Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jun 8th 2008
DVD Season 1 Part 1 (Dub)
Slow-witted neighborhood terror Shin is only in kindergarten, but already has developed an unerring talent for doing exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. Crude, vulgar, and more than a little beyond his years where anything completely inappropriate is concerned, Shin spends his time hanging out with his equally well-educated buddies from kindergarten, including blossoming dominatrix Penny, prematurely matrimony-minded Ai, and brutally bourgeois rich-kid Georgie. Find out how to cope when your best friend has a man-crush on you, how to get the latest superhero goods with nothing more than your buttocks, and why bunny-beating is good for the soul. Tag along with the preschool delinquents as they cope with local pedophiles, eviscerating parental sarcasm, pathetic superheroes, persistent toddler suitors, and the crushing guilt (or lack thereof) that comes with blowing one's own house up.
Funimation's pop-culture-heavy, meticulously un-PC “reversioning” of Shin-chan is doubtless the most ambitious comic redubbing of a series since ADV's Ghost Stories, and unlike its hit-or-miss predecessor, it's often very funny indeed. Close one eye, squint really hard and forget that South Park predated it by over a decade, and it could almost be brilliant. However, its nature as a re-write of pre-existing material can artificially elevate anime fans' appreciation of the series as well as hamper its humor for newcomers, making for two very different experiences depending on one's exposure to the world of anime dubs.
Trash-talking tots never really get old—something that Funimation took advantage of when creating this English version of Crayon Shin-chan, transforming a slightly potty-minded family comedy into an adults-only smörgåsbord of gay jokes, crude sexual innuendo, tongue-in-cheek racism, and cheerfully juvenile vulgarity--all of it from the mouths of kindergartners. Anime dubbers are past masters of manipulating dialogue to match visuals and preserve meaning and intent, and those same skills are turned here to the task of creating a dub that totally perverts the original's intent and meaning. Often the results are genuinely clever, the actors playing off each other in a free-flowing manner that manages to feel unscripted, helped along by dialogue that incorporates pre-existing visuals and situations into the (often filthy) banter with semi-ad-libbed ingenuity.
However, working from a pre-existing template means that the dialogue is always simply playing off of the visuals, never able to achieve the deadly confluence of imagery and dialogue that, say the hilariously gross sight gags of South Park are capable of. Indeed a large part of the series' appeal comes not from the quality of the humor, but from the circus-like attraction that watching the tight-rope act of revamping pre-existing material holds. Unfortunately fully appreciating the cleverness with which the series avoids falling from the tightrope and killing itself requires prior knowledge of the original series, or at least of the kinds of situations that it uses, which—since Funimation doesn't provide the original Japanese version—is knowledge that will be available only to fairly serious fans of anime.
With the lack of congruent sight gags placing the burden of the humor squarely on the mile-a-minute, raunch-per-second dialogue, and with critical knowledge of what is being parodied missing, casual or non-fans may be faced with a comic experience akin to watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 with the snarky commentary intact but the film dialogue removed. And that's a serious problem with a series as dependent on humor as Shin-chan is. If you aren't laughing, then all that's left are substanceless slice-of-life plots, characters who look like the cast of the comic strip FoxTrot after a particularly vicious beating with an ugly stick, background visuals that betray the series' original children's-entertainment intent, and a soundtrack that is all humor-bolstering circus music. In other words, if you aren't laughing, you're wasting your time.
Luckily, most of the folks willing to buy this will be laughing. Maybe it's hard to separate out just how much of one's enjoyment is pure humor and how much of it is an appreciation of the skill with which the writers warp the original, and maybe it'll leave your anime-muggle friends scratching their heads. But you're still having a good time, and as Shin might say, that's all that matters. So long as prostitute jokes, steaming heaps of scatological humor, and endless ass-gags don't offend you, that is.
Along with the absolutely fabulous deal of thirteen episodes for the low, low price of forty bucks, you also get a slew of extras (cast auditions, outtakes, alternate dialogue, approximately an episode's worth of the Japanese show, plus a commentary track) that provide invaluable insights into the processes that created the English Shin-chan.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : N/A
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : F
Music : C
+ Oft-hilarious reworking of a children's series into a decidedly un-PC comedy.
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