Love! Love is all around us. Love brings out the best -- or worst -- in all of us, and it shapes our lives in one way or the other. Love, in other words, is what this is all about.
Harima Kenji loves Tsukamoto Tenma. Tsukamoto Tenma loves Karasuma Ooji. Neither of them are particularly successful at getting their feelings across, so naturally more people get involved in the whole drama. High-school romances are a fickle thing indeed.
Hoo boy, was I ever not ready for what School Rumble had on its plate when I sat down to watch the first episode a long time ago. Even now, after many years and after finally obtaining the entire season on DVD, I'm not entirely sure whether they are serious about some of the many relationships that are started or merely hinted at, or if they're just lampooning the hell out of everything.
I could probably fill an entire review with character descriptions in this show, as that's basically what School Rumble is all about. In fact, I have problems remembering any show that has had such domineering character roster offhand, and whose sole purpose seems to be creating as many mishaps as possible between most of them. Despite its name, School Rumble is mainly about romances and about finding the courage to follow up on those feelings and let them know, often in the most absurd ways possible, with the most disastrous results possible as well.
The main character of the show -- or at least the most rootable one -- is Harima Kenji. He's rarely seen without his shades on, and his mode of transportation is a pretty rad motorcycle, so naturally, most of his fellow students see him as a bit of a thug. Of course, the random challenges he receives from various other thugs aren't exactly doing any favors for him and his image, nor is the fact that he's not really all that preoccupied with school and he's also all too eager in indulging his challengers by way of large helpings of beatings. He's mostly found at school, because that's where Tenma is.
Tenma is... how do I put it... she's a complete and utter airhead. If there is anyone in the show more singleminded than her, then I'd certainly like to hear about it. (Arguably, Imadori Kyousuke and his obsession with cup sizes might be one, and I'm not talking about tea ceremonies, if you catch my meaning.) To be honest, she's not exactly my favorite character in the show, which both comes as a blessing and a curse as far as Harima and his future romantic prospects are concerned.
And then, there's Karasuma Ooji, maybe the most nondescript and yet incredibly prominent characters in the show. Numerous revelations in this season aside, I have no idea what to make of him. His actions are so utterly random, yet completely in line with any situation he's placed in, and he WILL be showing up when you least expect it. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if there was a portrait of him in the Japanese dictionary under "cipher".
Other characters you probably should get used to is Sawachika Eri, the resident half-Japanese rich girl, Suou Mikoto, the resident martial artist and cup size recordholder (according to our local expert) and Takano Akira, who is almost as mysterious as Karasuma, partially due to her work as a secret agent/mercenary/whatever the hell she is. There's also Tenma's little sister Yakumo, who has the secret ability to read the thoughts -- literally reading them -- of whoever takes a fancy to her in some way or another. Then, there's Haruki Hanai, another of the local martial artists, and perhaps the one who has taken the most extreme liking to the aforementioned Tsukamoto Yakumo, much to her consternation. There's also Iori. Iori is a cat.
There are so many parodies, gags and skits in this show, I don't even know where to start. I do have to give School Rumble credit for the almost insurmountable amount of romance-related shenanigans and general mishaps, though. The whole show seems to be built around misunderstandings and how it affect the people around them. That, coupled with the show's penchant for adding references and parodies from other shows, and you know you got a crazy time on your hands. Most of the insanity is definitely centered around Harima and how his attempts at confessing his love to Tenma fails, often with two consequences. One... he mistakenly gets another girl involved in the deal, and two... the things he takes up to get his mind off his failures, like becoming a fortune teller who can speak with animals, or even drawing a manga. Yep, the thug with a heart of gold is a friend of animals and draws manga on his spare time. (Since he's a thug, he's got lots of free time, see?)
The worst part (or best, depending on where you stand) is that despite all the ridiculous comedy this show has, it still gets you in the mood to actually root for these people. Every time School Rumble gets serious, my attention is there regardless of what I might have been laughing at just minutes before. It's hard not to feel for the poor slob who just wants a girlfriend and succeed with his manga, and it's also hard to refrain from getting aggravated at the guy when he just won't stop focussing on the target of his affections, even when it's clear to day even to him that she's not returning those affections.
Instead of building its comedy around the tried-and-true, School Rumble takes its cues from well known scenes and turn them on their heads for its comedy, and it works. Whether it's Tenma taking romantic cues from old samurai shows and delivering her heart by way of bow and arrow, or Harima pouring his romantic soul into his manga, drawing inspiration from a good number of well known sources, there's bound to be something that gets you laughing. Equally amazing is the fact that School Rumble can take the most amazing coincidences and chance happenings and get away with it.
What's more, the reason I think these characters stick with you so well is because they aren't as bombastic as their images would suggest. Harima, who is perceived as a thug, really is a softie deep inside. Eri, who is seen as a bit of a flighty rich girl, never really acts really mean-spirited or cruel towards anyone. As for Imadori... well, I guess he's one who DOES live up to his own reputation.
The art style is generally true to the manga, and while the animation won't win any awards anytime soon, it does a decent job of keeping the anime afloat. There's some pretty tacky 3D CG every now and then, though, including one scene where it made no sense to have it converted to CG. The dub is also generally decent, especially regarding Harima, who receives the English voice of Sven Vollfied from Black Cat -- definitely my favorite from said show -- and his voice really suits Harima, despite the fact that it makes him sound maybe a little older than he really is.
It's the general consensus of the THEMers that this show actually manages to improve for the second season. But even so, the first season is by no means mediocre. As far as I know, nothing actually gets resolved in this season OR the next, so keep this in mind for when you decide to invest in School Rumble. Personally, I'm looking forward to the third season OAV, and hopefully, there will be a conclusion some time in the future. As it is, this show comes recommended.
An occasionally stumbling, but often hilarious comedy that comes highly recommended. — Stig Hﾃｸgset
Recommended Audience: It's a show starring teens that suits the average teenager. Expect some amounts of fanservice and violence, though nothing really outrageous.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
School Rumble © 2004 Studio Comet, Media Factory
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