Revelation have covered pretty much every genre since they entered the anime market, but School Rumble sees them enter new waters - school comedy. ADV have pretty much cornered the school comedy market with the likes of Azumanga Daioh, Paniponi Dash and Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu!, so does School Rumble have what it takes to make Revelation a contender?
The series focuses on Tenma Tsukamoto, a slightly dim school
girl with a crush on fellow classmate Oji Karasuma. The particularly
vacant Karasuma doesn't show any signs of, well, anything really, and Tenma is
too embarrassed to tell him how she feels directly. However, she isn't
alone in her romantic troubles. Kenji Harima is a motorbike-riding teen
delinquent with a crush of his own, and the object of his affections is Tenma!
Like Tenma though, he is unable to make his feelings clear and seems to be
hoping that fate will bring them together with the object of their affections.
Both try to catch the attention of their potential other halves in quite similar
ways, but neither have much success. Tenma's friends and sister aren't too
much help either, not that they don't have troubles of their own...
There are plenty of high class school comedies out in the UK, ranging from the slice-of-life style to plain insanity. School Rumble pitches itself somewhere in the middle, grounding its stranger moments with some straightforward romantic comedy. It's pretty good at what it does too, with plenty of laughs and some engagingly OTT characters backed up by some solid animation. Most of the comedy comes from the two leads, with Tenma's plans and schemes to express her love and her sheer lack of common sense providing most of it.
However, for me it is the intense but insecure Harima that steals the show, his tough-guy looks and manner hides his secret yearning for Tenma and his schemes to express his feelings indirectly are nearly as daft as hers! An able supporting cast of friends and family provide a good foil for the the lead pair, and there are plenty of laughs to be had throughout the volume. However despite this School Rumble is not as good as it could have been.
As mentioned, School Rumble has a lot of competition in
the school comedy genre, and as such it needs to be something a bit special or
different to set it apart. Unfortunately it doesn't really do this.
Don't get me wrong, School Rumble is great fun and has plenty of laughs
and a decent cast of characters. The problem is that it doesn't really
bring anything new to the table. Over the course of the five episodes on
this disc it covers pretty much every romantic comedy and school anime cliché in
the book - love letters left in lockers, offers of sharing an umbrella in the
rain, meeting under the cherry trees, saving a girl from thugs, unrequited
love... the list goes on and on. It may play these things for laughs or
with a touch of knowing irony, but even that has been done before. It also
contains all of the school anime stereotypes, from motorbiking delinquents to
Because of these things School Rumble feels very familiar, and the occasional flashes of originality or brilliance are too infrequent to really set it apart. Despite this though it is still entertaining. This is mainly because of its good cast of characters and a great line in visual comedy. Some scenes are laugh out loud funny, especially Harima's attempts to silently tell Tenma she's forgotten to put her name on her test paper during an exam, and Tenma's samurai drama-inspired attempts to deliver a love letter with a longbow... and a seemingly
inexhaustible supply of arrows! It was during scenes like these that I wished that the series would show more of this level of invention, but it isn't long before it's back on safe and familiar ground.
There really is nothing wrong with School Rumble vol 1, there are plenty of laughs, good characters and I really liked the visual style. The problem is that it there's nothing particularly amazing about it either. If you haven't seen many school comedies or are a massive fan of the genre you'll find plenty to like, but there are other series that do the same thing better. I found School Rumble vol 1 to be an enjoyable but average comedy which showed signs of good potential that has yet to be realised. You won't be disappointed if you buy this, but it will be interesting to see if the series can raise it's game with volume 2.
The usual textless opening and closing sequences and trailers are joined by interviews with the Japanese voice actresses who play Tenma and her sister Yakumo, and TV spots. You can also pay an extra few quid to get the 'starter set', which consists of the DVD and a metal box which is made to hold all six volumes. Great stuff once again from Revelation.