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Get Ready To "Rumble"! An "Extra Class" Worth Attending!

“Never judge a book by its cover,” my wise great-grandmother once told me. Sage, self-serving words from such a sagged old crone, but very applicable. As with so many astute observations, they tend to get lost under the mountain of rubbish ones, forgotten under a stinky pile of knee-jerk phrases and cack-handed euphemisms.

ImageBefore I lose your attention, dear reader, let me assure you my ramble is relevant to Rumble—School Rumble, that is. For as I pulled my sealed copy of School Rumble: Extra Class from its postage packaging, I fell victim to simple, first impressions. And with my great grandmother a few inches too deep under soil to remind me of those classic bon mots, I forgot to never judge a book by its cover.

Or in this case, a DVD case; I’ve always assumed the adage was meant to carry certain flexibility.

At first glance, School Rumble: Extra Class made me glad I am presently bereft of female company. My first impression was that this was some Japanese bawdy variant of the British “classic” Carry On films; a show full of silly double entendres, salacious old men and innocent half naked girls.

Well, School Rumble: Extra Class is proof you don’t have to learn everything at high school: some lessons can keep smacking you upside the head a good 15 years after you’ve left. Never. Judge. A. Book. By. Its. Cover. Maybe this time I have learned this simple lesson, and maybe School Rumble: Extra Class has finally taught me that a cover by no means defines the contents; though to be honest, in the case of product consumerism, it would be useful if it did.

For those like me who seem to spend most of their time reviewing DVDs to discover they’ve been living under an assortment of rocks, oblivious to their subjects, School Rumble is another manga-comic-turned-anime from Japan, and this particular DVD is essentially extra scenes from the first season; a post-first season bonus helping of extra cake to whet the fan appetite for season two. And unlike its cover—and many of its anime brethren—there is very little titillation in sight, just smart, short tales and well-executed bouts of humor.

ImageSchool Rumble is a serial tale about a group of pupils attending Yagami High School, most of whom are all in the same class: Class 2-C. The show has a wide cast of characters, but the central two are tough-guy Kenji Harima and the quirky undeveloped Tenma Tsukamoto. Kenji likes Tenma, but Tenma’s interests lie elsewhere, and from there the comic hijinks ensue. The stories are generally a blend of romantic teen comedy situations, but there is a healthy load of inane fun to be had as well.

The DVD consists of two episodes, each split into three individual tales. The uninitiated, like me, won’t find School Rumble: Extra Class too difficult to slip into. Despite not knowing these characters from Adam, or anything about their established relationships, I didn’t take too long to get the gist of the show and the relevant dramatic chemistry of the players. In fact, this DVD might make a great taster for the curious, offering newbies small tit-bits of the show. It has, for instance, the funniest anime scene I’ve seen in a long time, one that made me laugh out loud—which is a rare success, and a benchmark of how the show managed to charm this initially reluctant reviewer. (The scene is in the final act of the first episode “Heart-Beating to See You Naked!”, for those who wanted to know.) The well-timed animation, well-characterized visuals and solid storylines create an unusually strong support for the fast paced show.

ImageSpecial features are slim: a fairly substantial subtitled interview with two of the female voice artists and the usual trailers. But given this is really a bonus offering—a snack between courses—the lack of features is forgivable.

I cannot attest to the quality of the series as a whole, but from what I’ve read, it has garnered a respectful acknowledgment. It seems this DVD is no different. The bite-sized chunks give the humor a little extra punch and there is enough diversity to keep those with the shortest attention span entertained. From the cute classroom chair switching antics of Tenma in “Restless to Sit Next to You!” to the brutal character comedy of “Gimme a Smile!” or the insane prehistoric tangent of “I Wanna Eat a Mammoth!” School Rumble: Extra Class delivers a range of fun that never takes itself too seriously.

And the really great bonus feature? The cover is reversible! Yes, you can swap the scantily clad girls in towels for scantily clad men in animal skins (the original cover for the Japanese release). Great, huh? Never judge a book by its cover? Well, with School Rumble: Extra Class you can try judging it by two. Dear old granny would be turning in her grave.

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