire manga. Likewise Shiina is never really shown to suffer too much (making her character appear more and more unrealistic as the story progresses), continuing to live in her flimsy, carefree and certainly also oblivous way after things go to hell repeatedly - til part 2 when her character is drained of any reflective thought and becomes a pure object furthering the plot. In other words, the integrity of her character is completely broken, Shiina becomes another person entirely (why not call her Shiina 2). Surely the events of part 1 contribute to the creation of Shiina 2, but the clean break in her depiction, unexplained by the sketchy story of course, is something I consider a deep flaw in this manga. Akira fares even worse, since we barely see her later on! Her demotion from main character to extra is unexpected and baffling.

Some technical problems I had with this manga are the fact the insanely large cast of characters who are more often than not extremely hard to distinguish visibly. Mamiko Kuri and Akira, what a nightmare! Also the endless armada of black-haired boys! To add insult to injury, the speech bubbles lack the part designating who is saying what! I don't know whether this problem was introduced by the translators (and continued by the fansubbers), but it is an absolute no-go, especially in a manga where new ideas are introduced by the minute and information on characters' motivations and opinions are extremely meagre by design!

Rapid action (as in the airplane and gun porn heavily featured in this manga) does never translate to static black-and-white drawings very well in my opinion. I found myself skimming the battle scenes pretty quickly, since I barely could tell what was going on.

The end was something else and saved the second part - well almost. I can't forgive the inscrutable exclusion of Akira from the plot. I LIKED Akira :-(.

I can say I was emotionally afflicted quite a lot by this manga! Reading Narutaru was certainly a unique encounter, a read more like a dream or trip than a linear experience. While I wasn't expecting a Second Coming of Eva (which I don't believe in anyway), my fascination with the early events and the characters of Shiina 1 and Akira HAS been marred by the story and characters developing in a way I did not like in part 2. Certain late events are better ignored, but more on that later when I do a more in-depth review.

All in all, a detailed and reasonably complex story every fan of sophisticated manga should read as soon as possible.

PS: By the way, the anime adaptation has been given only only 12 episodes to retell the first half of the manga, and twice the amount of runtime would not have been enough to reasonably explore HALF the featured content. Definitely read the manga first or you won't have any idea how good the story really is!

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