GUEST REVIEW BY SKEITH
Ah, to be young and in love; the feelings of anxiety, bliss and depression, all tightly packed into a few short adolescent years. And don’t forget the ridiculous things love makes you do – that has been prime material for romantic comedies since the beginning of time. But, somehow, School Rumble manages to do something fresh with this genre. It breaks conventions and follows its own, unpredictable path. While I feel the writer occasionally got a little carried away with this unpredictability, for the most part, that is what gives School Rumble its edge, making it something that keeps you interested and laughing, even if you’ve seen a hundred anime like it.
At the heart of the story is Tenma Tsukamato, a second-year high school student. Tenma is cute, but not sickeningly so. She is ditsy, but only to the point of mild annoyance. Oh, and of course, she’s in love. The object of her affection is Oji Kurasama, a strange boy of few words who we learn very little about throughout the series. All we really know is that Kurasama has a great many hidden talents, and is more interested in curry than women. While Kurasama was supposed to transfer to a school in America, a love letter by Tenma convinces him to stay for one more year. That’s good, since Tenma forgot to sign the letter and still needs to confess her love to him.
So far, pretty run-of-the-mill…then enters Harima Kenji. Harima is a living can of whup-ass riding a Harley in a leather jacket. In any other anime, Harima would be the violent, dimwitted delinquent that the hero has to overcome to save his/her love. But School Rumble has the delightful twist of making this guy a protagonist that falls in love with Tenma. Now he has to play nice in school for any chance to catch her eye, despite the fact that he could probably kill almost everyone there. This predicament is a terrific source of comedy, since his prowess does little to help him in love. But what is really surprising is just how likable Harima is. He’s a tough-guy, sure, but his emotions are just as frail as any of ours. It’s also apparent, through his insightful commentary, that Harima has spent a lot of time thinking about the meaning of love.
While this base love triangle would have made for an entertaining show on its own, there is a wide cast of characters, all of which have their own sordid relationships. The drawback of this is that two or three episodes can go by without even a cameo from one of the main characters, forcing you to patiently wait for their return while watching the tribulations of some Mexican wrestler who just joined the school and wants to defeat Tenma’s friend.
The long-term payoff, however, is that this (usually) leads to an important development for Harima or Tenma. The most significant of these developments is the transformation of the core love triangle into a love pentagon (I guess love truly is war).
Over the course of the story, Tenma’s sister, Yakumo, and friend, Eri, both fall for Harima. Unlike most other anime, where love seems to always sprout from a single dramatic event, like saving someone’s life, most of the characters’ feelings emerge over time. I doubt the characters themselves know exactly when they fell in love. But before you know it, there they are, staring dreamily at Harima, as he gradually cleans himself up (maintaining every speck of his badassness) and becomes someone you can actually picture with one of these girls.
And that leads to the next level of comedy here: Both Yakumo and Eri are considered bombshells in school: Yakumo is the quiet, sweet, dark-haired beauty, while Eri is a vivacious blonde heiress. Nevertheless, Harima is completely blind to their interest as his sights are set purely on Tenma, whom most of the school would write off as “forgettable” compared to the other two.
Helping to make all of these characters even more dynamic are English voice actors that really fit their parts. Again, Tenma is sweet, but she doesn’t have the high-pitched squeal that turns me off to most of her ilk. Harima ranges from impregnable fortress of manhood to tragic hero, and he switches smoothly between them in a matter of seconds at times. Even the support cast pulls their weight with impeccable comedic timing, though they tend to have a slightly more limited range of emotions (the loud guy, the quiet girl, the perv, etc.). If you are someone who is split between subs or dubs, this is one case I have to recommend the dub, since every subtle nuance in their voices is well done and helps you feel the full force of some jokes.
Towards the end of the season, the plot centers on Harima’s mission to enter a manga contest. His graphic creations are another comedic tool, as he blatantly draws about his own romantic fantasies with Tenma. Occasionally, we get to see the climactic chapters of his manga played out. But right at the end, things start getting weird, and it’s hard to tell what scenes were real, and which were fantasies. It will likely leave you scratching your head and give little closure while you wait for the next season; but that’s forgivable. I watched the first half of this series because I got a few chuckles out of it. Now, I watch because I’m emotionally invested in these characters and I want to see how things sort out.
I also forgive the closing insanity because it’s the writer’s ability to do the unexpected that really made the comedy memorable. He sets us up with classic gags (Harima’s changing clothes and…oh no! A girl walked in on him!), then waits for us to look one way before knocking us with a lead pipe from the other direction. That ability to fool and amuse me consistently means I honestly don’t know who will end up with who. That being said, you’ll find this anime even more entertaining once you find yourself rooting for a particular pairing, since, as opposed to most other anime, it really is any girl’s game – throw the “first girl wins” rule is out the window here.
So be warned, getting into this anime could mean you’ll be hooked until the bitter end, and we don’t know exactly when that will be yet.
Top 5 Guys/Girls Who Never Had a Shot
5. Princess Aeka (Tenchi Muyo) – I don’t care which version of the show you watch, Aeka is always just outclassed by Ryoko’s sheer dedication to Tenchi. Besides, she’s a pirate – nay, a SPACE pirate! Every man’s true fantasy…unless you’re a ninja.
4. Brock (Pokemon) – While he manages to make at least two shots on goal an episode, Brock unfortunately surrounds himself with “goalies” who block his advances. That’s what you get for being the horndog on a kids show.
3. Nara Kentarou (School Rumble) – The original plan was for this guy to be a main character in the manga – that’s the closest he ever got to being with Tenma. Being so plain, the editor tossed him aside for Harima (Or maybe Harima threatened the editor). Though he still tries to get close to Tenma, Nara can’t overcome her aloofness or Harima’s strength.
2. Kaolla Sue (Love Hina) – While it wasn’t certain who Keitaro’s “promise girl” was, you were pretty sure it wasn’t Kaolla. You were also pretty sure she had no chance with Keitaro while he was surrounded by women with either more moé charm and/or bigger guns. Maybe that’s why she kidnaps him?
1. Misa Misa (Death Note) – Hey, know that cute serial killer? The one that wants me to give up half my life and keeps an asperger’s patient on a chain? Yeah, I think he might be the one!