High school can be a stressful time in your life: You’ve got to deal with bullies, homework, hormonal urges and everything else that makes the last four years of your childhood a living hell. Just be thankful you didn’t have to deal with the added stress of dealing with robots, gorillas, celebrity look-a-likes and rival school gangs who kidnap your friends on a near daily basis. In other words, be thankful you didn’t attend Cromartie High School.
Based off of the original manga by Eiji Nonaka, Cromartie High School follows Takashi Kamiyama as he enrolls into Cromartie High School, a school for delinquents. The story follows Kamiyama, who is a model student, as he tries to fit in with the tough crowd and survive all the normal problems of school as well. He quickly befriends Shinjiro Hayashida who helps him integrate Kamiyama into Cromartie High School. As the series progresses, many more characters are introduced who essentially make up Kamiyama’s circle of friends. They include Akira Maeda, an outcast delinquent who frequently gets abducted by rival school gangs; Mechazawa, a student who is rumored to be a robot, but only Kamiyama and Hayashida seem to notice this; and Freddie, a muscular student who resembles the late Queen singer. The cast is rounded out with characters such as a gorilla named Gorilla, a rich boy who accidentally enrolled into the school named Hakuto and his sidekick known as “Hakuto’s Lackey.” While all together, they form the cast, not everyone appears in each episode, providing a fresh set of characters for each show.
Cromartie High School is episodic, meaning that the plot of each episode does not necessarily line up with the previous or following episode and that each episode is a stand alone story. And despite being 26 episodes, the series is also not the standard length as episodes are only 10 minutes long.
One of the interesting things about Cromartie is that despite Kamiyama being considered the main character, all the other important characters get plenty of screen time, and some of them even have a full episode dedicated to them with little intrusion from Kamiyama and his friends. For example, there is a character known as Takenouchi, who is the toughest person in Kamiyama’s year, who must constantly battle his motion sickness. In a couple episodes dedicated to him, he must deal with trying to ride the bus to school everyday, riding in a taxi with Kamiyama and Hayashida to rescue one of their abducted friends, and flying on an airplane which he overhears is going to be hijacked. Another example is a rival gang leader Nobuo Yamaguchi, who is perceived to hate jokes and humor but is actually a connoisseur of smart humor and looks down on those who make crude or childish jokes. His right hand constantly makes stupid jokes which provokes Yamaguchi into beating him up, which gives everyone the impression he hates jokes in general. His episodes shows him trying to analyze different peoples humors including a popular show featuring two men dressed in fuzzy costumes. Other episodes of Cromartie High School can range from simple annoyances like the whole school trying to figure out a song by humming it to each other to the truly absurd like Kamiyama becoming the toughest delinquent in Japan all because he was the only one who answered one question right.
The art style for Cromartie is simplistic and resembles old 70’s and 80’s delinquent manga/anime, which is done on purpose as it parodies the entire genre as a whole. The animation is rough and looks about pretty crude, which of course is intentional. Each character has a distinctive design with some having absurd hairstyles or features, such as Hayashida having a purple mohawk which moves on its own or Yamaguchi whose afro will grow or shrink depending on his mood, which is also featured in the opening as his gang is standing under his huge afro like an umbrella. Others are distinctive just by what they are wearing–since Hakuto enrolled into Cromartie by mistake he is seen wearing the other school’s uniform instead of Cromartie’s–or because they aren’t technically human, like Gorilla the…well, Gorilla. What the series does well is throwing in tons of references and jokes towards celebrities such as the previously mentioned Freddie who looks exactly like Freddy Mercury of Queen or Akira Maeda who is a parody of the Japanese wrestler of the same name.
As with everything about Cromartie, the music is simplistic and provides the correct atmosphere for the anime. While you may not notice the music at certain times there are varied episodes where music helps emphasize the situation, such as at the competition to decide the toughest delinquent. Before anyone knows what the contest will be there is battle music playing which showcases that things are about to get real, then it stops as you find out that it’s merely a quiz show and it deflates the entire situation. Another example is when Kamiyama accidentally breaks Mechazawa and turns him into a bike to help fight crime. There is a montage of him using Mechazawa and it is accompanied by superhero-ish song that makes Kamiyama feel like one, even though he gets arrested by the police for not having a motorcycle license. The opening theme “Jun” is a ballad which gives you a taste of the craziness and absurdity that is about to befall you with images of the many characters. Likewise the ending theme “Trust Me” closes each episode with the same energy and is a little more upbeat then it’s opening counterpart.
So maybe your high school years were stressful, but at least you didn’t have to deal with a school full of delinquents who have no hopes of making it in the real world. Cromartie High School is a zany absurd anime but that’s where its charm comes from. I wouldn’t expect to gain any meaningful values from Cromartie as its comedy is often low-brow and crude, but what more could you expect from a school that houses future criminals. If you’re in the need for a quick laugh or just want to see what would happen if Freddy Mercury hung out with a Gorilla, then this is your anime or for absurdity grounded in reality. The show was popular enough to be made into a live action adaptation as well, if you want to see actors play out the roles.
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