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"Shin-chan" Season 1 Part 1: Yo! Here's My DVD!

Japan has loved Shin-chan for over a decade. But until just recently, America was left out of the fun. Thanks to FUNimation and Adult Swim, though, U.S. viewers finally have had the opportunity to see the long-running domestic slice-of-life comedy. And now FUNi is releasing the series to DVD in thirteen-episode sets.

For those late to the party, here’s a brief synopsis. Shin Nohara is a five-year-old boy obsessed with the TV show Action Bastard, poop, and saying things he doesn’t understand. (And if said words didn’t go over his head, he should be embarrassed for everyone who has to hear them). He has loving but exhausted parents—homemaker Mitzi and lowly office worker Hiro—and a baby sister, Hima, who provides much of the “aww” in the show but nevertheless keeps unwittingly causing mayhem around the house. At school, Shin is friends with scaredy cat Maso; right-wing elitist Georgie; Penny, the daughter of an abusive father; and (literally) snot-nosed Boo. There’s also Ai, a new girl at school from a rich family who has the unrequited hots for Shin. There are other characters, but this is a good start.

One of the controversial things about Shin-chan‘s official American debut was the translation process. Extensive liberties were taken with dialog (such as inserting more adult humor and modern pop culture references, which stand the risk of getting dated quickly), and certain backstories were altered (such as Penny’s unseen abusive dad, which isn’t in the original version). So the Americanized show has its fans and its detractors: Some find the “punched up” tone a riot, while others are disgusted at the changes and feel the show continually tries too hard for laughs. However, you can put me in the former camp, mostly. I do feel the show is unnatural at times in its quest to make lots of racy lines (this has especially been true recently), but I’ve laughed enough times to forgive some forced, “too written” jokes. Besides, these first thirteen episodes offer a perfect balance. Not every single line is “jokey”, it doesn’t get tiresome, and the characters are also more likable because of that.

Anyway, these first thirteen episodes are pretty interesting. We get to hear the VAs before they had fully settled into their characters, and eight episodes in we are thrust head-first into a story arc when Shin accidentally blows up the house, forcing the Nohara family to temporarily relocate to a run-down apartment. It’s a cool arc and the change of scenery provides some variety, as we meet new neighbors, many of whom (like the scowling landlord) don’t take kindly to Shin’s childish antics. I grew attached to the tiny apartment like the Noharas did, which says something about the execution of said episodes.

Other memorable plots in this set include Penny and her mother striving to go cold turkey on beating up a giant stuffed bunny when they’re angry; Ai trying to secure her place as bride by buddying up to Shin’s family; a contest that has Shin and the gang coming up with a new special move to send to Action Bastard; and Mitzi having to deliver Shin to school on a bike—for miles—and then up an incredibly steep hill. There are also a few segments of “Ench-man”, starring the school principal whose secret alter identity is a superhero. They even gave a couple of segments to baby Hima, including a memorable one where she stacks items on the table and Mitzi freaks out because if they fall, the liquid in them will spill all over the folded laundry.

While I very much appreciate FUNi licensing this series in the first place, this volume 1 DVD has a couple of annoyances. First and foremost, outside of the Ench-Man segments, only the English audio is included. That barely makes this release any different from the Adult Swim airings, which doesn’t provide as much purchasing incentive for those who want to check out the original show. This is especially annoying, since for those thirteen minutes of Japanese audio, the subtitles to go along with it are (to my knowledge) the original words, not the re-written ones by FUNimation (for example, “The Pink Pussy” isn’t a sexual double entendre in Japanese). So it was fun to see what the characters were really saying. It would’ve been nice to have that for all the episodes, though.

In addition, the DVD is a strange mix of censored and uncensored material. The aforementioned “Pink Pussy” is uncensored, but there are other lines that are beeped. Isn’t the point of a DVD release to provide something uncut that you couldn’t see on TV? Fox released an uncensored Family Guy, and that arguably had worse language. I don’t know why FUNi thought we couldn’t hear a variant of “nipple,” especially since the box says “TVMA”, and especially since we hear some f-words in the outtakes.

Other than those vexing issues, the Shin-chan Volume 1 DVD is quality and provides a nice amount of special material. We get “From the Bowels of the Booth”, a ten-minute collection of alternate lines for the main characters, background voices (I love an alternate Rush Limbaugh parody, which considers global warming nonsense), and outtakes. Sadly, the outtakes don’t last very long; they only account for the last minute or so.

We also get cast auditions, which last anywhere from fifty seconds to three minutes per character. While it doesn’t include every character in the show, a lot of them are covered. My personal favorite was Chris Cason, trying out for the family dog, at an audition that consisted solely of barking and other such noises. It would’ve been interesting to hear other VAs who tried out for the various parts and lost; maybe those will be included in future volumes.

As I mentioned earlier, “Battle: Encho-man!” compiles the various Ench-man skits on the set into one 13-minute “episode”, and is the only Japanese audio to be found on the disc. It’s worth a watch if you want to hear how the characters originally sounded and get some unaltered dialog. Rounding things out, we get original storyboards and some trailers, including one for Shin-chan‘s second set. Video quality seemed fine, though it’s important to note that many of the segments in this volume are pre-digital, which means there are splicing issues that were common at the time, not to mention a less-than-crisp look.

Shin-chan became one of my favorites when it debuted in 2006, and for good reason: It stands out from the rest of the anime on Adult Swim by not only showcasing episodic, comedic plots instead of serialized, serious plots, but by taking the smallest minutia out of daily life and making them humorous. This release isn’t for purists or those who hate censorship in any form, but those who just want thirteen episodes and some fun behind-the-scenes material can’t go wrong here.

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