"School Rumble" It's Like Your High School, Except Interesting
You know, after the excellent Azumanga Daioh and Cromartie High School, I didn’t think we’d be seeing another actually-funny school-themed comedy for a long while. Then came School Rumble which not only ramped up the wacky-zany comedy, but interjected it with bits of actual drama and character development. Now the 2nd Semester is beginning, does the show still have room to grow, or will it be held back a year?
Previously, life was tough for Tenma Tsukamoto and Kenji Harima, specifically, their love life. See, Tenma’s hot for Oji Karasuma, who’s only love seems to be kappa costumes and curry. Meanwhile, Harima’s madly in love with Tenma, despite some of her profoundly idiotic moments, but an unfortunate mishap has him unwittingly starting and ending (and starting again) a relationship with Tenma’s friend and local rich girl Eri Sawachika, as well as a blossoming friendship with Tenma’s younger sister and manga artist helper Yakumo. That’s not good news for Haruki Hanai, who’s madly in love with Yakumo himself and won’t stand for any other guy even looking at her. Then there’s Mikoto, who had a boyfriend earlier but was dumped and has had moments where it seems like she has deeper feelings for her childhood friend Hanai. She constantly has to fight off Kyosuke Imadori, who’s in love with Mikoto’s boobies, who in turn is reluctantly going out with Karen Ichijou, a cute female wrestler who can bench-press Imadori with her pinky. Oh yea, and there’s this kid Nara who’s also in love with Tenma, but he’s comedy fodder. Hiroyoshi Asou might or might not be interest in Mikoto too. And there’s these two upper classmen Harry Mackenzie and Masakazu Togo, the former of which is a lady-killer whether he wants to be or not, while the latter develops a crush on Tenma. And then there’s Lala, who’s usually just there for your typical “foreigners are funny people” jokes. Oh, and don’t forget about Akira, who has access to the show’s script and leads a double life as a secret agent. Got all that? Good.
Typically, when a second season of a popular anime gets made, there’s a significant change of some sort. Either a new character is introduced to change the dynamic, executive meddling gets in the way and the show produces a downturn in quality, or some other such change. Not so with School Rumble. Aside from the theme song change, you’d hardly notice that this isn’t merely an extension of the first season, which is good. All the wacky, over-the-top comedy and embarrassing encounters return funnier than ever, with many jokes that worked in the first season being added to here and made even funnier. Tenma becomes even more dense (if that’s possible) while Harima continues to agonize more and more. In fact, when I started watching the first episode, I was amazed at how similar the show was to the first season. No changes had been made whatsoever, and for that I’m glad.
There’s even attempts at doing different kind of comedies, as near the beginning we get a hilarious 2-parter where the class divides itself up into two teams vying over what to do for the school festival. The resulting contest becomes an act of war as both teams fight with air guns and pellets, forming battle lines and coming up with inventive war strategies. What’s hilarious about these episodes is that the entire fight is played straight. The action is treated as serious, many characters “die” confessing their love, some classmates get abandoned for survival, and some commit suicide. In any other show, this would probably be a highly disturbing and bloody massacre, complete with dramatic and actiony music. But because it’s School Rumble and you realize everybody’s shooting each other with corks, one can’t help but laugh at how pitch-perfect the episodes are playing the war games up. The only gag in the entire episode involves Eri’s butler, which kind of breaks the mood, but it doesn’t matter much. A more traditional parody occurs later on when supporting character Mai Otsuka plays a magical girl for an episode. The way she constantly mixes things up and interacts with the hilarious side characters makes for a rather classic, if not overdone, send-up of the magical girl genre.
To make the show feel even more like it’s a true second season, storylines introduced near the end of Season 1 get expanded upon. Supporting characters Lala, Togo, and and Harry were introduced very late in the first season, so nothing of importance was done with them, but in this season they all get a lot of development and become real members of the cast. Likewise, most of the rest of Tenma’s class get their own spotlight episodes to show their stuff, which is a welcome sight. Harima also continues his manga career, a plotline that becomes a major plot device late in the series as he heads towards the big time and is shocked to find out who the big man is. The relationships among Harima, Tenma, Eri, and Yakumo all deepen and develop in this season, which is a refreshing change since Tenma and Harima didn’t really spend a whole lot of time together in Season 1. Likewise, Mikoto’s and Hanai’s relationship deepens and it seems like the writers decided to ramp up the love connections so that one has no idea whatsoever who will end up with whom.
If there’s a negative to be found, it’s that the majority of the plotlines would be resolved if the various characters would just take the time to explain their position to the others. I know these guys love to jump to the wrong conclusions (especially Harima and Hanai), but it does get old seeing them overreact to something that didn’t happen. Speaking of which, the zaniness is the show’s strong suit, but there are times when it gets to be too much and even times where one can only watch one episode at a time. Considering most anime fans marathon their shows, this doesn’t exactly help matters. And the ending might quite possibly be the lowest moment of the show. Sure, there’s lots of revelations and it seems like the show is attempting to conclude at least some of its plotlines, but then the writers hit the dreaded “Reset” button and everything’s back to normal. Still, all this stuff are minor nitpicks at best, as the positives far outweigh the negatives here.
Visually, the show hasn’t changed much from the first season. All the characters are bright and crisp, showcasing their attractive character designs extremely well. The animation tends to bounce from fluid to stiff depending on the episode, but overall the animation is solid and won’t really turn anyone off. There’s not a whole lot of stock footage and a surprisingly low amount of simple “walk and talk” scenes to save the animators money. The wild takes everyone (especially Harima and Hanai) makes when acting crazy do get old after a while, but the script more than makes up for it. I especially love the intro, specifically how it starts with the title all over the place, making it seem like a good friend’s come back for some fun. I also like how it manages to incorporate all the side characters that get a spotlight, including Harima’s animal friends, despite them not appearing for a long while. My only real gripe is that the show’s not in widescreen, as it would’ve looked great, but again, that’s a nitpick. Sorry if all these negatives aren’t much, but there’s not really a lot wrong with the show.
Even the dub is top notch. Luci Christian plays a pitch-perfect Tenma. The baby voice perfectly matches Tenma’s childish personality and the crazy accents she gives the character make her standout even more. Brandon Potter, meanwhile, is absolutely awesome as Harima, perfectly switching from serious to crazy at the drop of a hat, giving the character a lot of emotional attachment whenever it comes time for fate to give Harima the middle finger. Leah Clark (Eri), Brina Palencia (Mikoto), Trina Nishimura (Akira), Chris Cason (Hanai), and Caitlin Glass (Yakumo) all give standout performances as their characters, perfectly adding to the drama and the comedy at the same time. And like most other FUNimation dubs, the script is rewritten in a way that stays true to the Japanese version while also being more accessible to English natives. While the Japanese cast does a fantastic job as well, I tend to like the English cast a bit more for the crazy accents they sometimes put on their characters. As for the music, the background music perfectly enhances the action and while I don’t like “Sentimental Generation” nearly as much as “Scramble,” it has grown on me over the season.
We get a small sampling of extras on this set. Borrowed from the previous releases we get interviews with the creator Jin Kobayashi and Tenma’s Japanese VA, Ami Koshimizu. Both interviews are slightly informative, but still mostly the same fluff interviews you usually see on these sets. For those wondering, these extras are on the same place as the original discs. In fact, despite changing the art to reflect the new packaging, the discs’ content is exactly the same as the original releases. Even the trailers are the same from the half-season sets. Also, I do have one minor question. What is it about this series that got it rated TV-MA? I mean, I can understand TV-PG or TV-14, but MA? Yea, the show has some sexual innuendo in it like most other teen-centered shows, but it’s nowhere near your average crude humor teen comedy that infests movie theaters. It’s not too big a deal because I doubt most people picking this up even realize where the TV rating is, but it still bugs me.
Overall, if you’re in the mood for a fun school-themed romantic comedy, School Rumble is perfect for you. This show is beyond hilarious, it might even be one of the best anime comedies of all time.