Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Feb 8th 2008
Tempered and considerably mellowed by his one-sided romantic ordeal, Harima returns to school life just in time to desperately weasel his way into a group trip to the beach with his beloved Tenma. Unfortunately the group includes wimpy romantic rival wannabe Nara and a gaggle of other interfering bodies, not the least of whom is Harima-hating Eri, whose disposition towards the reformed delinquent has soured considerably since Harima accidentally propositioned her. Harima being Harima, the trip to the beach transforms into an enormous romantic misunderstanding (no thanks to the world's worst mishandling of accidental nudity), and Tenma being Tenma, she takes everything the wrong way, adding waves to already turbulent waters. Only this time Harima may not be the only victim.
This lively, colorful adaptation of manga-ka Jin Kobayashi's idiots-in-love comedy epic piles on yet another four episodes romantic misunderstandings, really stupid behavior, and embarrassing situations. The variety of humor continues to keep the series fresh and funny, and the series' web of unrequited loves continues to expand, providing plentiful fodder for humor while adding a sad little edge to it.
Humor still reigns supreme in the land of School Rumble, this volume providing such comedic delights as generic-loser-guy Nara (whom the series snidely refers to as "the person who would normally be the main character") learning the terror of hitting on a buffed-out delinquent's sweetheart and Harima dragging his relationship with Eri to new lows with some extremely ill-timed nudity (a moment that ranks among the funniest moments in recent memory). The writers glory in new ways of making Harima's love-life even more miserable—the end of episode fourteen being a particularly cleverly choreographed disaster—and adding new characters to perpetuate endless romantic entanglements and the humor they spawn doesn't rankle since the expansion of seemingly incidental characters like Ichijo and Imadori into larger roles is one of the series' many small joys. The humor is heavily dependent on the dunderheaded stupidity of its cast, which is actually kind of charming in its own way.
As the series gains confidence and the characters worm their way solidly into the audience's good graces, School Rumble gets bolder in its explorations of more explicitly serious material. There's always been a melancholy tint to the humor thanks to the impossibility of the series' many crushes (everyone, it seems, is in love with exactly the wrong person), but this time the series is bold enough to abandon humor altogether for considerable periods. The story about Hanai and Mikoto as children is sweet and uncharacteristically serous, Eri's reaction to Tenma's theory about Harima's love life is telling, and a short chapter about Yakumo trying to find a cool place to rest is almost lyrical in its relaxing simplicity. More surprising than its occasionally somber tone is the series' success in such endeavors. Too often dramatic ambitions are bad for a comedy, but School Rumble's characters command enough sympathy to pull it off, and the writers know exactly when to cut the sentimentality short with a sharp laugh.
The series' look is all cheerful prime colors and pretty girls (yes, a beach episode means oodles of swimsuit-clad flesh). The animation is still more remarkable for its timing than its movement (which tends to be heavily shortcut-ed whenever things get too busy), but a few judicious computer effects are on hand to add visual spice to this volume, and some of the combinations of CG effects and background art during the serious bits, specifically a mirror-surfaced rice paddy during Hanai's flashback, are almost incongruously striking. The score is unusually restrained, highly enjoyable, and still most memorable for its guilty-pleasure opening and ending themes.
Aside from the usual troubles with honorifics and naming conventions, surprisingly little (for Funimation) is changed in the translation of the series to English. The dub isn't above spicing things up here and there, and there are more than enough changes, some of them of questionable necessity, to turn off purists, but most of the time it delivers exactly what the original did: good comedy, solid drama, and loads of fun. The comic timing could still use a little work (although it does seem to be improving), but the addition of some new jokes in the incidental background dialogue balances things out (says the male half of a poolside couple to his beau: "Wanna come and watch me work out?")
Extras-wise, this volume is graced with a pair of very lively interviews, one with Kaori Shimizu (Akira) and the other with Yukari Fukui (Sara).
As School Rumble grows into its role as a romantic comedy (i.e. its romance gains equality with its comedy), the series' one draw grows ever stronger: from the moment the words "School Rumble" come spinning onto the screen, you know you're in for two hours of undiluted good times. And really, it'd be churlish to demand anything more.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Startlingly likeable cast makes forays into drama viable; funnier than a clown vs. mime deathmatch.
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