Definitely not to be confused withanother manga/anime series with a vaguely similar name.Naru Taru (Mukuro Naru Hoshi Tama Taru Ko - also known as Shadow Star in the US) is a manga and anime series with a very deceptive premise. It looks cute, with a perky Na´ve Everygirl lead (who transforms into an Action Girl as the plot progresses, though in a most plausible manner) who happens across an adorable starshaped Mon while visiting her grandparents during summer vacation. The anime opens with the most upbeat theme music imaginable and has a relaxed first episode. Things go downhill from there.The story is told from the viewpoint of twelve-year-old Shiina Tamai, after she aquires the aforementioned dragonet, which she names Hoshimaru. Merely being in this creature's company inevitably draws other young people with dragonets to her. Shiina, unlike the others, is not telepathically linked to her dragonet, and Hoshimaru seems to have a will and personality of his own; meanwhile, not all of the other "dragon bearers" have good intentions, for Shiina or the world at large. While the anime is open-ended to say the least, the manga leads towards an almost Gainax-type ending.Naru Taru was created by Mohiro Kitoh, who also created the Humongous Mecha series Bokurano, while the anime was penned by Chiaki Konaka, writer of Serial Experiments Lain and Digimon Tamers.
Alpha Bitch: Aki Honda has to be one of the nastiest Alpha Bitches ever created. Akira also has her own personal Alpha Bitch in Hibiki Shimura, although her taunts seem tame in comparison to what Honda does.
Anyone Can Die: Even Shiina herself. Subverted since she is brought back to life by her true shadow dragon: the earth itself.
Armor-Piercing Slap: Satomi does this to Shiina when they first meet, just because she overheard her making fun of the name of her school. Much, much later, Akira slaps Shiina to get her out of an Heroic BSOD.
Art Evolution: The art in the second half is noticeably less stiff and awkward than in the first.
Asexuality: Sudo. He takes as a sign that he's already gotten above common human desires.
Badass Normal: Takeo, despite actually having a Shadow Dragon of his own.
Also another of Shiina's buddies, Akira Sakura, who eventually killed her abusive and rapist bastard of a father and eventually appears to throw herself out of a window.
Sudo and Komori are both considered particularly nice boys by the people who know them superficially, but are the secretly (well, not exactly secretly in Sudo's case) sadistic egomaniacs with dire plans for the world.
Finally, Shiina herself. After having her best friend Akira and her mother murdered in front of her,her boyfriend murdered by random thugs, all of it in one chapter right after the chapter where her father make a Heroic Sacrifice she finally snaps and decide to end the world by sprouting gigantic hands from earth and bitchslap every single soul to death.
Big Sister Instinct: The Virgin Princess who aids Shiina often in the manga is her older sister Mishou.
Bilingual Bonus: In episode 2 Mamiko is wearing a T-shirt with a russian word "Самолет" (Airplane) on it. It could be a Foreshadowing if it wasn't in Russian.
Book Dumb: Shiina. Subverted in the manga, when she gets a scholarship for a very prestigious all-girls junior high. Lampshaded when people speak about how she's the first girl in 14 years to get a scholarship there.
Bowdlerised: The manga received a fair amount of edits when it was released in English, with Dark Horse removing entire pages from one volume and getting Kitoh to redraw a certain infamous scene from the same; only seven volumes were even published in the United States.
The German version of the manga also received some edits, though they were milder than the English version's (volume 6 got an appendix discussing the nature of bullying in Japan added to it) and the German publishers actually finished releasing the series.
Amusing/frustrating aversion in the French edition: the publisher, GlÚnat, picked it up in the late 90's as a shonen (no really), thinking it was a nice, harmless little Mon series. They pulled the plug after just the first two tankoubon, probably after somebody pointed out what happens later on (that manga & anime were under flak in France at a time due to a combination of Moral Guardians and gross mismarketing didn't help). It took ten years for them to republish it, this time under their more appropriate seinen imprint, so far apparently uncut and unmodified.
There was also some Bowdlerisation in the anime adaptation. Many of the more shocking events happen off-screen, and the anime is even reluctant to show blood most of the time.
Though to be fair, many of the shocking events aren't shown because they don't happen (due to aforementioned missing second half).
Break the Cutie: Shiina's friends Hiroko Kaizuka and Akira Sakura. Shiina herself steadily goes through this throughout the manga, and at the end is as broken as broken gets after losing everything and everyone she ever cared about, and bringing about The End of the World as We Know It along with Mamiko.
Averted by Norio Koga, which is impressive given what ends up happening to him. Sure, he was raped to death but he didn't dwell on his situation, and instead focused on helping out Tsurumaru and Shiina by taking out bombers, despite the giant pedophile on his back.
Bury Your Gays: Poor Norio gets what has to be the most horrendous death out of anyone.
Calling the Old Man Out: Years after her father's sexual abuse crippled her emotionally, Akira called him out by killing him.
Captain Ethnic: The only Russian Shadow Dragon we see is based on Baba Yaga's Chicken Leg House and flies through space. The American boy who appears later is a less obvious example. His Dragon resembles the Spinosaur from Jurassic Park III (sans sail, making it look more like a Baryonyx) with a painful-looking life-support machine in the center, invoking two of the biggest things America is known for in Japan (and worldwide): blockbuster movies and substandard healthcare.
Celibate Heroine: Although Shiina is pretty young, she's already adamant that she'll never get married or have children. This is subverted in the manga; not only does Shiina develop feelings for Takeo, but she even has sex with him near the end, with their daughter going on to be the new Eve of the "cleansed" Earth.
The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Subverted - Miyoko, the only one of Aki Honda's group who showed any kind of remorse or hesitation about their treatment of Hiro-chan, was right. Had the girls not bullied and raped Hiro-chan, they would've not gotten the fate Oni dealt to them. Well, they would've died in the end, but still...
Actually, they might possibly have survived. The whole point of the manga was Shiina being slowly broken by the events that took place. Hiro-chan wasn't the biggest factor, but it certainly played a role.
Compressed Adaptation: Sort of - the anime only covered events from the first half of the manga. In condensing said events into 13 episodes, some manga scenes that served as foreshadowing got cut, but the adaptation was otherwise pretty faithful.
Covers Always Lie: The first manga volume, complete with misleading blurb on the back of the English version.
Cut Short / Left Hanging: The anime ended halfway through the story, giving very little closure; either there wasn't enough of an audience to keep going, or the producers were afraid of tackling what was coming next. Or both.
Dead Person Impersonation: The Jyun Ezumi that Shiina meets is actually Kyouji, who has taken on her appearance with the help of his shadow dragon; the real Jyun died in an accident two years prior to the story.
Death by Sex: Genderflipped, because Takeo is the one who dies soon after he and Shiina have sex.
Deconstruction: Though it's less apparent in later volumes, the series was a deconstruction of the Mon genre.
Demoted to Extra: Mamiko, despite being critically important in the manga, only appears in two anime episodes and doesn't even show up in the ED animation.
And don't forget Takaya Mizushima, whose first animated appearance is in episode 12, when he shows up out of the blue to save Hiroko, without any explanation of why he knew to be there, or even who he is, and then only because there was no way around it this time. (Originally, he was Shiina's neighbour and classmate, and a recurring minor character.)
Deus Angst Machina: The plot can really feel like it's running on Murphy's Law at times. It's particularly bad for poor Akira, as there even seems to be a literal conspiracy to keep her from ever being happy again in the manga.
Disproportionate Retribution: Oh, man. Satomi develops a murderous grudge against Shiina that started just because the latter made fun of the name of her school. In the manga, Sudo shoots two delinquents to death just for throwing a bag of trash into a river... and let's not even get started on what the city thugs do.
Driven to Suicide: Akira tries to kill herself twice, but either can't bring herself to do it or gets slapped out of it. Eventually, she may have finally ended her suffering by throwing herself out of her hospital window... which might be the closest thing to a "happy ending" that anyone in the series ever got.
Dub Name Change: Bungo is renamed Kazuyuki in the Dark Horse manga volumes, probably just because it anglicizes better than ''Bungo''. The last few chapters they translated (which never made it into English graphic novels) changed his name back to Bungo, though. Also, Tomonori is called Akinori on Central Park Media's page for the anime, possibly due to their translators misreading the kanji for his name.
Dysfunction Junction: Having issues with the world seems to be - and may even literally be - a requirement for bonding with a shadow dragon.
Embarrassing First Name: Shiina writes her first name in katakana because she really hates the way it's written in kanji, which is read as "empty husk" or "a seed that will never sprout". It eventually turns out that the name has a positive meaning after all (Misono didn't want Shiina to "leave" her like Mishou did) and when Shiina finally comes to accept it, she's able to link with her real shadow dragon... the Earth itself.
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Subverted with Tomonori Komori. It's revealed some time after his death that he had a sickly mother he was taking care of, but the reader already knows by then that the sickly were among the sorts of people he wanted to kill off.
Genius Loci: The Earth is a shadow dragon, Shiina's specifically.
Genki Girl: Subverted by Misho, Shiina's older sister, who starts as one of these but doesn't stay genki after Shiina's birth, and dies in very strange circumstances. When she reappears as a Virgin Princess, she's much closer to an Emotionless Girl. Also Shiina herself.
Genre Shift: When the horror elements kick in, they kick in.
Giant Hands of Doom: The earth sprouts these when controlled by either Mamiko or Shiina. In fact, this is the way humans meet their doom at the end. Seriously.
Girl Posse: Aki Honda's friends Miyoko, Mihaya and Hiroka are a specially nasty version of this. And do they and their Alpha Bitch get nasty Karmic Deaths as punishment. Only Miyoko, who only helped bully Hiro-chan because she was shit scared of being rejected by her "friends", survives - but is left traumatised and crippled.
Go Out with a Smile: Played with. Norio's dying smile is ironic because he's regretting that he could never tell Takeo his real feelings. Also, he's not smiling when Takeo comes home to find his severed head.
Grotesque Cute: As events turn darker and darker, Hoshimaru's cute design starts to look increasingly out of place. Also Cute Monster GirlHainuwele, a doll-like armless angel that can spout weapons from its Claw-wings.
Healing Factor: An ability of the shadow dragons, though the bearers don't usually recover so well.
Heroic BSOD: Shiina gets these a few times. First, after the situation with Hiro-chan. Second, when she finds out Hoshimaru isn't actually her shadow dragon, but Takeo's. Third, when her father dies.
Heroic Sacrifice: In the manga, Shunji sacrifices his life by using his plane (more exactly, its engines) as a weapon to destroy Bungo's dragon
Hoist by His Own Petard: In the anime, Komori is killed when Hoshimaru replicates his own Push Dagger and spears him with it (as opposed to the broken plane strut used in the manga). A bigger example from both versions would be the way Aki Honda is killed by Oni, mirroring the way she tortured Hiro-chan.
It's interesting to note how the anime plays this up twice. While Oni merely used its claws in the manga, in the anime it transforms its finger into the shape of the infamous test tube before doing the deed.
Hope Spot: The last chapter of the manga. Shiina seems to have recovered from her father's death and is living happily with her mother. She and her mother head out to visit Akira in hospital... only for an angry mob to shoot up her mother's car, Akira to fall out of the hospital window in an apparent suicide, Takeo and Hoshimaru to be killed by a gang of thugs—after which Shiina and Mamiko initiate The End of the World as We Know It. Afterwards, a heavily pregnant Shiina is shown walking sround the ruins of the buildings she used to know, unable to muster up the will to do anything more for the world. What was that about hope?
I Know You Are In There Somewhere Fight: Rather cruel subversion. Shiina tries this on Hiroko when she goes mad after all the abuse and gets Oni. It does NOT work. Hoshimaru has to kill her instead or she'll use Oni to kill Shiina's father.
Implacable Mon: Satomi's dragon Amapola, after "evolving" into its more humanoid form. It takes an intervention from the Virgin Princess to defeat it and save Shiina's life.
Important Haircut: Akira gives herself one of these early on, after Komori tells her she's got beautiful hair. In the manga, Shiina, after having used pigtails for a good part of the story, gets her hair cut to bob length upon entering junior high; by that time, we see that Akira has let hers grow again.
Karmic Death: Well, sort of. The bullies that "broke" Hiro-chan get this, most obviously with Aki Honda, who has all the torments she devised revisited on her tenfold, before being painfully killed. But even the most reluctant, remorseful member of her Girl Posse is incredibly brutalized and only survives because of outside intervention.
Kick the Dog: Satomi, when she gets some screentime when she's not hesitant about killing her school friend in order to get Shiina. Also Takeo practices some dog-kicking in his free time, especially on girls.
Living with the Villain: Or rather, Going To School With The Villain; Shiina enters the same school that Satomi attends, while Mamiko also enrolls.
Lolicon: Can't really get away from it. Two pregnant young girls (and both are in middle school, meaning they're 12/13 tops) are all that's left of humanity in the end of the manga. And let's not explore the Shotacon territory of this series.
Made of Iron: Takeo is like this at times in the manga, even taking a shotgun blast to the chest and barely even flinching. He's far from invincible, though, and eventually succumbs to radiation poisoning.
Mauve Shirt: Ono. Ui might also count if not for the fact she survived that fall.
Meaningful Name: The Shadow Dragon Sheol. Its name is often referred to as the Hebrew word for Hell, but its true meaning is simply the absence of God. Either one works pretty well considering that Sheol's body is the Earth itself.
Mons: The dragonets, or "shadow dragons", or whatever your translation calls them.
Mukokuseki: Averted. You can tell by looking that Jane Franklin and the Russians in the manga are, well, not Japanese. Also "The Pedobear" looks somewhat Latin.
Na´ve Everygirl: Shiina starts out as one. Logically, she doesn't stay like that.
Nigh-Invulnerability: The dragons are almost impossible to kill, and ordinarily can only die if their bearers die and don't merge with them to become an adult dragon and Virgin Princess. In the manga, the one time a dragon is actually killed (without killing the bearer first) is when Shunji crushes Bungo's dragon in the engines of his fighter jet near the end.
No Periods, Period: Averted. In the manga, 13-years-old Shiina gets her first period right after she dies and is subsequently reborn in the island where her grandparents live.
Also, Naozumi discovers that it's Satomi's time of the month after she passes out and wets herself when her dragon is cut up by an attack chopper's rotor blades.
Akira is taunted by some girls at school because of her period and she mentions that she did just have it.
Off Model: The car chase scene in episode six of the anime. Sudo apparently drives three different cars, and the patrol car keeps changing.
Ominous Floating Castle: It's not like any bad guys live in it, but even so - one of the manga-only dragons, Baba Yaga's Hut, resembles a kilometre-wide floating house with long claws hanging underneath.
One Steve Limit: Averted, since there are two minor yet notable characters named Aki; apart from the nasty Alpha Bitch Aki Honda, there's also Tatsumi Miyako's Sexy Secretary, Aki Sato. It's a good thing no one mixes them up with each other, or with Akira, for that matter...
Replacement Goldfish: Very strange example in that Shiina plays this to herself. When she gets shot in half by a fighter jet, the Earth (which is actually her real shadow dragon) creates a new Shiina a couple of chapters later.
Rich Bitch: Subverted. Satomi looks and acts like one, but turns out she's anything but rich, and a big fuss she makes about "elitarism" and social position comes from the fact she's ashamed of failing Banda's entance exams at first.
Also, Aki Honda is a monstrous Alpha Bitch, but she's from a middle-class family.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Played with; when Hiro-chan finally breaks, she uses her dragonet to go on a bloody rampage, killing everyone who ever wronged her. Then she moves on to anyone who stands in her way or she simply happens to dislike. However, she remains eerily calm through the whole thing, even as she attempts to kill Shiina's father. She just seems repressed to the point of being physically incapable of articulating her anger and can only channel it though the monstrous Oni.
Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Well, in the manga giant hands come out of the earth and bitchslap all of human existance into dust. No, really.
The Runaway: Among the main cast, there's Norio. There's also Kaori, the unlucky young girl whom Takeo deals with in a rather harsh manner when earning his money in one side arc.
Scars Are Forever: Shiina gets stabbed through her left hand when trying to fend off Oni, which leaves a fairly conspicuous scar there for the rest of the manga. It stays even though she dies and is brought back.
Shoot the Dog: Hoshimaru having to kill Hiro-chan when she goes off the deep end and threatens to kill Shiina's father. In the anime, the dog is shaggy.
Shown Their Work: Mohiro Kito is a big aviation nut and his knowlege of aircraft shines through with his depictions of Shiina's dad's work and the JASDF. Also, interesting to note is how he nails down some lesser known characteristics of Down's Syndrome during a brief appearance by a minor character with the condition. Said character is a florist who has managed to earn several minor government contracts for state funerals and such because of his meticulousness. People with Down's often become almost superhumanly good at certain tasks because the fact they know they're mentally challenged makes them more careful about things and work harder than a "normal" person would think they need to.
Spoiler Opening: The intro isn't as innocuous as first appears, and even references some manga-only twists.
Stuffed into the Fridge: Subverted when Shiina is killed very suddenly and very messily right after it's insinuated she might not actually be the main character, almost as though she's outlived her usefulness to the plot. Thankfully, she's reborn a couple of chapters later, and very much remains the protagonist. Played straight with Norio, who is killed off in an extremely gruesome manner more or less just to break Takeo further, and with Misono, who's killed off right after her and Shiina's reconciliation, and her death is part of what pushed her into fully embracing her role as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
Teens Are Monsters: See a pattern here? At one point, highschooler Satomi Ozawa uses her shadow dragon Amapola to gas a whole field of soldiers to death with toxic pollen... and that's a relatively mild example!
Tomato in the Mirror: In the manga. At one point, it's made to look as though Shiina might not be the main character after all, given where Hoshimaru's loyalties really lie. It turns out she still is, though.
Shiina's parents. Good thing that their daughters and granddaughter took the looks after Misono rather than Shunji.
Unexplained Recovery: Shiina, in the manga. Getting cut in half by vulcan rounds would be a totally unambiguous death in normal circumstances... but then Shiina is mysteriously reborn at the island where her grandparents live.
Might be explained by how her and Mamiko's shared actual dragon, Sheol, is the Earth itself.
What Does She See in Him?: It is revealed that Aki Sato's boyfriend is not some millionaire or politician, but a humble, ugly (and possibly mildly mentally-handicapped) florist.
Wham Episode: While Akira's introductory chapter/episode makes things quite a bit darker than they initially appeared, it's her and Shiina's encounter with Komori that sets the true tone of the series. Hiro-chan's arc and volume 10 of the manga deliver big whams, too.