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Cromartie High School: The Movie
|     Review #1    |     Review #2    |     availability     |



It's all rather strange: the many faces of Cromartie High School.
AKA: Sakigake! Cromartie High School: The Movie  
Year: 2005  
Director: Yudai Yamaguchi  
  Writer: Eiji Nonaka (original manga), Itsuji Itao, Shoichiro Masumoto
  Cast: Takamasa Suga, Mitsuki Koga, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Watanabe Hiroyuki, Toshihiro Takayama, Itshji Itao, Noboru Kaneko, Shinji Takeda, Shoichiro Masumoto, Kai Ato
  The Skinny: Fans of the Cromartie High School manga should find this movie version to be a gas, as it suitably captures the spirit - if not the wannabe-Crying Freeman visual style of the manga. This is fun stuff for fans, though the uninitated may be understandably unimpressed.
Review
by Kozo:
     Get ready for weirdness. Cromartie High School: The Movie is not for everyone, nor does it pretend to be. Based on the hit manga from Eiji Nonaka, the film posits a wacky high school full of delinquents who simply can't seem to get a clue. Aside from your standard faceless wannabe toughs, Cromartie High is home to a gorilla, a Freddie Mercury-wannabe, and a robot that doesn't know he's a robot. The toughest guy in the school has the same name as a gorgeous heartthrob idol AND is afflicted with an incredibly embarrassing penchant for motion sickness. There are also aliens who look like gorillas, and are intent on taking over the world. The key to their conquest: start at Cromartie High. Yeah, this is one screwed up movie.
     Thankfully, there's one normal guy: Takashi Kamiyama (Takamasa Suga), who applied to Cromartie to accompany his slowwitted pal Yamamoto. Sadly, Yamamoto didn't get in, meaning Kamiyama is stuck among Cromartie's weird denizens all by his lonesome. Still, Kamiyama's normalcy is completely relative, as he's a few quarts shy himself. When overacting wannabe boss Hokuto (Noboru Kaneko) claims he's out to stop some grand evil, Kamiyama buys in and forms a completely ineffective "self-defense force" consisting of himself, pals Hayashida (Mitsuki Koga) and Maeda (Hiroshi Yamamoto), and the other misfits of Cromartie. Then the group walks around in uniforms and pontificates on how to stop the unnamed encroaching evil, though they apparently have no idea what the hell that evil really is. They also wonder aloud if robot Mechazawa is really a robot, and generally do nothing that makes any sense. When the alien gorillas do show up, the bottom completely drops out. Random characters show up out of nowhere, as well as a tag-team comedy duo known as "Pootan". Consisting of two guys in ridiculous white or pink padded outfits, Pootan is supposed to be all the rage on television. If your reaction to that is "What the Hell?", then congratulations: you're sane.
     But if you're lost or confused, then you probably have no business watching this film. Cromartie High School is pretty much for fans, a point made clear by the big cameo of afro-sporting Noboru Yamaguchi (Shoichiro Matsumoto), a gang boss at rival Destrade High. Yamaguchi can't understand what the deal is with Pootan, especially since he's an aspiring comedian himself. Yes, he's a gang boss who wants to be a comedian, and his appearance will mean nothing to the audience unless they happen to follow the Cromartie High School manga or anime - in which case Yamaguchi's cameo may be accompanied by hooting, hollering, or some other sign of blind fanaticism. Pretending that Cromartie High School is accessible or for mass audiences would be folly of epic proportions. Basically, if you're not already a fan of Cromartie High School, then this movie will likely not convert you. It's that esoteric.
     And if you do happen to be a fan of Cromartie High School? Well, then you're in luck, because the live-action movie can amuse in very much the same deadpan silly way. It's nowhere near as successful as the manga, as part of the manga's success is with its medium. Author Eiji Nonaka illustrates his Cromartie misfits in a cool, tough-looking style reminiscent of manga artist Ryoichi Ikegami (Crying Freeman). The characters' stiff, stalwart appearance makes them seem like serious badasses - which is one reason why their off-the-wall antics can be so hilarious. Cromartie spoofs its actual medium (manga) with its outlandish characters and even more odd humor. The live-action film is hard-pressed to accomplish that, as the actors look like cartoony wannabe thugs anyway, and not dangerous tough guys out of a serious youth gang picture. With that little bit of satire gone, Cromartie High School can only succeed as some sort of bizarre Valentine to the manga's devout fanbase - which it does rather effectively. Director Yudai Yamaguchi (Battlefield Baseball) has a fine talent for staging deadpan silliness, and the majority of the jokes have been proven twice before, in both the manga and the anime. As sophomoric and cheap-looking as it is, Cromartie High School is also good, clean, impenetrable fun. Just make sure that you're a fan. (Kozo 2006)
Alternate Review
Review by Calvin McMillin:      How on earth can one adequately describe the appeal of Cromartie High School to the unitiated? Whether it's Eiji Nonaka's original manga, the animated series, or this, the live-action feature film adaptation, trying to get across exactly what's so great about Cromartie High School is most likely an exercise in futility. But in the spirit of the film's unflappable protagonist, I'll go ahead and give it a shot. Take the insanity of the most "out there" Late Night With Conan O'Brien sketch, add the silliness of Monty Python, and set the whole thing in a Japanese high school full of the worst delinquents imaginable, and you'll have some idea of what this deliriously entertaining film is all about. Even then, however, I'm only scratching the surface.
     As in the manga, the film's hero is Takashi Kamiyama (Takamasa Suga), an honors student who actually chooses to attend Cromartie High School, the worst school in all of Japan, based on an entirely noble, yet hilariously flawed premise. Like his manga predecessor, Kamiyama wants to turn the school around, attacking the project with a sincere sort of earnestness that is as charming as it is downright hilarious. But Kamiyama's got his work cut out for him, as he's surrounded not only by utter morons, but by a few nontraditional students as well. There's the mute, perpetually shirtless Freddie Mercury look-alike named, appropriately enough, Freddie. A man of few - actually no - words, Freddie often pals around with a gorilla, who also attends classes at Cromartie High. And then there's the robot named Shinichi Mechazawa who doesn't realize that he's a robot. Oh, and he has a little brother. Still with me?
     The film is constructed much like the manga, as a series of vignettes and comedy sketches, loosely connected to form an overall narrative - although to suggest that Cromartie High School has a unifying story or theme, one would have to make sense of the film's final act when a flying saucer lands, piloted by two gorilla-like aliens. Their mission? To take over the school and brainwash the already brain-dead populace into becoming Shaolin monk supersoldiers. Why? I'm not sure, but I almost snorted root beer out my nose when the 36th Chamber of Shaolin parody kicked in. Nevertheless, the responsibility falls on fish-out-of-water everyman Kamiyama to rouse up the troops - the snobby Hokuto (Noburo Kaneko), the ever-observant Hayashida (Mitsuki Koga), the nickname deprived, mother-resembling Maeda (Hiroshi Yamamoto), and the rest of the Cromartie gang - to fight off this intergalactic evil.
     Although there are quite a few spot-on translations from manga to film, not everything in Sakigake! Cromartie High School made it to the big screen intact. Whereas a lot of the comic book's comedy relied on the discrepancy between the tough guy Crying Freeman-style depictions of the characters and their loony remarks, the film version cast doesn't look quite as fierce. Even so, there's an added layer of comedy to see a bunch of not-so-tough guys act like they are, only to undercut it with idiotic, even cowardly behavior. Again, the humor is tough to describe. Sometimes, even a wordless scene makes for comedy gold. Case in point: something as simple as how Freddie and the gorilla are reclining while watching TV can elicit a few belly laughs. Or, when an obviously thirtysomething actor is introduced via title cards as a sixteen year old kid, hilarity ensues.
     If, and that's a very big IF, some of what's been mentioned here appeals to you, then Cromartie High School could very well be your cup of tea. Although the film seems squarely aimed at diehard fans, I can see how the live action version, as weird and seemingly inaccessible as it may be, could serve as a primer for non-fans, converting newbies to the cause, or at the very least, convincing them to seek out the source material. And well it should since, as devotees of the series already know, Cromartie High School is deranged, deadpan comedy at its best. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)
Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
King Records
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English subtitles
Various Extras
 

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