I am a 55-year-old fan of a Japanese children’s cartoon called Crayon Shin-chan. I’m not sure how I got here, but there is no use denying it. I’ve come to enjoy the perverse, little world of Shin-chan and his family, but nothing prepared me for the 24th movie in the Shin-chan series, called Crayon Shin-chan: Fast Asleep! The Great Assault on Dreamy World!
I hardly know where to begin. For those who are unfamiliar with the Crayon Shin-chan series, it is a popular television anime about the Nohara family. There is Hiroshi, the father, his wife Misae, their 5-year-old son Shinnosuke, his infant sister Himawari, and the family dog Shiro. The anime began in 1992 and was based on a manga from 1990. The whole thing has always been very weird. Little Shin-chan has an obsession with his butt and his penis. Conversations with Shin often end up with him pulling down his pants and wiggling his anatomy around. Sometimes, he sings a song about how long his “elephant trunk” is, or how big his butt is. He also talks a lot about how big his mother’s butt is. Anime is a quirky world with many oddities, but Crayon Shin-chan: Fast Asleep! crosses a line. I’m not exactly sure what kind of line, but it crosses something.
I can’t imagine what the writers were thinking. The film is a dark psychodrama about nightmares, desire, and death. It’s not a metaphorical lesson about loss. It directly depicts the screaming terror of a hellish dream-world where a little girl is pursued by her dead mother.
First, you need to understand the premise which, like most Shin-chan cartoons, is pretty convoluted. One of Shin’s new classmates is a little girl named Saki. When she was very small, she was in an accident. Her mother and father were research scientists working on a project about dreams, and at a critical moment in a dangerous experiment, little Saki found her way into the chamber where some kind of unstable reaction was unfolding. When her mother saw her, she rushed in to protect her. There was no time to escape, so the mother curled around her daughter and took the brunt of the explosion. As a result, Saki’s mother died.
Saki now blames herself, and as a result, she is plagued by nightmares where her mother takes on all sorts of horrifying forms and tries to eat the now five-year-old Saki. To save his daughter from these nightmares, her father makes a giant machine that broadcasts a signal, transporting everyone within its reach to a dream world where anything is possible. Once there, anyone can indulge their heart’s desire, but as they revel in their fantasies, the father sends giant, evil teddy bears to suck up the positive energy generated by the happy dreams. Once the dream is drained, the dreamer is swallowed by a giant killer koi and transported to a colorless world of darkness, where they will be tormented by whatever upsets them most. I suppose it’s a little like Monsters Inc. if it had been written by Wes Craven, or maybe Ingmar Bergman.
There are some truly horrific images in this movie. Saki’s mother transforms into some really creepy stuff. When Shin-chan and his friends are battling her, one child turns himself into a stone and smashes down on her from a great height. The collision results in a huge nuclear bomb-style mushroom cloud. All the little Japanese children are thrown to the ground and cower as the explosion tears through their world and envelops them.
In another scene, one of the children is sucked into the nightmare world and is scooped up by a zombified version of his mother. She pulls down his pants and begins to mechanically spank him. They just stand there in a colorless world while she mindlessly spanks him over and over again. His little rear end turns bright red while he screams in pain and begs for mercy. When Shin stumbles across them, he looks at the desperate boy and says, “I didn’t know you were into that.” For a five-year-old, Shin is very sexual, in his own perverse little way. None of his peers have any sexual thoughts, but when Shin gets the opportunity to create his fantasy world, it consists of his favorite female teacher kneeling in a sunny meadow while Shin rests his head in her lap. Shin groans with delight while she uses a Q-tip to clean out his ears.
When Shin has to fight someone, it always involves him clamping onto them with his butt cheeks, or trying to smother them with his anus. Of course, there is a lot farting, too, but that is not as uncomfortably sexual. You can buy a night light of Shin-chan’s ass that will stick out of the wall socket like a little peach. I mean, what the fuck is that?
The film was written by Hitori Gekidan, a popular comedian in Japan. He was sort of a guest writer, which perhaps explains the bizarre shift in tone. It was directed by Wataru Takahashi, who has directed several other Shin-chan movies. It did very well upon release in 2016, but I’m guessing it gave a lot of kids some serious nightmares. Maybe that was intentional! Maybe it’s a meta-narrative, and Gekidan is secretly harvesting his audience's fear. I don’t know, I can’t explain why this movie was made, but it’s a strange and scary ride. I would never show it to a 5-year-old.
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