Standards on what is acceptable and what is not in children’s entertainment is always a headache, at least in America. In Japan, standards tend to be far looser than out in the West. Jokes about sex and nudity and depictions of violence isn’t entirely forbidden, and there have been shows aimed at kids that featured nothing but sexual humor and violence.
In spite of that, those shows often get complaints from the Japanese PTA. One of the more infamous of those is Crayon Shin Chan.
“Shin Chan” refers to Shinnosuke Nohara, a 5-year old boy who can be described as a mixture of Dennis the Menace and Howard Stern. Shin would prove to be a nightmare to adults, having to deal with his love of “butt dance” and “elephant dance” (where he takes off his pants and shakes his penis in public). He is often seen checking out older girls, and is often caught reading his dad’s secret porn stash whenever he could. Part of his attitude likely stems from his father, Hiroshi, who has a taste for ladies himself. Shin (and, to an extent, his dad) are kept in check by Misae, his mother, who has no qualms bonking her son in the head whenever he misbehaves.
Few years into the series’ run, Shin gained a baby sister, Himawari (Japanese for sunflower). It’s hinted that Himawari is destined to follow her brother’s footsteps, in a relative way. The story of her birth was released simultaneously with the original comic and the anime in middle of 1996; her name was selected from a contest, where fans could submit names.
Shin Chan goes to Futaba Kindergarten, where he proves to be a nightmare to his teachers just as he is to his parents. Shin has a group of friends there: Kazama, Nene, Masao, and Bo.
Kazama is, by all accounts, the opposite of Shin. He is dressed neat, is polite, and is often depicted as the “intelligent” one. In spite of that, he is paranoid and is prone to having nervous breakdowns whenever something goes wrong, most of which is because of Shin’s antics. He has a secret interest in girls dolls and animation, which he hides from his friends (especially Shin) in extreme measures.
Nene, a red-haired girl who has a habit of playing “real house”, her version of the house game where arguments and divorces are common. She often blackmails her male classmates (including Shin) to play this game. Whenever she gets angry, she grabs her stuffed “Happiness Bunny” and takes out her frustrations by punching it repeatedly, a habit she picked up from her mother.
Masao is a meek one in the group, a scaredy cat who often gets bullied by bigger kids in the kindergarten. One of the running gag is that, whenever Shin comes to visit, he always mistakes the house across the street as his.
Bo is the slow one in the group, always seen with snot coming out of his nose. The rare times he talks, he is shown to be insightful, with worldly views and artistic interests.Later episodes introduced Ai to the kindergarten. Coming from an upper-class family, she is always seen with her bodyguard, whom she has no qualms blackmailing in order to do things her way. She is manipulative and is able to make other classmates do things her way, just because. All except Shin Chan, who is somehow able to resist her manipulative ways. As a result, Ai developed a crush on Shin and became determined to make him her boyfriend, which is enough to make him uncomfortable. Shin’s family shares his sentiment and does everything they can to avoid her, often without success. Nene in particular dislikes Ai due to the attention she gets.
Crayon Shin-Chan was created by cartoonist Yoshito Usui, first appearing in Weekly Manga Action in August 1990 (also the home of Lupin the 3rd a few decades earlier). Starting in 2000, the manga moved to Manga Town magazine, where it remains today. The anime version came out in April 13, 1992, courtesy of Shin’Ei Doga. Airing on Friday evenings after Doraemon, the show gained ire from Japanese PTA groups, accusing the show for encouraging kids to be rude, mimicking Shin’s behavior.
In spite of that, the show became a ratings hit, popular with kids as well as adults. The show is still airing today with new episodes. As of February 13, 2015, 851 episodes have been broadcast. Originally each episode was split into three short cartoons, but later episodes switched to the “two cartoon” format. In addition, there have been TV specials and a theatrical film made every year. The 23rd theatrical film is set to be released this April 18th.
Attempts to bring Shin Chan to English-speaking viewers have been made. Initially the show aired in Hawaii on KIKU-TV, airing with subtitles. Taped copies of that got spread around by fans, giving it a cult following. In 2002, Vitello Production, a Burbank based company run by Paul Vitello, bought the rights to dub the show into English. Voices for this version includes Kath Soucie (who voiced Shin), Russi Taylor, Grey DeLisle, Pat Fraley, Eric Loomis and Anndi McAfee. Despite being done in the US, it never aired in the country, instead being shown in the UK on Fox Kids. Below is one of the episodes dubbed by Vitello:
The English dub most people remember is the 2007-2011 Funimation dub. This version took many liberties to the script, opting to go for the “gag dub” format not too different from what Woody Allen did with What’s Up, Tiger Lily? The show’s already raunchy humor got amped up and most of the characters were given new personalities and story arcs in this version. This version aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. There were some arguments on whether the “gag dub” format ruined the show or not, but it proved to be well liked by most fans.
Shin Chan suffered a blow in 2009 when his creator, Yoshito Usui, was killed in a mountain climbing accident at the age of 51. The original Shin Chan manga continued until February 2010, when it ended. In August 2010, a new series, called “New Crayon Shin Chan”, began appearing in Manga Town, produced by Usui’s former assistants. This practice of continuing a popular comic by dead creators is not unheard of in the ‘States (think “Dick Tracy”, “Blondie”, and “Popeye”), although it’s unusual to do so in Japan; even the “Doraemon” manga ended after his creator died. The anime is still going uninterrupted, with no end in sight.