Saturday, February 25, 2006

School Rumble

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Parental Guidance Recommended
2005 Jin Kobayashi, Shinji Takamatsu, Marvelous Entertainment, Media Factory, Sotsu Agency, Starchild Records, Studio Comet

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Everything School Rumble Product Description:

She . . . is a second-year high school student with a single all-consuming question: Will the boy she likes ever really notice her?

He . . . is the school’s most notorious juvenile delinquent and he’s suddenly come to a shocking realization: He’s got a huge crush, and now he must tell her how he feels.

Life-changing obsessions, colossal foul-ups, grand schemes, deep-seated anxieties, and raging hormones–School Rumble portrays high school as it really is: over-the-top comedy!

(26 Episodes)

A typical High-School Romance Comedy... NOT! >>> by lensman
At first glance, School Rumble seems like a fairly typical School-Romance show. You have the high-school setting: you have the girls, the boys, the crushes... All the elements that define the genre are here. And yet... yet, something is very, very different. School Rumble takes all the recycled ideas and concepts and twists them in a way that they are fun again!

If nothing, School Rumble is a parody of the old High-School comedy genre. Several clich├ęs and concepts that we have watched and got tired of over the years of watching anime are turned on their head. And not just Romance Comedies. Nothing is safe! Movies, other anime series, Japanese pop culture elements are ridiculed beyond belief. Indeed, part of the fun of School Rumble is going "now where have I seen THAT before" and laughing when it hits you.

However I should point out that School Rumble is not JUST a parody show. It is not Excel Saga, where the jokes are being hurled your way at an ultra fast rate and you get sick of watching the show after the tenth episode. One of the major accomplishments of School Rumble is that despite the send offs and the hilarity, there is a sense of cognity and cohesion as well as some great character development that makes the viewer care about what happens to them and keeps you coming back for more.

Take the protagonist, Harima Kenji, for example. At first glance, Harima is the stereotypical "punch-first-talk-later" delinquent and that's how he acts in the start of the show. Then he falls in love and decides to change his ways. It is a story that we have seen loads of times in anime over the years, but School Rumble adds a few surprising twists. The first twist is that the girl he loves, Tenma, is not an ultra-babe. She is cute, sure, but nothing special especially when you compare her to the other girls of the show. She is good-hearted but so dumb that even Harima realizes at some point that she is stupid. Just the fact that a guy like Harima falls in love with a girl like Tenma is, in itself, comical.

During the run of the show Harima does what he can to win her over and confess his love to her, but every time he gets close to doing so, something happens and everything falls apart, setting him back at square one. The funny thing is that, as he goes through his misadventures, several other more attractive and smart girls are becoming more interested in him, but he doesn't care because he loves Tenma whole-heartedly. You can see how the protagonist is a refreshing change from the usual.

Not just the protagonist, but every character is School Rumble is a gem. As the show progresses, more and more people enter the fray and the focus shifts from the Harima-Tenma Relationship (or lack thereof) even though it remains as the show's core. As the cast of characters slowly increases, the relationships between them become more complicated. And yet, the show never becomes confusing and every new character that arrives, like a good spice, adds a little bit of extra flavor and depth to the show.

To tell any more of School Rumble's plot would spoil the fun for you. I will however say this... It is one of the best written comedy shows that I've seen in years, with some of the best developed characters I've encountered in Japanimation.

Now lets move on to the more technical aspects... The graphics and the animation...

What would a good School Romance Comedy be without plenty of fan-service? With a plot focused on love relationships, School Rumble must be full of panty shots and weird camera angles, right?


In what is fairly untypical of the genre, School Rumble doesn't feature any kind of fan-service. That's right. Nothing, nada, zip, unless you count a couple of episodes with girls dressed up in swimsuits, but even Azumanga Daioh had those, so it doesn't count. You DO get to see Harima's posterior at some point in the show, but I don't know if it really counts as fan-service. One of the biggest in-jokes inside School Rumble is that you repeatedly go, "They are gonna do it! They are gonna do it!" you think a shot will feature fan-service, and you end up getting nothing.

Despite, or because of, the complete lack of fan-service, School Rumble is highly erotic series. The girls, yes even Tenma, are absolutely beautiful and captivating, and despite the fact that they never really show anything, they exude a sexiness and sassiness that you don't see very often.

The animation of the show, throughout all of the 26 episodes, is absolutely amazing and consistent in quality. The animators aren't even afraid to experiment with puppets and 3D CGI in order to give the audience a good gag. And when an old show is being parodied, the animation quality even changes in order to be more close to the feel of the original show. Never once in the show does the animation become awkward and bad.

The show's music is another factor that adds more to its overall quality. Both opening and closing themes are extremely catchy and you will find yourself humming or whistling them unconsciously if you are not careful. The series' score is also very good, containing not only some very good instrumental music, but also some great parodies of well known anime tunes.

The voice cast is doing, in overall, a great job. Takahashi Hiroki is absolutely hilarious as Harima Kenji. His serious and at times overly melodramatic tone makes his character a delight to listen to. Horie Yui is also very good as Sawachika Eri, the spoiled blonde school princess, and at times you get the feeling she was born to play the part.

To heck with it... All the voice actors were great and had me in stitches. Tenma's voice actress Yoshimizu Ami DID irritate me at times, but that was mostly because Tenma is supposed to be annoying.

So to reiterate... School Rumble is refreshing change of pace, a wonderful parody of the high school love comedy genre, that brilliantly sends off other anime series, movies and Japanese pop-culture. If you are looking for something different and funny, then this is the show for you. Watch it and find out exactly how fun High-School life can be.

NOTE: The manga has been licensed by Del Ray and the first volume should arrive pretty soon. Knowing the depth of research and dedication that Del Ray puts into its releases, the translation quality will be top-notch with plenty of good translation notes (even though I doubt they will top the Kappa translation note that the Yanime Scanlation had). I highly recommend you pick it up! The anime is being distributed by Media Factory which plans to bring it overseas, probably to coincide with the release of the manga. As of this writing, a scheduled second season of School Rumble will premiere in April. I can hardly wait!

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 10; Characters 10; Sounds 9

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