Jubei Chan 2 Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, December 12, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2005
What They Say
Mikage decides to do some investigating when Jiyu returns home with a fever. In the forest she runs across Yagyu Freesia just in time to save Ayunosuke from a long fall. Back at home, Sai searches for inspiration for his teen love story, and Freesia nurses Jiyu back to health. Jiyu finds herself in the forest again, and this time she blows the whistle that Koinosuke left for her to use in times of trouble. Expecting to see Koinosuke, she is surprised to encounter Ayunosuke who holds the Lovely Eye Patch out to her. Jiyu finally learns of Ayunosuke's true identity and is once again reminded of an unfulfilled promise that has now been passed from father to child. Although she is moved to tears, Jiyu still refuses the Lovely Eye Patch, swearing that she will never become Yagyu Jubei the second again.
Everything comes to a whiplash fast conclusion while still providing an incredible amount of emotion with it.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series is one you'd initially think of as a mixed piece with some big action pieces that would sound great and then lots of dialogue for the regular moments. But with the way Jubei's life is like, there are tons of active forward soundstage moments throughout the entire show with all the characters running around and being active. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Keeping to the same style as the previous series, the materials here look essentially flawless on our setup with lots of great looking solid colors that aren't terribly vibrant but have a good depth to them. The transfer avoids pretty much all the usual kinds of problems that crop up so it's free of aliasing and cross coloration and overall looks very clean and sharp. The background colors maintain a good solid feel without any noticeable blocking. Some areas look a little soft on occasion but it's something that's likely intentional than anything else based on the style of the show.
Using similar artwork to the Japanese release but with a better and more straightforward coloring style, the final cover takes the two leads and presents them in a classic but slick manner with Jubei holding her sword out while Freesia is seen in the reflection. The back cover provides a lot of shots from the show set below the listing of the episode numbers and titles. The discs features and technical information is sort of in a grid but it's just below center instead of the bottom but it does keep things close together unlike some other past releases. The insert uses a lot of shots from the show on its top page along with the episode titles and listing of extras and opens up to a full color piece of Jiyu and Freesia hugging while surrounded by several of the secondary characters from school. The back of the insert lists the dates for all the volumes and the soundtrack as well as the basic contact information. The reverse cover is a shot of Ayunosuke wielding the eye-patch in the style used for the Japanese covers.
The menu layout is nicely done by the folks at Nightjar where a strip of animation plays through the center and each window is filtered in either blues or purples as some of the good paced action music plays along. Selections are lined along the bottom and it's overall a very vibrant piece that's eye-catching in how it uses the action scenes to draw you in. Doing the top and bottom parts in black only draws the eyes in even more to what's in the center. The layout is easy to navigate and problem free. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
For the final volume, the extras are just as interesting as the previous ones but they shift away a bit from what was done before. The main extra this round is a lengthy making of segment that shows the creation stages of the series from character design, scene setup and recording sessions. There is a lot of roundtable moments here where they talk about how to tweak designs and it's great to see the humor in how some of it comes together. The other included extra is the clean version of the three ending sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The final installment of Jubei-Chan manages to break tradition of a number of series that I've seen this year by providing not only a decent ending to the show but a great one. Everything is given a proper amount of closure here and while there is a bit of an over the top nature with the "final boss" mentality to it, it all fits into place to bring things to a proper ending.
This series has managed to provide some of the best looking and choreographed "ninja style" fight sequences that I've seen in the last few years so it's little surprise that they continue with this in the final volume. Freesia and Jiyu must have their final fight in order to settle things from Freesia's past and the efforts are certainly underway to get Jiyu to do it since she's the only one that can free her and the others from the bonds that control them. Jiyu's mental vacation that started in the previous episode still has a strong hold over her here as she sees Mikage as her mother and doesn't believe she has a father. As she went down this mental spiral, we saw one of the most heart wrenching segments as Ayunosuke simple withered away while holding onto the eye-patch. All of this is brought full circle as the various people involved come to the tree where Ayunosuke is and Jiyu's father finally gives the passionate speech he's needed to give about not only her need to support him in what he wants but his need to do it for her.
The emotional side to the show has been strong in past episodes but it really comes to a head here in the first two episodes and in the last few minutes of the last episode. The cast has expanded well and some of the more prominent characters from the first series have been shifted to incidental characters so they don't overwhelm things, leaving more room for the new characters to be able to bring their weight to the show. With many of these new people being part of the Siberian group that's three hundred years running, there's so much that they bring with them that it's plainly evident just in their eyes at times. The issues that White Tiger runs through with Bon and Bon's own attempts to finish things out from the past are all left to looks that they give at key times here. Their reasoning and pasts have all been explained, all that's left is for the viewer to connect with them now as the times are tense and the judgment moments have arrived.
What particularly fascinated me with these episodes is watching how much emotion is shown just through the eyes. This isn't really new for a lot of shows as the old saying of the eyes being the window to the world inside and anime has certainly showcased some interesting animation for eyes over the years. But during the fight that Jiyu and Freesia go through, it takes on a whole new level as each of them only has one eye visible with which to showcase their emotions and for Freesia it's even more compelling; she's also got a lower face mask on so all that's visible is just that one eye. She can't provide any emotion through other facial tics, not that Jiyu does even as her face is more visible. She keeps to the determined look she seemingly always has while Freesia is given over to the wide range of emotions.
The original Jubei-chan series was enjoyable and gave a lot of people their first look at what Akitaroh Daichi could do since most of his works weren't licensed at that point. This sequel series takes what he did there and it is so much more streamlined and stylishly done but also has so much more emotional weight to it that it show just how much Daichi has changed and grown over the years himself as well as getting the right people for the project. It's rare that sequel series match the original in terms of how good it is but this is one of those even rarer sequels that I think outshines the original in just about every aspect. J2 is a series with a lot of replay value to it and filled with moments that you just want to show off and share with other people. I was interested to see how this would turn out when it was first announced but never did I imagine it would be one of my top picks of the year. Highly recommended.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,The "Making of J2" Documentary,Three Creditless Endings
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2