Have you ever heard of this anime? I doubt it. It’s obscure as fuck. I do think it’s underrated, but only slightly — it has a score of 6.15 on MAL and I’d say it deserves more like 6.75. In other words, it’s not really a good anime. It’s “fine” or “fair.” Yet, I believe it has significant value, even if it tends to drive people away. Some unpleasant things need to be talked about, and that’s exactly what this show does. It takes a popular concept and carries it in the darkest direction possible to highlight the very real flaws and issues modern humans must face. Now, onto the review.
The art and animation seem perfectly adequate for a 2003 anime. I’m not an artist nor do I know much about animation, so I can’t say for sure. Personally, I like the style/ look of early 2000s anime like this. Plus, the creature and monster designs are really creative, cute, and/or frightening. It’s mostly because of those creature designs that I’d give the visuals 7/10 rather than 6/10.
There was a great voice-acting performance from Akira Ishida, playing the child sociopath Tomonori Komori. Also there were performances from Asami Sanada, playing female protagonist Shiina Tamai. Otherwise, the voice-acting was not so great. Noto Mamiko played Sakura Akira, but she over-acted most of the time, so it didn’t work out well. Granted, playing a character like Akira would be hard given that she’s so quiet but so dramatic. Screaming or crying generally sounds realistic, and I like the sound effects.
Instrumental music isn’t bad, but also isn’t that memorable. Opening song “Sunday Sun” by the-neutral kind of annoys me, honestly. Ending song “Kairo” (meaning circuit) by Biniou is quite pretty, but nothing amazing in my opinion.
Story and Themes: 7/10
Young teen Shiina Tamai almost drowns to death but is rescued by a strange, cute, faintly star-shaped creature. It can’t talk, but it stays with Tamai and does as it’s ordered (most of the time). Tamai calls it her Ko (child). When she goes back to school, Tamai discovers that she isn’t the only one who has adopted a Ko. NaruTaru takes the concept of kids having otherworldly pets/servants (like with pokemon and digimon) and drives it to the darkest of possibilities. What if a kid ordered their Ko to murder their classmates who were bullies? What if they ordered the Ko to take down a fleet of military jets? This anime shows you how it would go down.
The story has some serious flaws, though. Some would say it’s needlessly violent, disturbing, and profane. I would give story a 5 or 6, but it has some interesting, thought-provoking themes and content, plus fascinating abnormal psychology. I tend to think rather than being edgy, this show was boldly highlighting social problems nobody wanted to talk about. However, you can also easily argue that it’s just edgy shit. (The topics/content I mentioned include bullying, sex, teenage pregnancy, child sociopaths, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and violence.)
A few other flaws include bad series structure and lack of any kind of exposition. There are sudden switches to other characters where the “main character” is ignored for episodes at a time. Important facts depend on interpretation and reading between the lines since there is little explanation of anything. There is little discussion of the effects of the Ko should be having on the real world of adults. Why isn’t anyone reacting to an alien creature bringing down all the JSDF planes? There’s no real explanation of what the Ko are, either.
There’s nothing wrong with the characters themselves, but they’re not developed well. For me, most of them weren’t relatable or especially likeable. The main character Tamai doesn’t ever accomplish much to stop the chaos until the last episode or two, but despite being weak, she’s at least brave. Let’s look at one more example.
The character of Sakura Akira was really poorly presented. Unless you have knowledge and understanding of psychological issues like panic disorder, self-injury, and suicidal ideation, you won’t be able to understand Akira. Even if you know about those issues and what they might be like, you still may not find her relatable. I think if we were given some exposition about her character or something, things would have gone over better.
Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
When I rewatched it recently, my enjoyment level would be closer to 7, but I’m trying to include my personal enjoyment from the other 3 times I watched it since discovering it in early 2015. Why did I so thoroughly enjoy such a fucked up story? Well, at the time I needed to explore dark media to help come to grips with the dark thoughts and urges I was having while mentally unstable.
I have two other reasons as well. 1) On principle, I like shows that start off looking all cute and then turn disturbing. It might be a sign that I’m still fucked up, lol. 2) I enjoy studying character psychology, especially abnormal psychology. And damn, there’s plenty of that in this anime!
Overall Score: 6.8/10.0 Fine
The overall score is calculated by taking the average of the numbers for each of the five categories examined. Anything in the 6s range is fine/ fair, while anything in the 7s range is good/ entertaining. This show is right on the border of the two. You should watch NaruTaru if you like abnormal psychology, dark fantasy, or thinking about tough topics that we have to face sooner or later. Stay away from this show if you are sensitive to depictions of animated children being horribly bullied, traumatized by other events, or brutally killed. For reading my work today, thank you ever so much! Jya, ne!
(Images were found by searching the web and I don’t own any of them)