School Rumble Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2008



What They Say
If you've been waiting for it, it's finally here... There's quite a bit of rumbling in this fifth volume of School Rumble! Yep, that's right: this show's finally delivering! Quite a bit of witty quips and a few unfortunate "snips," too. (Who knew that leather and pink bows worked so well together?) Class 2-C is getting pretty feisty... everything from wrestling and back alleyway brawls to friendly sporting events gone death match. There's even some girl on girl action, if you know what I mean. That hot new school nurse is gonna have her hands full if this keeps up! In fact, the only thing really lacking in these four episodes is curry! You heard it: no curry!

The Review!
The wackiness continues as simple miscommunications abound and an athletic festival leads to mass combat among classes.

Audio:
School rumble is presented in a standard bilingual format here with a pair of stereo mixes that are both encoded at 256 kbps. The audio on this disc feels kind of off to begin with, starting with a far too loud and bass heavy Kodocha front loaded trailer. The main show itself is really just a dialogue based piece with music as there isn't much in the way of big sound effects. It's a good track in that its problem free when it comes to clarity and the lack of dropouts or distortions but it feels like it's too low. This may be partially from coming from the Kodocha opening as they was just dialed up too high.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series is authored in seemingly the same way as most everything else from FUNimation today with an average bitrate in the fives with a few brief peaks into the sixes. The series doesn't have a lot of high motion scenes so it works out fairly well but there is a general softness to the look which mostly affects backgrounds. There is often enough noticeable noise in them, generally in the greens, which take away from what should be a smooth solid look. There isn't much in the way of noticeable blocking in these areas but it does shift regularly. Colors in general look good, especially with character animation, but some of the blacks just can't hold. One scene features a character at doorway where the interior goes white and the rest of the screen goes black. The lower left corner shows a lot of blocking going on there.

Packaging:
FUNimation usually does a good job in bringing over the original covers for its series and this one is only a little different. The Japanese releases were all done with white backgrounds that featured a single character on it. This release uses the Yakumo character art from the Japanese volume but unlike some of the first volumes, it doesn't have her at an angle. It does provide a series of shots from the show through an orange filter as the background is at various angles. It's certainly very busy looking and provides more to look at but I generally keep coming back to preferring the Japanese style of the character standing out on their own. This is certainly an appealing cover overall and it likely fits better for this market than the other does. The back cover is just as busy with an orange border that contains lots of small shots of the characters and lots of angled text to heighten the hyper aspect of the series. It's all rather clean when you step back and look at it but it is incredibly busy. No insert is included but there is a reversible cover. The main panel features a group shot of several of the girls in their cheerleader uniforms while the back panel features the same thing in a pencil sketch version of it.

Menu:
School Rumble works off of the main colors in the logo by having a white background with shadowed versions of the navigation spread across it in a soft yellow color. The actual navigation strip uses a similar color layout to the logo while to the right of it is a cast shot of the main women in their cheerleader uniforms from the reverse side cover, all of which is set to some simple instrumental music. The design overall is colorful while maintaining a light and bouncy feeling to it. Access times are solid in moving to submenus and as usual we avoided the language presets issues due to needing to make selections based on the angle of the video we wanted.

Extras:
This round of extras is small but definitely more interesting than just a clean version of the opening and closing, which is included as well. There is one interview with the Japanese voice actresses, this time dealing with Tae's actress, which runs about five minutes of fun fluff. The other new inclusion here is a surprisingly long two and a half minute commercial/promo for the series as a whole.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
School Rumble is the kind of show that still confounds me even this far into it. The stories are really quite simple as well as being things we've seen done dozens of times before. Yet it manages to infuse it with a great deal of fun and humor even if it is familiar. There's a certain energy here that works in the shows favor as well as bringing in some different elements in terms of the characters. It also doesn't hurt that several of the characters really are quite dim which is a nice contrast from the usual kind of leads.

The four episodes on this volume do run through a lot of familiar stories. Miscommunication tends to be the main highlight but you can't help but smile and laugh with how it plays out. There's a cute story involving Yakumo and Tenma being involved in an artists nude gallery show along with the luscious school nurse Osakabe. When the War Council finds out about it, their plans are underway pretty quickly and everyone has a reason to get involved. Hanai and Harima each have their reasons to try and keep everyone out and there's just the general allure of Osakabe in the nude. You know it's not going to have the right kind of payoff, but the dream visuals of some give the audience what it wants while still being cute and teasing about it.

A similar shorter story revolves around Yakumo being involved in a wedding gown shoot where she has to dress up in the brides outfit. It actually surprised me that they avoided playing the idea that Yakumo herself was getting married and everyone else would freak out about it. It went more into who was going to play the role of the groom and then the bad information that Harima gets about it as he thinks it's Tenma that's playing the part. And he can't let anyone else but him play the role of the groom. It's short, but like the nude paintings piece, it uses the story length properly to get the most mileage out of it without beating you over the head with dull and uninteresting moments.

What really won me over with this volume is one of my favorite stories from the manga in which Sawachika accidentally cuts off a good chunk of Harima's beard. It's completely innocently done but she and the other girls with her freak out over it. Harima actually sleeps through it and is unaware of what's happening until the girls fix him up by tying a pink bow to what's left of it. The realization that hits him is hilarious and the way Sawachika continues to try and apologize afterwards just backfires repeatedly. Harima really is the best character of the show and it only gets better here. His new relationship with Yakumo adds a new dimension and his manga efforts grow as well. Everything really does come together for him and you really feel for him as he tries to awkwardly get closer to Tenma but fails in the weirdest yet almost realistic ways.

In Summary:
While no new ground is broken here, and Karasuma continues to be the least visible character, School Rumble succeeds where it counts. It makes me laugh, it has me smiling the majority of the time and I come away from each episode very pleased. The cast is pretty big and only gets more so as it moves forward but they still manage to give everyone enough time or the right kinds of gags and cameos to make it feel like a well oiled machine. Combined with the shorter story formats and a positive nature all around, this is a show that I very much look forward to and pop in the player practically as soon as it's in my door. Very recommended for a clean fun comedy with great characters.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Voice Actress Interview,TV Commercial,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

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: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: School Rumble