Explaining the concept of "Shin Chan" is a little tricky. Based on a Japanese comic, the original "Shin Chan," following the misadventures the title character, was broadcast in the 1990s and featured crude comedy rooted in wordplay and Japanese culture. As one can see on Wikipedia, much of the humor simply doesn't translate properly to another language, but Shin-Chan's love of showing his butt to people and ogling beautiful women was too appealing to pass up. adult swim snapped up the rights to the first two seasons and created their own dub that pushes the show into extremely American, extremely risque territory that borders on What's Up Tiger Lily? / Kung Pow! Enter the Fist treatment of the material.
The third season, presented in its entirety in this new box set (which collects two previously-released separate volumes into a slimmer package), was not produced by adult swim but by FUNimation, who took over after Cartoon Network lost the rights. This version of the series follows Shin Chan (Laura Bailey), a 6-year-old who acts more like a 13-year-old, cracking wise and trying to get every hottie he sees to take her top off, while his dad (Chuck Huber) surreptitiously eggs him on, and his mother (Cynthia Cranz) grumbles about both of them.
"Shin Chan" has a unique, loose animation style that allows Shin to contort his body (and his butt) into unusually angular shapes. Each brief little episode (akin to the length of other Cartoon Network shows, which fit two "episodes" inside a half-hour block) tackles a miniature story with some continuity, although they have been re-ordered to fit the needs of the new dub. Two years also passed between the final adult swim episode and the first FUNimation episode, which is frequently referenced in the dialogue as an unusually long summer vacation. The American dub also re-dates the show firmly into the late 2000s, frequently referencing modern American pop culture. Political humor is also not out of bounds, as evidenced by an episode in which Shin crashes his friends' triple date with three Young Republicans (who are defined as "Republican, but also sluts").
Although plenty of well-placed, unexpected one-liners (primarily from the dad) got a chuckle out of me, I have to concede that "Shin Chan" doesn't strike me as particularly funny. There's no overarching bent or governing idea to guide the show. Each episode is basically a little joke factory built around its premise, and other than that, it's hard to tell two episodes of "Shin Chan" apart from one another. Like most cartoons, "Shin Chan" is not a show about character growth or transformation; each episode basically hits the reset button for a new adventure even when the background story (such as "summer vacation") progresses.
Beyond that, on a basic level, the toilet humor on here just doesn't strike me as that witty. Shin Chan says outrageous things, but nobody really reacts to them. Scatological humor is a running theme, with one episode centered around a trip to see Bowel's Moving Castle, or a flashback episode where you learn Shin's first words included "boobies" and "ass." Personally, I'm not a fan of catty humor, but that is a constant theme whenever Mom is involved in the story, with her frequently sniping about other women who her husband is busy ogling. It's clear that in this final season of the show, the creators had the mechanics of American "Shin Chan" down to a science, and I'm sure anyone who became a fan during the first two seasons on adult swim will have nothing to complain about: it meets its goals efficiently and professionally, and it certainly never pretends to be anything else. If you're a newcomer like myself, though, just make sure you've got a clear idea of what those goals are before diving in.
"Shin Chan": The Complete Third Season arrives in a slipbox with brightly-colored, psychedelic artwork. Inside on the eco-friendly slim cases (the kind with holes punched in them), the vibe continues on a smaller scale with little paintings of the characters on the two two-disc cases. There is no insert.
The Video and Audio
The video presentation on these discs is a little baffling: although there's nothing wrong with the colors or clarity of the picture, which has an appealing level of softness that distributors seem to be afraid of when it comes to animation, the image is pillarboxed at 1.85:1 instead of anamorphically enhanced, meaning the image will be framed on all four sides by a black border on a widescreen television. I cannot possibly think of why this was chosen over anamorphic enhancement or even standard letterboxing, but it sticks out as an unusual decision. Sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, which is bright and energetic, as it was freshly recorded for this release using significantly more recent technology than the animation. However, some viewers have complained about the lack of Japanese audio. A fair criticism, I suppose, but the previous releases did not include the Japanese audio, either. No subtitles or captions are included.
Fans will be disappointed to learn that after a strong selection of extras on the first two seasons, this third season comes up empty, other than a couple of promos for the show.
I didn't hate "Shin Chan," but it wasn't for me. I have no problem with low-brow comedy, but it's gotta be good low-brow comedy. This is well-produced and will certainly amuse many, but for me it was middle-of-the-road. Rent it if you're curious.
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