Shadow Star Narutaru Vol. #4 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • 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. #4

By Chris Beveridge     October 05, 2005
Release Date: November 08, 2005


Shadow Star Narutaru Vol. #4
© Central Park Media


What They Say
Shy Hiroko is tormented by bullies. But everyone has their breaking point, and Hiroko wrestles with inner demons as she is tempted to use her powers to exact a terrifying and bloody revenge. Contains Episodes 11-13.

The Review!
Shadow Star comes to a close for the anime side of things and wraps it up with a self-contained storyline.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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

Packaging:
There isn't any really dominating character here but rather a good mix of those who round out the last volume and how they all interact together. Amusingly, Shiina and Hoshimaru get the smallest image here but it almost makes sense when you start watching the show. 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.

Menu:
The menu works a simple theme this time with an ever shifting cloudy and darkened 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.

Extras:
The extras for the last volume are rather good and it kicks off with a solid one that has coverage of one of the events for the show that runs about thirty minutes in length. Bringing in people to get excited about the show, they haul out most of the voice actors to talk about their involvement in the project and so forth. It's pretty detailed but it is one of the standard things done for just about every show but if you're a fan of some of the voice actors it's definitely worth checking out. In addition to that we get a series of galleries divided up into art, storyboards and character art. In a move that I continue to think doesn't serve them well, they put the access to the director's commentary just in the audio setup section. With a lot of people never going there, they won't even know this is on there. The commentary by the Japanese director is interesting and covers a wide range of things with the show and is a great new original extra to have here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At its conclusion, Shadow Star Narutaru manages to become one of the most frustrating series that I've seen in recent memory. I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't read the manga over the last several years that I'd have essentially considered the show incomprehensible for a number of reasons but the last volume, which does a good job of actually telling a self-contained story, just feels like it's not the way to actually end the show. It's the curse of an ongoing series but it's something that just feels like it wasn't ended properly or on the right note.

For the last three episodes, we get a slow moving but interesting story that takes Shiina and puts her to being a relatively minor character and shifts the focus instead to a classmate named Hiroko. Hiroko's the type that's heavily pressured by her parents to do a good job in school and to ace every test so that she can get into a good school and a good life. The pressure is intense because of that and it's not any less at school where a couple of other girls go after her because she does so well. They're generally mean to her and try to force her to lower her scores, which of course gets her parents upset, so she's in a no-win situation. What's worse is that these girls are mean, or least the leader is, as she torments Hiroko. Not only does she force her to drink water filled with worms but by god they actually rape her with a test tube and threaten to kick her in the stomach when it's inside her. Now that's just vile.

Hiroko finds something of a friend in Akira when the two arrive at Shiina's place to sort of escape from things and be with someone who is friendly with them. Akira's issues with her parents, never mind what they all saw in the previous battles, weighs heavily on her and she's close to cutting herself up again and ending it all. Hiroko's desire to be free of some of the pressure's she's under is getting close to bubbling over so the two of them find some good common ground when they talk while waiting and become rather good friends for the short time that they're together. While Shiina is involved throughout all of this she really is almost a secondary character, though she does get some good time with her father.

Everything comes to a head though after Hiroko takes some time away from school to deal with what's happened to her by the other girls and it combines with the fact that her father called Shiina's father and told him to keep the girls apart because poor stupid Shiina is a bad influence on his lovely Hiroko. Everything just snaps from there for Hiroko and we learn that she's been keeping a dragon of her own in the closet and it's been feeding off of her feelings for awhile now so that when this happens, it's out of the closet and into the guts of those that she hates. The monstrosity of a dragon begins a rampage that has it caught on camera as it kills and hunts those that have wronged her, though it's questionable as to whether it's really under her control. Naturally, Shiina's the one who will have to do something and she begins to surface once more as the lead character of the series along with poor Hoshimaru.

If this set of episodes had been the second or third volume of the series I think the show would have been a lot stronger than what we got there. Those episodes, while critical, just showed a weakness both in script and directing in being able to tell the story in an effective manner. Even with this set of three episodes it feels like things went too slowly and played out in a manner which could have been streamlined better, particularly in how they pushed Shiina to the background for far too long and so quickly and early on. Even worse, the overall plotline with the rest of those who have dragons is given maybe five seconds worth of thought here as we see one of those involved done in a way to imply he may have had something to do with all of this. It just feels like the promise of the series was nowhere near close to being met.

In Summary:
At the end of the series, even with a number of good moments throughout it and especially in the last episode or two here with its heavy violence and disturbing images, I'm pretty much disappointed that the promise of what could have been, based on the manga, hasn't really shone through here much. Between the pacing, direction and probably issues with adapting the anime itself, this is like an incredibly lite version of the original that covers a fraction of what it's really all about. And then it doesn't even cover some of the better aspects of it. Normally I rarely have issues with adaptation since there are obvious changes that have to be made but with Narutaru I think they missed what made it cool to begin with.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Storyboards, Director’s Commentary (full length), Interview with the Japanese Voice Actors, 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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