Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl – The Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch

Another quick review today – feeling less than stellar after some dental work!

Jubei has so much going on re: the levels of parody and satire, and even a fairly constant stream of sight gags and absurdist stuff too – I recognised some but basically couldn’t keep up at all, and I’m sure I missed dozens and dozens of cultural allusions.

Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl – The Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch (1999)

But the comedy aspect almost always still worked for me!

The series holds the overarching, action-based storyline within the fairly sophisticated comedy framework nicely, it was usually pretty funny and on top of which, featured some great action sequences throughout its 13 episodes – with some of the more intense ones happening during the closing eps.

Here’s the premise, adapted from Wikipedia:

Jubei-chan follows Jiyu Nanohana, a modern junior high school girl and unwilling heir to the Yagyu Jubei school of swordsmanship as she deals with a mystical artefact, the Lovely Eyepatch, and all the enemies who seek her power.

Now, rather than dissect the plot, I’ll leap in to some dot-point highlights before finishing up the review:

  • The kanji changes on Bantarou’s t-shirt were a fun extra layer to his scenes
  • (And his song was pretty funny too)
  • Sai, Jubei’s ghostwriter father, was an interesting character… for positive and negative reasons
  • Visually, there were plenty of ratio changes or dramatic close-ups of objects like candles etc, that really helped to sell the parody of Chanbara
  • The tropes of the Shounen anime also get a bit of good-natured ribbing too
  • I also enjoyed seeing certain characters (without spoilers) cycle through good/evil roles
  • Poor old Koinosuke
  • Visually there’s a great range of styles within the show as well
  • The charming and resolute innocence of Jubei is a great counter to the action + comedy, even as it works on its own comedic level
  • Bonus points for a cool transformation sequence!

Having mentioned all of the above, I did grow weary of everyone’s obsession with Jubei’s breast-size.

And also, can anyone explain to me what the hell Jubei’s father is supposed to be doing when saving Jubei from the fever? Anyone?

And finally, there’s a sequel series available but I haven’t checked it out just yet, might do so one day, not sure.

For fans of comedy, satire and samurai stories.

3 Stars (4 without the creepy shit).

As a quick, closing example to show a touch of the humour – there’s these two shots one after the other during a dialogue scene, which I really enjoyed.

Mushi-Shi: Next Passage (Mushishi: Zoku-Shō)

Mushi-Shi: Next Passage (Mushishi: Zoku-Shō) 2014

Nine years passed between the release of Mushi-Shi (2005) and Mushi-Shi (Next Passage) and I’m glad I didn’t have to wait that long myself 🙂

For me, having come to the first series late, I was lucky to be able to watch both reasonably close together… but now, after having finished, I’m also sad that there’s only a few specials left for me to seek out. Still, I can easily re-watch an episode here and there because both seasons are truly episodic.

Lazily, I’m going to quote from my first review for the premise:

Mushi-Shi is full of fable-like episodes that seem to draw on equal parts Japanese folklore and creator Yuki Urushibara’s fantastic imagination, exploring the lives of regular and remarkable people in an almost-Edo-period-setting that includes lots of supernatural elements mixed in with the natural world.

There are plenty of similarities between the two series – for one, Ginko is still the central character but not a character that needs to hog all the screen-time; you’ll get to know the people whose lives he changes too but no storyline drags. You’ll also get an ending with each episode and usually, meet a new and fantastical mushi each time.

Next Passage is still quite calm in many ways, often sombre too, but that doesn’t mean the anime is without tension. Mostly, I guess I’m referring to production techniques and pacing when I claim that it is ‘calm’. Again, once more the natural world dominates the screen, both beautiful and disconcerting as Ginko travels through the seasons.

One change I did notice seems to be the colour – this season feels a little more vibrant and even more picturesque; it’s usually very soothing. Even the darker episodes seem almost ‘warm’, like ‘The Hand That Caresses the Night’ for example, with the yellows, greens and browns.

If you enjoyed the first season then this will satisfy on every level I think – there’s even an episode with a little more about Ginko’s past, so I was pretty happy to see that. It’s hard to choose a favourite few episodes this time around, but ‘Floral Delusion’ comes to mind for sure.

4 Stars

Mushi-Shi (2005) [Boxing Day Review]

Mushi-Shi (2005)

Mushi-Shi is a series that had been floating around the edges of my awareness for a long time it seemed, and one I finally sought out specifically only last year.

As part of my research I looked at blogs and posts from various sites that discussed the show as ‘underrated’ and it seems that over the years, Mushi-Shi has grown a lot more popular in western fandom. So much so that I think it’s no longer underappreciated and overlooked but instead it appears in more lists without the word ‘underrated’ attached at all, which is awesome.

And maybe I’m putting too much stock in what I’ve found online, but I think even before the second series was produced, that the popularity of Mushi-Shi was climbing steadily. And I’m obviously more than happy to recommend Ginko’s travels to nearly anyone reading this… that is, unless you have a hard time with episodic storytelling. However, if you dig that structure then you can also enjoy a beautiful, at times really pastoral and poetic series to go with those self-contained plots.

Mushi-Shi is full of fable-like episodes that seem to draw on equal parts Japanese folklore and creator Yuki Urushibara’s fantastic imagination, exploring the lives of regular and remarkable people in an almost-Edo-period-setting that includes lots of supernatural elements mixed in with the natural world.

For a change today I want to try a couple of different things, nothing drastic, but here’s five things I wanted to highlight, ranging from fairly micro-level to bigger picture stuff:

  • I hope Yūto Nakano, Ginko’s voice actor, is getting heaps of work, because I think a lot of his performance; it’s both calm and commanding. Superb change of pace if you’ve been on a shounen binge, for instance.
  • In terms of our hero’s costume you’ll notice that it’s almost anachronistic… but it is an alternate Japan, not a historical one. The obvious effect that choice has for me is that the coat really helps Ginko stand out – it’s a brilliant piece of costuming when most other people dress reasonably similar from village to village, yet it’s still unassuming which suits him so well (a quick comparison is below).
  • I’ve read reviews here and there that bemoan a ‘lack of character development’ in Mushi-Shi but I think that’s not a fair assessment of a series that often plays out like Detective Fiction. In such mysteries, the crimes/stories/settings change but the main character doesn’t because that’s not the purpose of an episodic show. Instead, I’d argue that Ginko has to appear ‘fully formed’ and stay stable, stay as much ‘himself’ as possible in order to help connect the episodes and add that extra cohesive element to the viewing experience.
  • Mushi-Shi is at times quite sombre, which isn’t to say it’s depressing but on the other hand, not every story has a happy – or sometimes even a completely happy ending, and so some fans tend to space out their viewing, and I certainly found that I watched it at a similar pace.
  • Finally, I think it’s possible that you won’t always be able to predict the way Ginko solves some of the problems he faces, which is a real gift in storytelling of any type.

Okay, so there’s that section sorted – and I wish I had more to say about Mushi-Shi actually. I perhaps don’t because, like a lot of well-known favourites out there, it feels impossible for me to add much in the way of new analysis or discussion. Even so, I found that I had to include my thoughts anyway, that’s what the blog is for, right? 😀

Some storylines and characters will stand out more than others for different folks, a bit like an anthology really, but here’s my favourite five episodes to finish off this write-up:

2 – The Light in the Eyelids
5 – The Travelling Swamp
12 – One-Eyed Fish
20 – A Sea of Ink
22 – The Sea Shrine
  • 2 – The Light in the Eyelids
  • 5 – The Travelling Swamp
  • 12 – One-Eyed Fish
  • 20 – A Sea of Ink
  • 22 – The Sea Shrine

5 Stars

Okay, make that my 7 favourite episodes perhaps:

  • 4 – The Alley Through the Pillow
  • 17 – Picking Empty Cocoons
(Comparing Ginko’s costume to the characters above)