An absurdist comedy that stumbles at times, but overall provides an enjoyable experience.
What They Say
Teen life is tough. And high school life is even tougher. But if you're one of the delinquents sent to Cromartie, it's...well, put it this way, it ain't The O.C. So pack your bags, put on your best tough-guy swagger, and get a lesson in insanity from the losers, bruisers, and thugs at Cromartie High.
For this viewing, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 5.1. The Japanese track is available in 2.0. The dub sounds pretty nice, and there is some nice differentiation with character voices. Each track comes through clearly, with no real dropout, but they really did not take advantage of the different channels 5.1 offers. Still, it sounds nice, and that is what really matters.
This title has an interesting look. Considering that this is a wacky show, I like that they gave the title the severe, serious look of the rough and tumble type series that it is parodying. It just adds to the overall ridiculousness of the show. Technically, the transfer looks mostly fine. The bold colors and lining are distinct, and there were no instances of cross coloration or aliasing, which is especially nice considering that the design uses quite a bit of severe shading. However, there were quite a number of instances of jumpiness and flicker that, while brief, were noticeable enough to interfere. Trying it on a couple DVD players reproduced the results, so the fault is with the disc. It does not happen enough to ruin watching the show, but it was noticeable.
This title has pretty standard packaging for an ADV Thinpak, but it is pretty well designed. The “front” of the box has an image of Kamiyama and a few other Cromartie students looking serious, with Mechazawa and the Pootan TV characters on the other. The background motif is a psychedelic mix of neon colors. The blend of imagery and colors speaks to the parody nature of this title.
The thinpak covers have some nice original pencil art of various characters that make show seem more serene than it is. The backs of the covers have some translated production notes from the original Japanese releases. These notes are also parodies in their own right as they tend to make fun of the way things are portrayed in the show. Finally, the discs look like 45 r.p.m. records. ADV did a good job of portraying the feel of the show in the packaging for this set.
I was not a big fan of the designs of the menus for this release, but they are easy to follow. The background is a solid deep blue, and there are images of various characters set to the side. Placed in an organized sporadic fashion around the rest of the screen are selections for each of the episodes. Selections for setup and credits are along the bottom. The selections are given in bright yellow, making them stand completely out from the background. There is nothing particularly wrong with the menus; I just was not a fan of them.
As with most ADV Thinpaks, there are no extras for this set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Cromartie High School is an absurdist comedy series that parodies life at a high school for thugs, brutes, hooligans, and other tough guys. In many ways, it mirrors the sort of comedy seen in titles like Ninja Nonsense and Galaxy Angel in that it sets up a premise and then does everything that it can to do anything BUT follow that premise. Like those titles, Cromartie High School is done as a series of half-episodes rather than full episodes, which works well for this type of humor. Unfortunately, unlike the other two, the comedy in this title tends to be hit or miss.
Takashi Kamiyama is making his high school debut, having just enrolled in Cromartie High School. Though he is determined to lead a wonderful academic life, Cro High is an asylum for all of the toughest delinquents in Tokyo. Since Kamiyama had never been a criminal himself, he fears for his safety, and sets out to make an impression that would keep the others from killing him.
This is where the absurd comes in. Despite needing this good/bad first impression, Kamiyama never actually changes his attitude, and instead manages to convince everybody else of his toughness because of his kindness. According to the other students, his pacifism and desire for peaceful solutions are the result of a tough and antisocial personality. As such, it is not long before Kamiyama is considered the boss of Cro High.
The other students at Cromartie reinforce the absurd nature of the series. Kamiyama’s first, and best, friend at his new school is Hayashida, who is identifiable by his purple Mohawk that tends to move on its own, and is actually a hair piece covering a full head of thick black hair. Hayashida is always at Kamiyama’s side and follows his every lead. Then there is the mute, whom Kamiyama dubs Freddie due to his resemblance to former Queen front man, Freddie Mercury. Freddie wears suspenders with no shirt, and has a penchant for striking singing poses, even though he never makes any noise. Cro High even has a gorilla for a student.
The most infamous delinquent at Cro High, though, would have to be Mechazawa. While Kamiyama is accepted as the leader, Mechazawa is universally considered to be the toughest of the Cro High students. And for good reason: Mechazawa is a robot. Unfortunately for Mechazawa, though, he does not seem to understand this concept, despite the fact that he looks like a cylindrical canister with arms and legs. His obliviousness to this fact ultimately rubs off on everybody else as they tend to just look at him as another student too. However, thanks to his robotic nature, he can take a tremendous amount of punishment.
As noted before, much of the humor in this title is based placing the students in situations that tough kids usually would not want to be involved, whether it is trying to start a baseball team, forming a caring for animals club, or even throwing cheery birthday parties for one another. Considering that they all happily join in with all of this, it is amazing that they can keep their reps as thugs. As a matter of fact, the students at Cro High remind me of the Sasuke Army in Ninja Nonsense: they are both theoretically elite groups of tough individuals who should like nothing more than getting in fights and proving their might, but both instead have no problems with getting distracted with trivial matters.
Random events are another source of humor with this title. For example, the leader of a rival gang, Yamaguchi, attempts to go to a sushi bar one evening, only to walk in and find Gorilla working behind the counter. It is also not uncommon for students to be discussing something, only to see Freddie striking poses in the background or have somebody step on Mechazawa’s diminutive older brother, Mechazawa Beta.
Titles such as this can be hard to do, as the laughs have to keep coming for it to truly work. Ninja Nonsense and Galaxy Angel do a good job with maintaining the funny. Cromartie High School does not. Much of the humor in this title just did not work for me. What I found funny was really funny, but the unfunny was almost torturous. And oddly, I found this to be somewhat episodic: typically either an entire episode was hilarious or I just found myself staring at the clock waiting for the next episode to start. I will say, that I found more to like with this than not, but there was enough here that faltered making enjoyment of Cromartie High School unpredictable.
Overall, Cromartie High School was an enjoyable series in the vein of titles like Ninja Nonsense and Galaxy Angel. However, I would not necessarily consider it absurdist humor at its best like those two as much of the humor fell flat. But over the course of the series, there is a lot to like and certainly would not be a bad purchase for people who enjoy this type of comedy. Mildly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System