Judge Dan Mancini declared himself "boss" of his high school, but none of his classmates had ever seen a yakuza flick, so they weren't all that impressed.
Oh, Cromartie, our dear Cromartie High!
Hiroaki Sakurai's adaptation of Eiji Nonaka's manga continues.
Facts of the Case
Kamiyama, Hayashida, Maeda, Mechazawa, Freddie, Gorilla, and Cromartie's other miscreants return for another six episodes of the show:
• Episode 9:
Everyone gathers at Maeda's house for a celebration of his birthday—a month too late. Maeda is offended when Hayashida wants to leave early to catch an idol's nearby autograph-signing, but what can he say since it isn't actually his birthday? Back at Cromartie, Mechazawa introduces everyone to his tiny, younger brother Beta Mechazawa. He's reputed to be a great fighter until Gorilla steps on him. Beta comes back from Sato Electronic Store even smaller than before and, worse yet, able to function as a cell phone.
• Episode 10:
Enter: Jackson Setouchi, the boss of Year One at Bass High, and his right-hand man Akio Takejo. Bass's Year One students meet to scheme against Cromartie. Takejo, however, is distracted by an errant hair in Setouchi's nose. Later, as Kamiyama gives Hayashida advice about his general ennui and desire for something exciting to happen, Maeda is kidnapped by Bass High. But the boys from Bass reconsider their scheme when confronted with Freddie, Mechazawa, and Gorilla.
• Episode 11:
Takenouchi has been training to control his bus sickness in preparation for a field trip to Kyushu. There's only one problem: The trip will be by plane. When some bungling brothers try to hijack the plane, Takenouchi switches identities with one of them and ends up in Nevada, wondering how badly he's missed at Cromartie. His classmates, however, aren't bright enough to pick up on the fact that the masked hijacker among them isn't their fearless boss.
• Episode 12:
After refusing to intercede with Bass High School on his classmates' behalf, Mechazawa has an identity crisis at a pachinko parlor. When the robot subsequently crashes his motorcycle, Kamiyama and Hayashida set about repairing him but have trouble discerning which scrap is Mechazawa and which is the bike.
• Episode 13:
Harboring dreams of playing in the national high school baseball tournament as Koshien Stadium, Hayashida puts together a rag-tag team at Cromartie. Unfortunately, the team's improvised uniforms make them look so thuggish and frightening, they wind up in the clink.
• Episode 14:
Destrade High School's Year One Boss, Noboru Yamaguchi returns, and this time he's found a suitable Number Two. Akira Nakao looks like Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera, and practices ventriloquism with his puppet, Mick. When the other Destrade thugs resist the idea of answering to a puppeteer, Yamaguchi lays the smackdown. Controversy arises, though, when Nakao and Mick can't decide which of them is actually Number Two.
Like the manga upon which it is based, Cromartie High School is constructed of fairly self-contained episodes. Sure, there are a few jokes that play on events in previous episodes, like Maeda being repeatedly kidnapped by the rival delinquents at Bass High, but one doesn't need to have seen the first volume of the series to enjoy the second. The entire series plays like a Greatest Hits of the comic, anyway, tossing the viewer into the middle of the upside-down world of Japanese high school ne'er-do-wells with little of the context provided in the book. Still, it's an almost perfect adaptation, reproducing the funniest moments from the manga with remarkable fidelity, while turning its satire and postmodern irony on the world of anime instead of manga. If Hey Dude's episodes differ at all from those in the first volume, it's only in a slight expansion of the world of the show: Bass High boss Jackson Setouchi is introduced; we spend more time away from the Cromartie gang and with Destrade boss Noboru Yamaguchi and his crew; and we're introduced to Mechazawa's little brother, who is funnier in some ways than Mechazawa because he satirizes the Japanese penchant for miniaturization of technology.
The foundation of Cromartie High School's humor is how its adolescent toughs fancy themselves gangsters, and that thread remains strong in these episodes. The delinquents of Cromartie, looking prim in their school uniforms, speak in the formal language common in traditional yakuza pictures. Their classes are run by "bosses." Group behavior, as in Japan's cinematic crime families, is constrained by an unspoken code of honor, and a sense of social propriety. The show makes excellent use of internal monologue—characters twist themselves into knots over the most inconsequential minutiae. This peculiarly Japanese etiquette is the engine for much of the show's plotting and characterization, such as Maeda's internal conflict at his birthday party, or the Destrade students' dismay at being ordered by Yamaguchi to follow the orders of a puppet. Kamiyama's and Hayashida's continued inability to tell Mechazawa that he's a machine is grounded in this elevation of social niceties above common sense. Because propriety is one of the more obvious characteristics of Japanese society, the humor isn't entirely lost on Westerners. The satire isn't as biting for an outsider, though. I imagine Cromartie High School's comedy hits as close to home in Japan as South Park's does in the States.
ADV has done a fine job transferring Cromartie High School to DVD. Detail is sharp, and colors are solid and perfectly rendered. Audio is similarly fine. The disc offers a stereo mix of the original Japanese dialogue, subtitled in English. The default setting is an English dub mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. The English audio is more full-bodied, but the Japanese track offers better performances.
The DVD is packaged in a keep case whose cover art mimics an oft-played vinyl copy of the Beatles' Please Please Me. The menus are comprised of washed-out footage of the inside of a record store, with customers milling about while the show's music plays in the background.
Like the first volume of Cromartie High School, Volume Two contains a fairly extensive collection of text-based Cultural Notes that provide context for some of the more obscure humor. Clean opening and closing animation sequences are again included as well. A single warning about the show's content (presumably used as a commercial-break bumper) is housed on the disc, as is a preview of Cromartie High School: Sailin' Fools (Volume 3). A brief production booklet in the style of the manga is also offered.
You don't need to have seen Volume One of Cromartie High School to enjoy Volume Two, but I highly recommend you start at the beginning of the series anyway. For one thing, you get more for your money with Volume One: It has eight episodes compared to Volume Two's six.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Cultural Notes and Comments
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