Narutaru ๑, ๒, ๓

So a quite a while back Rainbowsphere had me read a short story collection by mangaka Morihiro Kitoh.  I tend to prefer long stories over short ones, and so even though I loved the book I never picked up any others.  Recently I wrote a post about Ringo Shiina and that triggered a comment by Sasa about a certain Shiina Tamai.  Short story shorter she directed me to this thing called Narutaru.  Then I had an eerie feeling that I had read an interesting post Ghostlightning had written about this and sure enough, he had.

I’ve gone ahead and read three manga volumes already!!

[The ๑, ๒ and ๓ in the post title are the Thai numerals for 1, 2 and 3.  I’m just testing to see if people can see them fine…can you?]

What an ugly way name Narutaru is.  I realize it’s short for Mukuro Naru Hoshi Tama Taru Ko, but gee, why not call it Mukutama then?  I guess beautiful names are in the ears of the listener, but Narutaru sounds like some tropical disease I do not want 😦

Anyway, despite the “Narutaru” business, what’s striking is how carefully Kitoh chooses his words.  For example, it’s interesting that the character for mukuro (骸) meaning “corpse” can also be read as kara and then it means a husk/chaff, and then Shiina’s name () stands for  an empty husk/chaff, as her nasty mother is quick to remind her.

The Tamai characters (玉依), with the second one read as “yori” instead of “i” (thus: tamayori) refer to the Shinto divine brides, i.e. the women who channel deities in traditional Japan.  These are most commonly known as “miko”.  You might remember the little girl Miyako in Ghost Hound…she was a miko or tamayori.

Anyway, this word “tamayori” was originally a proper noun, referring to a divine princess and daughter of the god Watatsumi.  Watatsumi is most often known as Ryujin, the Dragon Lord.

The character’s personal names themselves are great.  Shiina is of course a lovely name, and she herself tells us that Akira is an awesome name for a girl (I agree).  Misono reminds me of the demented inhuman woman in Acony who shares her name, and incidentally Shiina’s mother resembles Motomi’s mother quite closely (or maybe even a cross between Motomi’s mom and Acony’s mom).  Heck, Motomi’s full name itself is Motomi Utsuki, and if you take out the middle part it becomes Motoki which is the company Shiina’s father works for OMG I’m blowing this conspiracy wide open.  Wait, someone’s knocking at my door.  Guys in suits.  Drats!!

Only a Japanese mind could come up with a character design as cute as the one for these baby dragon thingies and then wield it for nefarious purposes.  The boys in this manga look absolutely wicked.  If I were a boy in this world I’d be scared to look at myself in the mirror for fear I’d beat myself up.  As far as the girls go, even though physically they all look so similar, they each have their own poses and gestures to distinguish them.  I like Akira’s character a lot for some reason, plus that creepy dude on the plane and later at the hospital.  I’ll root for them to get married in the end, though somehow I don’t think that will happen…though the babies would be very pretty no doubt.

I don’t have much to say about the plot just yet.  It seems like ideal material for an anime, so I guess at some point I might check the TV series out.  At the pace I’m going I’ll finish the whole manga in a week or so.  But I can’t keep up this pace.  I must go out into the world and make friendships, contribute to society, etc.  Yeah right 😉

P.S. The knife boy’s speech in Vol. 2 was pretty cool, carving the world to fit you or carving yourself to fit the world.  Like the egg and the shell thing in Utena.


So I read volumes 4 and 5, and to slow myself down, I’ve started reading the manga again but in the original Japanese.

It’s very emblematic for Shiina to meet Hoshimaru at a torii on the sea, because in Japan: Shinto + Sea = Dragons.

I’ve got a question about the English translation of a sentence in the very first chapter.  Shiina is about to leave the island and the pilot says “Retract the shiina”.  When I read this first I thought “shiina” was some component of an airplane, and the non-translation meant that the translators were pointing out a pun in the original.  It seemed natural to me that Shiina would be named after an airplane part, since her daddy is so into them.

However, I looked high and low and couldn’t find any reference to the word “shiina” meaning anything that could remotely be connected to a machine.  There is an alliteration in the original: “Shiina shuunou” (sh + n + sh + n) where this second word “shuunou” can mean “retract” but also (and actually, primarily) “receive, receipt”.  So my sense now is that the pilot is playfully confirming that their passenger is onboard “No traffic, runway is clear, Shiina is in our possession…”.

Then again, this manga had like three professional translators working on it, so there’s probably something huge I’m missing.


Huh, the English censorship begins very early on.  In chapter 2 the young pilot says he hated having lots of siblings because he couldn’t masturbate (“onani”) in peace.  Shiina asks what that means and Suzuki says “oh, I don’t know the slang these days” and brushes it off, then asks her about Hoshimaru.  The English just has the young pilot say he didn’t have any privacy…


The full-grown dragon that rescues Shiina in chapter 2 (“virgin princess” in the translation) is named Otohime in the original.  Otohime was the big sister of Tamayori-hime (whose name matches Shiina’s surname), both daughters of the Dragon King.  Thus, in mythical Japanese terms, it’s as if the older sister is rescuing the younger one.

~ by Haloed Bane on May 26, 2011.

13 Responses to “Narutaru ๑, ๒, ๓”

  1. This post again reminds me how much I miss out on by reading translations. However, Narutaru isn’t a work that I can bear to re-read, as much as I esteem it overall.

    • For me rereading this is a necessity…I was going so fast I missed a lot of detail. Like for example how Shiina’s dad only drew pics of airplanes and monsters when he was a kid. That shows up in the first chapter, and only reading it again was i struck by how familiar those monsters looked 😀

  2. I don’t think I would ever want to bother writing an article on anything I wouldn’t even want to revisit. Naru Taru (that is how I call it because it was its German title back then when it came out) is perhaps the most re-readable manga I have ever read. I used to know the majority of volumes 1-7 by heart down to the smallest details… But of course I didn’t know that much about the language details, and I certainly would have missed out on them if you didn’t mention them!

    There is a lot of foreboding in the series, especially when reading it a second time. I wonder how much Kitoh really could realize, considering that he was constantly being pushed especially towards the end of the series and redrew pages for the tankoubon version.

    • The sense I get is that Narutaru is an official nickname, not something the fans came up with. The full name is just too long and difficult to say 🙂

      there is a heck of a lot of foreboding!!! it seems very meticulously planned… do you know if there’s an english site where people have cataloged changes in the translation, loss of japanese names etc? I’m not interested in looking at it for my own sake, it’s just that if someone’s explained this stuff already then i won’t write it down…but if no one has then i’ll be sure to keep track of interesting details and post them on this blog.

      • I am impressed that you noticed all that foreboding. I am actually pretty sure that there is no good English-language website, that does more than giving a general overview on the series. People rather blog nowadays rather than making websites after all.

        Yeah, “Naru Taru” is official, in Germany at least. I think in other countries they wrote it “Narutaru”. And oh my God, I totally like Mukutama! XD I would have liked that very much, but now it’s too late; too bad.

        • I see, I see. whether to separate naru taru or keep it as one word is up to the translators, since Japanese doesn’t put spaces between words anyway.

          ok then, i’ll keep track of interesting japanese stuff that gets lost in translation, whether because of linguistic issues or downright censorship..

  3. No. No. Don’t make me read the manga. I watched the anime and was (in equal parts) impressed and revolted. Plus, the anime abruptly ended – an invitation to continue with the manga – but I glanced through a few and they’re just too bleak & heartless for my comfort. Reminds me of what it was like to be the tqrget of a really creative, imaginative bully –

    • Don’t read it then. There’s definitely a bleakness looming over the horizon from the very beginning. A lot of these characters look like mean people…even Shiina’s dad has a disturbing side to him…and as for her mom.. omg.

      Blood and sweat, not so many tears.

  4. Mohiro Kitoh is a sick, sick man. He seems to enjoy torturing middle-school kids in all of his works, especially Narutaru and Bokurano. Then why can’t I stop reading?

    • Since Japanese artists are so obsessed with their “school days”, you can look at this torture as really a form of masochism (Mohiro is torturing himself by torturing characters that are projections of his own past). Maybe you’re into S&M 🙂

      I love this formula for some reason. Evangelion, Utena, Harry Potter… The notion of kids running around with lots of power and then the most powerful one turns out to be the most clueless….

  5. “Retract the Shiina” is the pilot’s way of asking her to stop sitting on top of the plane and get inside…

  6. […] Animekiritk’s excellent post on the beginning of this series helped shed some further light on the subject. The princess is […]

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