Some months ago, I reviewed the second season of School Rumble, and the verdict was not a positive one- much as I may have loved the series in its first season, these new episodes just failed to shine. Nonetheless, unwilling to completely give up on the franchise, I convinced myself that my dissatisfaction was due to the filler elements introduced in Nigakki, and vowed that reading the manga would make everything better. Unfortunately, if not unpredictably, this was not to be the case.
To be fair, at first, everything seemed hopeful. As I reread the chapters that had later been turned into the first season, I was once again transported to the days when School Rumble’s crazy comedy and romantic misunderstandings had still been able to hit the spot. It all seemed entirely promising, and I couldn’t help looking forward to what was coming next- effectively ‘season two as it should have been’.
Sadly, I was soon to discover that all was not well within this manga world. As with the anime, everything went well until the school play arc, but after that, it seemed as if the basic premise had just naturally reached the end of its lifespan. Many of the following segments which I had initially hoped were merely filler actually turned out to have their origins in manga chapters, and unfortunately, they had little to offer in either format. What exactly was the point of having Akira, Sarah, Yakumo and Tenma get stuck in the floor? Why did we have to see Hanai’s adventures after he got strapped to a kit and blew away on the wind? Even for a light high school comedy like School Rumble, these stories seem exceptionally pointless and irrelevant.
Then again, by this point, it is hardly as if the main storyline is all that enthralling anymore. There is only so long that such a chain of unrequited feelings can be maintained without getting completely stale, but Jin’s attempts to develop the situation are hardly make the situation better. Even as Tenma continues to mindlessly long for Karasuma, and Harima maintains his pointless love of Tenma, two girls start to catch the Harima bug- namely Eri and Yakumo. Now, in all honesty, it took me a while to even start to like Harima, and whilst he isn’t a bad person, I don’t see anything noteworthy enough about him to merit having not one, but two girls so devoted to him. Worse yet, whilst Yakumo’s feelings are at least in character, Eri seems to have completely altered her personality in the last few chapters, turning from a proud and independent young woman into a desperate Harima chaser. Chapter 203 is perhaps the worst example of this, documenting Eri’s attempts to become clumsier than Tenma in the hopes of attracting attention. Is this really the same Eri that I came to know and like in the early days?
Regardless of whether they are in or out of character, however, there comes a point when you realise that, truth be told, perhaps the members of the School Rumble cast aren’t all that worthy after all. As far as the male characters go, it is hard to point out a single one who is particularly likable- from Tougou to Yoshidayama, they all seem to be shallow and irritating one trick personalities. The girls fare a little better, but even they do not stand up under scrutiny- Tenma is so incapable that she barely seems human, Yakumo intentionally allows herself to become a subservient doormat and Akira is completely inscrutable, to name but a few. Of course, it doesn’t help that the series is burdened with so many characters that in trying to include them all it has just become a tedious morass.
After the anime: what happens next
Those who watched to the end of the anime will recall that there was a preview for the next arc, a school trip to England. As it turns out, after having Harima and Eri become the trip organisers, 2-C end up going to Kyoto instead (all except Hanai, who ends up at Heathrow airport by himself).
Unfortunately, the Kyoto trip is entirely unexciting, consisting of various characters wandering around and taking in the sights, before moving on to an extremely confusing fight between Harima and some students from England. Apart from the fact that one of the English characters had a past connection with Eri, this seemed to be a completely pointless and confusing arc that achieved absolutely nothing. Perhaps some of the blame can be laid at the door of the grammatical imperfections of the scanlation group, but I can’t help feeling that even the best translation in the world would not do much to help matters.
Of course, no school trip would be complete without some romantic misunderstandings, and so it is that the Harima tangle receives its share of attention. After learning about the tradition of writing your name alongside that of your beloved on a paper charm, Harima writes his and Tenma’s names down on the same piece of paper, only for the rain to cause his name to soak through onto a charm where Eri had written her name. Naturally, Eri happens to see this charm, and from then on her personality changes from ‘normal’ to ‘chase Harima’ mode.
Back at Yagami High School, the story slowly crawls forward with only one certainty- Jin has no intention of ending it any time soon (and indeed, bad as it gets, how does a series like this end?). Eri and Harima are forced to spend more time together as they assemble the photo album for the trip, complete with an overnight stay for the two of them at Eri’s house. By this point, Eri is determined to pursue her feelings for Harima, and when she realises that he likes Tenma, a rift grows up between the two girls. Naturally, the oblivious Tenma has no idea what she did to upset Eri (it’s perhaps a wonder that she even noticed Eri was treating her differently, given her lack of observational skills), but after attempting to talk to her, she writes an apology in the snow and the friendship is restored.
In the meantime, the end of the second year is approaching, and after some Valentine’s fun in which no one seems able to easily hand over chocolates to their beloved, it is time to start thinking about the future. Having randomly decided that she wants to become a teacher, Tenma decides to get some experience with a day of teaching at an elementary school, causing Harima to turn up and pose as one of the students (since, conveniently enough, it’s his brother’s class). After a day of ‘hilarious’ antics, it is time to get back to school and continue the rumble…but how long can it go on before all but a handful of dedicated readers lose hope?
There are far too many relationships in School Rumble for me to get much out of covering them all, but whilst I may add to this list later, for now I’ll just concentrate on the main batch of “are they, aren’t they?” pairings.
Tenma x Karasuma
Although it started off as one of the main hooks of the series, Tenma’s love for Karasuma is really something that should have long died away by now. In some ways, it would almost be a relief to at least have Tenma out of the way by pairing her off with Karasuma, but at the same time, he is just so inscrutable and downright strange that he barely seems human- after all, just who walks around in a kappa suit when it rains? Add in the fact that he just plain disappears from the story at times, and it is hard to imagine anyone having a close personal relationship with him.
Harima x Tenma
Harima’s hopeless love continues to endure, but even so, it merely marks another relationship that doesn’t seem viable. Given their propensity for mutual misunderstandings and the sheer difficulty of clearly communicating with each other, it seems as if any relationship between them would be painful at best (think Love Hina).
Harima x Eri
The trouble with this pairing is that I just have a hard time swallowing that Eri could develop those sorts of feelings for Harima at all- I could see them becoming friends, but a romance between them just doesn’t sit right with me. Even if I could have accepted it with time, the way Eri’s personality has changed to make her another link in the ‘unrequited love chain’ has ruined any hope of that happening now. Poor Eri, whatever happened to you?
Harima x Yakumo
Although I didn’t initially feel this way, if Harima is going to end up with anyone, I have begun to see this as the most viable option. In the midst of other disappointments, the quiet friendship and respect that has grown up between Harima and ‘Imouto-san’ during their manga sessions is one of the better parts of the manga, and I could actually envisage Harima slowly realising how much Yakumo means to him. It would also be refreshing to see Yakumo start to have more a life beyond just being Tenma’s keeper; certainly it isn’t helping either sister to grow up by having them stuck in their current roles- not to mention the fact that I hate to see something as worthy as Yakumo in the position of sacrificing herself for the irritatingly thoughtless Tenma.
Imadori x Ichijou
This section is really just an excuse to rant without any kind of measured thought- I simply hate the way poor Karen tolerates Imadori’s immature attitude just because she likes him. It’s almost a relief when Lala puts Imadori in his place, since Karen is simply far too tolerant- especially when one might question just what exactly she could possibly see in Imadori anyway.
Mikoto x Asou
Although this relationship seemed slightly more mutual, it was simply so dull that I didn’t really realise that they had ever been properly ‘going out’ until after they had broken up. Worse yet, Mikoto seemed to feel compelled to alter her personality when she was with Asou in order to be more feminine- I’d rather see her happy to be herself.
Hanai x Yakumo
Anything involving Hanai must simply never come to pass- he is simply far too annoying a character. At least this is played more for laughs than anything that could ever possibly happen.
Like most static situations, School Rumble was a series which would eventually have to ‘evolve or die’ if it didn’t want to go downhill in the way that it has, but unfortunately it continues to limp along in what is effectively the same old rut. The basic setup simply isn’t strong enough to continue for over two hundred chapters, and with each passing instalment, my love of the series seems ever more distant. Perhaps if Jin had introduced some proper progression in the relationships between characters instead of getting caught up in diversions, side stories and essentially embellishing the original situation with more of the same, the series could have been more satisfying, but unfortunately, even light comedy cannot hope to be successful if it remains in the same unchanging mode forever.