Season One, Part One
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All photos © Funimation
Reviewed by Jason Thompson
he cartoon “Crayon Shin-Chan” has long been a staple of Japanese culture and TV. The comic strip and its characters have been embraced by cultures all over the world. For a brief time, “Shin Chan” was exported to the U.S., sticking closely to its original Japanese stories, redubbed by American actors and broadcast on the Jetix block of programming. However, it didn’t last too long, for whatever reasons, be it because it was a bit too odd for the younger audience it was targeted at, or just typical American tastes. But then in 2007, the folks at Adult Swim got a hold of it and together with Funimation, a number of episodes were re-written entirely, with new stories that American audiences would understand, along with a mix of rude and crude dialogue (not that this was new to the series at all in its original form). The series soon became another Adult Swim smash and offered American audiences yet another angle on the whole anime revolution.
“Shin Chan” features the five-year-old lead character, his parents Hiro and Mitzi, baby sister Hima, his dog Whitey, and various pals like Boo (whose nose is constantly represented by a drop of snot), Ai (a rich girl who’s obsessed with Shin), Georgie (a staunch Republican), Penny (whose mother’s abusive relationship with her father spills over into her own manic states), and Maso (who just is). And lest we forget, there’s Shin’s TV hero, Action Bastard, whose sexual innuendo helps him sell gaudy product tie-ins at the drop of a hat. It’s one of the most dysfunctional mixes of characters ever thrown into any show, but at its heart “Shin Chan” is all about the goodness of kids and the importance of family. It’s like a kinder cousin to “South Park,” though no less rude or hilarious.
Indeed, for all its Americanized in-jokes and material geared toward an older crowd, it’s not hard to imagine a group of five-year-olds getting together and having the same kind of fun that the “Shin Chan” crew often finds. In an episode where Ai and Penny decide to become sisters, only to have it break down into which one will represent Jessica Simpson and Ashlee Simpson, with the girls deciding to swap roles every X amount of minutes, it doesn’t seem to be too far from the truth. Likewise, what parent couldn’t relate to their kid becoming obsessed with a TV hero like Action Bastard and mimicking everything he does?
But there’s more: Constant jokes related to Mitzi’s flat chest (she regularly throws spare change in the “boob jar,” hoping for a breast enhancement operation); Shin doing his famous “elephant dance” for Hima (wherein Shin drops his pants and draws elephants ears and eyes around his penis -- which serves as the trunk); Shin showing off his ass for anyone within range; Hiro’s self-deprecating attitude towards his job which often leads him to publicly getting drunk and fantasizing aloud about other women; or Hima going on her own rampages for juice or other items. “Shin Chan” is packed with enough lowbrow humor for fans of that sort of comedy to be entertained completely through the 13 episodes included here.
In fact, it’s sort of difficult to explain the all-around appeal of “Shin Chan” without watching it, as it’s the sort of pop culture-packed program where anyone who enjoys it will undoubtedly be laughing at particular things they can relate to themselves. The potty humor is indeed funny here, but “Shin Chan” goes a bit deeper than just its myriad fart jokes. Like “South Park,” many of the episodes do have their fare share of biting commentary on American culture, but unlike that show, “Shin Chan” doesn’t dare to go as far politically, nor should it. To put it another way, “Shin Chan” isn’t as mean, and that’s not to take anything away from the greatness that is “South Park.” It’s just a different can of soup, if you will.
Regardless, animation fans with a sense of the absurd and a fondness for juvenile fun will undoubtedly find “Shin Chan” hilarious and entertaining. Some anime purists have come out of the woodwork and complained about the nature of the re-writes and how the series doesn’t equate to an actual full series of the Japanese version. But this take on Shin was geared specifically for adult American audiences, and given the fact that the show has been running for ages in Japan, some concessions had to be made. What remains, however, is pure comedic fun that honestly even the kids will enjoy if the adults don’t mind them watching (even if a lot of the jokes will go over their heads). What kid doesn’t find fart jokes funny? “Shin Chan” is loaded with 100 percent flatulent goodness!
Special Features: There’s a handful of stuff here, all worth watching if you’re a big fan of the show. There are entertaining cast auditions, including a featurette entitled “From the Bowels of the Booth.” There is a full-length original Japanese episode of the series entitled “Battle: Encho-man!” that gives fans a look at what the source material is all about. Then there is a commentary for the fourth episode, and an original storyboard section. And while something like a history of “Crayon Shin-Chan” would have been interesting (with perhaps a look at the previous American adaptation), what is here will give fans a nice look at the goings-on behind the scenes.