Cromartie High School Vol. #1 (also w/box & manga) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/44.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Cromartie High School

Cromartie High School Vol. #1 (also w/box & manga)

By Chris Beveridge     March 10, 2005
Release Date: March 15, 2005


Cromartie High School Vol. #1 (also w/box & manga)
© ADV Films


What They Say
Contains Cromartie High School DVD 1 plus a high-quality collector's artbox and the first volume of the manga!

Mild mannered student Takashi Koyaman finds himself enrolled at Cromartie High, where everybody is a delinquent! Logically, therefore, he must be the toughest in his class - by the rather twisted logic that only a really tough rabbit would lie down with lions. Thus begins a story that parodies every cliche of tough-guy anime that you've ever heard of... and some you haven't!

The Review!
In a school full of badasses and delinquents, the lives of the young men there is one that's ripe for comedy, or a certain type of comedy.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the show is fairly basic with some simple uses of the stereo channels with some of the action sequences as well as some of the dialogue where the gags are involved in shifting the voice around the soundstage. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no trouble with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show was one of a number of half-length series that aired in 2003 and each of the 10 minute episodes are presented with their original openings and endings with them, though with translated credits. The animation for the series isn't exactly a showcase of what current shows can do since it's at times less animated that Boys Over Flowers, but it does maintain a very solid feel throughout the episodes with backgrounds that aren't shifting, no jitter and a relatively problem free print. The one area I was most concerned about was with the color gradient which with a show like this could be problematic since it goes for large bold sections of color but even upconverted it was a very solid looking piece of work. Free of other problems such as cross coloration and aliasing and you've got a very clean piece of animation here.

Packaging:
The keepcase for this release uses the Queen inspired shot of the four main characters against the black backdrop so it's just their faces for the most part and the fringes of the cover have also been aged to give it an older feeling. I do have to wonder how many people are going to get the reference, regardless of the popularity of the band and the image over the years. The back cover continues the black background and provides one large shot of the cast alongside a summary of the premise and its gags and a listing of the extras on the disc. They want to show a lot of what the show is like so there's a ton of pictures through a strip in the lower center that separates the production information and technical grid from the top half. Everything is clearly listed there and easy to find which continues to be a real plus. The insert is a multiple page black and white booklet that does some character design work, talks with the series director, provides a few more insights into the gags of the show and overall helps flesh things out a bit more.

Also out at the same time as the first volume is a disc + box release. The box is of the middle range type that ADV has used in the past where it's not paper thin but a bit puffy, but certainly not a chipboard box. Since the design of the box is like one of the one's you used to get in the 70's to hold stuff, it's also textured to feel like those old boxes were and the design has the latch and handle drawn onto it. Pictures of the cast from the show are on both sides and the English language logo is off-centered along the side like a sticker. Also included in the box is the first volume of the manga in graphic novel form. I haven't read it but skimmed it and it looked to cover most of the same material as the DVD does, which continues to reaffirm my not picking up manga series of shows I'm watching unless it's completely different.

Menu:
The main menu is a trip back to the 70's with a piece of live action footage where you've got a turntable playing in the kind of room you'd expect from then with the wood walls, the crap around the player and a shot of the cover art in a record format size doing the main cast members in the classic Queen pose. A bit of instrumental music plays along with some video effects to age the look of it giving it a really fun nostalgic feel. The layout is straightforward and everything is easy to access and navigate. Submenus load quickly and as is usual for an ADV release, the disc correctly read our players language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
There aren't too many extras here but some of the standards and useful ones are included. The opening and closing sequences are given their shot in clean format and we also get the original Japanese piracy warnings which are done by different characters and fairly amusing. The useful extra is a series of cultural notes that go a long way towards explaining a number of the gags in this show and other cultural bits such as the taxi coupons and some linguistic gymnastics.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Late into the first volume of Cromartie High School, there's an episode where a "postcard artisan" is spending his time watching a show called Pootan and is desperately trying to figure out why it's funny. His main rival named Honey Boy that he wants to make his comedic partner is a fan of it but for the life of him he cannot figure out why it's funny, why it's popular and why it's spawned so much merchandise. It almost pains him to try and figure it out. In a way, I thought it was apt in that I spent most of this first volume with the same kind of thoughts.

Cromartie High School, based on the manga series, is done in the half-length episode format so that each one is roughly ten minutes of content with an opening and ending around it. The show kicks off with the lead character having transferred to Cromartie and mentally writing letters to his mother about his experiences. Kamiyama is clearly a handsome character in the classic sense and he'd fit the role of a lead in just about anything that he would be put in. He's a serious and earnest young man who wants to succeed in his new school venture but he's quickly realizing that Cromartie is filled with nothing but badasses and delinquents. But as he gets to know them, he realizes that just because they are badasses they aren't bad per se.

Kamiyama wants to avoid getting caught up in much of anything but before he knows it's, because of his quiet nature and his fantastic looks, he's considered one of if not the top badass in the year one class that he's in. He ends up hooking up with Hayashida, an amusing delinquent who has a small purple Mohawk that flows in the wind – even when there isn't any wind, and is probably one of the stranger members of the crowd in terms of personality because at times he's just out there. And this is in a group that has people such as a gorilla as a class member. As well as Mechazawa, a tin drum with eyes that people don't see as anything different than a regular student, though Kamiyama and Hayashida try to figure out if he's really a robot since they see him as that. The real topper, and it's one that I'm sure will make some people cringe and others laugh uproariously, is that there is an anime version of Freddie Mercury here, known simply as Freddie, who ends up in the mix of problems on a regular basis, whether it's him going into a bit of rock performance or riding a horse through the hallways.

A lot of the show is a roundabout way of people proving what kind of badasses they are, though it does deviate at times to some strange areas, such as when the class spends practically an entire episode trying to figure out the name of a song by humming it. Everyone ends up humming something different so they don't get anywhere, but you're sitting there watching characters going around humming. Another tangent is a group from another school that'll take down Cromartie at some point but the boss in the gang is more of an aspiring comedian than someone who likes violence, so his mind goes through things such as listening to his postcard jokes being read on the radio where he's something of a minor celebrity because of it. But even his life takes a turn when he finds out that Kamiyama does the same and is more popular, so he'd rather join forces as a duo than take him down in a fight. The conflict drives him nuts as he can't figure out the best way to deal with it.

The show is blissfully free of women, there's no schoolgirls in their uniforms turning heads or older teachers causing problems. The show in these first episodes is focused solely on the men of the show, and even then it's just the students as there's no teaching going on here. It's about the badasses and the way they all go through their days and the quirks of their make-up. The animation for the show really fees like the manga from what I can tell as well, since it's more pans and verbal gags mixed in with more static visual gags and reaction shots. That's not a negative since I think this can be done well, and if you watched this show as originally intended with a single episode every week, it works very well. This is one of those instances where I think the compilation of eight episodes in one sitting works against the nature of the show.

In Summary:
All that said, I'm really feeling like the postcard artisan did about Pootan. Why is this popular? There are some funny moments in each of the episodes, but the overall nature of it just didn't strike me as being funny. There have been a few variants of this type of show done over the years, the oldest one I can think of that comes close is the old Shonan Bakusozuku that AnimEigo did in the mid-90's that was ahead of its time. Comedy is one of the hardest things to find a wide audience for because in order to appeal to as many people as possible it tends to be the most base and simple kind of humor and gags. Cromartie goes for a more select audience and a number of the key gags and verbal bits are very Japanese and language related that even if you understand it intellectually, it doesn't necessarily come across as funny in that it gets you laughing. Outright comedy series with anime seems to put people on either a love it or hate stance and I can see Cromartie falling in there easily, though I can't quite say I feel either way about it yet.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Cultural Notes & Comments, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Original Japanese TV Warnings

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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