Review for School Rumble: 2nd Semester - The Complete Collection (US)
I wonder sometimes how much the UK anime industry loses out to imports. Actually, I'm constantly surprised there is a UK anime industry at all, what with BBFC fees, a delay in the series getting to the West, in which fans will likely view the fansubs, the fact that not all series make it to the UK after getting a US release, and those that do are delayed further, the fact that even in this day and age, UK releases can still be short-changed in terms of extras and specifications, that some releases are technically ballsed up, and some releases are dropped halfway through the series. School Rumble was one of those shows that stalled in the middle of the run, when Revelation's distribution deal with Funimation went south. Three volumes were enough for me to get hooked, and even though I waited patiently for another company to announce that they would complete the release, that never happened. The anime industry in this country isn't exactly losing out to imports if they aren't releasing the product in the first place. But when I placed the order for the final three volumes of the series, I didn't realise I was letting myself in for the long run, as it turns out that School Rumble's first series has begat OVAs and a whole second series as well. The second series of School Rumble also marked a change in marketing strategy from Funimation, one that has trickled over to the UK in recent months. No longer the lengthy wait for six or seven volumes, rather it was the advent of half and full series collections. School Rumble: Second Semester was the first title to be released in half season sets, 13 episodes per 2-disc collection, and the full season 4-disc collection followed soon thereafter. If nothing else, it's certainly a space saver.
School Rumble is a slapstick, laugh-packed comedy, something that the UK anime scene could always use more of in my opinion. What's more, it's not one of those 'teenaged boy, surrounded by a harem of girls, crossed purposes, compromising situations' comedies. It's the second year of high school for Tenma Tsukamoto, and it's time for her to confess her feelings to model student Oji Karasuma. Unfortunately he doesn't know she exists. Kenji Harima is a teenaged delinquent, known for his gangster tendencies, his aggressive attitude, and his motorcycle, who has up till now been a school dropout. That's until he fell for Tenma Tsukamoto. Now he's a full time student, attitude and all, determined to make his feelings known to Tenma. Unfortunately she doesn't know he exists.
With the start of the second semester, things only get more complicated. Previously, to prove his love, Harima vowed to win a manga competition, although to meet the deadline, he needed Yakumo's help. Now Tenma thinks that Harima is in love with her younger sister. Misunderstanding! The school Cultural Festival arrives, and the problem of what to do for class 2-C results in full scale civil war, and Harima playing Sleeping Beauty to Eri Sawachika's Prince Charming. The school finally gets a girls' basketball team, and Tenma loves basketball, only no one lets her play. Then things get a little more serious when the year exams come up. Harima vows to pass so that he can keep up with Tenma, Tenma vows to pass so that she can keep up with Karasuma, and maybe one of them will actually start studying.
But the mayhem increases when Harima gets published in a prestigious manga magazine, gets to meet the editor in chief, is ordered to produce 120 pages of new material, gets locked out of his house, and has to spend the holidays at Tenma's house drawing manga. Eri may be facing an arranged marriage, unless she can find a knight in shining armour to rescue her, or failing that Kenji Harima. There's trouble when the writers run out of ideas, but then Tenma goes on a date with Karasuma on New Years, and Harima is so jealous that he dresses up as a lion. Winter also means a cruise to the tropics, and of course a shipwreck ensues. Then the unimaginable happens. Tenma spends the night with Harima. Of course she's only there to 'help' him meet his manga deadline, but this may just be the chance he's been waiting for.
Funimation have released all 26 episodes of School Rumble: Second Semester across 4 discs in this series collection. They are distributed as follows
1. Scramble Reloaded! Superstar Request! Scandalous Restart!
2. Strategies, Battlefields, Friends.
3. Beautiful Beast vs. Beautiful Beast! God of War vs. God of Warfare! Teacher vs. Student
4. Wild Ideas About the Play! Wild Ideas at the Bathhouse! Wild Ideas About Rice Balls!
5. Hostesses are Culture! Comics are Culture! Cake is Also Culture!
6. Sleeping Beast! Kiss Impossible! Finale!
7. Fight, Hunter! Fight, Eater! Fight, Part-Time Worker!
8. Bam * Birth of a Girl's Basketball Club! Bam * If You Please! Bam * Swing Set of Tears!
9. Pass! Dribble! Shoot!
10. Hee! Hee Hee! Hee Hee Hee!
11. Napoleon, Between Life and Death… Nishimoto, Between Sex and Self Control… Sara, Between Saintliness and Self
12. Perfect, Forbidden! Entry, Forbidden! Shorts, Forbidden!
13. When I Turned Around, There He Was. In Karasuma's Name. All Mysteries Revealed!
14. At El Cado… In America (26f)… With America (26h).
15. A Man Shut Out, A Man Left Out, A Man Tested Out.
16. I Don't Want to be Tied to Anyone, I Don't Want to Go to School or Home Anymore, Under the Dark Veil of Night.
17. Eri's Escape, Harima's Lullaby, The False Bride.
18. The Sweet Trap of Work, The Sweet Trap of the Classroom, The Sweet Trap of Celebrity
19. Here, There and Everywhere, Christmas! A Dash for Christmas! A Shattered Christmas!
20. More Than Friends… Less Than Lovers… Up Until Then.
21. This is School Rumble… It Really Is School Rumble… It's School Rumble, I Tell You!
22. First Dreams. Lion's Dance. New Year's.
23. Dream Jumbo. Dream Jump. Dream, uh, Press.
24. Southern Rainbow 2-C! Ya'akumo of the Mysterious Island! The Seven Seas!
25. It's So Romantic, Harima! Get Published in Zinegama, Harima! Come on ♥ Harima!
School Rumble Season 2 came around when Funimation was changing its release strategy. They were shifting away from the individual volume releases, and opting instead for the half season boxsets, and the first saving to be made was by putting what used to be on three discs onto two instead. So Funimation now presents 26 episodes, plus extras across four discs, and they haven't quite perfected the art of getting more for less at this early stage. It's a 4:3 regular transfer, NTSC for the Region 1, and everything is clear and sharp, with plenty of primary colours. However, compression signs are prevalent, particularly in the form of aliasing. It's a rare anime disc that doesn't have some, but usually you have to look for it. With School Rumble Season 2, there are moments that the jagged edges are so obvious that they draw you out of the episode. Fortunately Funimation's authoring would improve afterwards, but it's a shame that School Rumble Season 2 served as a test run for them. The animation, as you would expect from a comedy, remains straightforward and simplistic, with pleasant character designs, and fairly non-descript artwork. It's all very energetic, and does more than enough to get the comedy across.
You get a choice of DD 2.0 English and Japanese, along with translated English subtitles and a signs only track. The show gets a catchy and quirky set of themes that are impossible to get out of your head once you hear them. The dialogue is clear, and the stereo sufficient for the show. Which language you choose depends on your usual preferences, but for what it's worth, I found the show much funnier in Japanese, the timing and the flow just seemed to work better. I wish they'd stop dubbing the theme songs in English though.
School Rumble: 2nd Semester comes on four discs, packed into two, thin-pack cases, one disc on each side. The cases get nice cover art outside and in, and both fit inside a card slipcase, taking up not much more room than a single Amaray.
The discs get static, widescreen menus, even though the show is 4:3.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Kodocha.
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Peach Girl, and also has trailers for Ouran High School Host Club, Rumbling Hearts, Negima!, Suzuka, Sasami, Save Me! Lollipop, Moon Phase, and School Rumble S1.
The big extra is the Interview With Tenma's Japanese Voice Actress, which lasts 30 minutes. Shimizu Kaori (Akira) hosts Koshimizu Ami (Tenma), and it's really a chance for the two to have a good gossip and goof around. It is fun to watch, if not all that edifying. This is one part of an ongoing series, but you won't get the rest here. Then again, in Japan, anime sells at two episodes per disc, so there is a lot more room for extra features.
Finally, the textless credits are on disc 2.
Disc 3 autoplays with the trailer for Negima!?
Disc 4 autoplays with a trailer for Shin Chan, and also has trailers for Shuffle, Ouran High School Host Club, Burst Angel, Save Me! Lollipop, One Piece, Full Metal Panic, Tsubasa, and School Rumble.
Most substantial is the interview with the creator of the School Rumble manga, Kobayashi Jin. Once again, Shimizu Kaori hosts, and we learn that this is the 9th and final part of the interviews. We missed out on seven parts, but we did get all 26 episodes on 4 discs. This featurette lasts 42 minutes, and is an in depth, but totally light-hearted interview with the mangaka. Apparently he wants to maintain his privacy, so we don't get to see his face for the duration.
Once again, it's all polished off with the textless credits.
The hardest thing to review on an episode-by-episode basis, or even by single volumes, is sketch comedy. It can be erratic, the episode synopses are a nightmare, and the quality of the comedy can vary greatly within the episode itself, let alone from episode to episode. That's what I found so hard when it came to reviewing School Rumble Season 1, as the reviews made it come across a lot more variable than it actually was. I loved the first season, I certainly wouldn't have bought the second if I hadn't and while the convenience and economy of the complete season set is obvious to the purchaser, it's nothing compared to how I feel about it as a reviewer. I can take it all in as one, complete whole, and I am happy to say that the second season of School Rumble is hilarious. It's brilliant, inspired, sidesplitting anime comedy of the highest order. I liked it even more than the first season, and for the better part of two weeks, I went to sleep with my face aching from laughing so much.
Where the second season excels is the greater consistency. I found that the first season was a little more erratic. When it was at its best, it was brilliant, but there were moments that it would lose the thread a bit. The second season doesn't quite match the first when it comes to its best, but it doesn't have any of the lows either. It just keeps hitting the gags for six, time after time. It's helped in this accomplishment by the first season having done all the hard work, introducing the characters and setting up the story arcs. All this second season has to do is build on that, and because we have got to know the characters in season 1, there's greater empathy, and moments of pathos as well that contrast the comic mayhem.
It helps that School Rumble is unlike any other anime comedy that I have seen. It doesn't indulge in the usual tropes and clichés, but basks in inventive silliness and originality, and even when a familiar idea is used, it's twisted in an unexpected way. For instance, something of a harem does threaten to form around Harima, with a couple of girls developing feelings for him, but he remains blissfully ignorant throughout, single-minded in his devotion to Tenma. I also like its three-pronged approach to storytelling. It's resolutely a sketch show comedy, so it's built around small gags, and little bits of surrealism. But then it does come together with mini story arcs, the basketball team stretched across a couple of episodes, the cultural festival similarly, and then there are the long story arcs, which include, but aren't just limited to the Tenma, Harima, and Karasuma triangle. There's also Harima's attempt to be a manga creator, Ichijou's crush on Imadori, and Lala crushing Imadori's skull, and plenty more. School Rumble is a rich fount of entertainment with plenty for all tastes.
Of course that means that some of it may not be to your taste, and I have to admit that a couple of episodes, especially those which focussed on the lesser characters, weren't as appealing, or the jokes fell a little flat. But a couple of flat episodes from 26 aren't a disaster. And as mentioned, the first season has done all the hard work of introducing the characters and giving us an insight into their stories. There's a lot to hold the interest now, and the added benefit is that going back to season 1 will make me appreciate those characters more, that I had initially considered superfluous, but who got significant airtime here.
School Rumble is a delicious comedy, one that is perilously close to being my favourite. It will all depend on how well it holds up to repeat viewing, but given that I am already eager to watch it again, I have few qualms that it will fail on that score. School Rumble works because it is funny, original, inventive, and unexpected. It also works because it takes care to develop the characters, and have you interested in their lives and troubles. That it will have you laughing out loud, embarrassingly so at times, is a given. That it may just bring a lump to your throat, and moisten the eyes is a surprise, but a welcome one. School Rumble is a show that I feel could have gone on and on, but alas not everyone agreed. The Third Semester should have been a full season, but wound up as a 2-episode OVA. Worse, Funimation hasn't licensed it, there's no English language release, and so if you want to see how the story ends, you'll have to 'other means' it to watch it. It looks promising too, with a school trip to the UK of all places.
And yes that price tag is for real, it isn't a typo. When I placed the order for this show back in March, the RRP was twice what it is now. Since then, Funimation have slashed the RRP for the entire second season down to $29.98. That's the same price as a single volume of School Rumble Season 1 a couple of years ago. You have even less of a reason now not to import this series.