Crayon Shin-chan is a manga series that ran from August of 1990 to July 10, 2010 exactly eleven years ago as of this writing. The series should’ve ended with the death of its author Yoshito Usui after he went hiking at Mt. Arafune in Gunma but his staff decided to continue on until the original manga’s end. The manga series lives on under the name Shin Crayon Shin-chan.
The manga follows the day to day adventures of the Nohara family, specifically Shinnosuke Nohara, a naïve and naughty five-year-old who always causes trouble to whoever he’s around with. Hijinks ensues. It was then adapted to an animated series two years later and said anime series is still ongoing ever since.
The animated series had three directors during its run: Mitsuru Hongo from the start of the series until 1992-1996, Keiichi Hara from 1996 to 2004 and Yuji Muto who handles directing duties up to the present day. Since the series has already gone past the 1000-episode mark and most of the show is episodic in nature, I watched an episode each from each decade from the 1990s up until the present, that being 2021. There will be two episodes from the 2000s because between 2005 and 2006, the series moved to 16:9 widescreen.
The episodes and their air dates:
- Episode 34: January 18, 1993
- Episode 370: August 25, 2000
- Episode 565: May 12, 2006
- Episode 815: October 25, 2013
- Episode 1089: July 03, 2021
Visuals: For the modern anime watcher, they might be turned off by Crayon Shin-chan’s visuals but long time fans will surely find some charm in the art style presented in this anime.
I would say that the art style from 2005 onward would be the best one because it’s a mix of the much more rounded art style present in the early episodes of the show than the much more angular and much sharper edges present in episodes from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. The animation styles would change from time to time if you have sharp eyes and this is evident with some characters, case in point: Shin-chan’s parents: Hiroshi and Misae.
The scenery images can look similar with the 2005 iteration of Doraemon that you might confuse one with the other. I would say that they differ to the color choices as KureShin uses a more simple variations of colors than Doraemon ’05 does and there’s no kind of washed out effect on buildings on this one.
Sound: The soundtrack they used in 1992 is still the same soundtrack they still use in 2021 and that’s something you don’t see with lots of anime, especially those that run for more than two seasons nowadays. In fact, Toshiyuki Arakawa did a great job of capturing the feel of Kasukabe with his compositions that it makes you yearn for the not exactly the countryside but more of the modernized province that we tend to see nowadays.
I would put in the voice dubbing here and I would say that unlike it’s contemporaries The Simpsons and Chibi Maruko-chan, nobody from the core cast sounded out of character (sorry fans of the Andrew E. dub) although the same can’t be said with the main character’s voice itself and age doesn’t play a factor here since for one, Yumiko Kobayashi is just 42 years old and Akiko Yajima, Shin-chan’s first voice actress, is just 54.
I believe it has something to do with the direction the show is going in to (we’ll talk more about that later) but the change from a surly five year old to a regular five year old was great, the change from a regular five year old to an effeminate man in a child’s body just kind of weirded me out (and it’s something that Funimation did with their gag dub years ago too and somehow made me hate the Funimation version because that and the fact that they have to rewrite the script a la Ghost Stories to make it “Americanized”, just plainly sucked. Sorry Laura Bailey fans.)
The opening and ending theme songs are some of the most memorable songs that I know of. In fact, I can still remember some of the ending and opening songs from the series from the top of my head. Let me say this though, “Ora wa Ninkimono” is the most overplayed song in the history of the series. I understand that whatever the Japanese equivalent of “a 90s kid” is grew up on that song but it just gets annoying after a while.
I am quite confused as well as to why they eliminated the ending theme song on original broadcasts (unless they’re promoting another Shin-chan movie, they would use the movie’s theme song) and then they would use the ending theme song from 2012 on reruns. Are they saving time so that they can lead up to the next program? Probably.
Structure and Pacing: This is where I would compare the styles of the three directors to the “best” of my ability because at the end of the day, Crayon Shin-chan is a slice of life manga and so they can’t stray away too much from what the author intended (the movies and spin-offs though are a different story and I won’t be focusing on those) and I will be referencing some episodes that I didn’t mention in this review because I am a long time fan of the show and it’s kind of part of my weeb journey, if there is one.
Although there’s some absurd humor throughout the show’s 29 year run, I would rank Keiichi Hara’s late 90s-early 2000s run as peak Shin-chan as this, for me, is where the show found it’s rhythm and felt like Japan’s answer to The Simpsons or the first three seasons of Family Guy. It’s not that I don’t like the Hongo and Muto runs of the show but to me, this is where the show is at it’s most grounded to it’s slice of life roots and that it really fleshed out it’s characters that they’re not just one-dimensional set pieces.
Case in point, the Kasukabe Defense Force aka Shin-chan and his friends. Tooru Kazama isn’t not just the genius in the group and a know-it-all, he’s also a giant mama’s boy and a fan of a magical girl show in the Shin-chan universe that I can’t remember the name of. Nene is a mini version of her mother in this run, and Bo-chan has some flashes of “intelligence” not that present with five-year-old kids. Masao is still Masao though but him and Nene share this dynamic of being the guinea pig of whatever the hell is Nene planning with whatever version of “the real playing house” she subjects the boys to.
One “negative” that I can point out with the Hara run is that it’s in his helm that the anime sort of diverted from it’s seinen manga roots. For those who haven’t read the manga or saw the Mitsuru Hongo episodes, Crayon Shin-chan was written with older teens and young adults in mind and with that connotation, you would expect the show to be more like Family Guy than The Simpsons.
However with the big ratings every Friday at 7:30 PM, TV Asahi maybe decided to reach out to a much wider audience and with that, Keiichi Hara put on the kid gloves and made it more or less “family friendly”. That is why the “zou-san” dance was replaced with the “buri buri” dance. This could also be why Shin-chan’s voice underwent multiple changes because in the early episodes, he really sounded like a disrespectful punk whereas since the 2010s, he’s sounding more akin to a effeminate clown.
I would say that Mitsuru Hongo’s run is more akin to the first two seasons of the Simpsons wherein they are still adapting the first few chapters of the manga and still trying to find it’s footing and this is Shin-chan at it’s most adult humor based as on one for the early episodes, Shinnousuke mistook a traveling sales lady for a transvestite and the first thing he asked is “where’s your penis?”. The Yuji Muto run has it’s great moments like the introductions of Misae’s lazy younger sister Musae staying with them and the Noharas getting smartphones and for a while but what I would mostly attribute the Muto run with absurdity.
Yuji Muto is the one behind “The Rabbit Who Gets Punched” mini-arc wherein the rabbit stuffed toy the Sakuradas use as a punching bag comes to life and also episode 1089’s third segment where Shin has transformed to being a sock. This isn’t as absurd as modern Family Guy cutaway gags but some of the Muto episodes can go into the Crayon Shin-chan movie plot territory wherein the supernatural can happen along side the “real-world” universe.
The show,just like the manga, is episodic in nature with some mini-arcs along the way. Unlike other episodic anime though, each episode is composed of either three seven minute shorts or two fourteen minute ones as commonly seen with episodes from the mid 2000s to late 2010s.
I would say that this episode structure kind of works in favor of the series because the manga chapters are just five pages whereas in a manga like Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, this episode structure can be a hit or miss because of how the manga is written and with 13 -15 pages of story, putting three chapters into a single episode might do some harm because once the anime catches up with the manga, they would have to rely on filler material and sometimes filler can be a hit or miss as well.
Overall: If you’re into binge watching anime, I would not recommend this to you because for one, you will never finish sitting through 1089 (or 1090 if this review comes in after the next episode airs today) episodes and not only that, if you’re not into watching anime episodes without any English subtitles, don’t expect the new episodes to be subbed quickly because there’s little to no demand for this show in English-speaking countries.
If you’re Filipino and you loved the Andrew E dub, you may want to give the later episodes a try but be warned about the lack of English subtitles or even a Tagalog one. Also, Kobayashi and Yajima might cause you to not enjoy the series more because Shin-chan in Japanese, sounds like an old lady to the untrained ear and that can take you out of your nostalgia.
If you’re into shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy AND can understand a little bit of Japanese, I would definitely recommend this series to you. It’s a lot like The Simpsons or at least seasons 1-4 of Family Guy in terms of it’s humor and it’s a bit refreshing considering what both Simpsons and Family Guy have become in recent years.