Anime Vice News

ROCK LEE & HIS NINJA PALS #1 - - Special Review

The NARUTO spin-off arrives, just two weeks after airing in Japan, and it makes a strong case for chibi.

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.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

sickVisionz moderator on April 18, 2012 at 1:35 p.m.

I'm surprised you could stomach this garbage. Mitsudomoe, Pani Poni Dash, Hayate no Gotoku, Squid Girl, Zettai Karen Children, and others are more up my line for goofy gag comedies. I just didn't find anything funny about this series at all.

Top8caton April 18, 2012 at 2:26 p.m.

I guess anythings better than the filler fest thats become Naruto

FoxxFireArt moderator is online on April 18, 2012 at 2:57 p.m.

I remember checking out some of the chapters when the manga version first started in Japan. I go a few chuckles out of it, but don't really think it really needs to be it's own anime series. These would be better as omake's at the end of NARUTO SHIPPUDEN episodes or attached the the DVD volumes.

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.

The way the ONE PIECE manga is currently being released and the anime are in a really weird synch. I was noticing this last night while watching the latest episode. In Japan, the anime is basically a year behind the manga. A few years back, the anime switched to a format of one chapter equals one episode. Since the manga being published in the U.S. is about a year behind what is out in Japan. It creates this pattern of the anime playing on FUNimation's site, then the manga of these very events is published in the U.S. just about the time that arc has wrapping up.

As an example. The events in the episode that FUNi streamed Sunday will be in the volume that's going to be in the manga that is being released for the States this July.

I do think it was incredibly impressive when VIZ upped their publications of the manga volumes of many of their series to be closer to Japanese versions. It's just strange that NARUTO has been the victim of many of their most atrocious story and art edits, but ONE PIECE is left almost virtually alone (with the exception of the Skypiea Arc). Not sure about BLEACH since I never really followed it's U.S. version in any real length.

Petiewon April 18, 2012 at 4:19 p.m.

I don't really like Naruto, I have a feeling I won't like this either so giving it a miss!

Lurkeroon April 18, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.

I haven't watched the episode yet but I dislike chibi in serious cartoons. I wonder if they go chibi in this cartoon so that it somehow is still annoying.

sickVisionz moderator on April 18, 2012 at 5:54 p.m.

@Lurkero said:

I haven't watched the episode yet but I dislike chibi in serious cartoons. I wonder if they go chibi in this cartoon so that it somehow is still annoying.

There is nothing even remotely serious about this cartoon.

Lurkeroon April 18, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.

@sickVisionz said:

@Lurkero said:

I haven't watched the episode yet but I dislike chibi in serious cartoons. I wonder if they go chibi in this cartoon so that it somehow is still annoying.

There is nothing even remotely serious about this cartoon.

I was going along with Tom's comment about chibi being tolerable if its the purpose of the show. In other shows where chibi is supposed to be a joke I do not like.

If they manage to make characters in this cartoon go chibi then it would be like double chibi and doubly annoying.

AURON570on April 18, 2012 at 8:49 p.m.

I'm glad I already tried watching the first episode then decided to stop watching it. To save me from reading this article and going "oh, Tom thinks it's funny, maybe I'll go check it out" just to be disappointed.

Stay away from this one, there are much better anime for laughs.

Darokion April 18, 2012 at 8:50 p.m.

@sickVisionz said:

@Lurkero said:

I haven't watched the episode yet but I dislike chibi in serious cartoons. I wonder if they go chibi in this cartoon so that it somehow is still annoying.

There is nothing even remotely serious about this cartoon.

And I think that's why I'm enjoying it more than I'd have expected to. Guilty pleasure for sure, but it's nice seeing Naruto not take itself so damn seriously after years of people taking Naruto so damn seriously. :)

takashichea moderator on April 19, 2012 at 2:33 a.m.

1st episode was trash, but the 2nd one is pretty funny. The kiddies will love the show with its mindless slapstick and chibi stuff.

Avatar the Last Airbender shorts used chibi perfectly, and most people loved it. Rock Lee is not up to its level.

sickVisionz moderator on April 19, 2012 at 4:27 a.m.

@Daroki: Naruto or not, I prefer my comedies to actually be funny. Just a personal preference.

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This is a spinoff series of the Naruto franchise that revolves around Rock Lee and his friends.

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