School Rumble is Smarter Than You (and wtfbbq San Gakki?!)

July 27, 2008 at 1:00 am (Anime)

I started following the School Rumble manga at some point after the end of the second season. It just ended, like, a week or so ago, and I was overall satisfied with it, though it was a little incoherent between the last major arc (the walk-a-thon) and the series-end. There was totally enough material remaining to do a one-cour finale season, or at least like a four-episode OVA. For some reason they skipped into the very end of the walk-a-thon, and I guess are doing a two-episode wrap-up. LAME.

At least this frame made it in from the manga

The rest of this post is spoilers.

The Japanese seem (at least through the lens of anime and manga I consume) to have an interesting and specific nostalgia about adolescence. There seems to be a recognition that love fails. We get rejected, or things fall apart. But this does not negate the impact of the experience, and it shapes us. We grow. The perspective and nostalgia here seems to be on the emotional impact of falling in love, and the impacts of both failure and success. You can see this en force in Honey and Clover. It’s also present in School Rumble, though in a much more caricatured fashion.

I think like 75% of the romance angles in School Rumble resolve. Most of them in rejection. Considering the dimensionality of the love polygons in the story, that’s pretty much inevitable.

* Tenma. With her friends support, she follows Karasuma to America and decides to become a doctor so she can help him recover his memories. Tenma illustrates the growth from youth to adulthood, by opting to take a difficult path.

* Harima. Harima recognizes that Tenma is whole-heartedly for Karasuma, and tries to help her toward that end, though he can’t escape his recurring wishful thinking that she does like him, he is growing in his own way. Harima illustrates that, while there are some things we can never quite let go, life continues.

* Eri. Harima finally gets clued-in that Eri likes him, and he rejects her plainly. She plays it off in her usual style, and their relationship basically resolves down into a loose friendship (in one of the more pointless arcs near the end, they get engaged so she can avoid some arranged marriage that would require her to leave Japan) minus a whole lot of uncertainty. I think the point of Eri x Harima was to play up the extent to which what we seem to be saying and doing can be totally the opposite of our intent. Harima repeatedly does nice things for Eri, or accidentally confesses to or gropes her or something, even though he has no romantic interest in her. Eri is incredibly cold toward him, even though she is clearly interested.

* Yakumo. He still does not seem to be clued-in on this one. Yakumo is turned-off by his failure of understanding, but admits to still being in love with him. I guess given the story’s end-state, I’d have to say that Yakumo represents that even after much is resolved, there are still unexplored potentials, or more chances to repeat the frustrating cycle of love and rejection. One hopes that eventually Harima might stop looking at what he can’t attain long enough to see what he can. Maybe that’s the point.

Of course this sounds all SERIOUS BUSINESS, but the manga and anime were more comedy than anything else. However, School Rumble will probably always be my favorite Romantic Comedy, because I felt like the way it caricatured the entire adolescent romance theme-bundle, while hilarious, reinforced the drama, without (frequently) getting all EMO KID CRIES IN THE RAIN. Life, viewed by an outside observer, could very well be a farce, and that is the case here.

Also, basically every time Tougou does anything, it is awesome. ALRIGHT MY BELOVED CLASSMATES, LET’S DO THIS FOR THE SAKE OF OUR YOUTH!


1 Comment

  1. famfiel said,

    I thought the series made it pretty clear that Harima rejected Yakumo. In the third last chapter, Yakumo realizes that Harima deliberately brushed off her confession.

    I think the theme with that was that a guy and a girl sometimes really can be happy with just being friends. Even though their relationship was always surrounded with (false) innuendo, both ultimately chose to maintain the status quo (writing manga together) right down to their last chapter together.

    With Eri, the problem was more one of Harima’s prejudice and Eri’s pride. Even when he found out that she liked him, he assumed that it must be some trick, since he had always viewed her as an enemy. Eri, however, was much too proud to show Harima that she really did care about him. Only when the two confront each other at the end of the story does Eri throw aside her pride, forcing Harima in turn to throw away his misconceptions about her. The engagement reinforces the fact that by breaking down the wall that the two had built between each other, their bond had deepened, allowing them to openly look out for each other.

    I agree completely with the nostagia theme. Even when there is angst, it’s deflated by presenting it to the audience in a way that shows how unnecessary it is. School Rumble’s biggest strength is in the way that it brings out human nature and the mentality of adolescent life. I think to completely appreciate it, one needs to have lived through such times themselves.

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