Reverse Thieves Secret Santa Project ’11 – Cromartie High School

If there’s one flaw in this Secret Santa lark it’s my laziness in using MyAnimeList. In general I’m against it due to a feeling it turns art into an endurance test fuelled by a collection of numbers. Watching cartoons shouldn’t be the equivalent of compiling baseball statistics.

On top of that, the MAL user interface is a pretty horrible experience. So while I attempted to complete a list, the list wasn’t complete. Meaning of the three choices I was given by my Santa, I’d already seen two. In fact, I’d reviewed one of them on this site. Luckily the third, Cromartie High School, was a show I’d seen little of and had lying around ages waiting to be watched.

Rewatching I remembered my big problem with the few episodes I’d seen. It’s not Sexy Commando Gaiden. That’s not its fault, but like director Hiroaki Sakurai’s other gag works (Digi Charat, Detroit Metal City), I find that I wish Akitaro Daiichi was directing instead. Their styles are similar enough for Daiichi’s comedic choices to shine through and give him an edge in appealing to my sense of humour.

That being said, I’m not sure what else he could do better with this material. Unlike the fast exchanges of a Sexy Commando or Gag Manga Biyori, Cromartie frequently proves to be INNER MONOLOGUE: THE SHOW.

So many gags rely on the juxtaposition of the stoic exterior of these high school toughs and their less than gruff inner lives. On top of this there is the contrast with the few characters who lack inner monologue, heightening their weirdness. This leads to a lot of close up shots of determined faces with comedic voice over monologues (for instance, the toughest 16 yr old in school panicking about his motion sickness or an afro-ed gang leader pondering the mechanics of joke construction). 

The big advantage of this for the animation budget, is you don’t need much actual animation. While it is nowhere near as obviously cheap as the 2011 adaptation of Cromartie creator Eiji Nonaka’s current manga, Double J, it is still certainly an exercise in thrift.

Not that it matters, as the material is pretty strong, and it has a not so secret weapon in Norio Wakamoto’s voice as mysterious robot student Mechazawa. Even if the visuals are occasionally leaden and a little uninspired, the jokes themselves are well written and performed.

And the wrestling references it throws in add to its appeal to me specifically. You’ve got a character named after Akira Maeda, another whose nickname is a Stan Hansen reference and most importantly a character based on Don Frye.

That’s right, I said Don Frye. Not Freddie Mercury. Hokuto mistakes the character Freddie for “a wrestler” rather than the singer that the rest of Cromartie seem to think he is. I ask you this, who do you think more closely resembles Cromartie’s Freddie?

It’s shame that the live action got Yoshihiro Takayama to play motion sickness suffering Takenouchi, but didn’t get Frye to play Freddie.

So, not the greatest gag anime out there, but arguably the best to get a UK release. Which is now out of print..So, there you go. Merry Xmas!