School Rumble Season 2 Part 1 (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, October 31, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The second semester gets underway as the Schoorum gang find themselves in more weird and amusing scenarios.

What They Say:

While there is a decided lack of rumble in School Rumble, there's more hilarious humdingers than any single dinger can hum... Look that one up! And while there is a truck full of pigs, a giraffe, flying saucers, and crazy dream sequences, none of that's even close to what this show's about. (Though I would probably watch that show, too!)

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 1-13.

What We Say:

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’s 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:
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 nice piece of Tenma, Yakumo and Harima together in their school uniforms 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 Itoko having a bit of tea at the table while others are behind her, or the second volume which gives itself over to the basketball theme with everyone in their uniforms. 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 colors 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 voice actress for Tenma. This is a surprisingly long nearly thirty minute piece that is really informal as the woman interviewing her lets the voice actress go all over the map. When the show has no problem talking about breast sizes for a little bit, you know they aren’t being completely scripted and feel comfortable in just being silly. That’ll turn off some, but for others it fits in perfectly with the character and the show itself.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a solidly enjoyable first season and a scattershot bridging OVA release, the second semester of School Rumble hits with a good thirteen episode set. Comedies are always hit or miss, more so than most any other genre I think, and seeing a lot of a comedy series at once can be a bad thing. You can overdose on it rather quickly and then never want to see it again. Anyone who has done marathon sessions during the holidays from places like Comedy Central knows that you can spend a weekend watching all of a particular series and then you won’t touch it again for years, if ever.

This set brings us thirteen episodes of Tenma goodness and it does start to strain a little bit by the end of the second volume. After the relatively small break between releases, getting back into the series provide a little difficult since the opening material wasn’t exactly all that engaging. School Rumble also has the added benefit of having a lot of very small quirky moments in how it tells its stories, so you’re not saddled with a full 20 minutes of one particular gag. Even when they do work with an over reaching arc, it’s broken down into smaller components that are easier to digest and allows the varied cast to each have some great moments within it. And with the size of the cast that it does have, some characters are easily pushed to the side for the duration so they get a breather which keeps them from being overused.

There’s a couple of main arcs that fit into this set which are amusing overall, but are difficult to distill at times because of seeing it all at once. The first storyline is one that revolves around the ever familiar culture festival event that goes on every year. The class is quite divided over what they want to do and they’re waiting until the last minute to decide, which seems to be about right. Part of the class wants to do a maid café while the other wants to do a play. Then there’s the small trio that wants a mud wrestling match among the women. And of course another small subset that’s not interested at all in anything because they’re focusing on their band performance. That Karasuma is part of that group is just boggling and highly entertaining.

Where this turns into a fun thing is that they decide to fight it out for what they end up doing. The two main sides break into their respective groups and they all come into the school at night to fight out for a game of capture the flag with paint guns. There’s all sorts of trickery going on during this and lots of very amusing moments as various characters get very into it, including one butler for Sawachika, but it’s the others that get drawn into it that prove to be the most entertaining. Everyone gets a chance to shine in a different way and the secondary characters tend to steal the show more often than not because of it. That it turns into the kind of culture festival event that it does makes it all the more worthwhile. This particular storyline brings together so many different elements in the end that it’s the rare culture festival that’s actually fun to watch after all these years of seeing so many of them.

The other large main story that makes it into the set revolves around basketball. This brings Satsuki to the forefront as an ace player and has Tenma wanting to play. The entire storyline brings an amusing group of players together who want to participate, but many of them get forced out because they’re not what some of them want. That Harima is one of them isn’t a surprise nor is it that Tenma ends up on the outs because of her poor athletic abilities. Harima doesn’t even realize this as he ends up getting into a serious training mod with the other outcasts and they work to challenge the main group in the end. That group has plenty to deal with though as Satsuki is going through a love challenge of her own so that provides some nice variety and diversion to all of it. The sports angle is weak overall, but the comedic side of it balances it out nicely and it’s fun overall.

What was most amusing for me with this arc was how Tenma handled things and how it impact Yakumo. It’s still difficult to see Yakumo as the younger sister since to me she just feels like an older sister, but some of that comes from Tenma being such a little goof and dork most of the time. Yakumo has proven to be quite the fun character throughout this as she’s sometimes oblivious to things but also very insightful. Her relationship with Harima is hilarious to watch as well as the way it seems to off-put Sawachika since she finds herself conflicted about her feelings with Harima. Everyone’s getting things from all directions and it’s the kind of high school confusion that feels right but with the added wackiness that you get with this particular cast of characters.

In Summary:
In a way, this set of School Rumble felt a little bit like too much at once. Most people don’t have to watch it in quick succession like I do though and can take their time with it, which I find to be much more ideal for this particular series. It’s not one that feels right in marathon form to me. Taken into the smaller chunks, much like the first season, it has a lot to offer with offbeat characters that aren’t too far out of reality, amusing situations that go above and beyond reality but a sense of warmth to it that ties it all together. Lots of in-jokes, wild takes and physical comedy fills out the series, but the cast is what keeps drawing you back in as you watch them live their crazy little lives. And it most definitely makes you want to see more.

Features:

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Video 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: TV-PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: 59.98
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (Mixed/Unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: School Rumble