Episode 12: I Had Met A Daughter That I Never Knew

My complaints in the last guide were hardly specific to that episode at all, but rather discussed the distance the show puts between us and Jiyu. The same problem is prevalent here – Jiyu becomes Jubei and fights fights fights throughout the episode, and near the end we are informed that the eyepatch is too much for Jiyu’s little body. This is new. She has been tired in other episodes after becoming Jubei, but there was no indication that the tiredness had some long-term debilitating effect.

We know so little about Jiyu – there are no scenes where she is leading the action. She is almost entirely reactive. Those times where she shows initiative (conveniently flashed back in the previous episode) were pay offs with no plants. They weren’t necessarily out of character, but since her character is kept from us, they might have been. We don’t know.

We aren’t shown Jiyu’s struggle to rid herself of Yagyu Jubei but rather her father Sai trying to come to terms with his daughter’s secret. We have some emotional investment in Sai, because we know a bit of what makes him tick1 so his scenes have some resonance. However, the show isn’t called “My Daughter’s a Ninja Warrior”, so the focus on him is a little weird.

There’s an interesting visual gag where the two monkey-guys, Ozaru and Kozaru are finally given realistic character designs when dealing with a serious scene. This is problematic for me, too, since it is a very self-conscious move. Self-consciousness is antithetical to identification, since we have to notice it for it to have any effect – it has an intellectual impact, rather than an emotional one. Instead of creating a more serious and more involving atmosphere, the realistic character designs throw me out of the scene. I’m watching it rather than immersed in it. That isn’t a big deal, since Jubei-chan isn’t a series to take seriously (how ever much it may want me to here at the end), but it kills what could be an emotional scene by creating distance.

Jubei-chan‘s big flaw, in general, is the constant distancing effect. Since it follows the same arc as 98% of all anime comedies – start out wacky and then become a Bergman film as the series draws to a close – you can’t really see it as a conscious acknowledgment of the ridiculousness of the typical sudden self-seriousness of the show, since it explicitly practices what it would preach against. Anyhow, the main character isn’t deep enough or engaging enough to really feel too much for, so the attempt is given up. It doesn’t make the show bad, but it does make the last couple episodes a bit of a chore to sit through.

1This is why so much anime plays the dirty trick of the solitary psychological determinant – it gives you a reference point to the character’s actions. It isn’t a good catch all, as it is so often used exploitatively. ex.: Misato in Evangelion.

But Sai’s wife dying isn’t hyperbolic, and since it is coupled with a resultant estrangement from his daughter it becomes more powerful. Jesus, it’s like math, idn’t it? Makes you wonder why more good stuff isn’t written if it’s so easy.
Rating :B-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com