Tenma and her classmates are back, and they kick off the second season of School Rumble (Or Schoorum, as the kiddies are calling it) with some quick period piece action and a rapid-fire recap that puts Harima vainly in the spotlight. That’s perfectly fine, since he’s still arguably the best character, and anyone concerned that a lot of the running gags from season one wouldn’t carry over has absolutely nothing to worry about. Yes, the show is still as scatterbrained and loaded with lampooning as ever, and there’s even some semblance of a narrative buried beneath all of the gags and non sequiturs.
The “plot” is almost just window dressing, though. I don’t know that anyone comes to School Rumble specifically for the hot-and-cold relationship shenanigans, no matter how prominent they may be. I appreciate the fact that they’re present and are handled lightheartedly, with even the most tenuous thread of drama served up inevitably for laughs at someone’s expense. At this point it’s almost cruel that Harima still has feelings for Tenma that he’ll never be able to express, but the potent dashes of cowardice strewn about his otherwise manly platter are the whole joke. You don’t feel bad for him because you’re not supposed to. He’s a total goon.
School Rumble covers a lot of ground in a couple of episodes, so one can imagine how much is covered in 26. Nothing is safe from skewering, from hard-edged gamblers spattered with grindhouse film scratches to more modern fare. One two-parter has everyone trying to decide on what to do for this year’s culture fest, and a tie vote has to be settled with a hardcore Battle Royale style all-or-nothing war in school. Students are armed, bonds are broken, and anything goes.
Especially spot-on is a sports manga parody at the beginning of episode 8. It reminded me, almost shamefully, of how much just reading something like Harlem Beat or Slam Dunk would make me want to hit the court, any semblance of athleticism be damned. In the episode, Tenma is reading what may be the most exciting, exaggerated basketball manga ever and, naturally, this lights the spark of the brand new girls basketball club. The results still manage to be infinitely more spectacular than any of my cracks at living the shonen sports life.
As before, a good deal of the jokes are very hit or miss. Some are stretched out into oblivion, killing the core, while others are delivered with smashing results. It’s like a variety pack of cereal, in that one or two small boxes are bound to either be passed to someone else that will appreciate them more, or disposed of altogether. For a show that is basically nothing but comedy, it’s kind of impressive that I enjoy as many flavors as I do. Your mileage may vary, especially if you can’t appreciate how much of School Rumble ends up taking place outside of school. Where your average anime may treat “vacation episodes” as a luxury, this one tackles them like they’re a featured item in a very unconventional fire sale.
Schoorum (there, I said it) is still a super budget show, and unashamedly so at that. Shinji Takamatsu, returning as director, oversees a lot of corner-cutting techniques that only really work because of the humor and the comedy genre in general. With subject matter as varied as earthquake-disturbed porn collections (see, something finally does rumble) and Kazuo Umezu-like horror spoofing, there’s room for wide mountain ranges of disparity in quality.
As a result, some of the animation is super lazy, and some of it is simply stylized. When characters speak mouthlessly in the manga, it’s worth a laugh. Here, it looks like someone ran out of ink. There are just certain aspects of School Rumble that are better left to the funny pages; methods that don’t transition very smoothly from static to motion. When they employ their cheap techniques in interesting ways, however, School Rumble shines. Characters freeze and turn into childlike doodles, or their faces contort to still paintings straight out of a horror book. That’s when it really works.
School Rumble: 2nd Semester is so all over the place that one could technically pick it up without seeing season one and still have some fun. The emphasis is on technically here, because it’s hard to fully appreciate the humor without a couple dozen episodes of character familiarity. Yes, when all is said and done, School Rumble would go nowhere if it didn’t have a charming cast of ridiculous characters that grow on the viewer over time. It should go without saying that if you enjoyed the first season of School Rumble, you’ll enjoy the second even more so. It picks up right where it left off, and if that’s still not enough for the truly hungry, there’s always School Rumble: Third Term on the horizon.
Images courtesy FUNimation © Jin Kobayashi / KODANSHA • Marvelous Entertainment • SOTSU AGENCY