Crayon Shinchan is a gag manga about a cheeky five-year-old boy whose obsession with bodily functions, pretty girls, and his mother’s clothing tends to make life very interesting for his family, friends, and classmates. Though I haven’t read the earlier volumes in this series, I imagine volume 5 is pretty much more of what’s come before and what comes after: a collection of brief episodes characterized by spectacularly low-brow humor and cartoony, scribbly art.Make no mistake: this is not a manga for young children, even though the art style and main character’s age might lead some naive readers to that conclusion. The humor and references in this manga are aimed at a much older set. Shinchan’s age actually mostly serves to make his invariably transgressive behavior–which ranges from flashing random women to discussing his mother’s panties with her friends–acceptable enough to be comic rather than wholly creepy. Actually, I still find it a little creepy, but I recognize that I’m not the target audience. Not only is this a manga aimed at adults, it’s specifically targeted at adult men. This is particularly evident in the way the series treats adult women characters, especially Shinchan’s long-suffering mother. Though all of the other characters are pretty much targets for mockery, women tend to be the objects of Shinchan’s worst behavior.
As this review has probably already made rather obvious, Usui’s humor is not going to work for everyone. The jokes in this volume cover topics ranging from high leg cut swimsuits and poop to women’s breast sizes and panties. That list alone is probably enough to tell any reader whether he or she will find this series worth investigating.
Not surprisingly for a gag manga, the art style is unpolished and very cartoony. Those who read manga for gorgeous bishonen or kinetic action sequences are going to be pretty disappointed if they come looking for those things here. Backgrounds tend to be barely sketched in, if they are present at all, and there is little use of screentones, giving the art a very hasty and slapdash feel. It suits the subject matter and stories just fine, but there’s nothing in the art that will hook new readers on its own. This is a manga series with a single selling point–its particular brand of humaor–and it will attract or repel readers on that basis alone.
It’s difficult to give a fair rating to a manga that’s so clearly is just not designed to appeal to readers like me. Crayon Shinchan is not a work of high art, but it also was never meant to be. Readers with a taste for potty humor may want to check out this very long-running series, but anyone with tastes remotely like mine can probably safely give it a pass.
Review copy provided by CMX/DC Comics.
Review originally published on MangaLife.com