Appellate Judge Dan Mancini isn't a licensed inspector, but he's pretty sure it's a health code violation for a sushi chef to fling his own poo.
If you get carried away just because your joke was a little popular, people won't be faithful to you and stuff, so get a grip!—Takashi Kamiyama
The conclusion of Hiroaki Sakurai's weird, sidesplitting anime adaptation of Eiji Nonaka's surreal high school manga arrives on DVD from ADV Films.
Facts of the Case
In this fourth volume, Kamiyama, Hayashida, Maeda, Freddie, Gorilla, and Cromartie Municipal High School's other knuckleheads return for the final six episodes of the series:
• Episode 21:
It's time for another Cromartie High School field trip. The mighty Takenouchi has returned from wandering America (see Episode 11 on Cromartie High School: Hey Dude (Volume 2)). The Imposter Takenouchi is still around, so now there are two bosses at Cromartie. Kamiyama devises an elaborate system to determine who among the class is next in line to use their train car's single restroom. Noboru Yamaguchi—Destrade High's Year One Boss—travels to a family wedding, eager to test his stand-up comedy on his relatives. Kamiyama fails in his duty to wake his classmates when their train reaches Kyoto.
• Episode 22:
Hokuto's Lackey considers leaving the Hokuto Corps, but the boys at Cromartie warn him he'll lose his identity and create chaos at the school if he does so. Bass High has kidnapped a Cromartie student again, and the boys want Freddie to lead a rescue attempt. Freddie is useless in the conflict with Bass, though his deadpan demeanor proves surprisingly effective in the world of high-powered corporate negotiations.
• Episode 23:
When the other students accuse Kamiyama of having become cold in demeanor, he schools them on the topic of personal image, and how it is malleable to context, contrast, and juxtaposition. For example, Hayashida looks like he's trying hard if he and Kamiyama read books next to one another because it's generally assumed he isn't as smart as Kamiyama. But when Hayashida and Gorilla read side by side, suddenly it is Gorilla who appears to be putting forth the greater effort. The boys are blown away by this revelation. Later, Yamaguchi has an unsettling encounter with Gorilla at a sushi restaurant.
• Episode 24:
A visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market reveals Gorilla as a discerning fish connoisseur. He proves to be a talented sushi chef, and a fine deterrent to a yakuza loan shark trying to shake down the restaurant's owner. The yakuza, it turns out, is the sushi chef's son.
• Episode 25:
Freddie's horse inspires the boys to start an animal lover's club and bring their own pets to school. They're dumbfounded, though, when Gorilla brings his pet monkey. Maeda and the Imposter Takenouchi discuss democracy, economics, and bath mats. When Kamiyama challenges the idea that Maeda can understand how an animal feels, Maeda determines to become a cat so he can experience their feelings first hand.
• Episode 26:
Welcome to Cromartie Girls High School. The series finale plays out as a Bizarro World remake of the series debut, with a cast of girls taking the place of our heroes. The young ladies debate who among them is the strongest princess.
Forget about explaining Cromartie High School's humor; describing it is difficult enough. It's relentless, bizarre, self-reflexive, as often silly as bitingly intelligent, and entirely absurd. The show is not an acquired taste; a viewer will either experience love at first sight or walk away in a quandary. Those who prefer narrative logic and cohesiveness need not enter because Cromartie High School is probably best described as a whipsaw of non sequiturs. Even with a scant running time of 10 minutes (12 if you count the opening and closing credits), its individual episodes suffer from AADD (that would be Anime Attention Deficit Disorder). The scattershot nature of the ultra-brief episodes derives directly from Eiji Nonaka's manga, which is structured in punchy three- or four-page chapters. Each chapter's biggest laugh—its punchline—often arrives in the final frame.
The good news for fans of the show is that the episodes in this final volume are as funny as any on the previous releases. As a matter of fact, the serpentine discussion of Hokuto's Lackey's name and identity in Episode 22, and Kamiyama's lesson to his fellow reprobates about the relativity of perception as it regards one's personal image in Episode 23, stand easily among the funniest bits in the show's entire run. That their crisp-yet-convoluted intelligence is followed by an episode's worth of Gorilla's silly antics as a sushi chef couldn't be more Cromartian. To the extent that one can discern an organizational principle behind Cromartie High School's episodes, it would be the hard juxtaposition of clashing styles of humor: the fiercely intelligent with the utterly inane; the incisively self-aware with juvenile silliness. In that way, it is perhaps an Eastern kin of Monty Python's Flying Circus. If you're game for its rapid and frequent shifting of comedic gears, you're not likely to find a funnier anime.
The show's character design is a rock-solid imitation of the illustrations in the manga. The animation is primitive, but director Hiroaki Sakurai works cleverly within his limitations by employing a stylized approach which serves as a constant reminder of the anime's manga origins. Characters slide in and out of frame as though they're cutouts from the book, and our heroes often appear to be sitting atop the backgrounds rather than actually inhabiting their world. At other times, Sakurai employs a more traditional style of animation, with a quality of movement and frame composition consistent with most other anime produced for television. The important thing is that the style of the art always complements the story and the comedy. It's a well-designed, well-executed anime.
ADV Films' Cromartie High School: Mount Rockmore DVD offers a bang-up presentation of the episodes. The full frame image is stable, detailed, and free of video artifacts. Colors are bold and accurate, and blacks are fully-realized.
Audio comes in two flavors: an English dub in Dolby 5.1 Surround, and the original Japanese track in two-channel stereo. Both mixes clearly and accurately reproduce the show's meager audio demands, though the Japanese track offers better voice performances. There are no explosions or other bombastic aural events, but the show's energetic music is balanced and crystal clear whichever audio option is chosen.
As with previous volumes of Cromartie, the packaging is based on the look and feel of a worn and well-loved vinyl LP. The cover of Volume Four displays the visages of five of the secondary characters chiseled on Mount Rushmore, a spot-on imitation of the cover of Deep Purple in Rock. Inside, the disc itself is printed to look like a tiny vinyl LP.
Supplements are also consistent with those included on the earlier DVDs. The all-important cultural notes, explaining some of the subtler and more obscure miscellany that acts as fodder for the episodes' humor, are presented as a text-based feature on the disc itself. The opening and closing animation is presented sans rolling credits. Promos for a Japanese special in which episodes of Cromartie were aired back to back are archived on the disc, as is one final bumper warning about the show's content (which is spoof more than anything else—the show contains no objectionable content). ADV Films has included trailers for a half-dozen of their other releases, as they always do. Finally, the package comes with an insert booklet that contains brief character profiles for Freddie, Gorilla, Pootan, Mechazawa-Bike, Maeda's Mother, Jackson Setouchi, Akio Takejo, and Kiichi Fujimoto. It also offers a few more pages of cultural notes.
Cromartie High School: Mount Rockmore is a winner, worthy of the previous volumes of the show on DVD. While it's a drag that there are no more Cromartie DVD releases to look forward to, Episode 26's girl's school alternate universe makes as fitting and hilarious an end to the series as possible, bringing us back—in a way—to where it all began. Fans of the show shouldn't hesitate to complete their collections.
Since the series is aggressively episodic and shows little concern for continuity, the curious could dive into this final volume without much worry about feeling lost or confused, but they'd still be better served starting at the beginning.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Cultural Notes and Comments
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