By Maria M. Rider
Juubei-chan, Lovely Gantai no Himitsu (Juubei-chan, Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch) is the newest anime from the creator of (Kodomo no Omocha (Child's Toy), Daichi Akitarou. The show started airing on TV Tokyo on the 5th of April at 1:15 am of this year and ran for thirteen episodes. Juubei-chan is about a young junior high girl named Nanohana Jiyuu, who finds herself in an odd predicament when she meets up with Koinosuke a young, yet three hundred year old samurai warrior.
As the mists of time clear, two samurai meet face-to-face amidst the natural setting of a forest where both are poised to fight. An inevitable sword fight ensues while Koinosuke, a loyal servant of Yagyu Juubei the elder of the two warriors, looks on worried about the outcome of the duel. Katana swords clash in a blaze of sparks and crafted metal against crafted metal as tensions increase. A final blow by Juubei sends his opponent to the ground, but all is not well as the battle has also taken its toll on older Yagyu. Koinosuke rushes his master back to his home. Yagyu does not have much time left and he mutters his last words to Koinosuke and hands him the Lovely Eyepatch. This eyepatch contains a power that will only work on a female of Yagyu's chosen bloodline and pass on his swordfighting power. Koinosuke asks his master how he will find this female. "Pocha Pocha de Purin Purin no Bon Bon," Yagyu says softly with his last dying breath. With his master dead, Koinosuke sets on his quest to find this chosen one. Unfortunately for him, it takes him three hundred years to do so, but all the while he continues to look as youthful as he did back then.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Nanohana Jiyuu, prepares to set off to her first day of school. Jiyuu and her father Sai just moved here from Tokyo. Jiyuu, knowing of her father's odd behavior, tells him to stay behind, but Sai will not accept that and chases after Jiyuu by foot. As they rush by, a group of three schoolboys, Bantarou, Oozaru, and Kozaru, look on in surprise, but only Bantarou says to himself, "Suki da" (I love you) Bantarou, seeing this pretty girl in distress, unknowingly beats up Jiyuu's father as she escapes. Bantarou is the leader of this gang and wears a boy's school uniform with two white circles with kanji on them on his front and back that change according to his mood. This is one of the common wacky things that Daichi Akitarou is known for. Fans who have seen Kodomo no Omocha know the madness within this man's mind, but it is a good madness.
Jiyuu finally gets away from her doting father and runs into a forest of bamboo trees. Puzzled by this, she pauses for a moment and runs into Ryujouji Shirou, a very handsome boy who also seems to be on his way to school. Jiyuu and Shirou almost speak simultaneously and introduce each other, but only Shirou suddenly speaks to himself, "Suki da," just like Bantarou. Jiyuu explains to Shirou that she likes to be referred to as Juubei-chan because her father has called her that for as long as she has known. With a few words and introductions, Juubei-chan and Shirou continue to school.
Shirou graciously shows Juubei-chan to the principal's office, so she can formally introduce herself and start her classes. There is a mild uneasiness and tension between the two before they go their separate ways. Juubei-chan enters the office and introduces herself, but unfortunately her father drops in just in time to embarrass Juubei-chan with his incessant praises. Finally, Juubei-chan's dad leaves and the principal brings Juubei-chan to her homeroom class.
Juubei-chan meets some of her new classmates like an odd pair of girls, Shouko and Sat-chan, who are not afraid to introduce themselves. Shouko is definitely from Kansai as she sports a Kansai dialect and Sat-chan is more the "straight man" to Shouko's wackiness as she mumbles monotonic words now and then. Juubei-chan completes her day at school and returns home. She rides back on her bike via the bamboo forest where she accidentally runs her bike into her father who is lying asleep under a bamboo tree. "Pocha Pocha de Purin Purin no Bon Bon," says a voice quietly as Juubei-chan stops in midstep to aid her father.
Suddenly from out of the bamboo trees steps a young boy who introduces himself as Koinosuke and begs her to fulfill his three hundred year quest to find the right girl and take this heart-shaped, red glass heart eyepatch to end his journey. After much imploring, Juubei-chan takes the eyepatch called the "Lovely Gantai" (Lovely Eyepatch) and puts it on her left eye. Visions fill her head of Yagyu Juubei, her friends, and a vision of a samurai woman that looks like herself. After a brilliant flash of light and a surge of power, the visions end, but Koinosuke now knows that Jiyuu-dono, as he calls her, is the chosen one. With that, Koinosuke literally dries up and poofs away into a nearby pond to which Juubei-chan screams in shock.
Juubei-chan, thinking of it as some odd fluke, tosses it back into the pond and to her horror Koinosuke, comes back to life and begs her again to take the Lovely Eyepatch. Suddenly, a swordsman in formal dueling garb steps out. He is Juubei-chan's homeroom teacher, and he challenges Koinosuke to a duel. Apparently, the teacher is also looking for the Lovely Eyepatch and with it, Juubei-sama. Koinosuke manages to put the Lovely Eyepatch on Juubei-chan, and she goes through a transformation into the present day reincarnation of Yagyu Juubei, Koinosuke's master.
Shocked by this, Juubei's teacher duels with her, and remarkably the sword techniques and abilities of Yagyu Juubei have been passed to Juubei-chan. Another duel ensues, and the power of the Lovely Eyepatch is definitely evident at the end. With the battle over, Juubei-chan and her new "servant" return home with even more adventures and battles ahead of them.
The first episode alludes to things yet to come such as the quiet Shirou who does not say much, but is definitely affected by Juubei-chan's presence. It looks to be an enjoyable series, and since it is only thirteen episodes, that makes it more collectable. The animation and art in this series is well done and pleasing to the eye minus some of the extreme facial expression by Bantarou or Sai. The music follows that of a mixture of regular present day background music and music more inclined to be heard in your better samurai anime like Rurouni Kenshin or Ninja Scroll. There is no opening song as of yet, but the ending song "Forever," sung by 1999 Bishoujo Group, is actually a very catchy tune. The series definitely echoes the feel of the ancient samurai type anime shows that precede it such as Rurouni Kenshin, because of the formalities of the duels, but it pulls the viewers back into the present when it is just Juubei-chan and not her counterpart.
There is a definite presence of popular seiyuu in Juubei-chan such as Konishi Hiroko (Nene in Bubblegum Crisis 2040 and Sae in Maho Tsukai Tai!) who acts stupendously as the fairly shy, yet strong lead, Nanohana Jiyuu. As Koinosuke, the versatile Okiayu Ryoutarou (Yuu in Marmalade Boy and Jinnai Katsuhiko in El Hazard) does a sort of exasperated, flustered Yuu voice in the show, but it is a great job nonetheless. As the irritatingly bold Bantarou, the popular Ueda Yuuji (Suboshi/Amiboshi in Fushigi Yuugi, Takeshi in Pocket Monsters (Pokémon), and Honoo in Master of Mosquiton) enlightens the role of the annoying Bantarou stricken with the loveliness of Juubei-chan.
Juubei-chan is a promising series that combines the popular ancient samurai element with present day junior high school mayhem and romance. Daichi has outdone himself this time with this new innovative series. Already out commercially on LD, DVD, and Video, the first volume has the first episode and the other four volumes will contain three. This author thinks this show's genre could be considered mahou shoujo (magical girl). The reasoning behind this is that it involves an object that allows the main female character to transform magically. Even though it lacks that "cute element" of the usual magical girls show, it is replaced with a "wacky, yet cool element," which is what makes Juubei-chan such a charming show. Definitely something to get for fans of samurai and wacky hijinks.
Vol. 2 LD: BEAL-1384 DVD: BCBA-0153 /
6000Y / 8.25.99 / 70 mins
Vol. 3 LD: BEAL-1385 DVD: BCBA-0154 /
6000Y / 9.25.99 / 70 mins
Vol. 4 LD: BEAL-1386 DVD: BCBA-0155 /
6000Y / 10.25.99 / 70 mins
Vol. 5 LD: BEAL-1387 DVD: BCBA-0156 /
6000Y / 11.25.99 / 70 mins