Narutaru Ch. 20 – 21 — War

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At least she’s wearing a helmet now.

Ch. 20 Summary: Akira is kidnapped by a flower monster. She calls Shiina for help through Ein Sof.

Ch. 21 Summary: The shit hits the fan. The dragon children go to war. Satomi nearly enters a coma, then recovers and wipes out the army by releasing her child’s poison.

Satomi and Akira

In chapter 21, two characters shoot a pistol: Satomi and Akira.

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Satomi gleefully shoots at Shiina through her shadow dragon.

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While Akira pulls the trigger at herself. Both of them fail, Satomi because she misses and Akira because the weapon isn’t loaded. I see Akira and Satomi as being purposefully set up for a contrast here.

Satomi and Akira are both unsatisfied with their lives. This leads to opposite results: Akira becomes withdrawn, solitary, and desires to end her own life, while Satomi becomes boisterous, overconfident and desires to end the lives of others. I imagine the root cause of their predicaments is much the same: loneliness. For Akira, her loneliness is obvious. Satomi’s is less so, but it doesn’t seem like she has a single friend other than Bungo. Likewise, Akira’s only friend is Shiina. Here again Satomi and Akira choose opposing paths: Akira accepts Shiina’s friendship, while Satomi rejects Bungo’s and pushes him away.

What is the fundamental difference between Satomi and Akira? I imagine that it’s simply where they place the blame for their own loneliness. Akira sees the problem as herself, while Satomi sees the problem as everyone else. Which leads both of them to become blind to the presence of their one friend.

A Loss of Innocence

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So we thought Shiina and Akira lost their innocence when Hoshimaru killed Komori. Nope! Kitoh is still just warming up! Let’s have our heroines helplessly watch as the nice man and his friends die a horrible death from poison gas!

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The other character who loses her innocence is Satomi. Despite all her bluster about wanting to kill people… she’s one of the most innocent characters in the story so far. She’s even shocked by seeing a naked woman. It’s an open question as to whether she can actually kill. So Sudo forces her to try.

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So she does try. Or does she? The first person she attempts to kill is Shiina, but she misses and her gun explodes. Was it her fault she missed, or did Bungo mess with her weapons in an attempt to preserve her innocence? I’m going to go with both explanations. Despite all her bluster, Satomi has neither the conviction nor the courage to kill directly. She is, unfortunately, able to kill many more people indirectly through the use of poison gas. This layer of indirection enables her conscious mind to overpower her internal aversion to killing. In the end, it’s her inability to kill directly which leads to her committing an even worse atrocity. Satomi is not an innocent, misled girl anymore. Or perhaps she is… but that doesn’t excuse her actions.

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And then, of course, Satomi loses another type of innocence in parallel when Sudo sees her naked.

Bungo and Satomi

The most interesting part of these two chapters, for me, is the relationship between Satomi and Bungo. As I mentioned before, Satomi refuses to accept his friendship, while Bungo attempts to protect her.

Bungo is a surprisingly sympathetic character, despite being a gun freak who’s already killed people. I have to wonder why he joined with Sudo’s group. I imagine that it might be solely due to Satomi. As a case in point, Bungo even wonders if Sudo knew about Tomonori’s mother and just let her die. He has some compassion. Satomi of course proceeds to mock him for it.

Despite how utterly loyal and trustworthy he seems to be, Satomi treats him like shit. She doesn’t even bother mentioning that she kidnapped Akira. She only has eyes for Sudo, who of course treats her even worse than she treats Bungo.

And… perhaps she has a reason not to trust him. None of the weapons he gave her work. It seems like he’s trying to shield her from having to actually kill. Sudo has to trick him into sending his shadow dragon far away to give Satomi his trial. It still isn’t entirely clear to me though if the weapons fail to work because of Bungo, Satomi, or something else. Bungo seems just as surprised as everyone else when the weapons fail.

Things proceed to get even more fucked up when Satomi falls unconscious, Sudo sends Bungo to buy her new underwear and proceeds to undress her. When Satomi wakes up, she’s at first angry because she thinks it was Bungo. Once she finds out it was Sudo, though, she is shocked into silence. She’d prefer to have Bungo look and desire her, I think, than to have Sudo, the object of her own desire, look at her naked body and not feel a single ounce of desire.

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Despite how Satomi treats him, Bungo continues to love her and look after her. Which is why Satomi claims to hate him. Compassion does not seem to be in style among teenage girls at the moment.

A Lack of Desire

So this was was a pretty screwed up couple of chapters. Yet I haven’t even gotten to the most messed up part.

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Sudo has no sexual desire. He can undress Satomi and look at naked girls all day long without feeling a thing.

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It’s not just sexual desire, either. It appears that Sudo has no desire at all. As he says, he doesn’t need anything.

I think we should perhaps look at Sudo’s lack of desire in a Buddhist context. In Buddhism, desire is considered to be the cause of suffering, and the ultimate goal is the cessation of desire leading to the cessation of suffering. This is exactly Sudo’s state. He has no desires at all, and he doesn’t suffer at all. It doesn’t even bother him if his friends die.

Sudo has reached a state where he has no desire, and the result is utterly monstrous. To suffer desire and to suffer is a fundamental part of being human. Certainly there is something to be said for controlling one’s desires, but to eliminate them entirely is to become inhuman.

Amapola and Hainuwele

We’re introduced to two new Shadow Dragons: Satomi’s Anapola and Bungo’s Hainuwele. Anapola means poppy in Spanish, so the intention behind that name is obvious. (If it isn’t, poppies are the flowers they make opium from.)

Hainuwele is a bit more complicated. It comes from an Indonesian origin myth. Here it is, excerpted in full from Wikipedia:

While hunting one day a man named Ameta found a coconut, something never before seen on Seram, that had been caught in the tusk of a wild boar. Ameta, who was part of one of the original nine families of the West Ceram people who had emerged from bananas, took the coconut home. That night, a figure appeared in a dream and instructed him to plant the coconut. Ameta did so, and in just a few days the coconut grew into a tall tree and bloomed. Ameta climbed the tree to cut the flowers to collect the sap, but in the process slashed his finger and the blood dropped onto a blossom. Nine days later, Ameta found in the place of this blossom a girl whom he named Hainuwele, meaning “Coconut Branch”. He wrapped her in asarong and brought her home. She grew to maturity with astonishing rapidity. Hainuwele had a remarkable talent: when she answered the call of nature she excreted valuable items. Thanks to these, Ameta became very rich.

Hainuwele attended a dance that was to last for nine nights at a place known as Tamene Siwa. In this dance it was traditional for girls to distribute areca nuts to the men. Hainuwele did so, but when the men asked her for areca nuts, she gave them instead the valuable things which she was able to excrete. Each day she gave them something bigger and more valuable: golden earrings, coral, porcelain dishes, bush-knives, copper boxes, and gongs. The men were happy at first, but gradually they decided that what Hainuwele was doing was uncanny and, driven by jealousy, they decided to kill her on the ninth night.

In the successive dances the men circled around the women at the center of the dance ground, Hainuwele amongst them, who handed out gifts. Before the ninth night, the men dug a pit in the center of the dance ground and, singling out Hainuwele, in the course of the dance they pushed her further and further inward until she was pushed right into the pit. The men quickly heaped earth over the girl, covering her cries with their song. Thus Hainuwele was buried alive, while the men kept dancing on the dirt stomping it firmly down.

Ameta, missing Hainuwele, went in search for her. Through an oracle he found out what had happened, then he exhumed her corpse and cut it into pieces which he then re-buried around the village. These pieces grew into various new useful plants, including tubers, giving origin to the principal foods the people of Indonesia have enjoyed ever since.

Ameta brought Hainuwele’s cut arms to mulua Satene, the ruling deity over humans. With them she built for him a gate in spiral shape through which all men should pass. Those who would be able to step across the gate would remain human beings, although henceforward mortal, becoming divided into Patalima (Men of the five) and Patasiwa (Men of the nine). Those unable to pass through the threshold became new kinds of animals or ghosts. Satene herself left the Earth and became ruler over the realm of the dead.

What to make of the name? There are many directions we could go with. My gut feeling is that Bungo associates Satomi with Hainuwele. A beautiful girl who shits gold, but won’t give him the time of day. Another possibility is that he associates the gate of death formed from Hainuwele’s arms with the shadow dragon. Let’s keep the origin of Hainuwele’s name in mind as the story progresses.

Further Thoughts

Does anyone know how the publication of this series went originally? I find it odd that there are a bunch of short chapters, and then Ch. 21 comes in with a whopping 176 pages. I’d imagine the magazines would want to see a bit more consistency in length.

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Haha the dog.

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I find this image hilarious.

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Holy shit. This double page spread is how you have impact. One second Satomi is about to kill Shiina with a gun, and we’re all freaking out about how she’s using a gun. Then the next second there is a fucking cruise missile inside of her. The gun Satomi was freaking out over looks like just a toy now.

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The commander makes a great observation: if Akira has the courage to die, surely she has the courage to try to live a little longer.

Takeo ends the chapter with an ominous message: “Shiina, don’t close your eyes. In this drama, it is your role, to watch and never forget.” Very prescient words, as we’ll see by the story’s end. And a very challenging and demanding duty.

2 thoughts on “Narutaru Ch. 20 – 21 — War

  1. I always liked the way Mamiko was introduced in this chapter. The first time we see her, she’s standing in the doorway, having just emerged from Naozumi’s inner room. And she’s completely naked. This always reminded me of a child being born from a mother’s womb, since Mamiko is also carrying a blanket of some sort (one that a baby would naturally be wrapped in while being held by its mother). Except in this case, rather than being released from the nurturing environment of a mother’s womb, it is simply a dark, callous, empty room, with no mother to comfort and care for her. Makes me wonder how long she’s been under Naozumi’s supervision.

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