Cromartie High School Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Cromartie High School

Cromartie High School Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     July 11, 2005
Release Date: July 05, 2005


Cromartie High School Vol. #3
© ADV Films


What They Say
It’s not easy being a delinquent. Especially if you’re trying to survive the tough streets around Cromartie. There are chat room bullies with no manners. Aliens abducting your friends. Vicious biker gangs. And the Boss Championship—a famous cutthroat competition to determine who’s the biggest badass around. (Of course, when Kamiyama’s running it, it’s more like a game show where you have to wear a stupid hat.) But it seems the biggest danger is…love. Yep, that’s right, Mechazawa is in love. Luckily this romantic robot has friends like Kamiyama, Hayashida, and Maeda to reprogram him! Wait a minute. Maybe that’s not such a good thing after all…


The Review!
As the series marches on, it continues to win me over with its particular style of comedy and a growing cast of enjoyable characters.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English dubbed format. The English 5.1 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:
Going for the another album parody, Mechazawa enjoys a day in the park on the swing while kicking off his heels in a really nicely illustrated piece that captures the feel of an old LP quite well. The back cover continues the old feeling to it with a green background and provides one large shot of the Pootan folks 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 staff, provides a few more insights into the gags of the show and overall helps flesh things out a bit more.

Menu:
In terms of menus that are cute at first but in no way do you want to let them run on over and over for any length of time, this one is probably close to the top. Parodying one of the pieces from Radiohead's OK Computer, it has text display on a white screen with dialogue reading out what each menu is about and repeating it in the loop. It is very cute at first but after running for ten minutes and hitting some submenus you want to strangle anyone within any distance. 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:
A good selection of extras are included for the show where you wouldn't imagine there being too many. 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. A fun inclusion is a look at the Japanese PlayStation 2 commercials and a look at the commercials for the CD and DVD releases.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With each volume and new character revelation the series continues to grow on me and I find myself laughing at it more and more. I still don't care much for the entire aspect where it tells you to read the manga to find out more about the story, which happens at least once in this volume, but the show is managing to hold up on its own for the most part and you don't feel like you're missing all that much.

Much like the previous two volumes, it's somewhat difficult to talk about and review this show since its so completely gag based and in a way very much like the Seinfeld show in that it sets up gags early on and throughout the entire series and brings them out every now and then in new form and fashion. Things that start at one time are ignored for awhile but then comes up at the end and smacks the viewer upside the head as they realize where it all built to. A good example of this is the first episode where we've got the feuding gangs that want to take each other down but one of the gang leaders expresses himself at home by using the computer to manage an online chat group. Complete with vocalizing all the smilies and other bits that make up the net lingo. Listening to the gruff voice saying "smiley" or "sad" symbols is priceless as is the way he deals with newcomers who have problems. The newcomer of course turns out to be Kamiyama who he eventually finds out is the other gang leader he's up against. Karma works beautifully in this episode as things that go around come around in hilarious ways right up to the last frame.

Kamiyama continues to be the best character of the show though as he grapples with what he has to deal with in his everyday life. The way he's nearly abused into positions of power is comical as is the way he internalizes how he should deal with things when his "friends" end up screwing him over. A prime example is when the gang decides to start up a fight at another school and they all go to meet outside that school at night to start in. Nobody but Kamiyama shows up and he tries to decide how to leave but ensure that everyone knew that he came in case they show up late, something his classmates are prone to do. So he spray paints "Kamiyama was here!" on the wall of the rival school, which only sets them off more into wanting to fight. It all comes around and around.

Kamiyama's rise in power mirrors the same kind of thing, such as when he's told about the Boss fights that are about to start that will determine who the number one boss in Japan is. He gets dragged down to the tournament fight only to find it's a big Q&A session and he's the only one to get the question right, which leads to him vaulting up in stature considerably now that he's the #1 Boss in all of Japan. My absolute favorite bit to how things work out though is one discussion where Hayashida talks about how rough it is at home and what he has to go through. His revelation about his hair is hysterical and had me laughing out loud much longer than I expected, especially since it's something that wound up being played out in such a bad way with our favorite nervous motion sickness gang member.

If there's anything that brought down this release it's the continuing focus on Pootan at some point. I simply can't find the humor or appeal in it and the focus in this volume was no exception. It just feels incredibly weak and like a story that belongs better on its own and away from this material but just ended up being tied to it. The opening bit to the Pootan episode was comical though as the "hardcore longtime fan" internalizes about how the show has become popular and what a bunch of posers everyone else is in comparison to him. You wonder if people will get that one when they really think about it.

In Summary:
When the focus is kept on the core characters such as Kamiyama and Hayashida and those that are affected by their insanity the show works out rather well. The two of them play off each other well and their interactions and style work well when others try to get involved, such as the lackey in one episode here that desperately wants to tell everyone his name but is frustrated by the arrival of everything from friends to meteorites carrying aliens. The absurdity level is fun at times but I think it works best when it does things like it does in the first episode with the online chat room and the way people are so connected without realizing it, leading to the violence it does and just how everyone internalizes everything. Cromartie's becoming much more enjoyable as it goes on though and I'm looking forward to seeing how the series ends in the next volume.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Cultural notes & comments, Japanese DVD commercials, Japanese CD commercials, Japanese PS2 Game commercials, Original Japanese TV warning,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

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

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