published in Empire No.77, Sydney
American sequels appeal to a repeat culture, where the infantile demands of ‘play it again’ dictate how close the sequel attempts to honour its origins. Anime sequels veer more towards revision, re-invention and flagrant reworking. Far from diluting the original, they keep the original intact by playing with the original’s form and tone. Jubei-Chan 2 is a particularly bold exercise in sequelisation.
Fantastically extrapolating what appeared to a conclusion in the first series, Jubei-Chan 2 replays the original’s basic premise. According to the laws of reincarnation and blood heritage which control the universe of anime, highschooler Jiyu possesses the spirit of Jubei Yagyu– Japan’s most mythic master swordsman from the Edo period. Back then, he headed a clan embroiled in battle with an opposing clan, and of course the spirits of these raging combatants have refused to die. Jiyu dons the Lovely Eye patch which transforms her into a spunky girl version of the masterful Jubei. This alone is a radical re-invention of the Jubei legend for anime, so any sequel is bound to extend things further – and that’s exactly what Jubei-Chan 2 does.
Jiyu thinks things have returned to normal, but now the actual daughter of Jubei has been reincarnated as transfer student Freesia. She too retains a mystical eye-patch, and has returned not only to keep the fight going against the still-existing 300 year old clan spirits, but also against Jiyu whom she considers the fake ‘Jubei Yagyu 2’. So the suffix ‘2’ in this series has deliciously multiple meanings.
While peppered with some of the most amazing swordplay committed to anime (and that’s a swag of high-calibre work), Jubei-Chan 2 mostly revolves around Jiyu’s refusal to continue being the vessel for centuries of hatred and revenge. This tinges the series with a widening sadness that plays havoc with viewers’ emotions – especially when other characters are simultaneously engaged in riotous send-ups of anime, Japanese history, folkloric narratives and visual conventions.