I’m still working my way through a ridiculously long backlog and I’ve fallen sick amidst doing tons of conventions and art over the past couple of months. Thankfully, there’s no better pick-me-up than Cromartie High School.
Gorillas, a robot student, and Freddie Mercury in a school full of chipped-shoulder delinquents. Simply put, it’s about their everyday lives which are far from commonplace. It’s like The Daily Lives of High School Boys without the homoerotic undertones, dainty art, and pastel color pallet. Cromartie is bright, loud, and heavy. Each episode is about 12 minutes long and it clocks in at 26 episodes. It reminds me a lot of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, but without any action. It’s a gag comedy series that pokes fun at shonen tropes and themes while also parodying the slice-of-life genre.
Cromartie High School is that anomaly of an anime that you might have found in the bargain bin of a Movie Stop or FYE that closed years ago. If you own it, congrats! It’s out of print and very hard to find. ADV released the title but has since left the North American market, leaving many popular and fringe anime titles stuck in licensing limbo. FUNimation and Sentai Filmworks picked up some of the popular shows, but, unfortunately Cromartie wasn’t big enough to justify rescuing it from falling out of print. I own the Thinpack Collection released by ADV back in the early 2000’s. I’m still bummed that I missed out on the limited edition starter pack which was released about a year prior to my set. If you have one, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I have cash.
Back to the review.
Everything about Cromartie looks old school and almost strange for the times.
The art style is reminiscent of older titles like Crying Freeman and Great Teacher Onizuka (which I still need to watch). It’s gruff. There aren’t any pretty boys – or girls. Even in one of the later episodes where the cast is gender swapped to retell the first episode, the heavy lined art style remains, resulting in more sidesplitting comedy.
Cromartie finds its stride quickly with colorful characters that are too dumb to know that they’re hilarious. One even aspires to become a comedian, but constantly reads too far into every situation, over-thinking even the simplest interactions until he is rendered speechless and stoic which leads to him being misunderstood for a badass. There’s classmate Mechazawa who is the clearly a robot, but everyone is too candid to talk about the elephant in the room. And, of course, Freddie Mercury himself. Never mind the bizarre gag comedy show within Cromartie featuring full grown men wearing bunny outfits.
The ridiculously detailed facial expressions put Cromartie over the top, removing any confusion over whether the series is meant to be taken seriously or to be seriously laughed at. Without a doubt, it’s enjoyable. The music is strange at times, but the intro is more than enough to get viewers in the mood for something absurd. More than anything, Cromartie is original. While Jojo exemplifies both shonen and gar genres with high action and over the top fight scenes, Cromartie is intense in its own way: through pointless drama. Anime fans of all genres and styles can quickly jump into Cromartie’s world. The humor transcends cultural boundaries and the series length makes for a quick marathon or a nice mid-week pick-me-up after a long day of work.
Make no mistake. Cromartie is intentionally comedic. It’s not a show that you end up laughing at because it’s so unconsciously bad that it becomes funny. This series is well written, well acted, and extremely well animated. It redefines the shonen comedy genre by removing the action and focusing on semantics and the inner psychology (if you can call it that) of adolescent thugs.
The Bottom Line:
Cromartie may be a bit too eccentric for a first time anime viewer. But most anime fans, even those with only a few Toonami shows or one of the Big Five under his/her belt will easily find the jabs at anime tropes and norms amusing. Watch it alone or with friends. Either way, watch it. You’ll be laughing out loud and quickly progressing through each short episode. Cromartie is a must see for any anime fan. It’s a shame it hasn’t been licensed rescued yet. Maybe one day we’ll get a re-release. Until then, happy hunting! – 9.0/10
Staff Writer/Columnist: Nerd Nation Magazine