Shadow Star Narutaru Vol. #3 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shadowstar Narutaru

Shadow Star Narutaru Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     September 13, 2005
Release Date: September 13, 2005

Shadow Star Narutaru Vol. #3
© Central Park Media

What They Say
As the alien Dragon’s Children wage war against humanity, their leader tempts Akira to use her powers for cruel and questionable motives. Meanwhile, Shiina trains to develop a psychic link with her alien friend and begins to uncover a horrifying secret. But understanding may come too late, and Shiina’s trust in her new friends may be her undoing!

The Review!
While the battle ends, those that fought it are left to deal with the aftermath of their actions and what they saw.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a fairly standard mix that does a decent job of using the forward soundstage at times for directional effects such as the swooping of the creatures and other incidental sounds. The music for the show is fairly soft inside the program so it doesn't stand out much but is well carried across both channels. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dialogue or dropouts during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. While it's a new series from just a couple of years ago, it's a show that's definitely done with a budget and numerous very visible short cuts in the animation which are only more pronounced in a digital format. The transfer itself is solid with bright clean colors with no noticeable blocking and only a bit of aliasing during some of the panning sequences. Cross coloration is a non-issue but there are some visible gradient issues in a couple of scenes but not consistently throughout the show. I

Akira sort of takes dominance over this cover as she's in the foreground but it's really the skeletal designed dragon that really dominates with it taking up much of the background but still leaving plenty of empty black space where a few more characters can fit in. Like the previous covers, it's all right but it really doesn't sell the show all that much. The back cover provides some bigger artwork for the leads along the side and the background is made up of a red stormy sky over which we have the brief summary and the discs features. The basic technical information is scattered around the bottom of the cover. The reverse side black and white cover has some of the artwork from the cover on one side along with the bilingual cast list while the other panel has the chapter stops and the mixed production information.

The menu works a simple theme this time with an ever shifting bright blue sky for a backdrop and various characters fading in and out as the catchy vocal piece plays along. Set to a good chunk of music, it's a cute piece and looks good overall. Access times are nice and fast and the menu navigation is straightforward and easy to use. The disc unfortunately did not read our players' language presets and went with the sign and song subtitles only.

A couple of extras are included here though it's not too much to write home about. In addition to the usual array of trailers, there's a section for character art, storyboards and a regular art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Now in the second half of the series, the first major battle comes to a close and the cast has to deal with what happened and the why behind it. A new character and dragon also gets introduced that changes up the dynamic a bit as well. The series still seems to be fairly unfocused this far into it though and with the animation and overall direction of the show feeling so second or third tier like, it's having a hard time really connecting with the viewer in order to pass on the needed emotions and feelings.

The opening episode brings a conclusion to the battle of the dragons as Shiina has Hoshimaru try and take down the dragon that Satomi is controlling as best as she can. The battle gets fairly pitched between the two and it's not helped by the numerous rockets fired by ground tanks or the air strike that eventually gets called in to really put them through the wringer. Hoshimaru has better luck in general in being able to destroy parts of the angelic dragons weapons and forcing it to adapt to new things but the two for the most part aren't able to really gain a true upper hand. With the battle going in a way that can't really be decided, the opposing kids decide that it's time to distract and escape by causing a poison gas to filter out which kills all the military.

This is a tragic scene where you have Akira and Shiina protected inside of Hoshimaru and unable to help while the people fall to the ground around them and die rather quickly. For two young teenage girls, this is traumatic and it really hits both of them hard though it does Akira in more than Shiina. Akira ends up retreating into herself a fair but and gets about to producing cranes to put out for each of the dead while Shiina tries to confront Tsurumaru over what happened so she can decide what path she needs to take. Both of them get caught up Sudo's little plan though as he goes to take Akira out for the day and Shiina ends up tagging along, oblivious to who Sudo really is. Akira knows and Sudo isn't exactly a master manipulator but he can mess with a confused girls head and starts showing her how she's just like them in playing with lives by how she deals with fishing. It's certainly a workable analogy but it's so hard to really come across right here with the way everything looks and feels.

Shiina gets something of an episode to herself when she's out flying one evening and comes across a girl about the same age as her, maybe just a bit older, named Jun whose got her own dragon and is surprised to find someone else like her. Jun's a bit of an interesting character as she hasn't named her dragon and keeps it in the shape of a broom so she can ride about like a witch. Jun seems to be both ignorant of a lot of dragon related things but at the same time she seems to know an awful lot more than Shiina does. They both have a great little encounter with the mother dragon which talks to Shiina by being a dolphin but the rest of the story is focused around Jun and her desired boyfriend Kyoji who has been in the hospital. It gets into a bit of weird territory here but in the end it feels like a strange story to tell at this point in the show as it's practically over.

As the series has progressed it's been increasingly hard to really get involved in the show and to enjoy it. The storyline itself is a serious one that has a lot of emotional aspects to it and a lot of that is expressed by the pauses and the quiet moments to take in what's happened. With Chiaki Konaka behind the screenplay, I was really interested to see what he could do but I think his material isn't the best here to begin with and its hampered by the overall production. These episodes in particular are all written by someone else and the series director isn't really at the right level to do this. In fact, Shadow Star is his first directing gig after doing key animation on an adult show and a regular series and being an animation director for one episode. With that and the animation quality really not suited for this storyline it's all feeling like it's starting to fall apart at the seams now.

In Summary:
Shadow Star Narutaru is one of the more engaging and eerie manga series I've read in a long time but the anime version of it seems to have not been able to capture what made that work so well so far. With this set of three episodes, the emotional connection we need to the leads in order to go through the trauma with them just isn't there. With only one more volume to go, it's obvious we won't get any sort of real conclusion to things not only since the anime is still ongoing but because I don't think the director really knows how to work this show properly. The talents that came together for this project had some potential but it's just falling apart around them.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles, Storyboards, Art Gallery, Character Art

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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