Reviewby Theron Martin, Sep 21st 2007
School Rumble + Artbox
As the new school year begins, cute but brainless and inept 16-year-old Tenma Tsukamoto has her heart set on spending time with the love of her life, the very cool, soft-spoken Karasuma, though she has difficulty bringing herself to confess her feelings to him. She also remains unaware that she has both caught the eye and thoroughly won the heart of Kenji Harima, the school's biggest delinquent, who is just as earnest (but incompetent) at confessing his love to Tenma and getting her to notice him as she is with Karasuma. Meanwhile, Tenma's soft-spoken little sister Yakumo deftly fends off the attention of an overzealous classmate while pursuing the cat of her dreams.
If the first volume of School Rumble proves anything, it's that intelligence is not required for effective humor. Despite often being embarrassingly stupid, it delivers on enough gags that you may find yourself smiling even while wincing at the moronic behavior of the male and female leads or rolling your eyes at the torturous treatment of typical romantic comedy jokes. Everyone should find at least some part of the first five episodes that will entertain them, and those with a high enough tolerance for banal content should find the first volume pleasingly funny.
A minor dose of cleverness and a heavy load of high-spirited cheer buoy the content against the riptide of its inanity. The efforts of Tenma and Himaru to summon the courage to confront their loved ones and/or get them to notice her/him become tiresome by at least the third episode, as do their remarkable individual levels of brainlessness, but in neither case do they ever lack for energy and enthusiasm. The way Tenma's friends gain vast entertainment value out of watching her fret, and the way Karasuma always seems to innocently dodge or foil Tenma's efforts, provide more consistent amusement, and the series is usually at its best (though not necessarily funniest) when focusing on Tenma's sister Yakumo.
Although the artistry of the series could hardly be considered a top-tier effort, it nonetheless succeeds at delivering eye-pleasing designs for its two central characters. Tenma sometimes looks like she stepped straight out of Azumanga Daioh but her sharp-colored, bright-faced design instantly appeals (and she looks utterly adorable in one sequence where she wears a nurse's outfit), while the dark-skinned, goatee-sporting look of Harima distinguishes him from every other thuggish character out there. Karasuma sports a decidedly weird not-all-there kind of look, while the bizarrely red eyes in an otherwise placid design for Yakumo can be a bit off-putting. Supporting characters offer a wide variety of different builds and hair designs but impress less. Background art occasionally looks good but more often lacks sharp detail and the overall look is sometimes a bit rough. Fan service is almost nonexistent, and the animation quality will not impress anyone, either.
If the comic efforts of these episodes sometimes fail, it is due to no fault of the soundtrack, which ideally backs and reflects the high comic spirit and enthusiasm of the content. The catchy, light-hearted opener “Scramble” sets the tone, while the cute ditty “Girls Boys” appropriately closes out each episode. In between the energetic musical numbers put great effort into nudging the comedy along.
No fault can be found in FUNimation's English dub, either, with one major exception: the narration which is supposed to be present throughout the parts of episode 4 focusing on Kasumo is conspicuously absent in the English dub even though it is present in both the subtitles and Japanese dub. Given that an English VA is credited for the role, this has to be some kind of technical problem rather than a deliberate omission. Beyond that the casting and performances suit the roles well, with the highlight performance being Brandon Potter (Sven from Black Cat) as Harima and Luci Christian falling into her Princess Tutu voice to do Tenma. The English script stays reasonably close except when sprucing the dialogue up with American euphemisms or making adaptations for language-specific humor, which fails to make sense in one case but succeeds nicely in others.
FUNimation has once again gone all out with the Special Edition box design, which has been shaped like a school locker. In both the SE and regular versions the case includes a set of heavy-duty stickers (suitable for using to decorate a locker) and a reversible cover, while on-disc extras include standards like clean opener and close and Japanese TV spots. Also present are interviews with the seiyuu for Tenma and Yakumo, which are most distinctified by Ami Koshimizu's refusal to admit that the character in the series she most represents is the idiot (Tenma) she voices.
School Rumble is a series best watched in small doses, as trying to tackle too much of it in one sitting will elevate the suicide rate of your brain cells. Most episodes are divided into two or even three focus-gag segments, and you may not want to watch more than that in one sitting. Taken in small doses it can be quite funny, although it will soon wear out its welcome if it doesn't find some fresher angles in its next volume.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Often quite funny, appealing lead character designs.
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