Cromartie High School, Vol. 1 DVD

Film:
DVD:

Based upon the manga by Eiji Nonaka
Directed by Hiroaki Sakurai
Music by Kunio Suma
Translation by Masako Ollivier

Features:

  • Clean opening and closing animation
  • Cultural notes and comments
  • Original Japanese TV warnings

Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

  • Naughty boys with pottymouths
  • Mindbending surrealism
  • Threatened violence never carried out
  • Rampant silliness
  • Gorilla!

Released by: ADV
Region: 1
Rating: 14+
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Get it if you like the fighting high school genre or need some (more) surrealism in your life

It's not often that the opening of an anime is entertaining in and of itself. Usually, they just show random images of the show and display the artwork, but Cromartie High School has to be different and shows images that may seem out of context and bizarrely funny, but are perfectly in keeping with the show. Giant afros, men in bunny suits, Mechazawa's alien connections… you'll have the right idea.

The show opens with a warning not to imitate anything the guys in the show do, as the characters are all delinquents, and their actions would land viewers in jail. The show is very self-aware and makes frequent reference to the original manga. The format is a series of sketches that more or less build on themselves to portray the school as a whole. Kamiyama, new to the school, is our main character, and his friend Hayashida takes him on a kind of tour of the other tough guys in the school, including a gorilla, an older man who may be a rock star, and Mechazawa, who appears to be an oil drum with eyes and limbs. Other characters represent the usual archetypes of fighting games and shows, like Hokuto the bishonen and Freddie, the older, silent type. The entire second episode revolves around the fact that everyone but Kamiyama and Hayashida see Mechazawa as a normal human and not a robot at all. The episodes are all short, just over ten minutes long.

The show is irreverent and a hysterical spoof of fighting high school stories with a healthy amount of surrealism thrown in, such as Hayashida's prehensile hair tuft and a man riding down a hallway on horseback as Hayashida uses the urinal. One bizarre scene has the boys humming to each other, trying to figure out songs that are stuck in their heads, eventually involving the entire school in humming like a hive of off-key bees. There's also an amusing episode centering on the rival school, Destrade Technical High School, and their plans to "crush Cromartie" by putting the hurt on Takenouchi, the man they believe is the leader of the Cro-High First Years. The leader of the Destrade First Years is a comedy devotee inside his thoughts, which gives viewers a treatise on comedy.

The extras include a clean opening and closing, which are actually enjoyable for their own sake, due to their surreal comedy. We also get a selection of cultural notes, texts that illuminate various aspects of the show, such as the Yakuza language in the show and the foxfire ball things on sticks that the characters have in their mouths early in the show (a nod to censorship of cigarettes). There's also the original Japanese TV warnings for the show: the legal warnings to viewers not to watch in a brightly lit room, etc.

The design of the disc itself deserves a note of commendation. Instead of being simply plain or decorated with a random, meaningless image from the show, the package designers made the disc look like a 45 record. Clever and unusual. Not to mention the Queen album cover parody that makes up the cover of this volume. Nicely done.

The visuals are fairly well done, though the emphasis is on comedy and not pure artwork. Some of the character shots have rough edges, but this is an homage of sorts to the rough-and-ready art used by "real" tough-guy anime. The colors are all very clean, and the backgrounds do not clash with the foregrounds or the action. The sound is also solid, with skillful voice acting in both languages. Mechazawa's famous "soothing" voice comes across neatly, and the straight man action is satisfying. The transfer of both sound and visuals is solid and well-produced.

If you can handle the randomized aspects of the show, the surrealism, and the plotlessness, you just might come to love this offbeat, bizarre take on high school delinquents. Cromartie High School will appeal to anyone who appreciates irreverent takes on anime or high school or who hates tough-guy anime titles and wants to see them roasted. It might be best savored in small bites, as the slapstick goofiness can wear thin in large doses. GTO is on the whole funnier and less silly, but fans of that show will want to pick this one up as well.

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