Length: 105 minutes
Director: Wataru Takahashi
Cast: Yumiko Kobayashi, Tamao Hayashi, Mari Mashiba, Teiyu Ichiryusai, Chie Sato, Ryou Hirohashi
Language: Japanese with English and Chinese subtitles
In theatres 9 September (Singapore)
4 out of 5 stars
In Crayon Shinchan The Movie: School Mystery! The Splendid Tenkasu Academy, Shinnosuke Nohara (Yumiko Kobayashi) and his friends embark on a one-week stay at an elite boarding school, Tenkatoitsu Kasukabe Private Academy, or Tenkasu for short. Administrated by a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, Tenkasu seems like an ideal school, until Toru Kazama (Mari Mashiba) is attacked by an unknown enemy. As Kazama’s intelligence is reduced, Shinnosuke and his friends team up with the student council president Chishio Atsuki (Ryou Hirohashi) to form a group of detectives to find the culprit.
Having only watched the Crayon Shinchan TV series before, my impression of the show is that it's a light-hearted, hilarious cartoon. But this latest movie instalment — this is actually the 29th film of the series, with one released every year since 1993 — totally changed this impression.
To begin with, the plot is fairly intriguing, although not entirely original. It introduces an elite school that rewards achievements and punishes bad behaviour through a point-based system. This discrimination, masked by the amusing nature of the Crayon Shinchan series, is so horrible that the higher-rank students enjoy restaurant-like service during meal times in school, while the lower-rank students have to fight for bread.
What's more interesting is that the movie brings up a number of social issues. Apart from highlighting the boons and banes of a point-based system, it also touches on accepting yourself for who you are, enjoying your youth when you should, and the use of artificial intelligence. It is definitely not something you would expect from a supposed children’s show, much less a comical one.
Moreover, possibly due to sufficient screen time, as opposed to a 5-minute story in the TV series, the movie made sure to give each of Shinnosuke’s friends a relatively bigger part to play. Kazama is the one who initiated the one-week stay; Nene Sakurada (Tamao Hayashi) becomes the chief of the group of detectives; Masao Sato (Teiyu Ichiryusai) goes undercover to find more clues; and Bo (Chie Sato) gets close to a possible suspect. It is refreshing to see more sides to these characters, who are generally more insignificant in the TV series.
Don’t expect the movie to be a true blue detective show – the mystery still gets solved eventually, but it is not exactly due to logical reasoning or strong inferencing skills. The resolution serves more of a comedic purpose, which is more in line with the nature of the Crayon Shinchan series.
All in all, this Crayon Shinchan movie is an unexpectedly great film that has multiple messages for you to bring home. It is equal parts funny, fun and meaningful.
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