Jubei-chan the Ninja Girl (Jûbei-chan Lovely Gantai no Himitsu) (1999)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Music Video-textless closing
Trailer-Madman Propaganda (15)
|Year Of Production||1999|
|Running Time||314:24 (Case: 325)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (72:50)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Hiroaki Sakurai|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, next episode preview and "postcard"|
I've been curious about this title for a while now, mainly because of some complimentary remarks I happened to read while researching another title.
This is a short (13 episodes) serial that mixes comedy and adventure/drama in roughly equal portions. Our heroine is Jiyu Nanohana, a schoolgirl in Grade 8 (I think that makes her about 13 years old). She lives with her father, Sei Nanohana, who is a novelist, working strange hours that leave him very tired and prone to falling asleep at the wrong moments. Her father calls her by a nickname of Jubei, which is an unfortunate, or prophetic choice. They have just moved, so Jiyu is about to attend a new school, Hontsuru Junior High. Jiyu happens to be rather, umm, well-developed for a girl of 13. Her figure catches the attention of several of her male schoolmates, and also of Koinosuke Odago. Koinosuke was a disciple of Yagyu Jubei, possibly the greatest swordsman in Japanese history; as Yagyu Jubei lay dying, he insisted that Koinosuke find the one person worthy of The Lovely Eye-patch (which happens to be a bright red heart in shape), and give it to her. Koinosuke has been looking for that one person for 300 years (he looks remarkably well preserved, considering, although he does show his age on occasion). Koinosuke has decided that Jiyu matches the clues that Yagyu Jubei gave him. He insists that Jiyu try on the eye-patch, and she transforms into a powerful and highly skilled fighter (she also looks very cool!).
All sounds good, right? Except for two little problems. One is that there is a school of swordsmanship, the Ryujoji Shinkage, which has held a grudge against Yagyu Jubei for 300 years, so members of this school will attack his reincarnation (that's Jiyu). And besides, Jiyu doesn't want the Lovely Eye-patch, or the responsibilities that go with it she throws it away, much to Koinosuke's horror.
This box contains all 13 episodes on three discs, with 5 on the first disc, and four on each of the other two discs. The episodes are:
|1||The Birth of Yagyu Jubei II||Jiyu's first day at her new school. She meets new people, she is given the Lovely Eye-patch, and she faces her first challenge|
|2||Falling in Love with the Enemy||Jiyu invents a new style of fried eggs, we learn a bit more about her school-mates, and she faces a new challenge|
|3||Men's Hearts Were Swaying||Jiyu has a number of admirers, and takes action to defend one of them|
|4||The Road of No Return||We learn a lot more about the background to the swordsmen attacking Jiyu|
|5||The Enemy Brought a Memory with Them||We find out what happens if the wrong person wears the Lovely Eye-patch, and Jiyu shows real courage|
|6||My Next Enemy is Yesterday's Ally||Jiyu asks her next challenger why she is being challenged; Shiro warns her of her big weakness|
|7||She had Grasped the Secret Before She Knew It||Koinosuke has a strange solution to teaching Jiyu to cope with her weakness|
|8||I Attached this Thing to my Head||Jiyu dispels an attack in an unusual way, after getting a tip from her father|
|9||Dad's Premonition of Love||The RyuJoji are attempting to uncover the seven secrets of the Lovely Eye-patch|
|10||This is Where to Make the Effort||Jiyu demonstrates a new skill during a big confrontation involving Hajime and Shiro|
|11||But the Path Curves Ahead||When all seems settled, the biggest fight is only beginning|
|12||I Met a Daughter I Never Knew||Sai sees Jiyu transform, and is shocked; we learn a lot more of Sai and Jiyu's past|
|13||As the Night Turns to Dawn||Even if they can free Shiro, their problems won't necessarily be over...|
This show is done in a simple style of animation that is perfectly adequate to carry the story. Sometimes one or more of the characters will be drawn roughly or crudely to make a point it's a little unusual, but effective. Also a bit unusual is the blend of really funny/silly moments with darker dramatic moments.
As well as a next-episode preview, there are sort-of postcards, consisting of real-life photos with crudely-drawn sketches over them, that appear between episodes.
There is a group of three boys attending Jiyu's school, led by Bantaro Sanbonmatsu. The dub calls them The Unrefined, but the sub calls them The Ruffians. They talk of being motivated by strange ideals, but act like an ordinary pack of boys. Bantaro wears a T-shirt which shows one or more Kanji characters reflecting his current state of mind at any moment an odd artistic device.
Jiyu has made friends with two other girls at school, Shoko Maruyama and Sachi Toyama, and they keep trying to get to a dessert shop celebrate their friendship as The New Student Lovelies, but events have a habit of intervening.
Jiyu is a strange girl in some ways she seems almost oblivious to much of what goes on around her, but she is fundamentally a good person, and is easy to like. As we learn more of her past, it's impressive that she is as nice as she is.
A big point is made of how so many males fall for Jiyu at first sight (suggesting that the attraction is physical), but it makes a change from the frequent "harem" shows that have numerous females falling for the hapless male hero.
There is one sequence that made me uncomfortable. Sei (Jiyu's father) is trying to cool off Jiyu (she has a very high temperature, burning anyone who touches her). He repeatedly douses himself in cold water from the bath, then lies on top of what looks like a naked Jiyu wearing nothing but his underwear. That doesn't seem like appropriate behaviour for a father, and why didn't he simply immerse her in the bath? Apparently I'm not the only one uncomfortable with this sequence, judging by comments on the web. However, Sei's other behaviour disposes me to cut him some slack he's a pretty good father, in general.
This show has a lot to recommend it, including an intriguing main storyline, some interesting side-plots, some likeable characters, some strange but very comic insertions, and an unusual presentation. It is marvellous that we can buy the whole series in one, rather than having to wait as the discs are released one by one. That's important, because this series has a strong storyline that you would hate to have interrupted. It's good stuff, and thoroughly recommended for adults and older teens.
This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. That's how this show appeared on television, so there's nothing to complain about there.
The image is sharp and clear for the foreground characters, and much softer for the backgrounds (which appear painted rather than inked). There is no film grain, and no low-level noise.
Colour is very good, and there are some nice intense colours to look at. There are one or two instances of false colouration (see 82:39 on the second disc), but it is rare, and not too noticeable. There are no other colour-related artefacts, although there are over-bright backgrounds at 97:41 on the first disc and 64:23 on the second disc.
There are a very few film artefacts, such as the fine hair at 44:31, and the spots at 89:00, both on the second disc.
There is quite a bit of aliasing, especially when viewed on a non-progressive system, but it's generally very minor about the only instances worth mentioning are at 83:30 on the first disc, and at 35:20 on the third disc, and even that isn't really troubling. There's one case of moire, on a mesh fence, but it won't interfere with your enjoyment. There are no significant MPEG artefacts.
The usual two sets of English subtitles are present on these discs the first subtitle signs (including Bantaro's T-shirt) and songs, while the second are normal full English subtitles. I watched all of the full English subtitles, and they seem well-timed and are easy to read as usual, they are yellow with black outlining. The timing of the subtitles sometimes runs behind the English dub, but that may reflect the different dialogue.
The first disc is single-sided (with a nice label), dual-layered, formatted RSDL with a layer change at 72:50, between Episodes 3 and 4 it is essentially invisible. The other two discs are single layered.
The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, as we are accustomed to seeing on good anime. The English dub is Dolby Digital 5.1, at 448kbps, while the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded, at 224 kbps. I watched all the episodes with English sound (I like 5.1!) and then many of them again with Japanese. The Japanese sound is the original stereo soundtrack, as broadcast. Bandai chose to make a 5.1 soundtrack when they recorded the English dub. There's no point in complaining about the lack of a 5.1 Japanese soundtrack, because no such animal exists.
The English dialogue is clear and easily understood. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear too. Normally I list the Japanese and English voice actors for the main characters alternating in the cast list, but unfortunately the credits do not specify which characters the English voice actors player, so I've only listed the Japanese.
The score, written by Toshiro Masuda, is rather fun, providing additional characterisation, including the martial music for the Ruffians. There are moments it sounds a bit silly, but that is quite appropriate to the series. The theme, which is sung under the closing credits, is Forever, performed by 1999 Shojo Tai, written by Shunichi Tokura. There are variations to this theme that come after particular episodes.
The Japanese soundtrack demonstrates a decent stereo image, but makes no use of the surrounds or subwoofer.
The English sound uses the surrounds for some ambience and score, but doesn't put much in the way of directional sound into them, although there is the occasional voice emanating from off-screen this is rather nicely managed, but doesn't rate as heavy surround use. The subwoofer lends some subtle support to the music and the occasional LFE, but isn't heavily used..
|Surround Channel Use|
There are quite a few extras spread across the three discs.
The menus are animated with music. The menus are easy to navigate, and quite attractive, with neat transitions.
These are model sheets, comparison sizings, and other production sketches. There are 22 pages on the first and second discs, and 12 on the third.
This only appears on the third disc, and is a concatenation of a number of TV spots. The last one has a number of behind-the-scenes shots in it. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles, so I don't know what these spots say.
The closing animation without credits this is a concatenation of a couple of different versions of the closing.
Lots of trailers, each individually selectable. Madman have not repeated trailers on different discs, which is really good.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Now this is interesting. In Region 1 this series was released on four discs, with four episodes on the first disc, and three on each of the remaining ones. It was released way back in 2000, so their DVDs are a bit more primitive than ours. They get far fewer extras, but what they get is quite different from ours. They get:
They do get the TV Spots and Textless Closings that we get, but nothing else.
There was a Jubei-Chan Collectors Set released in mid 2003 in Region 1, but it looks like nothing more than the existing four discs repackaged (don't believe the Amazon entry which says there are only 2 discs in this set).
The Region 4 packaging is really neat. It's the size of a regular keep case, and looks like one. However, when you open it you find a flap in the middle with discs 1 and 2 on either side (disc 3 is in the normal position). This is a cool way to package 3 discs in one set. The cover slick uses similar artwork to the first disc in R1, which is the most attractive, and most appropriate
I think Region 4 takes the prize this time with what sounds like a somewhat better transfer, and neater packaging.
An entertaining series, released in a single burst so we don't have to wait (I really like that!). Very good DVDs, too.
The video quality is very good.
The audio quality is very good.
The extras are quite decent, and varied across the discs.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|