Ch. 2 Summary: Shiina flies home from her vacation on the island, with two mysterious passengers on board. The plane is attacked by a creature similar to Hoshimaru. Shiina attempts to fight off the attacker, but fails and falls towards the ocean. She is caught by Otohime and her dragon, and returned to the plane. The two passengers have disappeared.
Narutaru has this bizarre thing going on with princesses, dragons and shadow dragons. I wasn’t sure what to make of it the first time I read the series. Hopefully in this series of posts we’ll be able to explore some ideas surrounding the dragons. A brief disclaimer: it’s been a while since I read this series, and my memory is pretty fuzzy. So please forgive me if some of my speculation is wildly off.
The first time I read the manga, my entire thought process when the princess appeared amounted to: “What the hell is going on?!” This time through, I was expecting the princess and her appearance, so I was able to pay closer attention. Despite the princess’ bizarre markings and her nakedness, she bears a great resemblance to Shiina:
Her hair is different and she has that mark on her cheek, but otherwise, her face could belong to Shiina. I think this is intentional. Note how Kitoh arranges the panels as if to purposely contrast the two characters. In fact, he does so twice:
The princess seems completely inhuman, but she looks just like Shiina. As we will discover as we approach the end of the series, the two may not actually be all that different.
Re-reading Animekiritk’s excellent post on the beginning of this series helped shed some further light on the subject. The princess is referred to as Otohime (乙姫) in Japanese. In the English translation, this is translated as “virgin princess.” This translation loses much of the context associated with Otohime in Japanese mythology. Animekritik points out that Shiina’s family’s name, Tamai (玉依) can also be read as Tamayori. And Tamayori-hime (玉依姫) is Otohime’s sister. Suddenly the similarity in appearance makes sense.
If you know as much about Japanese mythology as me (a.k.a., barely anything) you may recall Otohime from the story of Urashima Tarou. Urashima Tarou was a fisherman who saved a turtle from being tortured by children. It turns out the turtle is the daughter of the sea emperor, Ryuujin (龍神)— Otohime. Urashima Tarou is taken to the underwater palace on the back of a turtle, where he meets Otohime who has grown to a beautiful woman. She gives him a box as a gift, but tells him never to open it. Urashima Tarou returns home, only to discover that 300 years have passed. He opens the box, and out of it comes his old age. You may remember that Penguindrum played off of this story.
There’s another major story involving Otohime highly relevant to us: that of Hoori. Hoori went to search for a lost hook at the bottom of the sea. There he met Otohime, who helped him find it. Later they were married. They lived in the under-sea palace for three years, before Hoori returned got homesick and returned to the land. (I think at this point Otohime’s name becomes Toyotama since she is no longer a virgin? I’m a bit confused on this point though.) Otohime becomes pregnant, and returns to the shore to have the child. She tells Hoori not to look while she is giving birth, but he does, and sees that she has become a sea monster. She is mad and returns to the sea, blocking off all passages between land and the sea palace.
But her sister, Tamayori-hime stays behind and raises the child. She serves as the medium by which Otohime and Hoori continue to communicate. When the child comes of age, Tamayori-hime marries him and gives birth to the emperor of Japan.
Now, back to Narutaru. Shiina’s family name is 玉依 (Tamai). This is the same as Tamayori-hime’s name (玉依姫). They also look alike. I think that Shiina is Otohime’s sister (metaphorically) or the descendant of Otohime’s sister (literally). Regardless, like her namesake Tamayori-hime, I see her functioning as a medium who bridges the gap between the world of humans and the world of the gods.
Now what about the dragons? Ryuujin (龍神), Otohime and Tamayori-hime’s father, is literally the dragon god. That’s where those come from.
But what about the shadow dragons? In the original Japanese, this is written 竜骸. The first character means dragon, but the second character (骸) doesn’t exactly mean shadow. According to the dictionary, this character’s meaning falls along the lines of shell; husk; hull; chaff; or corpse. Shadow, of course, has a similar meaning. But I like the image of a “dragon corpse” or “dragon husk” much better. As we will see as the series progresses, this image of Hoshimaru and the other shadow dragons as “corpses” fits them perfectly.
I’m looking forward to reinterpreting the rest of this series in the light of this new knowledge.
It’s hard to say anything about those two on the plane without heavy spoilers. Suffice to say, their conversations and this entire sequence of events make a heck of a lot more sense now that I’ve read the entire series.
Those legs… Kitoh sure loves long legs…
Contrast the scene where Shiina plummets to her death to the scene in the last chapter where she drowned. Both use a small font size to the side of the box showing Shiina’s thoughts. Last time, she posed a philosophical question about whether she would die or the world would die. This time, I think she makes a much more honest and profound statement: “I don’t want to die!”. Note how her scream escapes from the panel.