In 10 Words or Less
The filthy little boy returns...like a Jedi
Loves: Animation, good sitcoms
Dislikes: gross-out comedy
The Story So Far...
The star of the show is the titular Shin Chan, an odd little 6-year-old with an obsession with his own backside, an aggressive personality, a love for superhero Action Bastard and some weird thoughts about how the world works. His traditional family, with mom Mitzy, Dad Hiro and little sister Hima, is a boiling cauldron of resentment, frustration and oddness, though they still love each other (sorta.) his school life brings more friends and freaks into his life, including uptight conservative Georgie and Penny, whose home life is far from storybook. The first half of Season One was released on DVD in May of 2008, followed by the second half in September of the same year. DVDTalk has reviews of both sets: Season One, Part One | Season One, Part Two
This season kicked off with what's probably the most popular (or at least best-known) episode of the show's run, a Star Wars spoof starring the dirty little Shin as Puke Skypooper. The jokes stick to the simple and filthy (Obi Wan? Anyone Canblowme, natch) but throw in some nice fanboy gags about the trilogy and adapts the show's characters to Lucas' well. That the show was animated in Japan for Japanese audiences (where several of the low-brow gags originate, including a lightsaber bit that takes Spaceballs' schwartz concept to a more ridiculous level) yet works well in this dub, shows how universal the Star Wars franchise is, and the ability of the writers to refresh well-trod territory.
There's more dark comedy on hand this season, though probably not as much as the last set, despite episode titles like "Miscarriage Return Policy," "It's Actually Better for Anal," "AIDS is Hilarious" and "How to Bury a Smack-Addict Clown." In fact, there's an almost lighthearted tone to many of the episodes, like Hiro's train flirtation and the kids' ski trip. All our old friends are back, like conservative Georgie, who remains as contemptuous of his schoolmates as ever, adorably introspective Boo and the completely broken Penny, whose peculiar mental state is starting to affect her friends, especially when she does them up in make-up, or makes them play the role of the abused wife. And though they moved out of the old apartment (or at least they seem to have, despite oddly living there once again out of the blue) the people they met there remain in their lives, like their geeky neighbor, and the whorish Summer and her pimped-out daughter Paris.
Though the concept remains mostly the same, splitting time between stories from the Noharas' crazy home life, including a late-night drunken cooking blitz by Hiro and a mind-swap between Shin and his mom, and Shin's school life, focusing on rumors about teachers who are either pregnant or infected with AIDS, there is one rather unique storyline involving Shin's favorite superhero, Action Bastard, as he gets his own five-part arc. To be honest though, it lost me halfway through, despite some rather amusing jokes about the age of Bastard's sidekick Lollipop. It just broke the Wolverine rule, overexposing what was a good thing in moderation. Much better is the episode that introduces the Action Bastard personal massager, which is loaded with goodness from top to bottom (the episode that is, not the massager (which may be good on its own.))
Like the previous sets, the 13 episodes of the first half of Season Two are spread over two DVDs, with seven episodes on the first disc and six on the other. The discs are packed in a three-panel, two-tray digipak, which is held in a solid slipcase, designed with a gangsta theme. The discs feature static full-frame menus with options to play all episodes, select shows, and check out the extras. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.
As they pull animation from across the show's lengthy Japanese run for these new shows, the quality of the video varies tremendously, from a dull, somewhat dirty look on the older clips, to bright, vibrant images on the more recent footage with no obvious issues with dirt or damage. (The opening titles and credits are the muddiest of all the video.) One episode opens with a traditional anime look, and the quality is as good as any average anime DVD. Overall, it's a solid presentation, offerings up full-frame transfers with no notable problems with pixelation or digital artifacts.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is, like last time, your usual sitcom-style delivery, with clean dialogue and decent music, but there's nothing about the center-balanced mix that will jump out at you.
The extras mimic what you got in the previous set, starting with a commentary on "The Stalker Song," with director Zach Bolton, writer Jared Hedges and actress Laura Bailey (the voice of Shin.) It's mainly remembrances of the production, with notes about creating the episode and little bits of detail, like how to make it sound like you're talking while holding a vibrator. The trio is having a good time with it, while unleashing swears as needed, making it pretty obvious that the show's tone was easy to achieve with this creative team.
The second disc holds the rest of the extras, kicking off with the latest entry in "From the Bowels of the Booth," a collection of alternate audio, bloopers and outtakes. Once again, these clips are fun to enjoy, as there's a real freedom in the content, and you rarely get to see animation bloopers. Aside from that, there's an automatic gallery of storyboards from the "Shin Wars" episode, which are good for a quick scan, along with two versions of the awesomely catchy Closing Song, available in karaoke style and sing-along style. Things wrap up with a couple of trailers.
The Bottom Line
"Shin Chan" truly is a series that has improved as it's gone on, and it also grows on you as you watch it, but only if your sense of humor is as bizarre as the creators'. This set, with the great "Shin Wars" episode and fun versions of sitcom staples, is highly enjoyable, even if the grand Action Bastard sub-series is overdoing it with a character better used in small doses. The episodes are in fine shape, though putting new footage up against old episodes makes the older stuff look bad, and the few extras are enjoyable to check out. For fans of the show, this is a must-see, and is actually a good place for newcomers to jump in, but the previous season might feel like a step back then.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.