Jubei-Chan Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2000

What They Say
Yagyu Jubei was Japan's greatest swordsman. His skill was legendary, but the one enemy he couldn't conquer was death.

Before he died, though, he gave his disciple hope - there would be a successor, and this deserving person would receive all the power and skill of Yagyu Jubei, along with the Lovely Eyepatch.

After 300 years of searching, the disciple finds Jiyu Nanohana, a rather ordinary girl who has just moved to a new town and started going to a new school. As if going to a new school weren't stressful enough, now Jiyu is told that she is heir to the legendary talents of Yagyu Jubei. And she will have to put those talents to good use and stop the assassins of the rival clan!

1. The Birth Of Yagyu Jubei II
2. Falling In Love With The Enemy
3. Men's Hearts Were Swaying
4. The Road Of No Return

The Review!
Television should be watched from a distance in a well-lit room.

These aren't quite the first words to appear when you kick off this disc, but they're close. The opening episode starts with the requisite ominous clouds and important drum music. The text begins with a brief history of Jubei Yagyu and his time. Then that line about the television comes up.

From that point forward, you can't complain about not knowing what the show is going to be like. It's going to be all over the map.

Bandai's gone the extra mile on this disc in terms of the audio. The original Japanese 2.0 is preserved for fans of the original soundtrack while the newly created English language track was mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. From what we've heard, this show is a big favorite of one of the higher ups at Bandai, so a little extra expense was put into the soundtrack. For fans of the Japanese language track, you're well off here with a solid stereo soundtrack. Dialogue is clean and undistorted and there's a decent amount of directionality across the front soundstage.

For the dub fans out there, you're in for a treat. The 5.1 mix is very well done, though it's not active as often as you would hope, but it is only a television series so there aren't a lot of opportunities for discreet sound. One of the big pluses for this 5.1 mix is better separation of the music tracks, providing a much richer sound for it. This is quite important as the Jubei-chan theme is one really gorgeous piece of music. The fight sequences have an added depth to it as they're the primary use of the discreet sound. The dub was done by Ocean studios, which means I'm not terribly fond of it. Some of the actors do a good job, such as Bantaro and Jubei herself does a decent job. Some of the secondary characters aren't up to snuff and Koinosuke just doesn't sound right to me.

On the video side, it's pretty solid. The show has some good production values for a TV series. Colors are varied from vibrant to the typical softer backgrounds. There's some really slick fluid animation, especially in the transformation sequence, and it looks very good. There were several instances where it would seem like a frame shifted and the color level got darker or brighter, but this seems to be more of a source material thing than anything else.

There is a bit of a problem though, but it may be my disc. At the 21:46 mark on the second episode, as Jubei-chan and Koinosuke are just about to cross over the bridge before the credits start rolling, the video hiccups and stops as well as the audio. It then picks up 2 seconds later and keeps playing. I tried going in reverse to see if it would happen again and as soon as it hit that spot, it locked up. Trying it in my Apex player, the audio didn't drop out, but the video skipped (with the two characters leaping to the left a few inches too fast). My Sony 3000 exhibited no problems at all. As I said, this may be the disc itself as opposed to an encoding problem.

One of the challenges of the cover for this show is to present both the dark serious and cheesy light humor that is within. The cover does a good job, with the dark serious Jubei-chan image as well as her bouncing along on her bike. The back cover provides an array of images as well as a decent setup for the show. The episode titles and numbers are listed as well which is useful since there's no volume number indicated anywhere on the package.

On the inside, Bandai's provided a really nice insert with the show summary and episode titles as well as a main character chart and who they are. The disc itself has a really cute big red heart drawn on it with a white background. Also included is the first of four redemption cards to get a special limited Jubei-Chan t-shirt. Please note: You don't send them in individually, you send them in when the last disc comes out and send them all in at once, together. Bandai's running a similar promotion with Gundam Wing and have had a ton of people send in the first card when they should be waiting until they get the first two cards.

The menus for the disc are well done. They're not terribly flashy, but they're animated with music and they're definitely in style for wackiness. The main menu has a close up of Jubei's eye-patch, with animation running through the bottom half and the menu selections at the top half. Selections are made in a reasonable amount of time (not as fast as one would hope, but not sluggishly so like some other releases).

The extra included is Cooking with Jubei, which is just a few still shots on how to make Jubei-yaki, a specialty breakfast. It's cute, but that's all there is for the extras. Creditless closing next please?

One very nice thing that Bandai did with this release is include a second subtitle track that is automatically played when you select the English language track. What's included in it is are the subtitled bits that are important to know, such as the name of the show and other incidental things. One of the main reasons for it though with this release is for the ever-changing shirt on Bantaro, so dub watchers can understand what his shirt means. Kudos for taking advantage of DVD.

Jubei-chan in the end is a very fun show. The original story was done by Daichi Akitaroh, who had a hand in the very popular series Child's Toy. Those who've seen Child's Toy will most definitely see influences from that, though this isn't as hyper as that series.

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.

The only real problem I had with the show is that it's trying too hard to be both things. For the majority of it, it's light and fun and full of gags and humor. But for a portion of each episode when she dons the Lovely Eye-Patch, the series gets considerably dark and intense.

I almost wish two separate shows had been done as both are so good. I'd love to see more of this kind of show done in the dark tone and the wonderfully choreographed fight sequences. The animation during them are top notch and a lot of fun to watch.

The character designs also work in this way. The main characters are all very well done with plenty of attention given to them and a certain softness that works well. The secondary characters, such as the members of the Ruffians, fellow classmates and other various parents are done in a very deformed way. This might bother some people who are looking for something consistent, but it's very reminiscent in my mind of many older anime shows where such characters are given this kind of cheap treatment, such as Urusei Yatsura.

Jubei-Chan: Secret of the Lovely Eye-Patch is a fun show that looks like it has a lot of room to grow and lots of fun ahead of it. This could very well be a surprise hit this year and it's one that I hope does well.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Cooking with Jubei

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Jubei-Chan