Cromartie High School

Sakigake! Cromartie High! Cromartie High from Production I.G. and Bandai Visual, released domestically by ADV Films. A 26 episodes series on 4 discs. Don't let that fool you though; each episode only runs about 10 minutes. But that's all you really need. Extras include: clean credits, official Japanese trailers, inventive DVD menus, and some excellent cultural notes provided by ADV. You'll need them if you want to understand the jokes fully.

Which, I would say, is the only problem with Cromartie. The series relies very heavily on Japanese culture jokes, baseball references (for character names and school names), and American pop culture for its time (2003 I think). That doesn't mean it won't be funny even if you don't know the references. When every episode of a show opens up with the main character nonchalantly informing you not to repeat actions you see in the show, as the characters are all delinquents and you could end up in jail, you know it's going to be amusing at least. Throw in a gorilla, Freddie Mercury, and a robot (or two) as normal students attending high school, and this high school comedy is sure to elicit some laughs.

There's not a whole lot to be said about the show, as it's mostly nonsensical in nature, and there isn't a really firm plot line. There are a couple of themes that pop up in multiple episodes, like Cromartie leader Takenouchi's motion sickness, the fact that no one seems to realize that fellow student Mechazawa is actually a robot, Destrade school leader Yamaguchi's quest for the perfect joke, and the fact that Hokuto's Lackey doesn't have any other name other than Hokuto's Lackey.

Still not convinced? How about noting that the Japanese voice for Mechazawa is Norio Wakamoto? If you don't recognize the name, you'll definitely recognize his fantastic voice. How about an episode where all of the characters suddenly become females? A gorilla that makes and serves sushi? Incompetent delinquents who always manage to make a 10 minute journey take more like 10 hours (even when they're in a hurry to save poor, abduction prone Maeda)?

The animation is pretty crude, but it works to great effect. A mohawk with a mind of its own, an afro that grows larger as time passes, nose hairs that jump from one nostril to another. Simple effects, but they work. There is one other problem with the series, along with the occasional obscure reference; there are some instances where the show refers you to the manga it is based on for certain background information. Don't let that be a deterrent, however, as it's really not necessary for the enjoyment of the show. And that's really all there is to it: the show is entertaining and very funny. One other thing I'll add, and that is that while the English dub is decent enough, the show is somehow funnier in it's original Japanese. The timing is a little better, I think, and the voices just work better as well. They talk pretty fast, but the subtitles aren't too hard to keep up with.

Check this one out. It looks strange and sounds totally bizarre, and it is. So if you want a show you don't really have to think about, and you just want to be entertained, then this is a good choice.


Summer Anime '08 - At a Glance

Now that the summer anime season is wrapping up, I can look back on the shows I decided to stick with and give a better (or worse) perspective on them.

Let's start with Natsu no Sora, the anime from the creator of Someday's Dreamers about young magicians studying magic. First of all, it's loads better than Someday's Dreamers (which you may recall I quite hated). I rather enjoyed it. It was very sweet and adorable. The pace is rather slow, but it's actually kind of calming, and it's something different from the other shows out there. It does have a serious side, as characters cope with either having a difficult time casting their magic (like Gouta), or with the motivations of their clients (like Kuroda).

Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu ended up being very cute, but had little substance. The "we're together but not really together" relationship between the two main characters was rather annoying, as was the addition of a rather pointless love triangle. But it was very, very cute, and funny. Haruka's journey to become comfortable with her secret anime addiction has its ups and downs, as she deals with her father's reaction to her hobby and struggles with allowing Yuuto to continue covering for her and occasionally taking the fall for her.

I did not continue with Koihime Musou as I had too many other shows I felt were far better that I wanted to continue watching. Plus I had trouble getting over the fact that they were just female adaptations of male characters.

I ended up really enjoying Yakushiji Ryoko no Kaiki Jikenbo (or Ryoko's Case File). I'd say it was my favorite of the summer shows. It's very well done, the characters stay interesting, the story keeps you on edge. Once it's completed, I recommend checking it out. Hopefully this one will get picked up in the states.

Didn't bother with Strike Witches, either. Again, I felt there were better uses of that time, watching better shows. And whatever story there might have been was shadowed by all the ecchi and fan service.

Antique Bakery ended up being a LOT better than I thought it would be. It was very amusing. And when it wasn't being totally ridiculous, though very funny, (which it was about 60% of the time), it was fairly serious. In between the ridiculous antics of a group of pretty boys running a high class bakery (complete with an openly gay character making eyes at everyone), there were some serious story lines. Child kidnappings (a story line which ties together with the main character being kidnapped when he was a child), abusive relationships, sexual bigotry, and professional boxers dealing with threatening injuries. It's still a pretty boy/boys love anime, so if that's not to your taste then you probably shouldn't watch it. Though I will say the boys love themes are rather subdued for the most part, with the exception of a few episodes where it plays a large role.

I still intend on writing up reviews of Chocolate Underground, Natsume Yuujinchou, and Telepathy Shojou Ran from the summer season once they're finished, and some shows from the spring which are now wrapping up. So stay tuned!