Back when the slice-of-life anime comedy Shin-chan first aired, I loved it because it was vastly different than any other anime I had watched, especially considering what usually airs on Adult Swim (i.e. shonen action shows). I also greatly enjoyed the re-written, pop culture-heavy dub, which took extensive liberties with the original show. Generally I like dubs to retain the dialog of the original, but as Shin-chan is a sitcom, I gave FUNi more leeway with the vastly different interpretation (after all, comedy is perhaps the hardest to adapt for a foreign audience).
But the thing about gimmicks is, eventually they get old. Five-year-olds spouting vulgarities may have been amusing at one time, but now they just evoke sighs. As does the fact that certain characters are only defined by their gag dub shtick, such as Georgie, who spouts ultra-conservative rhetoric half the time; or Penny, who’s sado-masochistic cravings for her dad’s beatings is really tasteless. Even besides the gag dub, the original show has fairly repetitive bits, like only a handful of background music tracks (a pet peeve of mine; why not just go without music if you’re going to endlessly recycle?) and characters’ predictable reactions to Shin’s dirty and/or rude remarks.
This “third season” set is also dragged down by two story arcs which are depressingly unamusing: The first involves Mitzi’s drug addict sister, Bitzi, moving in with the Noharas and going through withdrawal while Hiro’s father, Gin, hits on her. As drug addiction isn’t inherently funny, I can’t say the skits did much for me, and Gin is the typical “old pervert” character I’ve seen way too much in anime. The other arc involves The Flamer, the new recess coach at the school, who is a schizophrenic and overly excited guy (read: no indoor voice) who randomly bursts into flames. He’s extremely unentertaining and has no chemistry with the kids.
That’s not to say the third season is a total loss. The set opens very strongly with two funny outings that mix things up by sending the characters to new locales. The Nohara family heads to the beach, where Hiro tries to flirt with a couple porn stars (much to Mitzi’s chagrin). And later, Mitzi takes Shin and his friends to the movies (due to losing a “rock paper scissors” bet), where hijinks naturally ensue. I also greatly enjoyed a skit with the school class competing in a swim meet, which had quite a few witty one-liners.
And while the gag dub isn’t fresh anymore, I did genuinely like the lampshade hanging present in many episodes, humorously breaking the fourth wall in self-deprecation. For instance, in the first episode on the set, Shin and his friends discuss going back to school, and mention that it’s been two years since they’ve done so (a reference to the length of time between FUNi’s Shin-chan DVD releases). Another time, Shin references something that occurred in the “second season”. In another outing, Shin’s teacher is confident that the plot will resolve in three minutes. And in yet another episode, Shin casually mentions how he doesn’t understand half of what he says, which basically sums up his whole character.
Speaking of time skips, the period between FUNi’s DVD releases also offered some amusing “character development” since we last saw everyone, with upper class snob Georgie becoming middle class due to the recession, and Penny’s allegedly abusive father stepping back into the picture (although he’s still an unseen character). Unfortunately, Ai is relegated to minor character status on this set, only appearing in a handful of episodes overall. (this is due to Ai in the original Japanese version transferring to a different grade school at one point; hence her slimmer appearances on this set).
The episodes in this season seem to come from later seasons of the original Japanese show, because only a few episodes into the set, the format switches to widescreen. Unfortunately, FUNi didn’t present these in anamorphic format, meaning the image is a letterboxed 4×3 image, resulting in a smaller picture. I’m not sure what the problem is; perhaps they aired this way and FUNi just worked with what they were given. At any rate, the letterboxing disappoints, as I thought we were past this by now.
Special features on the set are limited, with just FUNi trailers (including special trailers for the various Shin-chan DVD sets). No outtakes this time around. And I’m still miffed that the Japanese audio/subtitles aren’t made available; while Shin-chan wasn’t exactly a pure show in Japanese (heck, one of Shin’s trademark moves is the “ass dance”, which is worked into most every episode), the English dub cranked up the edgy humor to eleven. As such, I found myself distracted by imagining how much cleaner and more innocent these plotlines were in the original Japanese; for instance, one episode involved Mitzi, Shin, and baby Hima attending the mansion of an elderly couple. In the dub, the couple were turned into serial killer/cannibals, which I’m sure wasn’t the case in the original series. So, for comparison’s sake, I wish the Japanese version was included.
I can’t enthusiastically recommend Shin-chan anymore, as it’s become a bit too hit-or-miss and repetitive for my tastes, and the new characters introduced in this set didn’t do much for me. But I do still like the premise, which milks numerous plotlines out of its slice-of-life scenario, and there are still some dialog exchanges that work. That said, if these three seasons were all that FUNi ever released, I’d be satisfied.