Archive for School Rumble

Kobayashi Jin can kiss my ass.

Posted in Arrggh with tags on May 12, 2010 by masterchibi

Why me?

I have a weird relationship with this series.  At first I had jumped into it a little over four years ago because I’m a sucker for romance in most any genre really.  If there’s a hint that there’s a possible relationship to be had, I usually try and stick around to see what develops.

At the start School Rumble fell into this category pretty easily.  With a little bit of humor, a little bit of charm, and plenty of love, the show gets off to a good start. It establishes a love triangle and gives us a good taste off all the unique, eccentric characters we could look foward to enjoying in the future. The series really had its own way of going about the same old mundane stuff we’ve seen before in this genre (romantic comedy if you will), and it was genuinely funny at the same time. For all it was worth, the show had this great amount of potential.

Then Kobayashi went and fucked it all up proper. I don’t know why he decided to do things the way he did, or to ‘end’ (I use that term very loosely) the way he did, but having followed the series in an any form for four years, I’m pretty much here as a giant warning beacon to anyone else who may be getting into it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t check it out, but if I let you know of things beforehand you’ll hopefully not be anywhere near as disappointed as I (and many, many, many other fans) was.

So without further delay,this is why Kobayashi Jin can kiss my ass.

-= The Plot =-

School Rumble [at its core] is a light hearted comedic romance. It makes fun of the genre while being genuinely funny. The main premise (I use that term loosely) is that girl loves boy A, boy B loves girl, but boy A does not know that girl loves him and girl does not know that boy B loves her. On its own that is enough to concoct plenty of material to work, but School Rumble unfortunately falls in line to the same old tracks we’ve been lead on before in other romantic shows, but here it contrasts badly due to the shows comical nature. Let’s look into the real cast of characters that make up the meat and potatoes of School Rumble to see what I’m talking about and why I feel things just went astray.

Ok, the show originally starts how I first described it, with three characters. One girl, two guys, all three more or less oblivious to the others’ true intentions. Tenma (the girl ready to shoot her brains out in the picture above) is said girl. She’s absurdly pure hearted, caring, goofy, friendly, but utterly mentally retarded; by nature or design, who knows. Karasuma is the object of her affection, weird as hell, head over heels in love with curry (and not much else), surprisingly athetlic. Lastly, we have Harima, a delinquent who turns over a new leaf after coming across Tenma in his past, falling in love with her and doing his ‘best’ to just be in the same sentence with her.

So where do we start? Well Tenma loves Karasuma (boy A). Harima (boy B) loves Tenma. Karasuma loves curry (oh boy). Karasuma is set to leave to America at the start of the story, but decides to stay after receiving a love scroll (yes, you read that right, a scroll, not a letter) proclaiming an infatuation for him. This is from Tenma, but because Tenma is a moron, she forgets to sign her name, so she loves him, he knows someone loves him, but doesn’t have a clue that it’s her. That leaves Harima. Our goatee adorned ‘rebel’ has a bit of a small history with Tenma, one that lead him to falling in love with her and attending school on account of it (more so as a way to be with her and less a means of turning over a new leaf).

The three of these characters, on their own are more then enough to sustain the show with material to work with. Tenma is charming but aloof, and yet her feelings for Karasuma are 100% pure. Her execution in getting closer to him and expressing these feelings are what I love about her. Harima could be considered the male counterpart to Tenma, but he comes off more as naive yet earnest. Where Tenma continues to stay the same for the majority of the series, Harima is the one that manages to develop the most (as a character). Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Harima slowly gains more focus then Tenma and Karasuma. The problem  here is where the story happens to go with him.

Harima becomes the central cog that turns all the gears in the School Rumble universe. In one way or another he is the proverbial Kevin Bacon, where most characters (that matter) are connected to him somehow, and things either evolve from  him or due to him and so on. This is where the show begins to branch off and things just become a mess and starts falling apart. The show jumps back and forth between being a comedy and being a romantic drama, but never manages to sit square in the middle where the show originally began, and where it clearly excels. Call it bad writing or perhaps a new direction, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. Let’s get a time line going to really understand this.

-= Passing Tense =-

Harima lucked out. Originally a much, much, MUCH more generic character was going to take his role as a main character in the series, but the planets were in aligignment and the gods saw it fit to see him in that role instead. As the ‘male lead’ of the show, Harima is unlike those that came before him to fill in that same archetype. Anyways, ‘his past’ of  consists of a happening in the past between himself and Tenma. At one point in his life Harima is a rebel or a delinquet or what have you. While just doing his ‘thing’ on the streets (ie beating the crap out of peole), he happens to come across Tenma who is being held at knifepoint by a random (well dressed) thug. Harima gets into a scuffle with him, while Tenma manages to pass out after Harima eventually wins. He takes her back to his apartment, where he sits next to her waiting for her to get up. Tenma begins to mutter a bit, which prompts Harima to get closer. She mutters louder this time, saying “I love you,” and then wraps her arms around Harima while attempting to kiss him. He tries to pry away from her, putting his hands on her mouth, which causes her to stop breathing momentarily, awakening her, with him still ontop of her. He immediately tries to explain the situation, but she gets up and starts to dash for the door. He puts a hand on her shoulder to stop her (and tell her what really happened) but she summons miraclous strength and flips him over her shoulder to the floor. Stunned, he lays on the floor looking up to her as she leaves, where she stops to thank him for saving her, but states that being a pervert is too much. It’s from this point that he falls in love with her, driving his infatuation, and resulting in his change of life. Now he’s attending the same school as her, and everything more or less goes from there. This barely spans more then a chapter, or even half an episode in the anime, but it’s all we’ve got on the guy and why he’s apparently in love with Tenma. This leads us up to the present, where we get a little sampling of what the show has before things go awry.

-= Harima’s presents =-

Ok so now we know that Harima’s going to school to follow Tenma around and express his feelings to her (eventually, somehow). Upon starting his infatuated escapade he finds he has a rival to contend with, the curry obsessed Karasuma. The only catch is that curry boy has no idea that Tenma loves him and that Harima loves the same girl. This is where the show gets pretty funny. Tenma is busting her ass to get her feelings across to Karasuma, but he’s oblivious. I’m not talking about the type of oblivious that many male leads is anime portray, you know the one where it’s so absurdly obvious that someone’s trying to tell you but they’re as thick as the La Brea tar pits and it’s used to simply delay the story further and less as a real character trait. Even when he knows someone likes him (remember the scroll from the start of the series?) he’s too freaking odd ball to go anywhere with it. He walks home in the rain in attire resembling creatures of old japanese folklore, his love for curry is unyielding, and his face shows so little emotion you have to question if he’s putting botox into his breakfast cereal instead of milk.

Can you imagine being in Harima’s shoes at this point? What do you do? You want her to be happy,  but you can’t see it working with someone like Karasuma. Hell, even if you were to go as far as to address him about what’s going on, would it actually go anywhere? Again, this is why I enjoyed the show in the beginning. The way the three of them played off of one another was all I needed. Would she ever get Karasuma to realize her feelings? Would Karasuma ever actually snap out of it? Would Harima even get anywhere at all? Simple questions, but answered with hilarious execution. The interplay between the three of them never feels forced or contrived. It’s to the point where I can’t even find a proper adjective to describe the three of them. Tenma is simply Tenma, Harima is simply Harima, and Karasuma is Karasuma. Unfortunately this does not last very long, things change pretty rapidly and never return to the charming escapades of these three. No, suddenly Harima’s tree begins to branch off, and that’s where things ultimately lead off into the jumble that occupies the rest of the series. The three do continue to play off of one another, but it gets convoluted the longer it goes on.

-= The Few Chores =-

On the left we have Yakumo, a shy, passive girl. The quiet yet cute archetype. She has the ability to read people’s minds. She also happens to be Tenma’s younger sister.

On the right we have Eri, a rich girl with blond hair tied into two long pig tails. A classy yet cold demeanor. The tsundere princess archetype.

These two girls are both the blessings and curse to fall upon Harima and School Rumble as a whole. Up to a certain point Yakumo and Eri are supporting characters. Yakumo is there to help support her stupid sister at home (by being a housewife). Eri is there to support Tenma as a good friend and classmate. Sure, they get their own little chapters for development here and there, like when Eri is trying to cook for her father or Yakumo finds their cat Iori for the first time, but things elevate far, far past that. Now I don’t know if it was naturally part of Jin’s plan to include these two from the start, but it sure doesn’t seem like it. What happens first is that during a funny chapter where Harima pretends he’s a fortune teller he feels down on his luck and suddenly feels that Tenma is there to comfort him in his time of need. He takes this as an opportunity to tell her how he really feels, and out comes to words “I love you” in a confident proclamation right in her face. Hell, he’s even on one knee and holding her hand. Perfect opportunity and perfect execution, right? Almost. As he looks up he finds that he blurted out the whole thing to Eri. She’s taken aback by this, realizing she’s never really be confessed to in such a manner, so she takes a moment or two to gather herself. Right when it looks like she wants to talk about it some more an older beauty (twenty something) comes up from behind Harima and wraps her around him, coyly greeting him with her pet nickname for him, Hario. This is where Eri snaps and seconds later Harima eats a flying knee to the fact that would have even had Sagat cringe in pain. She then walks away in disgust, leaving him with the older beauty, but with a bruised face and confused ego. I hate to say this but this sets the groundwork for most of the development between the two from this point onward. I’ll get more into it later.

Now the girl was actually a good Samaritan who took Harima in when things didn’t ‘work out’ for him as he tried to become a manga-ka. Sure, she tried to comfort him in a more loving matter, but things did stay rather platonic. So that’s the princess, but what about the shy girl? In Harima’s (mid life crisis-esque) quest to become a manga-ka he comes to Yakumo for advice on the manga he’s working on, and eventually to ask for her help in inking and the like. It’s only after Harima’s fateful encounter with Eri does he suddenly become romantically linked to Yakumo, but not by his own doing (Eri herself is actually the one who happens to set everything off, again, due to a misunderstanding, and a tiny bit of jealousy). She continues to help him in his inking endeavor as the series continues.

So the original cast of three becomes five. Girl A loves Boy A. Boy B loves Girl A. Girl B likes Boy B. Girl C likes Boy B. One plus one plus one equals harem. We’ve got the typical stereotypes to push, we’ve got one guy and two girls, neither of which he likes romantically. So what happens now? Boy B must deal with Girl B and Girl C, leaving Girl A and Boy A to themselves to actually get somewhere. Well that’s just fantastic. Not only has the original love triangle been broken up, but we’ve got a harem to boot? Doesn’t sound look like a good deal. It’s not. Remember how Harima’s first real encounter with Eri is a misunderstanding? Well that’s actual basis for the ‘development’ of this harem and two loose ends from this point on. Take every inane misundesrtanding, throw Tenma, Yakumo, and Eri into it, and put Harima in the middle and just spin the wheel. Oh, Harima did something completely normal with Eri but Tenma misunderstand and now she thinks he’s a jerk. Yakumo is helping Harima but Eri thinks it goes beyond that, the list goes on and on. The irony is that Harima will continously get screwed over during all this while the ladies intertwined amidst this all will actually develop. Eri in particular develops leaps and bounds more then anyone else had imagined. Yakumo continues to fall for Harima, but is caught up in the misunderstandings regardless of that. Her feelings nurture amidst all the stupidity, so there’s no real catch to it (unlike Eri’s chance encounter).

Speaking of which, apparently Eri’s inclusion to be part of it all set the fan’s hearts a flutter, and she gained massive popularity that put her above everyone else in the series. Where she started off as a side character and a completely typical tsundere, by the end of the series she’s gotten to know herself better and bettered herself too. Almost all of the real drama in the series pinned Eri opposite Harima, with requisite (by Jin’s standards) misunderstanding from someone else. Harima still continues to chase Tenma, but that literally becomes a side plot to Eri and Harima. Heck, you really begin to fall for her, but because Jin repeats this ‘development process’ over and over it becomes incredibly annoying. The misunderstandings begin to pile up and you just tire of it. The real problem is that even when the characters are developing, the realtionships are not. They go absolutely nowhere. In fact Tenma and Karasuma are the only ones that actually get anywhere, at least within the realm of School Rumble. We go through over 300 chapters of this and in the end we get thrown to the side to watch this cop out of a conclusion.

-= Con’s closure =-

Ok, fine. You love Eri. Or you love Tenma. Maybe Yakumo, whoever. Take out your pennant, wave it about, and start cheering for your girl to ‘win’, the way most shows tend to treat this genre. It becomes a sporting event. You sit on the sidelines, roll your eyes while you wait, and suddenly your chica is up to plate. You’ve got your fingers crossed, you were with her all season, your voice is at its loudest as your cheer. The pitcher throws his first. Strike one. “YOU CAN DO IT” you yell. The pitcher throws again. Strike two. “DON’T GIVE UP!” you shout, along with the multitude of other fans who are there with you. Her grip on the bat tightens, the fire in her eyes intensifies, it’s all or nothing. This is it. The stadium is on the edge of their seats.

Bam. A giant fucking earthquake comes out of nowhere, destroys the entire field, a tornado forms, sucks everyone up and throws them this way and that, and Godzilla comes in to take a heaping laser filled shit on the smoldering remains for good measure. A god damn heaping laser shit. Welcome to the end of School Rumble.

Around chapter 250 or so School Rumble starts getting pretty serious. Things start to fall in place, and as a fan the thought that ‘something might actually be happening to this clusterfuck of a gang bang romance’ starts to dance around in your head. For all you don’t know, that idea sounds pretty damn plausible. Why wouldn’t it? Everyone starts questioning how they really feel about their respective situations, some get stuck into their own situations, and it all basically forces them to come to grips with themselves. To put it bluntly, the end is near. The comedic aspect of School Rumble takes a breather and all these revelations come out of nowhere. Yakumo is talking to a ghost that’s meant to symbolize herself, so she finally mans up for a one on one with the damn thing. Eri gets thrown into an arranged marriage to help save her family. Tenma is taking steps to get closer and closer to Karasuma, and from the looks of it she’s actually succeeding. What about Harima? Well, that guy knows for sure now that Tenma loves Karasuma, but he doesn’t care, he still loves her. That leaves, Karasuma. This guy is the reason why I would put a cellphone into the back pocket of my jeans just so I could tell Kobayashi to call my ass. After Eri and Yakumo joined the party Tenma was left to do her thing with Karasuma, and surprisingly enough she actually does. The two start eating lunch together, she talks to him more often in class, they become good friends. As their last senior activity rolls around, Karasuma realizes it’s been a year, and that he’s got to get back to America now. Why? We don’t know. Not at this point anyway. So Karasuma shows up, running along side of Tenma (the senior activity is a nature jog). The two share an intimate conversation, but we’re left out of what happens at the end. Moments later Tenma’s friends show up to ask of the results, only to be greeted by her smiling face, tears cascading down her face. Karasuma is nowhere to be found. Harima finds out, Yakumo fills him in no what happened, and Harima immediately knows where to find curry boy. Now by this juncture Harima is well aware that Tenma absolutely loves Karasuma. It’s not so much that he accepts the fact, just that he acknowledges it. Well with Tenma crying Harima runs off in a fury (on a bicycle) back to the school where he finds him in their homeroom, looking out the window. He turns around noticing Harima, and is promptly greeted with an angry fist to his face. They beat the crap out of each other. They finally stop and Harima is told to go watch over Tenma since he’ll be going back to America (the two exchanged spoken word along with their fists). Karasuma leaves, and Harima makes his way to Tenma’s, where it looks like he’s finally going to get his chance to confess.

Until he decides to kidnap Tenma instead, rushing her to the airport to follow after curry boy. He’s screaming to himself the entire time he’s speeding there, they finally get to the airport, he takes his glasses, she realizes he’s from her past, she leaves, he symbolically throws his glasses towards the plane as it flies away, and that’s it. We don’t know why the hell Karasuma is in America (we’re all under the belief that he’s going due to his career as a manga-ka, because we really don’t know otherwise) until a few chapters later where we find out that the guy has a disease that will screw around with his memory, making him forget all that he’s expierenced up to this point. So Tenma is chasing after a guy who won’t remember her by the time she gets there.

Did we just sit through 270+ chapters, roughly four years worth of reading material, books upon books of moronic misunderstandings, comical shenanigans, and heartfelt emotions just to fall face first in front of some disease that was absolutely never mentioned, let alone hinted at previously? The absolute worst part is that Kobayashi strings you alone in the chapters following this by showing you that Tenma and Karasuma are getting closer to one another. He even goes as far as to have the guy leave without telling anyone, including you, HIS READERS, why. He just leaves. He’s in America. Why? Who knows? He wants to start a movement to bring back Waffle Crisp on a national level. Noone knows at all, but now Tenma (poor Tenma) gleefully runs to him in the hospital where she finds out (in the most heart wrenching pages in the entire freaking series, they’re just empty white panels with text in them) that he doesn’t remember a thing about her. Can you imagine that? You just traveled to a foreign country you know nothing about, you’re on the heels of reuniting with the one you love, and then you come up to this. This makes the Titanic look like a kid broke his bath toy. What a disaster. So what does Tenma decide to do? She decides to stay in America where she’s going to become a doctor. A DOCTOR. The stupidest (and I mean that in a nice way really) person in this story is going to become a doctor. She transfers to a school in America, where she doesn’t know ANYONE, with no prior knowledge on the country, or without the ability to actually speak English, because she loves curry boy that god damn much. Holy shit that makes no sense, but fine. I’ll take it. This takes Tenma out of the picture for Harima, forcing him to choose Yakumo or Eri. Kobayashi naturally has him pick NEITHER because he’s a giant douchebag. I’m not even going bother detailing the entire event but Harima decides to play the role of Eri’s fiance to save her from the arranged marriage, but at the same time he’s living with Yakumo where he’s going to continue his career as a manga-ka. Fantastic. Even when Kobayashi shows three panels with future representations of Eri and Harima (with no explanation as to where the panels came from, or what they truly represent) with a kid, you don’t have a clue what really happens to Harima. There is no actual closure, the series technically ends twice (and manages to bring up a point of Karasuma’s condition) and that’s it.

Somewhere along the line I called this series the Dragonball Z of romantic comedies. Every time you thought one relationship would go somewhere this misunderstanding rears its head, it actually ends up being funny (or not) and nothing happens. It happens time and time again. Jin goes as far as to tug you along in certain chapters, where it seems something is finally going to happen, or where you’re clamoring to see what happens the next day, only to be stuck with stories regarding the side characters or some alternative dimension shit or whatever. He comes jumping back and forth from romantic to comedic, without every balancing the two as well as he did when the series started out. The two are supposed to play off of one another. Romance can be funny, relationships can be funny, being in love can be funny, but Jin keeps fucking it up by being dramatic and romantic, but then using comedy as the reason / result. It’s painful because the comedy is actually funny. It really is. There are so many times in this series where I’ve had to hold my stomach in pain from laughing so hard, and I love that, but I don’t like being lead around to dead ends. I keep wondering if I should actually take the romantic drama seriously or just ignore it for the comedy. Then you start questioning the actions of the characters, but you don’t know if it’s really out of character or not because of they’re being developed. I kept thinking, something is finally going to happen, but even in the end it didn’t. I mean even the one couple that had no obstacles baring their path to actually forming a relationship with one another had it completely erased by some cock eyed reason Jin probably came up with at the last damn minute just so he could end this series. You can tell where the tone of the series makes a 180, and you’re happy that something is happy, but then you realize that it’s apparent that Jin is half assing the entire thing and you don’t really know why. Was he trying to concentrate on Natsu no Arashi more (a series he was doing at the same time as School Rumble)? Was he sick of School Rumble at this point? Who knows, and who cares. As a fan at the end you feel horribly disappointed, pretty empty, and honestly betrayed. That’s a pretty horrible thing to do your fans who fell in love with your characters, don’t you think?

That’s ultimately what it boils down to; what you want out of this series. If you want to laugh, then yes, I highly suggest reading School Rumble, it’s funny, really funny. Huge cast of characters, plenty of wonderful and unique personalities to play off of, lots to work with to make you laugh. If you want some romance and a little bit of drama stay the hell away. That’s it.You will get nothing out of it in that regard. Sorry for having rambled on for so long. Thanks for reading!

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