School Rumble Season 2 Part 2 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Things change along the way before the obviously placed reset button is hit, but how much of a reset is it really?

What They Say
Here's what you need to know: sophomore cutie Tenma is completely crushed on classmate Karasuma past the point of freakin' out. Tough guy Harima, with his own delinquent style of freak, has a long-standing crush on Tenma. And Karasuma? Can you say clueless? He's pretty much all about the curry. Mmm... Curry!

Contains episodes 14-26 of season two.

The Review!
Audio:
School Rumble gets a minor downgrade in the audio department in comparison to the first season. The two language tracks, Japanese and English, are done in the stereo format encoded at 192kbps, which is down from the 256kbps we got before. It’s not like it’s a really noticeable difference for the vast majority of people listening, but there are bound to be some that will notice it. The show is still very much designed around the dialogue and situational sound effects so the stereo mix serves it well and it’s all coming across cleanly and clearly. The stereo mix isn’t exactly a very active one, but when it kicks in it sounds solid and serves the material well. We didn’t experience any dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the Japanese language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release contains the first thirteen episodes of the Second Semester season and has them on a 7/6 format. Though it might as well be a 7/7 format considering one of the extras is a 30 minute video. With the slight reduction in audio quality, there are obviously concerns of quality dips with the video as well, which is more bandwidth intensive. Overall, the show certainly looks good with lots of vibrant colors and well handled fluid animation. There’s some noise to be found in various scenes across the set, but it’s nothing that’s excessive or really stands out that strongly. I would have still preferred a three disc set to give the show more room to breathe when required, but by and large this certainly looks solid enough and will please the majority.

Packaging:
As talked about in the previous review, the shift from a really great locker release and six individual volumes with character cover artwork to this is probably the worst aspect of the half season set releases. There’s nothing really wrong with what we get here, and it’s certainly more effective space wise for consumers and shipping wise for retailers and their shelf space, but I lament the loss of artwork, artwork they can’t even provide as an extras I suspect. The flimsy slipcover for the two thinpaks is done similar to the original keepcase cover art with the sideways angled background which has character artwork on top of it. The front cover has a good looking piece of artwork as it features the bulk of the main characters together in their uniforms with lots of smiles while the back cover provides a good bit of text about the show and a lot of screenshots. The discs extras are clearly listed as well but there’s only one mention on the front cover about how many episodes there are here which is a bit weak.

The individual thinpak cases inside are done similar to what we had before a bit but with group shots. Each disc does a gathering of characters in different poses, such as the first volume being done as the Magical Girl Mai material or the second volume which has the serious image of Eri and Harima together that does feel off considering how much the packaging goes for the silly. The back covers provide the pencil sketch versions of the front covers as well as a breakdown of each episode and the titles within that episode. Each cover is reversible with more of the original cover artwork from Japan on the other side along with their respective pencil sketches as well.

Menu:
The menus for School Rumble are familiar to the previous installments as we get the clean white background with the colored logo serving as the way to give it a bit more life and vibrancy. Each volume’s menu has a piece of character artwork associated with it as some bouncy music plays along gives it a good bit of continuity to what came in the first series. The layout is simple enough and the fonts match what came before as well which makes this solid overall even if it is basic. Submenus load quickly and getting around is a breeze but FUNimation still doesn’t have their discs working to pick up layer language presets which is simply annoying.

Extras:
The extras are all on the second disc and Japanese language fans will be happy. While we get the standard clean opening and closing sequences, the only other extra here is a video interview with the original author, Jin Kobayashi. Amusingly, as many manga authors prefer to be anonymous, this one is shot from behind so we never see his face. But he does look suspiciously like Harima. The interview runs for just over forty minutes but it’s a real chore to get through because it’s largely about nothing due to the interviewer making it a complete silly puff piece, more often about her than the show or Kobayashi himself. This is one of those lost chances for something really good about the original material and how Kobayashi felt and interacted with the animation adaptation.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second half of the second season of School Rumble comes to a close and it does a rather solid job of playing with the character relationships and progressing things forward slowly but surely. The series when it first began was about the potential romance between two completely stupid people. But as it’s gone on, the relationships have changed and it’s become complex, but with a great deal of comedy and smiles as well. And in the end, the relationship that is set as the main focus continues to be the least interesting to me.

Surprisingly, a large chunk of this set of thirteen episodes doesn’t focus much on the pure random comedy. There’s a section of these episodes in the middle which in the end really start to feel out of place in the larger scheme of things. When you have the show dealing with relatively serious material in a humorous way, going to even more outlandish pieces comes across really poorly. Admittedly, there are some moments of brilliance in there. When they decide to spend a lengthy epilogue piece doing an homage to Saint Seiya, I cannot help but grin like a fool. At the same time, the overly long Magical Girl Mai segment really doesn’t work well at all. When the kids comment that she’s too old for the role, it only reinforces it. These interim episodes are a welcome break from the serious material, but some of them simply go too outlandish instead of keeping it within the confines of reality.

This season has decided to keep the relationship angles pretty simple in the end as a lot of the secondary relationships aren’t dealt with all that much, such as Hanai. Harima and Tenma continue to be the main focus, but even that doesn’t really get underway until the second main arc at the end of the season. The opening arc tends to deal more with the growing relationship between Harima and Yakumo, though it’s more one sided simply because Harima is blinded by his attraction to Tenma because of what she’s done for him. And because he wants to get past that potential lecher image that she may retain of him from their very early meting back in the first season.

And the more that Yakumo gets involved, the more I like her. While she is still hard to really place as the Younger Sister to Tenma because of the differences in personality, she is coming across more and more as the right fit for Harima if only he’d see it. She’s gotten closer to him because of her assistance on the manga he’s always working on and she’s realized how much she likes him as it progresses. But she’s still conflicted because of the way she adores her sister and the way she understands that Harima is interested in her. But with a rather striking flashback to the girls younger days, we get an idea of why Yakumo is the way she is now and how close the bond between the two sisters really is. That puts a new spin on the competition of sorts that exist between the two.

More confounding though is the relationship ups and downs that exist between Harima and Tenma. Watching the two of them can be an exercise in extreme frustration at times. I really like both of them for very different reasons, but I have a harder time enjoying Tenma simply because she is so daft. She’s so fixated on Karasuma, a character that I actually really despise because he’s used in such an obnoxious way. The way he’s able to be brought in for any sort of needed outlandish moment often has its moments, but it also can throw the flow off completely which is equally frustrating. And honestly, he’s just freaky looking and I can take only so much of him on screen. Thankfully, Karasuma isn’t an overused character for the most part, but simply an unwelcome one when he does appear.

Amusingly, there are some good moments with the secondary cast as they come into play. Sawachika is still a favorite in how she and Harima interact and there are some great moments when she’s staying as Suou’s for a bit and Harima ends up there to work on his manga. He dons a work outfit to blend in and because he doesn’t have his glasses on, Sawachika doesn’t even recognize him. He’s so panicked about it and she feels so warmly towards him that it’s made up of a lot of awkwardness. Another area that worked really nice was with Imadori and Ichijo. She’s got such a crush on him and he’s fairly oblivious about it, but they manage to connect very nicely in subtle ways. There’s one episode where he ends up spending time at her house because he’s online buddies with her little brother and the comedy just comes naturally since they’re all fans of the same show to one level or another. Add in having Imadori rifling through her clothes and it’s simply a lot of fun, which is what makes it work so well.

In Summary:
School Rumble is a rarity of a series in that I adore the anime but have a general distaste for the manga. This season doesn’t have as much standalone material that’s kept within reality, such as school festivals and the like, but it has longer character driven arcs with just as much humor to them. So much of what makes this show work is the way that Harima carries himself. He’s not a character that you’d imagine could carry the series, but his honesty and internal monologue is priceless as he copes with a wide variety of situations. Though the series does hit something of a reset button towards the end as it deals with his relationship with Tenma, it doesn’t hit one when it comes to Yakumo, and that’s what has me the most interested in at this point, and hoping for more in the future. This season really comes across very well to me and this set in particular left me with a lot of smiles and fond memories.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Creator Interview

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 59.98
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: School Rumble