The gang is back in session for another semester of school based silliness and relationship misunderstandings.
What They Say
When we finally figure out what this show's all about, we'll tell ya! But for now, here's what you need to know...
Sophomore cutie Tenma is completely crushed out on classmate Karasuma. Meanwhile, tough guy Harima still hasn't managed to confess his own long-standing crush. But now everyone thinks the delinquent's dating little sis' Yakumo, sending Eri, the resident heiress, into a sulking squalor! And Karasuma? You guessed it! He's still clueless.
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.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This set takes the discs from the two half season sets and puts it all in one package with no changes to the encoding, so we get a 7/6/7/6 layout, though the extras take up a bit of space overall as well. 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. By and large this certainly looks solid enough and will please the majority of people since it has a mostly clean look that handles the busy animation scenes well.
The 2nd Semester set for School Rumble is put together about as expected for a full season show working off of two half season sets. The slipcover is a basic thin type where we get a nice group shot of the main girls in Tenma's class together where they're all in full color. Behind them are various angled shots from the show itself done through a purple filter which makes it a lot busier than I care for, a problem I had with the single discs from the first season as well. The back cover is a bit cleaner as it has two columns to it. The right side has the summary of the premise which covers things well while also including the breakdown of the extras, which they don't include any total runtime for but should since it's about an hours worth of material. The left column has various stills from the show and an action piece from the survival game segment that gives it a bit of humor-intensity.
Inside the slipcover we get two thinpak cases in which each one holds two discs on either interior side. The character artwork on the covers looks really good here with group shots of different configurations set against a white background with a purple stripe through the middle of it. It's bold, simple and very eye-catching. The back covers are laid out the same with an all light purple background that has the pencil sketch version of the front cover. The sketches are a nice touch and the rest of the cover is given over to a breakdown of the episodes by number and title. We do get artwork on the reverse side as well with two full wraparound pieces. One has a bunch of the girls milling about in their school uniforms while the other has a small group of them in their gym uniforms sitting down and stretching a little. No show related inserts are included with this release.
The menus for School Rumble are familiar to the first season 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.
The extras are on the second disc and fourth discs and Japanese language fans will be happy. While we get the standard clean opening and closing sequences, the extra on the second disc 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.
On the fourth disc, we get a bit of a repeat as the clean opening and closing sequences are included again. In addition to that, we get another video interview, this time with the original author, Jin Kobayashi. Amusingly, as many manga authors prefer to be anonymous, this one is shot from behind so we never see his face. But he does look suspiciously like Harima. The interview runs for just over forty minutes but it’s a real chore to get through because it’s largely about nothing due to the interviewer making it a complete silly puff piece, more often about her than the show or Kobayashi himself. This is one of those lost chances for something really good about the original material and how Kobayashi felt and interacted with the animation adaptation.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Since it's been about eighteen months since I saw the end of this season, I was curious to see how it would play out going back to it. I had some reservations about the show when the half season sets for the second season came out because sometimes too much of a good thing can turn it bad. The half season sets with thirteen episodes at a whack, which we watched over the course of a day, were enjoyable but it lacked a bit of the same kind of fun because there was just too much of it. For this full season set, I spread it across four days while watching other things in between episodes to try and mitigate some of the Schoorum fatigue I felt the last time.
There are a couple of main arcs that fit into this series overall which are amusing. 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 first half of the season 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.
One of the things that I think feels different about this season is that it does deal with these larger arcs instead of the smaller stories with the more varied humor that had a bit more of the quick hit manga style to it. There’s a section of these kinds of episodes toward the end of the second half of this season which really start to feel out of place considering how much of this has been about the bigger storylines and settings. When you have the show dealing with relatively serious material in a humorous way, going to even more outlandish pieces comes across really poorly. Admittedly, there are some moments of brilliance in there. When they decide to spend a lengthy epilogue piece doing an homage to Saint Seiya, I cannot help but grin like a fool. At the same time, the overly long Magical Girl Mai segment really doesn’t work well at all. When the kids comment that she’s too old for the role, it only reinforces it. These interim episodes are a welcome break from the serious material, but some of them simply go too outlandish instead of keeping it within the confines of reality.
Yakumo really turns out to be the character that steals this season for me. While she is still hard to really place as the Younger Sister to Tenma because of the differences in personality, she is coming across more and more as the right fit for Harima if only he’d see it. She’s gotten closer to him because of her assistance on the manga he’s always working on and she’s realized how much she likes him as it progresses. But she’s still conflicted because of the way she adores her sister and the way she understands that Harima is interested in her. But with a rather striking flashback to the girls younger days, we get an idea of why Yakumo is the way she is now and how close the bond between the two sisters really is. That puts a new spin on the competition of sorts that exist between the two.
More confounding though is the relationship ups and downs that exist between Harima and Tenma. Watching the two of them can be an exercise in extreme frustration at times. I really like both of them for very different reasons, but I have a harder time enjoying Tenma simply because she is so daft. She’s so fixated on Karasuma, a character that I actually really despise because he’s used in such an obnoxious way. The way he’s able to be brought in for any sort of needed outlandish moment often has its moments, but it also can throw the flow off completely which is equally frustrating. And honestly, he’s just freaky looking and I can take only so much of him on screen. Thankfully, Karasuma isn’t an overused character for the most part, but simply an unwelcome one when he does appear.
It's been rare for me to have a manga that I didn't like end up being an anime that I had a lot of fun with. School Rumble is one of those exceptions as this show overall makes me laugh a lot but also ends up causing me to like the characters a whole lot more than I did in the manga. So much of what makes this show work is the way that Harima carries himself. He’s not a character that you’d imagine could carry the series, but his honesty and internal monologue is priceless as he copes with a wide variety of situations. Though the series does hit something of a reset button towards the end as it deals with his relationship with Tenma, it doesn’t hit one when it comes to Yakumo, and that’s what has me the most interested in at this point, and hoping for more in the future. While I had some frustration with the shift to the longer arcs and the loss of some of the wacky comedy moments, it's made up for by some really fun character relationship twists and curves where the unexpected pairings really do work for the best. My biggest regret is that we never could get a second “locker” set like the first so that we would have both seasons together in the same way. Beyond that though, this is a fun show that's definitely worth checking out if you like silly school based comedies.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitle, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Interviews
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.
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