Jubei-Chan: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch
The first Hong Kong action flick I ever saw was the Chow Yun-Fat/John Woo thriller The Killer. The film chronicles the exploits of a paid assassin, the singer he vows to protect after accidentally blinding her in a firefight, and the cop who relentlessly follows him. It's an absolutely stunning movie that I would highly recommend. However, the first time I saw it, I was a bit thrown to find how comedy, brutal action, and pathos would follow each other so closely together. One minute, everything's blowing up; not seconds later, there's a scene of dark regret between two characters. It's not uncommon in Asian film, and if you can brace yourself for it, you'll find it can become strangely exciting. The same thing is true of Jubei-Chan: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch. Although it is hysterically funny, especially at the beginning, it has some great fight scenes and even some dark drama all thrown in right together. Though it has certain problems that keep it from a solid recommendation, there's plenty to like about Jubei-Chan...if, of course, you get past its frenetic mood swings and its reliance on formula to get through its opening episodes.
Jubei Yagyu is possibly the most skilled swordsman in Japan circa 1700 AD. Although he defeats all who challenge him, he has no true heir to continue his special school of swordsmanship. Thus, he leaves his assistant Koinosuke in charge of finding the one true spiritual descendant of his craft as he dies, and gives him a special eyepatch that will give that successor immense samurai powers. 300 years pass, and Koinosuke (amazingly still breathing after all these years) finally finds the One--a young girl named Jiyu, whom her father has nicknamed Jubei. Problem is, Jiyu really really REALLY doesn't want to be the reincarnation of some old geezer with a sword--high school in a new city has enough problems of its own! With two young men desperate for her affections and half a dozen teachers ready to battle her after school, life is plenty complicated. Time will only tell whether or not Jiyu will continue denying the Lovely Eyepatch or accept her destiny.
First, let's just state that this is a wacky, wacky show. The show is very unusual in the way it presents itself. First off, most of the characters look pretty typical of anime stylings; however, on numerous occasions, some participants take on the look of the "funny paper comics" in Japan, which is quite a jarring clash of styles. Second, we've got humor that is achingly funny yet undeniably strange. One of Jiyu's suitors, for example, wears a red shirt with a kanji symbol on it. Several times during each scene, the kanji changes to show his current mindset, and so you are constantly watching the shirt (or the translation) for the next switch. It's a hysterical bit of the show, but it's just a slight taste of the bizarre humor in store. (Those who are familiar with the fan favorite Child's Toy will recognize the style, as the same creator is behind both shows.) Third, we've got the serious ninja drama interposed against this other insanity, which makes for all sorts of interesting conflicts.
Thankfully, the show handles all of this rather well. The animation studio Madhouse put Jubei-Chan together, and they really did a very nice job in terms of the look. Crisp and vibrant, this show is refreshing to watch. The quality comes in handy particularly when dealing with the dramatic action sequences, which tend to be short but are very well animated. For as many elements as they try to bring together, the whole show still jells well.
However, perfection just isn't here quite yet. I've only watched the first DVD, but so far we've had four "boss of the week" episodes. Though there are subtle differences in each episode, not a whole heck of a lot has happened. Although hints of an overarching story finally materialize in the fourth episode, nothing comes to fruition. I laughed my head off at the first episode, enjoyed the next two, and wondered what more there could be by the fourth. It's not bad, but things will need to start developing in order to keep viewers--though I enjoyed what I saw, I'm not rushing out to find more yet either. There's also a little bit that bothered me--although the show has no profanity to speak of and very little violence overall (and none of it graphic), making it generally appropriate for younger audiences, there are quite a few references throughout about Jiyu's bountiful assets (ahem). These really aren't necessary and make the show a bit less suitable for those who might appreciate it a lot.
Nevertheless, Jubei-Chan is a fun, skewed look at the whole samurai concept. This show probably won't have many fans among the Ninja Scroll crowd--it's simply too innocent--but those who can appreciate a dose of drama and action in their comedy should feel right at home. Not perfect, but at least a good entertaining rental.
Jubei-Chan: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch -- lechery -- B