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Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Jubei-chanA three hundred year old grudge draws in a cute high school girl as she has quite the lineage to her.

What They Say:
Improbable as it sounds, perky junior high student Jiyu “Jubei” Nanohana is the reincarnation of the legendary samurai Yagyu Jubei. When she puts on the fabled Lovely Eye Patch, she becomes a devastating swordswoman and assumes all related responsibilities – including a 300-year-old vendetta with the Ryujoji clan.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty basic as we get the original Japanese language in stereo along with the English language dub previously produced by Bandai Entertainment. Both tracks are in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. The series has a good bit of action, comedy and simple dialogue to it and it handles it all fairly well, though because of its age and design, it’s kept straightforward and mostly a full feeling to the mix. The show is not one that really stretches itself with what it does but it handles it well enough here with a clean and clear presentation and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 1998, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is spread across two discs with seven on the first and six on the second. Animated by Madhouse, the show has a pretty varied if consistent design to it where it works with standard backgrounds but has a number of different character styles that it uses which come across differently. Some are simple and others are more complicated but the overall effect is decent. There’s a lot of darker colors to the show and that introduces a fair bit of background noise to things as it goes along as that’s fairly standard with older traditionally animated shows, and it does what it can to try and remain as solid as possible. Though the look of the show is decent, the source materials have not held up well over the years beyond that. There’s a good bit of cross coloration that’s strewn throughout the show both in the background, in big and small ways, and the character designs as well. There’s a good bit of line noise in several scenes as well but it’s the lesser of two evils here.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release uses some of the artwork we’ve seen before that works well as we get the cute image of Jiyu in the foreground while the background is filled up with a large image of Jbuei herself that looks dark and ominous. The cover has some good flashes of color to it and it works well with the logo itself which blends the heart and a few reds with the black and white. The back cover is a pretty dark affair as well with a selection of character shots along the top that looks good but doesn’t clue you in on the comedy side of the series. The premise is covered clearly though and it’s easy to read with white on black and it’s followed by a thick section of small font production credits. The hard to read area is the technical grid which is done as red on black that’s not all that clear at times. Everything is laid out accurately though which is a good thing. No show related inserts are included nor is there a revesible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is pretty good and definitely fits the show well, though it’s just a simple static menu. It’s split nearly in half where the right side has the full color artwork, using the piece from the front cover that’s zoomed out a touch and has a lot more blue sky to it that keeps it from looking so ominous. The left side has the logo and menu navigation against a black background with hearts lined down the side and it all works nicely and simply. There’s nothing to the disc besides the show itself, so language selection and scene access is all there is and it’s easy to navigate about and setup.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally released in Japan back in 1998 and licensed a few years later in North America by Bandai Entertainment, Jubei-chan: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch has now found a new home at Media Blasters. When the series first hit all those year ago, it was one that I enjoyed a lot for its varied take on the characters, the fun use of Jubei and the whole transformation sequence itself as well. What also helped sell the show for me at the time, and still holds some appeal, is that it was an original series with Akitaro Daichi directing. With his work on series back then like Child’s Toy, it made me a big fan of his work and the things he’s done in the years since have been mostly positive and definitely fun.

The story focuses on Jiyu Nanohana, an eighth grader who has just transferred to a new school. Her father is an award winning writer (deja vu) whose a bit of a space case at times and definitely a hilarious character who has some wonderful moments, especially with Koinosuke. Three hundred years ago on his deathbed, Jubei Yagyu gave to his assistant Koinosuke a Lovely Eye-Patch. The eye-patch is for a successor who will inherit his abilities. His dying words indicate who he wants to be chosen. Someone with nice… bon bons. Bouncy.

Koinosuke is obviously bewildered. A flash forward to the present and we get the introduction to the other characters and the setup of various love triangles. Bantaro is the leader of the Ruffians, which is three people in total. He’s a bit of a blowhard pompous kind of kid. Once his eye lands on Jubei-chan, he’s in complete and total love however. One of the amusing things with him that may take people some time to catch on is his shirt. In the center of the circle the words change, and it’s subtitled in white on top of the regular dialogue. The words change depending on his emotions and the situations. There’s some good ones in there.

The other potential love interest is Ryujoji, a master Kendo swordsman the same age as Jubei. There’s a lot more than meets the eye with this character, as is revealed later on the disc. For the most part he plays a calm cool and collected person, but within his thoughts we learn just how shy and unsure he can be. He’s also easily suckered by Bantaro at times. This show pretty much goes all over the map. Once Koinosuke gives the eye-patch to Jubei-chan (or tries to, as she repeatedly throws it away), it let a vengeful clan from the past know that a successor had been chosen and they begin to attack her. For the first few episodes, her teachers are new every day as they’re members of the clan and they attack her.

The teachers are hilarious. While the first one is pretty much serious for the most part (though he oogles her chest), the second one simply falls in love with her. When he walks down the hall thinking about her, he’s got this hilarious little walk that had me cracking up. The brothers were fairly comical as well, though pretty deformed looking. The series is loaded with sight gags and puns that are hard to translate into a review though. A lot of it is pretty visual, though there are some good puns. One of the funnier moments is the fourth attacker whose named Tenchi Muyonsoke and is presented in a rather… unflattering light.

Where things take a darker turn is close to the midway part of the series when Jubei returns home to find the woman has knocked out both Koinosuke and her father. The ensuing encounter between the two is pretty surprising to me based on the tone of the show so far, though things turn out okay in the end.

One sequence that created some controversy back during its initial release is also probably the more important one. Instead of being rushed to the doctors, Jubei’s father insists that she be brought home since he hates doctors. Shiro’s mother, a nurse, is brought over to check Jubei over, but she’s baffled and can’t do anything other than suggest that the fever must be broken. It’s an intense fever, as those who touch her are burned on the spot. Her father gets everyone to leave and then takes it upon himself to bring her temperature down by absorbing her body heat. He races frantically back and forth from the bedroom to her bedroom, soaking himself in the tub, and then laying half naked on top of her naked body, absorbing the intense heat. This didn’t really sit well with a lot of people, but I found it to be a really powerful scene that showed just what lengths a father will go to in order to help his daughter. While in her unconscious state, we learn the events of her mothers demise through both her thoughts and her fathers flashbacks. This provides a lot of really interesting insight into how the characters work and helps set up the next phase of events really well.

One thing that found it really interesting as the series progresses is that when each of the opponents were defeated fully, that it’s revealed that they’re “healed” so to speak and free of the debt that the generations old grudge has created. It does help to explain away why we haven’t seen any of the characters again after their defeat and provides Jubei with the perfect reason for wanting to get the eye-patch back and do the right thing. She is, after all, a girl who really just wants to do the right thing. The revelations of who is whose brother/father/mother between Shiro and Hajime is both hilarious and confusing. Of course, part of that is just trying to imagine anyone fooling around with the big-headed mother of Shiro and Hajime. I just can’t and don’t want to visualize that.

As with any show that’s seemingly over while there’s still three episodes left, there’s one more big bad villain that’s on the way. And indeed, this is a bad villain. His spirit has lasted for over 300 years since his defeat by the original Jubei Yagyu, and with the lifting of the curse, Daigo Taiko Ryujoji has taken over the body of young Shiro and intends to take Jiyu down and settle it all. Mikage learns of this early on and after an ill-fated confrontation with this possessed Shiro, she heads off to warn Jiyu. With such a serious wound, she doesn’t make it far though and ends up in the hands of Sai.

From this point forward, Sai really becomes the central character. While the events of the past with his wife are in his mind, he takes Mikage back to his house and tries to bind her wounds and help her heal. From there, things begin their fast downward spiral with Shiro showing up and Jiyu finding her father with a bandaged Mikage. The remainder of the show is pretty tightly written with final battles and emotions running high. The visual change in Sai, especially in the final episode, is pretty intense and very much in character. From the moment he actually realizes Jiyu is Jubei reborn, a very intense personality emerges and acts in ways we haven’t seen previously, but work well.

In Summary:
Jubei-chan is a series that I really enjoyed a lot the first time around all those years ago, but it’s one that hasn’t aged as well as it could. A lot of that just comes through the video materials itself as it’s problematic throughout and is distracting depending on your level of sensitivity to it. The characters are the main draw here and I continue to find a lot to like with Jiyu and Bantaro is still a real favorite with his shirt and its changing words on it. The story itself is one that I like and the whole changing teacher aspect with how they challenge her works well, though in marathon form it can be a bit much after awhile. While the show doesn’t hold up quite as well as I had hoped it would be, it’s still fun and there’s some real nostalgia in it for me from a very different time. It’s a quirky show that I’m glad got rescued and with the price point for it and what you get, a very easy recommendation for something familiar but with enough quirks to catch the right kind of attention.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: January 8th, 2013
MSRP: $29.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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