Jubei-chan the Ninja Girl: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch
In medieval Japan, there lived a master of swordsmanship named Yagyu Juubei. As the successor to the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, a famed school of tactics and sword technique, he carried on a feud with the rival Ryujoji school, until the day when, as an old man, he felled the final heir to the Ryujoji school. However, that final opponent gave Juubei a mortal wound in turn, and Juubei entrusts his retainer Koinosuke with a relic intended to pass on his spirit and skills to a worthy successor - a relic known as the *Lovely Eyepatch*.
Fast-forward three hundred years to the same remote backcountry hills of Japan, which are now dotted with farms, houses, and junior high schools. Enter Nanohana Jiyuu, a pert, well-endowed, and more than slightly clueless junior high transfer from Tokyo who has moved in with her embarrassingly slick short-story-writing father, who affectionately calls her (guess what?) Juubei. And, naturally, she is exactly who Koinosuke has been waiting three hundred years to bestow the *Lovely Eyepatch* upon. Can Jiyuu overcome her misgivings, and as the reincarnation of Yagyu Juubei, successfully fend off the resurrected Ryujoji school and preserve the legacy of the Yagyu dojo?
This is goofy. Only in Japan could you take Ninja Scroll, add in Sailor Moon transformation sequences, and make it genuinely work. Juubei-chan is a one-of-a-kind series, with the seriousness during the swordfights to pull off the blinding action scenes, and the gentle wackiness in every other scene to work as a laugh-out-loud comedy. Juubei-chan herself is endearingly cute, and though a touch clueless, she nevers seems to be genuinely stupid, just bewildered by the oddity of the events around her. Then again, when some hick straight from a samurai epic runs up to you in the middle of a bamboo grove and implores you to put on a pink heart-shaped *Lovely Eyepatch* (emphasizing each syllable in the name each and every time!) and become the reincarnation of a famous swordsman, I'd bet you'd be bewildered too, especially if you've just moved in from modern-day Tokyo.
(And NOW cue the ninjas from Dagger of Kamui. WHOTTAWHOTTAWHOTTA!)
Juubei-chan, of course, is complemented by a suitably strange cast of characters. There's the handsome, awkward kendo artist (and love interest) Ryujoji Shiro. (Note the family name.) Then there's local gang tough Bantarou (his gang consists of himself and two lackeys) who resolves to protect his lady fair with his strong arm and his shirt of ever-changing kanji. There's hapless Koinosuke himself, who's been searching for centuries for a person who fits Yagyu Juubei's decidedly odd criteria for a successor. All of which, and more, are portrayed with tongue firmly in cheek. And naturally, Juubei-chan's opponents are odd, especially considering the whole lot of them are, in fact, Juubei's teachers at the local junior high. (One of them's named Tenchi Muyonosuke. C'mon, this can't be a serious series.) The silliest character, naturally, is Juubei's dapper fop of a father, a writer who not coincidentally happens to look exactly like Daichi Akitarou. (I've met the guy, I can vouch for it.)
Considering how seriously the characters take everything (Juubei-chan certainly doesn't!), the animation is top-notch, coming from the same studios (Madhouse) that brought us Ninja Scroll. The swordfights themselves are well-choreographed, slick, and fun to watch. They are also, as befitting the show, very short. Juubei's ninja alter-ego rarely wastes time toying with an enemy. Find an opening, go for the win. Slash. Of course, Juubei doesn't actually kill anyone (at least not the modern-day Juubei) but instead gives her erstwhile adversary a change of heart. (The one-liner said by the opponent after the first swordfight is simply priceless.) There are, however, a few absolutely strange visuals during the course of the series, not the least of which are the character-introducing octopi, and the crudely drawn samurai at the end of the credits (at least in the version I saw), whose significance I haven't the slightest clue of. Hmmm...
So far, this has been quite an enjoyable, quirky series, and we'd like to see more of it. Though I can't say much for the English dub (it's not exactly the greatest voicing job ever, though it isn't as overtly annoying as others), Juubei-chan is certainly worth a purchase, as it's worth quite a few good laughs at any club anime showing.
So far, so good, and we'll see how it goes as the story continues. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Aside from the bloodless swordfights, which are more show than anything else, some slapstick violence, and the numerous jokes about Juubei-chan's, er, endowments, there's really nothing objectionable to speak of. Of course, it helps to have a working knowledge of the ninja and samurai of medieval Japan (so the casual fan may not get a few of the jokes), but older children and above would probably be fine to watch this. Sailor Moon is more violent than this show.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source; R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (4/13)
Jubei-chan the Ninja Girl: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch © 1999 Akitaro Daichi / Madhouse / Bandai Visual
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