Cromartie High School (2003) – By Duane L. Martin

High School is a difficult time for everyone. But what if you went to a high school that was full of brainless thugs, a robot that almost no one seems to realize is a robot, a Freddie Mercury lookalike, and a guitar playing gorilla? My guess is, it would make your own personal high school experience seem rather tame. Welcome to the world of Cromartie High School.

Cromartie High School was originally a Manga comic, and was later turned into an anime. This is a fact which the writer seems to delight in pointing out to us, as there’s several times just within the first four episodes where they reference something that happened in the past and basically say that if you want to know what they’re talking about, you should read the Manga. Now I loved the old television show Green Acres because they were the masters of self aware humor, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the same sort of humor in Cromartie High School. But there’s more to it than just the self aware humor. A lot more.

While this show is semi-lacking on the animation level and is not really anything groundbreaking in its appearance, the way its done really works for the type of show it is. And what type of show is that? Bizarre. Really freakin’ bizarre. And that’s where its entertainment value lies.

The basic premise of the story is that first year high school student, sixteen year old Takashi Kamiyama, a guy who had pretty much walked the straight and narrow up until now, has been suddenly thrust into a school full of thugs and weirdos. He wants to fit in, but it’s difficult for him because he’s basically a straight arrow. Fortunately, he not only manages to fit in, but his new best friend Shinjirou Hayashida solves this little problem for him by thrusting him into a leadership position under the premise that people in their world of thugs and punks aren’t impressed by tough guys who can fight. What really creeps people out is when you have someone who’s totally straight and innocent looking like Kamiyama, living like a bunny amongst a pride of lions. Basically, as he put it, that would have to be one badass bunny.

The whole show is just one bizarre story after another. One of the more bizarre episodes finds Hayashida humming a tune to himself in the bathroom after he hears the robot kid Mechazuma humming it in the bathroom stall. Unable to remember what the hell the song is and who does it, Hayashida goes on a mission to find out. Throughout the course of the episode, between he and Kamiyama, they manage to get the song stuck in everyone’s head, and the entire school starts humming it incessantly trying to remember what it is. Every episode is like a Pandora’s Box of bizarreness, and if you open that box, you definitely won’t regret it.

The dialogue in this show is also priceless. What’s really funny about it is how regular it is. The English voice acting is extremely well done and the dialogue often ranges from mildly humorous to absolutely hilarious. It has a regular guy quality that makes it sound like the kind of interactions you would hear any time a bunch of regular guys got together, the only difference being that the conversations between people at Cromartie High are often pretty freakin’ weird.

If you like self aware, goofball humor as much as I do, then you’re going to love Cromartie High School. Just don’t go into it expecting groundbreaking animation or intellectual storylines because you’ll be disappointed. That’s not to say the animation and the whole look of it in general is bad, because it’s not. It’s actally really cool, and definitely has a feel all its own. If you haven’t read the manga, you’ll have missed out on a bit of the back story, but the anime actually starts in right from the first day of school, so you’ll basically be starting from the beginning and going on from there.

The preview DVD I was sent had four episodes on it. How many the final release will have per DVD I don’t know, because I recently got the final DVD of Gantz Vol. 1, which I reviewed for the January issue, and it only had two episodes on it at around 22 minutes each. In any case, if you’re looking for something fun that will give you great evening of entertainment, Cromartie High will definitely give you a double helping.

You can check out this and other releases from ADV Films by visiting their website at http://www.advfilms.com.