Otaku USA Magazine
School Rumble, Volume 3

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of School Rumble, based on the original manga by Jin Kobayashi, think high school love, awkward moments and faces that pull and squish like silly putty. The series primarily focuses on Tenma Tsukamoto, a bubbly student looking more six than sixteen. She leads the rest of the classroom cast Azumanga Daioh style like a comedic Pied Piper.

But let’s face it, the real lead here is rough and tumble delinquent Kenji Harima. It’s been that way since volume one and it continues throughout the four episodes on volume three, which begin with Harima still hopelessly trying to win Tsukamoto’s affections. It sounds like normal romance trappings until you get a load of Harima’s ridiculous dandy pirate facial hair and his beat ’em up attitude that serves as the hard shell for his soft, swooning interior.

 The location of his schoolboy adulation here is a water park, followed by a rousing trip to the beach. After Tsukamoto and the other girls get hit on by some guys at the park, they all set up a quadruple date that ends up being botched once three of the boys are unable to attend. This leaves three open spaces and, naturally, an opportunity for hijinks to ensue. Everyone loves it when hijinks ensue, right? Thought so. While Harima would ideally be spending most of the trip “wooing” Tsukamoto, he ends up spending most of it naked, or at least halfway there, and inadvertently scaring the crap out of everyone else.

School Rumble benefits from being like its manga counterpart in many ways, especially the way in which everything’s structured. Rather than having a story play out in typical single-episode chunks, Rumble splits everything up into smaller bits, usually consisting of maybe one or two funny situations, tops. This makes it as consumable as you like. Take a couple bites, shelve it, and remember that the milk doesn’t get soggy here. Of course, the gags are hit or miss, but there are enough of them to make up for the duds, and the primary cast is mostly charming enough to carry the episodes themselves.

 The episodes here are also, like the first couple of volumes, lightly peppered with cultural references that you may or may not get, depending on how far your knowledge of Japan extends. These aren’t really accompanied with any notes, either, so you’re either “in” or you’re out. Nevertheless, School Rumble is continuing to be a fun and, yes, cute (I don’t want to hear anyone screaming moe at me) series with solid and consistent production values that most fans of high school romance mishaps and nonsense comedy should enjoy.