This is review number four hundred and fifty one. This anime is part of the Fall 2003 lineup, and it’s called Cromartie High School. It’s a twenty six episode anime about a lot of things. It’s hard to explain. Let’s just read on.
The show follows the delinquents of Cromartie High School as they deal with situational comedies. This is a bizarre place though, and the situations are never straightforward.
Taking the Pants Off
There are no proper words to describe this mess of a show. You might be wondering why I am reviewing this old anime. Jesus, this is retro at this point, huh? And yet I still remember the day it aired. There was big hype for a flame haired girl, a Harry Potter inspired anime seemingly created the Isekai genre and a dude was travelling with his talking motorcycle. This was a weird time in anime, but damn it, this was the generation that grew up with Chobits. I was part of that generation, and I distinctly remember seeing Cromartie High School and deciding not to bother watching it. After all, it just looks so stupid. Why am I reviewing this title now though? The answer is very simple. Money. Yeah, this was suggested by a patreon supporter that kept supporting me even after I told them I don’t want their money. They didn’t take the money back, so I am now obligated to review this show. I’m doing it out of guilt, and money. Mostly money, let’s not kid ourselves. I’ll have another post to talk about my renewed interest with Patreon, but let’s talk about this anime now.
I will admit to you, this is the kind of anime I dreaded reviewing when I was starting out back in 2012, some….jesus, nine years ago. Oh my gawd, this site is about to turn ten. I’m getting off tracked though. Comedy anime is a hell of a genre to review, because the entire thing is super subjective. Some people legitimately consider Boku no Pico a comedy anime, and they’re not wrong. If it’s funny to them then who are we to judge. Judging is the point of a review though, and I always hated my previous comedy anime reviews. I used to have a post on Joshiraku completely fumbling on what makes the show funny. I don’t like reviewing Comedy anime, so I felt like this was the perfect moment of redemption for me. Nine year old TPAB is about to go in the ring with a Comedy anime. I’ve wasted two paragraphs on not reviewing the anime though, so let’s just get on with it already.
Let’s talk about 2003 first. This was the time Japanese cartoon was being brought over to the western soil. Some companies started to dub these Japanese cartoons and eventually ruin an entire generation. There was always the debate of anime being too Japanese back then. You have to understand that the internet wasn’t a big deal yet. Most of its stuff is forums and blogs. There was no ideal way to knock on Japan’s door and demand an explanation, so we just watch weird Japanese cartoons without the proper context for it. Being an anime fan back then was tough. There was no literal translation for “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” and characters were dropping honorifics like it was spare change. A lot of people tend to reject and dismiss anime because it was literally too Japanese. Cromartie High School kinda had the same backlash when it aired. People was just weirded out by it, but it’s funny how the damn thing persists. Most shows would just fade into the background, especially a comedy anime like this but Cromartie doesn’t. Being part of the reason for ruining a generation, the kids in kind eventually hold fondness for titles they grew up with. That’s why we have people paying money for others to review it. It’s insane.
This anime follows a bunch of people in a school, and it mostly just features their everyday stupidity. This is a really hard show to review, so let’s just put it into a different context. A more palatable version of this anime would be “Daily Lives of High School Boys”. It’s a show about a bunch of guys doing slice of life/comedy things. Cromartie predates the SoL/comedy genre, so it is just pure comedy. Daily Lives of High School Boys mostly features the same gags and punchlines over and over. I think its ED sequence is the best context to understand Cromartie High School. If you find this funny, then you’ll like Cromartie with no problem. The show doesn’t require an explanation. It just exists in its own bubble of absolute stupidity. Come to think of it, the comedy genre seems to have been strangely diluted as time pass, huh? I remember Azumanga Diaoh airing a year before this, and it inadvertently birthed the SoL/Comedy genre. Jesus, I’m old. I don’t like talking about old anime, because it reminds me I’m old.
This show is really just about the different characters talking and then delivering their gags. Explaining what makes a comedy anime “funny” seems to be the biggest pitfall for an anime review like this. It’d be easier just to watch it yourself. For a much clearer understanding of this anime, its tone and pacing is actually similar to someone that lives in a pineapple under the sea.
Yeah, we’re going there.
Remember the episode of Spongebob where Mr. Krabs tried to take this hat from Spongebob by pretending to be a ghost and explain that the hat belonged to someone, and he proceeds to make up a name and then Spongebob ended up going to the graveyard to return it to the person and Mr. Krabs ended the episode fighting a bunch of skeletons. I….yeah…that’s the kind of jokes Cromartie High School has. Cultural barrier, my ass. Spongebob, the early episodes at least, had comedy that relies on a straight man gag. It means someone among the crew is normal enough to think like the audience and they experience the stupidity of the rest of the cast. They’re often the ones reacting to the gags and being part of the punchline. I will admit that I was hesitant to like this show, but you eventually become in on how the jokes are done so you just wait for the punchline to happen on the poor straight man. I find myself laughing at some of the jokes, and then I’d feel awful about it because the entire thing is just utterly stupid. I keep reusing that word, because that’s really the main hook of the show. It is incredibly stupid. A lot of times the show would start with a long drawn out dialogue only to end on a very dumb punchline. Sometimes you just wonder where the hell the joke is going to end up in and it goes into a very weird place.
Make no mistake about, it gets repetitive but most comedy anime are. Since they rely on the same formula, you’ll often see the same jokes happen again and again. I think the anime lost its luster around the 20th episode where there was really nothing else for the show to do. Before becoming stale for my own liking though, I did laugh at a huge amount of the jokes. It all boils down to two important things: the characters and the comedic timing.
An Unexpected Jab
A good joke catches you off guard. That’s my belief, anyways. That’s why I like dark comedy, because it just goes places. I once read a short meme comic of a boy not wanting to shower and this female adult convinces him to shower and he goes in happily and it was actually the gas chambers of a holocaust camp. Wait, is that funny? Cromartie High School employs that kind of unexpected turn in its comedy. It’ll usually just start with two characters talking and then something happens that’ll break their train of thought until something else takes over. Again, I don’t like actually explaining the jokes of a comedy anime. It’s pointless. I will admit that I love how stupid the show can get. The act of opening a classroom door is enough to catch me off guard because you just never expect what’s on the other side. I think this anime had four recurring gags, and I enjoyed each and every one of them. It usually involves a certain character and something stupid about them, and the rest of the cast does the rest. This is the other aspect that makes this anime funny. It has a boatload of idiots to make the experience worth it.
To illustrate how stupid the show is, you have to accept that Freddie Mercury is part of cast. The why and how of it all is something you need to see for yourself. There are a lot characters in this show. From the usual suspects, like our main character, to the outliers, like a talking vending machine, the big cast makes for a fun time. I used to point out how most comedy anime are weak since it relies on a lot of new characters, but I soon realize that you need a lot of characters to make a comedy anime. If it has only four members then that’s the distinct attribute of an SoL/comedy anime. If the cast ranges from normal idiots to uniquely specific idiots then you’re watching a comedy anime. I will admit, being someone that doesn’t rely on names, I had a hard time remembering some characters. Given how most of them are drawn the same, it often takes me until half of the show to remember the main cast. Still, once you understand how the anime behaves, it doesn’t take much to truly enjoy it. That’s really the biggest appeal of this show though. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.
The Fourth Wall
One of the biggest thing you’ll notice about the anime is its lack of movement. The anime addresses this stuff at the second episode and it’s seemingly very self-aware. The author, Eiji Nonoka, would often take time to critic his own comedy style. There is a recurring gag about it in the anime. It is incredibly smart and you just can’t help but laugh at how he makes fun of himself. The director seems to be in on the joke though, because he makes fun of himself in the anime as well. Seeming reading forum boards while the show was airing, he’d intentionally troll with the animation. I remember one scene of the characters walking while talking, and it was the same walk cycle done in normal and in reverse. Yes, the characters were walking backwards in the same scene as a way to make them move. You also can’t help but feel the director putting up his middle finger whenever you see a certain character’s Mohawk fluttering in the wind. It’s utterly stupid, and it also feels so gawd damn inspired. Everyone seems to be having one hell of a time, because the voice actors even had a go at it. One of them had to make motorcycle sounds for sh*ts and giggles. It was surreal. I love anime that just feels “fun” because you know people that worked on it also had fun. I think this is why most Gainax anime feels so engaging, because the people behind them loved working on the titles.
I need to point out though that this kind of fourth wall breaking is hard to appreciate back in 2003. Since you can’t google most stuff, you often feel things fly over your head. Given the alienating cultural barrier and unusual comedy set up, I think a title like this can only be enjoyed today in 2021 when you can google most of the stuff the show would reference. I also encourage people to actually google jokes they don’t understand. That’s part of the fun, to be honest. You don’t have to laugh at a comedy anime to know it’s good. Subjectivity is as flimsy as a fourth wall.
Sakurai and Production IG
There is no credited series composer or script writer for this show. I don’t think they needed one. Hiroaki Sakurai seemingly read the manga, realized it was stupid, and made an anime version of his own. I will admit his adaptation is pretty on point. This is a rare case in the early 2000s, because most anime are blatant mangalure meant to be a tease for the original source. Sakurai didn’t had to do a lot, since there was little animation to focus on. He just had to deliver the gags in the same way, and he did that spectacularly. He is apparently a notable director in his prime and he is known for doing UFO Baby. He is honestly too old for me to get a proper radar on. Judging by this anime alone, I can tell he loves his work. You’d have to enjoy what you do to adapt an anime that has a Freddie Mercury character on it. I am old, but Production IG is older. Holy crap, it was a trip to realize this studio did this. They broke ground with the Ghost in the Shell franchise, and they’ve been a titan ever since. I also just realize they did Yondemasyo Azazel-san, and it was basically a much better animated Cromartie anime. I will be the first to admit that I don’t want to review retro anime like this anymore. There is just something weirdly off with early 2000s titles. I don’t want to go back. You’d have to literally pay me.
Sight and Sound
Eiji Nonaka’s manga is a gag of overly muscular series that populated the time. Shows like Fist of the North and Jojo seems to be a direct inspiration for Cromartie. A lot of the characters are rough looking by design, and they’d often react in over the top Shounen-like ways that just echoes a Dio laughter. I love his design. It’s gritty and unique. I love his use of black ink to color most of his panels and he often crams a lot of words in a page so you’re forced to look at the ugly mugs of the characters. The inconsistent style and the small panels just feels so weird that I enjoy reading it. The anime kept the spirit of Eiji’s design, but they did change some of the key looks. The main character, in particular, looked more generic in the show. I believe this was a known limitation of cell animation. With its default color palette and awkward movements, Eiji’s work was bound to be mutilated in the adaptation. The “Fist of the North Star” appeal of his design become muddled and you just feel like the show is a different beast. Sakurai honestly embraced the discrepancy even taunting the audience to read the manga.
The animation….is stupid. It looks low effort and clumsy, but I feel like it was on purpose. Something about Production IG and expectations to make a great adaptation feels like the perfect set up, and the anime is the punchline. You can tell the animation is actually good, but it often feels like they’re sh*t posting on purpose. Sakurai would employ dynamic camera angles, flow the conversation smartly with well-timed transitions and deliver the punchlines as effectively as it did in the manga. His work is extremely well done, but seemingly forced to be average. The animation might put off some people. I was put off by it when the damn thing aired, but you’d soon realize it was always a charm of the anime. The lazy animation is a big part of what makes Cromartie High School stand out.
Voice acting is top notch. I f*cking love the voice acting. It carried the show with ease. Yes, the early 2000s had this gem of an idea. Voice actors weren’t celebrities here yet. They weren’t doubling as idols. They were just actors in its truest form. Kamiyama’s narrations are amazing. The show is fast paced, but the voice acting really draws you into it. Takahiro Sakurai gave us an amazing version of the main character. It just stands out in a very unique way. My favorite voice comes from the talking vending machine though. Norio Wakamoto has such a smooth voice. I had chills when I first heard him talk. It’s an experience of its own, for sure. A lot of characters really stood out because the person voicing them. I think this is the main reason why the Freddie Mercury character is the top character in the MAL page, because he was the only one that didn’t talk.
The anime’s OP is “Jun” By Takuro Yoshida. I love this song. It’s as pointless as the anime, but it had as much heart as well. Majority of the episodes, being only eleven minutes long, features this song and it grows on you. I think the OP sequence is one of my favorite ever. It certainly belongs in my top ten. It features a short montage of everything the anime has to offer, including its recurring gags. It also has this wonderful scene of the usual suspects doing a walking cycle and then it cuts to another group of people doing the same. You will never be prepared for the OP sequence, so I urge you to indulge in it before your body withers away. The anime’s ED is “Trust Me” by Kunio Suma [Bikyoran]. I love the rock and roll style of the song, and it’s a great way to wind down after a crazy episode. The ED sequence does the same as it features just the characters in a very brief montage.
7/10 “It’s funny and stupid. This is the kind of show you can enjoy with little effort. It’s just dumb fun, and who doesn’t like dumb fun?”
Personally, it’s a 6 out of 10 for me because a lot of the stuff in the show is forgettable. I do believe that’s not the point of a Comedy anime. These kind of shows are meant to entertain, and this anime does that in spades. With its well-timed jokes and truly stupid characters, there is a lot to love with this one. I personally don’t recommend it, but with only 11 minutes an episode, the low commitment encourages you to at least see some episodes.
Thank you to my patron for forcing me to review this anime. I owe another patron an FLCL review. Look forward to it.
Vixey, you’re awesome.