Ch. 4 Summary: Shiina encounters Akira at her family’s restaurant. Akira shows Shiina her dragon child, and they become friends.
Ch. 5 Summary: Shiina and Akira go to investigate what is happening to Shiina’s father’s company. They are attacked by a mysterious boy.
Setting the Mood
I want to point out how, even while showing cutesy and peaceful scenes there’s a deeply disturbing undercurrent to Kitoh’s work.
First, consider the scene where Shiina is napping and Hoshimaru puts the blanket over her. An innocent, idyllic scene. Right?
Then Hoshimaru extends his arm and mercilessly squashes a mosquito. He doesn’t even blink an eye.
Then he proceeds to absorb it into his arm. Crap. This is not looking good…
As another example, consider the occasion when a cheerful Shiina meets Akira at the restaurant. Shiina proceeds to drop and break something, and we see this sequence of panels:
The shard serves to remind us (and likely Akira as well) of the razor blade she had pressed against her wrist just the other day. In Narutaru, even when we’re discussing the most peaceful, cheerful things, there’s this horrifying undercurrent to it all.
I Am You
The dragon child here lists a bunch of names to help describe it. The official translation translates these two lists as “Vessel… Shell… The incomplete… Corpse… The empty body… That which is ended…” Each list of words is summarized by the final phrase: “the incomplete”, and “that which is ended”. Note also that the second word in the first list, 殻 (から) can be alternatively written as 骸, the second word in the second list. 骸 is also the first character in the manga’s title.
These words are all supposed to describe the dragon children, yet the two set of lists seem to be in opposition. The incomplete, and that which is ended. How can that which is ended be incomplete? And how can that which is incomplete be ended?
Next, the dragon child says “I am you.” We see a cross section of the brain. The brain stem looks like a dragon.
The “I am you” may help to explain the meaning behind the words we were just puzzling over. Akira is both incomplete, and as we’ve seen, she is living like a corpse. I think there is more to this though. We should have a chance to discuss this further in later chapters.
Akira names her dragon child Ein Sof. Ein Sof means infinite (literally, “without limitation”) and is used to refer to God before his self-manifestation in Kabbalah.
Before He gave any shape to the world, before He produced any form, He was alone, without form and without resemblance to anything else. Who then can comprehend how He was before the Creation? Hence it is forbidden to lend Him any form or similitude, or even to call Him by His sacred name, or to indicate Him by a single letter or a single point. . . .
This incomprehensible existence before the Creation is referred to as Ein Sof. As Akira explains, it’s the origin of all creation.
Why does Akira choose this name for her dragon child? As we’ve seen she is afraid of dying and returning to infinite nothingness. Likewise, she is afraid of the infinite, limitless potential of living. She fears the infinite, and wants to live a constrained, safe, life. A limited life, a life with neither win nor loss. A life or death of infinite potential fill her with fear. What is the easiest way to never live, and never die? It’s to never be born. Hence Akira holds some resentment towards the origin of all creation, the Ein Sof. And so she names the hated and feared dragon child after what she most resents.
Profiles in Courage (and Cowardice): Akira and Shiina
I want to emphasize the (rather obvious) contrast in Akira and Shiina’s courage. Shiina always walks courageously forward, while Akira hides in the back. This panel captures it perfectly:
Shiina just drags Akira along with her and ignores any protests.
Contrast the two to Shiina’s father. He says that a good pilot knows what he can and cannot do. Akira doesn’t know what she can do. And Shiina doesn’t know what she can’t. That’s why they’re children, and he’s an adult.
I want to glomp him too.
Ahhh, what a helpful starfish!
Shiina, you bully!
Despite being such a creepy girl, you’ve got to feel a little bad for Akira. Her classmates just ignore her while she’s on the ground foaming at the mouth. This was possibly the most disturbing scene we’ve witnessed yet.
Notice Shiina’s motherly instincts towards Hoshimaru, and how they are presented in combination with her worrying about her father coming home. She has not had the closest supervision from her parents.
I love this frame. Shiina’s in complete shock, as is the viewer. (In what other manga would the author even hint at butchering a girl like Shiina?) But Hoshimaru is just chilling down there like nothing’s happened. I think that an expressionless face can be much more terrifying than a scowl.