Crayon Shin-Chan is a very popular manga and anime series in Japan. It began in 1990 and is still ongoing. It also happens to be pretty strange. Even though the titular character is a five-year-old boy named Shinnosuke, he is not entirely the main focus. The series is about the whole Nohara family. Crayon Shin-Chan: The Hidden Treasure of the Buri Buri Kingdom only features Shinnosuke and his parents Hiroshi and Misae, but the manga also includes a baby sister and a dog.
The shared spotlight is unusual, but what makes the whole thing really strange is the humor. Shinnosuke, or Shin, may be five, but he seems pretty immature for his age. Partly, it’s due to the way he is voiced. He has a very dopey, slow voice, almost as if he is mentally impaired. He doesn’t speak so much as have mumbly outbursts. Mostly, he likes to pull down his pants and sing a song about either his butt or his penis, while waving one of them in people’s faces, until his parents panic and stop him.
Surprisingly, the anime television show has been translated into 40 languages and is popular around the world. It was broadcast on Fox Kids in the early 2000s. It must have been heavily edited, but it’s not just his little wiggling pecker that must have given the execs at Fox pause. Shinnosuke does not set a good example for little kids, or anyone. When he isn’t shoving his anus in people's faces, he is teasing everyone he meets, or throwing a tantrum because he wants something.
His long-suffering mother is trying her best to keep her chin up while managing the household. She often collapses from exhaustion, but when she rests, Shinnosuke sings a song about how fat her ass is and her being lazy. She often yells at him for this, and for a dozen other inappropriate behaviors, but he remains undeterred. The father goes to work each day, but when the family is all together, he joins the mom in mutual exasperation.
The show is a bit like The Simpsons, in that the son is at the center, but our attention is evenly divided across characters. I would guess that Crayon Shin-Chan owes a debt to Matt Groening and his TV show. Groening pioneered the dystopian family genre. He used Leave it To Beaver, The Brady Bunch, and The Cosby Show as straight men. Similarly, little Shin-chan’s appeal is his inappropriate and transgressive behavior.
Crayon Shin-Chan: The Hidden Treasure of the Buri Buri Kingdom was released in 1994. It was the second film in what would be a series of 32. The plot involves a nefarious group called The White Snake Gang who want to kidnap Shin. They want Shin because they have already kidnapped Prince Sunnokeshi, who is identical in appearance to Shin. Together, the two boys can be used like keys to unlock the ancient lost treasure of Buri Buri.
The result is a never-ending race where Shin and his parents, along with Sunnokeshi’s family, are either chasing or being chased by The White Fang Gang. It’s a standard adventure plot, except for a few odd flourishes. Two of the gangsters happen to be drag queens. Not much is made of that fact, it’s just an opportunity to add a little flair.
The plot is less important than the humorous situations it creates. Whenever there is danger and our characters are cornered, Shin just disrupts everything with a barrage of inappropriate questions, or his genitals.
Both the humor and the oddity of the film are reflected in the drawing style. Shin is anatomically impossible, with a mouth that can go from a tiny black speck to a gaping chasm that displaces his entire face. There is a kind of Picasso and/or Matisse flattening of the figures where we can see two or three angles at once. In many ways, the style defies typical anime conventions, but there is one typical trope it uses constantly. Anytime anyone is nervous, embarrassed, angry, aroused, or frightened, bright white drops of sweat appear somewhere on their head. It’s common in anime, but it goes way over the top in this film. You would think the whole thing was happening in India in July.
On first viewing, the movie feels odd and unpredictable, but once you get to know the characters, it all has a kind of internal logic. Crayon Shin-Chan: The Hidden Treasure of the Buri Buri Kingdom is the second movie in the series. After watching it, I decided to watch the first which was entitled Crayon Shin-Chan: Action Mask vs. Leotard Devil. It was also fun, but I prefer the second one.
The original manga was made by Yoshito Usui. He died at age 51 in 2009 when he fell off a cliff. He was a Jehovah’s Witness and would insist on spending the first 20 minutes of every meeting reading the Bible aloud. That must have been a blast.
Crayon Shin-Chan: The Hidden Treasure of the Buri Buri Kingdom was directed by Mitsuru Hongo. He is still alive and working. Jehovah chose to spare him. He’s made quite a few anime films, including several other Crayon Shin-Chan films (Hongo not Jehovah. Jehovah hasn’t made any films, not even a short). In total, there are 30 feature-length Crayon Shin-Chan films out there, and most of them are available for free on the net, so there’s no excuse. Better get watchin’.
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