Jubei-chan thinks she's beaten all the bad guys and that she'll never again have to wear the Lovely Eyepatch and transform into the legendary Yagyu Jubei. She's wrong. 300 years ago, the original Jubei's daughter Felicia was frozen in ice after seeing him confront the leader of the renegade Northern Yagyu in Siberia. Now both sides are back. The Siberian Yagyu want revenge, while Felicia believes she's her father's one true descendant and wants to kill Jubei-chan and reclaim the Lovely Eyepatch.
Jubei-chan thinks they're silly.
True sequels are slightly unusual in anime. One sees quite a lot of apparent sequels, usually in the form of a second 13-part TV series coming hot on the heels of the first, but closer examination reveals that those shows were planned as a 26-part epic from the beginning. Moreover if an old franchise is revived, it's as likely to be a reboot as a sequel. However five years after Jubei-Chan: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch
, Akitaroh Daichi decided to return to the characters and wrote a new story for them. The result is impressively faithful to the original's story, characters, themes and surrealism. I love it slightly less than the first series, but it's a worthy continuation.
The main difference is that it's more serious. The first series spasmed in all kinds of bizarre directions, only grudgingly revealing the serious plot underneath the comedy. This sequel is more conventionally structured, keeping the same villains throughout and introducing its drama from the beginning. There's a fight scene in episode two as intense as the original's climax. One thing this sequel unquestionably does better is action. The final fight is awesome, but even before that there's an amazing chase-and-fight in episode seven where everyone jumps over a cliff and you'd think they were outrunning the speeder bikes in Return of the Jedi. Part four has a breathtaking chase sequence too.
The show's problem is that it can't be as surprising as the original. That show kept you permanently off-balance. You never knew what might happen next. However this sequel is following carefully in established footsteps and we know what to expect. It develops its themes further and never jettisons that balancing act of drama and comedy, but it's still reusing familiar characters rather than breaking new ground. It still has good stuff, though. Most importantly, it respects the original's tone and those indefinable touches that make something true, the kind of thing over which Hollywood so often rides roughshod when adapting pre-existing properties for the big screen.
As before, for instance, Akitaroh's pushing at one's expectations of animation. Some of his experiments are hard to like, such as the very occasional live-action clips or the deliberately ugly CGI character. My God, that was horrible. I liked the puppets, though. Such moments can be hard to get your head around, which is something you wouldn't get from most directors and which I grudgingly admire.
It's also funny, as is right and proper for a Jubei-chan sequel. There's a small gang of characters from the original who don't really have much to do but keep showing up for laughs anyway. The Siberia Yagyu are funny too. Akitaroh Daichi has fun with these losers who've carefully nurtured their hatred for 300 years and thus don't know about life in modern Japan, e.g. separating the garbage, what clothes should be dry-cleaned, etc. The show even has some impressively insane jokes, such as the talking animals in episode six or the harem parody when Jubei's papa is straining to write a romance story.
Oh, and Felicia's voice is annoying. Ignore people who call her Freesia, by the way. Such people are overloading on linguistic purism, transliterating the Japanese and ignoring the fact that the original's credits for the later episodes call the character "Felicia" in English.
My favourite aspect was the thematic development. Akitaroh Daichi is still obsessed with the father-daughter relationship, painting it as almost mystical. This time some surprising characters are shown to have spawned, giving us a generational gap and the children desperately trying to live up to what they remember of their parents. There's even a substitute family with Jubei, her papa, Felicia and Mikage. Oh, and mothers? Hah. Only two minutes into episode one, Akitaroh's already killed his first mum! However there's also a theme of identity, with Jubei and Felicia's samurai transformations being only the most obvious example. Jubei's papa is torn between ghostwriting his beloved samurai dramas and penning a teenage romance under his own name as Jubei wants him to. Which is his real identity? What does he want and why? Even Oozaru and Kozaru, the two monkey-like hooligans, have started studying and thinking about their futures.
What drives the plot is power. Jubei and Felicia are immensely powerful in their transformed states, but their attitudes to it couldn't be more different. Felicia wants the power of the Lovely Eyepatch. Jubei loathes it and would be happy to give it to her. Everything that Felicia sees as humiliation and failure is embraced joyfully by Jubei, with neither girl being capable of understanding the other's worldview. I love the fact that Jubei-Chan is still a series about invincible samurai and murderous 300 year old grudges, but nevertheless undercuts the testosterone at every opportunity and has a heroine who thinks duelling and swordfighting are just embarrassing and silly.
Oh, and there are three Kodocha references. You know, Akitaroh's finest hour.
I like the closing theme less than last time's. Amusingly that old theme is so blatantly superior that they bring it back for episode eleven and play it over the closing scenes instead of the new one. The incidental music is fun though, with some funky piano jazz in place of the original's extensive use of the rhythm section. I also like the fact that there's no romance. I like a good love story as much as anyone, but romantic subplots are often the first resort of lazy writers who can't think of anything more interesting to do with their characters. Akitaroh covered that ground in the first series. Jubei-Chan 2 is so clear about its themes that making its characters fall in love would have muddied the waters.
This show is impressive. Its comedy is funny and its drama has punch, with Jubei-chan having lost none of her horror of becoming Yagyu Jubei. The emotion is powerful and the action is strong. There's a bit where Jubei-chan's climbing up a castle wall to save her friend... yow ow ow. That's gotta hurt. As for all you weirdos asking if you could watch this without having seen the original - I'm sure you could, but why would you want to? It's a little less special than its predecessor, but it's still another winner for Akitaroh.