Ready to Rumble!!!
“School Rumble” is probably my favorite modern comic from Japan. Equal parts straight comedy, bizarre strangeness and hilarious romance hijinks, it manages to get the mix just right and have me cracking up in a way I haven’t done since Love Hina.
The basic premise is nothing unique. Boy likes girl who likes different boy who likes other girl who likes different boy who likes an entirely different girl who is in love with the original boy who liked the original girl. I remember when I first picked up the comic book in Japan, the display had a giant flowchart detailing all the romantic entanglements.
“School Rumble” has a great ensemble cast without any throwaway characters. Tsukamoto Tenma is the naïve cute girl desperately in love with Karasuma Oji. Why she loves Karasuma is a mystery, as he is a stone-faced oddball with no particular interests outside of curry, and who wears a kappa costume whenever it is raining. Tenma is loved by the delinquent Harima Kenji, who tries to balance his wild nature with his feelings for Tenma. Tenma has a supporting cast of girlfriends, Eri (the rich princess), Mikoto (the brawny and busty kenpo athlete) and Akira (the cool calculator) who each have their romantic entanglements.
What is unique is how the series is handled. The first few episodes are pretty straight forward, but then the whole storyline takes a quick turn to left field, almost as if the writer got bored with his original plan. I always tell people looking to check out “School Rumble” that they need to stick with it for a couple of episodes when the pace and quality really pick up. Out of nowhere, Tenma’s little sister comes in, with the ability to read the mind of any guy who finds her attractive, which is everyone but Harima Kenji. Kenji suddenly becomes a long-haired fortune teller with the ability to talk to animals. Ichijyo Karen makes an entrance, a small girl with tremendous strength who can lift a piano single-handedly. Slowly, the Harima/Tenma/Karasuma triangle heads backstage, and the crazy fun begins.
The animated series follows the comic almost exactly, with the same story arcs and situations. They did a phenomenal job capturing the look and feel of the comic. Tenma is even cuter here, and Harima is even cooler. The way they handled Tsukamoto Yakuma’s (Tenma’s sister) ability to read minds was quite clever. The animators obviously knew that the comic worked just as it was, and did a direct translation to screen.
This DVD collection by Funimation is equally fantastic. It has the entire first season, 26 episodes, in four slim cases. I love getting a whole season on DVD that doesn’t take up a lot of space on my shelf. I’m not a big fan of dubbing, so I can’t comment on that, but the subtitles are excellent and do a great job of capturing the original dialog. There is also a bonus disk with cast interviews that was a nice surprise. Altogether a perfect package for a great series.