Episode 1: The Birth Of Yagyu Jubei II

Jubei-chan opens with a serious text narration about the rise of the Yagyu school of swordfighting, and the competition between the separate schools and the attempts to suppress and destroy other schools of practice. It ends on this grim and serious note: “TV should be watched at a distance in a well lit room.”

This is typical of the humor that runs throughout the show – juxtaposition, mile-a-minute dialogue and speedy visual shifts (though the recent Excel Saga makes Jubei-chan look positively conservative, though it sacrifices story in so doing). But discussing humor is hard, and so we’ll do as little of that as possible.

The story goes like this: Uber-swordsman Yagyu Jubei is struck down in his final battle, and he commands his samurai to find a successor and give to them his lovely eyepatch, which will imbue them with his powers. What is the master’s criteria? “Bouncy bon bon.” “Could you elaborate?,” the samurai asks, but it’s too late – Jubei is dead.

What’s less evident from the irreverent surface of the show is where exactly the heart lies, and that is all in the relationships between men and women; the focus in this particular episode are the unwanted and often unacknowledged attempts at connection made by men. Almost all the male characters introduced in this episode (and they are many) have a major element of their lives wrapped up in Jiyu – her dad, obviously, Bantaro and Shiro (who both fall in love with her at first sight), and Koinosuke, who selects her as the next Yagyu Jubei because she’s stacked.

It’s an odd thing, and I’ve even read one overheated commentator saying this related the series to kiddy porn, since it was focused on the physical attributes of a young girl. This misses the point. First, Jiyu isn’t designed or animated like a Faye Valentine-style sex kitten. Any titillation garnered from this character is the product of your own diseased mind, not the show’s. And when the camera does focus on her attributes it is always always always a male P.O.V. shot, not an objective fan-service shot. So the physique is important not in how the audience reacts to it, but rather for the characters in the show.

This might seem a little bit heavy in the analysis for what is ostensibly a goofy comedy, and it is. But I have a peculiar dilemma in writing this guide: Comedies are extraordinarily difficult to write about, since, just like pornography and horror movies, their success is dependent on a physical reaction – the show ain’t no good unless you laugh. But there’s no real great way to communicate humor in a review, and even explicating the methods is more difficult than in, say, a horror movie since it’s a more nebulous effect. And with a show like Jubei-chan, with sight gags and references so obscure I probably don’t know that I’m missing most of them, one’s better off just getting into the semi-pretentious subtext, since the text is nigh-on inexplicable.

Oh, and the fight scene is really cool.
Rating :

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com