Cromartie High School Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • 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

By Bryan Morton     October 11, 2006
Release Date: April 17, 2006



What They Say
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

The only thing for certain is that for Kamiyama, Cromartie High School is his reality. And what a surreal reality it is. Because this is where the toughest, meanest (and often the dumbest) students are sent to do time. At Cromartie, purple-mohawked bruisers and pencil-chomping street thugs are just part of everyday life.

And so is a 400-pound gorilla. And a macho brute named Freddie who travels with his own theme music. And, of course, Mechazawa, the student voted most likely to need an oil change. So pack your bags, put on your best tough-guy swagger, and get a lesson in insanity from the hilarious losers at Cromartie High. This is one class you won't ever want to cut.

The Review!
Another high-school comedy hits DVD. Maybe it's just me, but these seem to be increasingly common these days. Cromartie High School has a unique selling point in that there's not a cute female character to be seen, but is there anything else here that's unusual? Oh, yes...

Audio:
Audio is provided in English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 versions " I listened to the Japanese track for this review. There were no obvious problems with the track, which makes only limited use of the soundstage, mainly as the material doesn't really lend itself to creative use of positioning. There are one or two scenes where there's some movement around to match on-screen action, but for the most part it's kept simple.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format. Cromartie uses a very simple animation style " a lot of the time there's very little actually happening on-screen " with plenty of bold colours, which come across very well. There were no apparent problems with the encoding.

Packaging:
This volume comes in a plain black keepcase, with the boys going for the Bohemian Rhapsody look on the front cover. If you catch the reference it's a nice piece of artwork, but if you somehow missed it this wouldn't be the most interesting-looking of DVDs. The rear cover has ADV's usual promotional piece, screenshots and technical information. Inside, there's an 8-page black & white booklet with character profiles, explanations of some of the show's in-jokes and references to other series, and "backstage" comments from some of the show's Japanese staff. Altogether a nice little package.

Menu:
A rare live-action menu here, keeping with the musical references as a very 70s-looking record player sits on a cluttered table, playing a piece of the show's background music. It's certainly different. Submenus are provided for Extras and Languages - these use the same video clip but different pieces of music (until a banana gets in the way, anyway) - while a trailer for volume 2 is also selectable from the main screen.

Extras:
The usual suspects appear here - clean versions of the opening and closing credits (several different versions of the ending), two of the original Japanese "please sit back from the screen" warnings (each done in a typically Cromartie style), and an extensive set of cultural notes explaining some of the show's more obscure references. Very useful.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Takashi Kamiyama's just enrolled at Cromartie High School - a school with a reputation for only "educating" the toughest and dumbest of boys who can't get themselves enrolled anywhere else. Needless to say, this situation leaves him just a little bit concerned about his future, and his first day at school, listening to his classmates try to one-up each other over just how bad they've been, doesn't make him any more optimistic. Fortunately, he has a handy book about how to fit in with delinquents.

As time goes on, he's introduced to a steady stream of ever stranger schoolmates: Hayashida, whose purple mohican seems to have a life of its own; the nameless student who looks just like Freddie Mercury, who never speaks but just hums his own theme tune; Mechazawa, the robot who nobody " including Mechazawa " seems to realise is a robot; the class gorilla; and more besides. And in all this time there's barely a teacher to be seen " which means the students can spend their time raising their own kind of mayhem.

Cromartie comes in bite-sized, 10-minute episodes, which to be honest is plenty long enough for the sort of in-your-face humour that the series makes use of. Kamiyama's possibly the only person in the school who could remotely be termed "normal", a quality that soon earns him a position of some respect in his class on the basis that he must be the ultimate badass if he doesn't even feel the need to look tough. There's a twisted logic in there somewhere, but don't think too long about it.

A lot of time in this volume is spent introducing the various weird & wonderful characters that Kamiyama meets at the school, some of whom he ends up friends with. The characters seem to get stranger and stranger as the story goes on " Hayashida pretty much acts like a normal person, even if his hair does seem unusually lively, but as you progress through Freddie, Mechazawa and the gorilla you wonder just what the creator of the original manga was on when he thought this up.

A welcome piece of sanity returns with the introduction of Yamaguchi, a student at the rival Destrade High who thinks he has a mean line with comedy " he's been building a name for himself as a "postcard artisan", sending one-liners to a late night radio show. His biggest rival in the comic department goes by the pen name of Honey Boy " also known as Takashi Kamiyama. Yamaguchi's a real comedy connoisseur, and spends a lot of time wondering why fictional TV series Pootan is so popular, since to him it's not funny at all. It's like a thunderbolt hits him when he learns Honey Boy's also a fan of the show " just what is it that he's missing!? Personally, I'm with Yamaguchi where Pootan's concerned " I just don't get it.

The rest of the disc continues in much the same tone " each episode has a theme of sorts with a number of short skits playing around it, usually with some form of wacky behaviour from one of the boys to add to the fun. In its original, 10-minute form it probably works quite well, as that's not long enough for the humour to wear thin or to become bored with the concept, but watching the full disc in one go " 8 episodes " stretches the appeal quite a bit, even assuming that you enjoy this style of comedy, which is far from guaranteed.

In summary:
Cromartie High School is one of those series that can really polarise opinion " some people will love it, others will hate it, depending on how the visual style and comedy appeal to your sensibilities. I'm still undecided " watching the whole disc in one sitting left me a little overloaded by the whole experience, and I think for future volumes I'll be watching in smaller chunks. There are some fun moments here, and the characters are certainly an unforgettable bunch, but the humour's off-the-wall enough that the series probably won't have widespread appeal.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,Cultural Notes and Comments,Clean Opening & Closing Animations,Original Japanese TV Warnings,Production Booklet

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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