Otaku USA Magazine
School Rumble, Volumes 4-6


Marathoning the last three volumes of School Rumble is a pretty interesting experience, to say the least. As a straight, no interruptions experience, it hits a middle ground somewhere between the complete mental excess of a show like Excel Saga and a more straightforward love comedy. In other words, your ears won’t bleed, but you won’t be in stitches the whole time, either.

When the adaptation of Jin Kobayashi’s manga first started, it was a fun, irreverent affair that had more of a centralized feel around the charming and somewhat ditzy schoolgirl, Tenma Tsukamoto. The crux of the story involved her feelings for Ooji Karasuma and the fact that he was transferring schools in a year, delinquent poster boy Harima Kenji and whatever hijinks would ensue from his own crush on Tenma, and the insanity that erupted whenever anyone from the huge supporting cast would be thrown into the mix.

School Rumble. There isn’t really a “lead” character, with most of the humor coming from the extensive cast as a whole, and Karasuma is hardly in the show at all (something that’s occasionally joked about by the characters). If anything, Harima Kenji runs the whole shebang himself, as it should be. He’s by far the most enjoyable character of the series, and the aspects of the story that are central to him are the best the second half has to offer.

Among the top of the pile is his stint as a mangaka; a job he takes very seriously, and one that has him basically writing and drawing his fantasy love affair with Tenma while keeping the gig a secret from everyone he knows. He eventually has Tenma’s older sister Yakumo come aboard as an assistant of sorts, which leads her to believe that they’re seeing one another exclusively. From there, he deals with a big burly beard, a bout of baldness that he covers up with an Osamu Tezuka-like beret, and a banished-by-shame adventure aboard a rough and tumble fishing boat. While some of the other characters in Rumble are interesting enough, there really wouldn’t be a show without Harima.

Of course, you might just dig the timid one-sided romances of the show, if that’s your bag. If this wasn’t such an obvious gag, it might be annoying. Actually, in any other show but a comedy, it most definitely is annoying. It’s pretty effective, though, when you have a big tough guy delinquent that can’t even muster the courage to tell a classmate that he likes her like that; probably can’t even muscle up and shoot over one of those fancy notes with “Do you like me? Check Y or N” scribbled on it.

A lot of the time, the humor is played pretty straight in School Rumble. They don’t wink too much or beg you to laugh at something, and it usually amounts to someone simply being really, really dense. It’s also kind of amazing how many trips, festivals, and other school escapes they manage to work into the series. If this isn’t an intentional joke on every other school romance story, I don’t want to know. Like I said, it’s hard to tell sometimes when they play the majority of it pretty straight. When Harima shows up, expressionless, with his pet giraffe Pyotr, do we laugh or do we cry?

There’s a lot to like about School Rumble, even if it tends to sway toward pretty standard love-quadrangle comedy from time to time. Some memorable characters dot the horizon well after it’s over, and there are a handful of spot-on parodies of other shows/media (like a pretty killer sentai parody in episode 18, featuring a clip from the movie version of the extremely fictional Hatenkou Robot Dojibiron). The moment it seems like the show might start to get too wrapped up in its many romances, or take itself too seriously in general, something will pop up and bring it back where it belongs in short time.

It’s not a perfect show, it’s not always funny, and it works best when watched in rapid succession. Still, you can get your romance and comedy kicks from it without being overwhelmed by either factor. If you’ve grown to love the denizens of this ridiculous school world, don’t worry, there’s more to come. As a matter of fact, you can look forward to an OVA and another 26-episode series in School Rumble OVA Ichigakki Hoshu and School Rumble Nigakki, respectively.