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AKA: 十兵衛ちゃん2 ~シベリア柳生の逆襲~ (Juubei-chan 2: Siberia Yagyuu no Gyakushuu)
Genre: Martial arts action drama with comedic elements
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Media Blasters.
Content Rating: 10+ (martial arts violence, emotionally charged themes)
Related Series: Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl
Also Recommended: Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran, Naruto, Ninja Cadets, Rurouni Kenshin
Notes: Toward the end of the show, part of the credits are in English and actually list Felicia as "Freasha". It is obvious from listening the character is named Felicia not Freasha, and we are thereby disregarding the flawed romanization for the sake of clarity.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Jubei-chan 2: The Counterattack of Siberia Yagyu

Synopsis

Thinking that her troubles related to being the reincarnation of Yagyuu Juubei are over, Nanohana Jiyuu has relaxed into a normal life with her friends and her father. However, her peace will be broken by the appearance of the Northern Yagyuu clan who seeks vengeance upon Yagyuu Jubei. If that wasn't enough trouble, it seems that the long lost daughter of Yagyuu Juubei, Felicia, is also targeting the lovely eye-patch. Viewing the eyepatch as rightfully hers, Felicia will stop at nothing to recover it. As the daughter of Yagyuu Juubei and possessing an eye-patch of her own, her methods of recovery could prove lethal for many involved.


Review

The first Jubei-chan series was an unusual and creative mix of wry, self-aware comedy, action, and just general weirdness. Though it definitely had its touching moments of drama, and a few good action sequences, the overall emphasis was more on the comedic atmosphere. Even with the various battles and threats Jiyuu/Juubei faced, very few people were seriously injured and there was a generally light atmosphere.

I note all of the above because Jubei-chan 2 is almost the complete opposite. The comedic elements have been minimized with action and drama taking the forefront. On top of that, the general emotional atmosphere of the show is, for the bulk of the run, rather depressing with many of the characters seemingly becoming the Platonic Forms of angst on occasion. With that in mind, I still think that the second Jubei-chan series was enjoyable, but those expecting something similar in spirit to the first show will be a bit surprised. At the same time, I think a viewer who hasn't seen the first show won't be able to fully follow or accept the bizarre back story.

This shift in tone also seems to present some challenges for the viewer's suspension of disbelief. The comedic tone of the first series made it easy for the viewer to dismiss certain odd plot shifts and contrivances. The more steady dramatic atmosphere of the second makes some of the shifts toward comedy seem particularly jarring and vice versa. For example, you'll have a comedic scene of happy dancing, singing, and talking animals followed immediately by those animals discussing with a plans for vengeance and inflicting suffering on those who wronged someone. Most of the comic relief characters from the first series such as Kozaru, Ozaru, and Bantarou have very minimal roles (they even comment several times about how upset they are about having little to do with the plot of the second series) and when they do appear it seems almost inappropriate.

Since it seemed that show was focused more on generating a dramatic atmosphere, certain character design choices seemed a bit odd. The Siberia Yagyuu, in general, have various odd, humorous, or somewhat distorted character designs including one fully 3D CGI character with an appearance that can only be described as utterly bizarre even in the context of the rest of the show. It was hard to take some of the dramatic scenes seriously when the very appearance of the characters involved seemingly is meant to amuse the viewer.

With all that being said, I felt that Jubei-chan 2 did succeed at generating emotional and dramatic impact. There was a lot of good character work, particularly involving Jiyuu, her father, and Felicia (though Felicia's childhood background is particularly...uh, interesting). Though the first Jubei-chan series toward its end, did manage to generate engaging emotional drama, the second series does do a somewhat better job of that for the bulk of the series. Certain troubled aspects of the relationship between Jiyuu and her father come into sharp relief in this series, providing a more basic and accessible scenario to empathize with besides the almost surreal samurai problems she is dealing with. Felicia and several of the main Siberia Yagyuu are well handled as well, helping to present them more as figures of pity than one-dimensional ruthless villains.

Unfortunately, often the show undermines its dramatic atmosphere with the occasional abrupt shift to more comedic elements and scenes. There were tone shifts in the first series but it just seemed a lot more jarring this time around. It felt like they wanted to produce a dramatic series but included the comedic elements as a mere afterthought perhaps out of a sense of continuity with the first series. Honestly, a lot of the comedic elements just didn't amuse me all that much either. They had a few good moments here and there but not enough to make up for how disruptive they were to the general flow of the plot and mood.

The animation and music for Jubei-chan 2 are solid, and the show features a number of well-animated action sequences. Besides being well animated, several of the battles are actually very creative in terms of staging and background. As befitting the more serious tone, not every fight ends with Juubei simply slashing a person and them becoming a better person. With the threat of another "Juubei" whose sword can be lethal, there are several characters who are fairly seriously wounded.

Ultimately, though I enjoyed Jubei-chan 2, I think they did not do a particularly good of a job balancing out the comedic and dramatic elements. Given the rather minimal presence and impact of the comedic elements, it might have been wiser to simply excise them completely and focus totally on the dramatic elements given the general effectiveness of the dramatic scenes.

Though it does have solid characterization, some good action, and fairly engaging drama, Jubei-chan 2 doesn't integrate its more comedic scenes and characters well resulting in jarring transitions that undermine the impact of both the comedic and dramatic scenes. Jeremy A Beard

Recommended Audience: There is a lot of heavy emotion and angst in this title and some of the fights get a bit rough with several characters being severely wounded. There really isn't much else in the way of particularly objectionable material.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Jubei-chan 2: The Counterattack of Siberia Yagyu © 2004 Madhouse Studios / J2 Production Committee
 
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