A couple of weeks ago I decided to start hacking my way through School Rumble, for no better reason than it had furigana so I wouldn’t need to constantly resort to the kanji dictionary.

I found myself at first mildly interested, then eventually sucked into the story in spite of myself. It’s a pretty typical shounen high school romantic comedy, and as such I’m finding it a bit difficult to justify my interest in the title. The art is mediocre, especially at first, but it does improve over the five volumes that have been thus far released. Probably its biggest selling points for me are 1) like Boys Be, another shounen high school romantic comedy I inexplicably like, the story doesn’t center exclusively around one couple, nor is it a harem show, and 2) it’s packed with light-hearted, quirky humor.

As I get deeper into the story (currently part way through the fourth volume) the ratio of gags to plot and character development has gradually come to favor the latter, which is quite effective in keeping my attention but may eventually become frustrating if this web of misunderstanding continues indefinitely and the characters don’t grow beyond their obstinate silence regarding how they really feel about each other. What has thus far differentiated School Rumble from the many other stories that rely on this premise is the speed at which relationships are made and misunderstandings occur, their apparent fluidity, and the steady introduction of new characters serving to broaden and render even more confusing this comedy of errors.

Despite the constant evolution of the web of relationships in the story it never lead to any of the characters seeing their goals realized (of course – if they were the plot would lose its fuel), which will eventually make this series as tiresome as any other. I hope the author (Kobayashi Jin) has some more tricks up his sleeve to keep things interesting for as long as possible. Regardless, it has the potential to make a really good anime (for as long as the source material holds out), or a really mediocre one. The first episode is slated for October 5th, so we’ll see.

If this vague review interests you Manga Inc. is translating it here:

http://mangainc.com/archives/cat_school_rumble.html

…although apparently only chapters 1 and 62-64 are available for download.

So what is the story about?

The main character as School Rumble opens is Tsukamoto Tenma, a good-natured if rather simpleminded high school junior and Mahoro look-alike. She has a crush on Karasuma-kun, a fellow of few words who dresses as a kappa when it rains and really likes curry. A lot. Needless to say she is unable to express her feelings for him, and he doesn’t make the task of confessing any easier.

Enter Harima Kenji, a punk with a goatee and sunglasses who is in love with Tenma, and has an equally hard time confessing to her. He is skilled at brawling and drawing manga in which he hooks up with Tenma in various improbable situations. He’s probably my favorite character in the story.

Tenma has a sister who is a year younger, Yakumo. Yakumo is popular among the guys but doesn’t know how to handle their advances, and generally spends her time tending to her hapless older sister and her pet cat. If she were good at sports she would be Sakaki.

Tenma has three good friends in her class whose names I can’t remember off the top of my head. One of them is a jock with a crush on an older classmate who graduated last year, one is a Yankee, and one is a rather silent and thus far mysterious short-haired girl.

Rounding out the list of the main characters is Hanai, the childhood friend of the jock and a karate expert/nerd himself who has a huge crush on Tenma’s sister Yakumo. He and Harima develop a rivalry early on when Harima mistakenly believes Hanai is after Tenma.

Aside from the main cast there is a boatload of supporting characters: another classmate falls for Tenma later on, a flirting guy shows up who hits on jock girl for awhile before discovering another superhumanly strong and yet demure jock girl in the same class, Yakumo makes friends with a transfer student who looks exactly like Saber from Fate. I’m probably forgetting a few here – oh yeah, Harima’s cousin is the hot school nurse/science teacher, and at one point he hooks up (is dragged off) by another hot woman known only as “onee-chan.”

…In the final analysis, if you like high school romantic comedies you’ll probably like this. There is some FIGHTING but not enough to recommend it on that basis alone, and there is some random wacky humor but it’s not wild enough to recommend it on that basis either. The manga relies on pacing and placement of page-turns for a lot of its humor, so whether the anime will be worth watching will be due in large part to the editing job it recieves. At the best it could be another Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu, but to make that comparison could just be inviting disappointment.