I’ll tell you, chibi’s far more tolerable - - delightful, even - - when the whole show’s super-deformed from the beginning. See, as of yesterday, VIZ is bringing subbed episodes of ROCK LEE & HIS NINJA PALS to the English-speaking world via its own anime website and Hulu. Just like it is with SHONEN JUMP ALPHA, the gaps between these online debuts and their Japanese airdates have been shrunk to shockingly-brief two-week periods.
(So, we can only imagine how much coffee’s being drunk by the translation team now that they’ve got to bring these ditties to you ever-demanding otakus at such a breakneck pace.)
ROCK LEE & HIS NINJA PALS, as you might surmise, is a NARUTO spin-off that shrinks the infamous ninja imitator down to pint size for sitcom-style shenanigans. I checked out the brand-new first episode for myself and it might as well be spun as the… like… MUPPET BABIES version of the Ninjutsu juggernaut. Rock gets into quaint little adventures with his titular pals, Tenten and Neiji that are each started, explored and resolved within ten minute portions that are so evocative of such Saturday morning programming that I was half-expecting Hulu to advertise Fruity Pebbles to me during the breaks.
And believe it, brother - - that’s a good thing. I was grinning the whole time I was watching this. Half #1 sees Rock repeatedly dodging doggie doo to thwart an utterly-adorable extortion racket through the use of his extreme “depantsification” jutsu. Half #2 has him getting “put over” by his bitter rival, Naruto, when the two compete for a seriously thrifty voucher at a market.
The humor’s as juvenile as jokes on popsicle sticks, and that’s honestly the charm of it. It also makes plenty of tongue-in-cheek, fourth-wall-breaking gags about where it came from that I appreciated a lot since I’ve never delved that deep into NARUTO (ewwww) and have better understood Rock Lee as simply the favorite subject of message board gifs a few years back.
Plenty of fun to bring me back next week, in simpler terms. Go on and watch this episode here and decide for yourself.