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"Shin-Chan" Season 3: Shinfully Hilarous

Ass dance! Ass dance! Shin-Chan is back after a three-year summer vacation, but not much has changed. Action Bastard has a new movie (where he says a dirty word); Shin’s aunt is going to visit for an extended time (recovery from an addiction to “brown brown”); Shin’s dad Hiro has to sell the knork (his company’s knife/spoon/fork); and a new recess teacher is hired at Shin’s Super Happy Fun Time American School (who wishes to burn all those beneath him … literally). It’s another batch of adventures for the inappropriate youth, and if things don’t shape up, it may be his last.

Shin-Chan is one of those dirty secrets of the animation industry. Much like FLCL and Super Milk-Chan, its humor is based on Japanese culture to an extent that it just doesn’t translate into American culture. With FLCL, appropriate references were changed to keep the spirit of the joke, such as comparing a forgotten Japanese idol singer to a forgotten American beverage, Crystal Pepsi. The intent’s the same, even if the reference is different. Super Milk-Chan mixed things up by having two dubs; one based on American references, and one that worked as a straight translation of the Japanese series (and bafflingly, the Japanese translation one was the one that aired on American TV).

Shin-Chan? Throw the script out; we’re Samurai Pizza Cats and Duel Masters-ing this series. Conceptually, the Japanese show is effectively their Simpsons, a long-running series about a family with a boy troublemaker. Obviously, the show is a success in Japan (one character in the English dub mentions “we’ll never run out, they’ve got like 600 episodes in Japan”), but as is, it just would fail to light the market on fire. While Shin-Chan doesn’t seem to be setting the market on fire in America (Adult Swim no longer airs it, and it took years for a third season to be produced), like the aforementioned dubs, it’s a magical creation. If you’ve seen it, you’ve either loved it or outright hated it. There’s not many people who are angry at the concept of the dub, creating its own universe and just using animation, on the basis that the scripts are just so good.

Shin-Chan‘s third season continues the show’s run of meta-humor. The first episode of the season makes jokes at the expense of Adult Swim, the former television home of the show. The last episode is nearly focused exclusively on the cancellation of the show, unless they can come up with some new characters or plot lines to improve ratings, referencing Leonardo DiCaprio’s addition to Growing Pains as inspiration. Meta humor can be polarizing; some would say it can’t stand on its own two feet, and therefore has to reference the works of others. Others say it’s more realistic, as our daily lives are shaped by the media, and making references to it comes natural.

Are these episodes good? Generally, yes. Given the number of plot lines in this season (three stories on average per episode, versus Dragonball Z‘s inability to fit one storyline in one box set), there’s bound to be a few hits and misses, but much like any series with this many stories by the same crew, it’s hard to separate one batch from another. These could have been in the first season (although they actively point out that the first six episodes sucked in-dialogue), these could have been from the second. Only a few vestiges of previous plot lines show up, and they’re usually explained and cleared up. Like South Park, the series is hilarious season in and season out.

No extras, coupled with the inability to provide a Japanese audio track, brings the value of the sets into question. While these episodes won’t air on Adult Swim, they’ll likely show up on the FUNimation Channel and streaming if they haven’t already. It’s a great idea to check out these episodes, but buying them on DVD is not necessary.

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