September 07, 2008
by: Adam Beck
A school that has a lot less rumble.
Manga Description: SLEEPING BRUISER
Tough-guy Harima takes a nap backstage during the school festival. Unbeknownst to him, his bed is a prop in the stage version of “Sleeping Beauty,” and he is unwittingly about to make his debut as the princess. Fortunately, the princes are played by six of the cutest girls in his class–including Harima’s beloved Tenma!
Includes special extras after the story!
Content: (This section may contain spoilers)
I love School Rumble, no doubt, as the previous installments continually cracked me up with their goofy, over-the-top humor. Sadly, I think that charm the series once held over me is slowly disappearing. There were just too many times when I had to put down the volume and take a break. I’m not saying the release is bad per se, but what we get this time around isn't up to the level I've seen Jin Kobayashi dish out before.
Putting aside what probably sounds like a rather sour introduction, the content of the tenth volume – like previous installments – can be described as not a whole lot. This is mainly because you are paying full price for a manga with 132 pages of story and 27 pages of bonus material. That is not a lot considering you look at something like Pumpkin Scissors (also released by Del Rey) which gives you nearly one hundred more pages of pure storyline for the same price. It sounds like it might be hard to recommend something like this, but thankfully some of the comedy is actually funny and justifies the whole thing.
The tenth volume is split into three main events, the first being the shortest. This is Harima receiving an award for his manga. Remember that manga he worked himself to the bone over, with Yakumo? Well, it makes its long-awaited debut. This chapter disappointed me sorely, yet it was still one of the better events in the tenth volume, and that is sadly saying a lot. I really enjoyed seeing how many students’ names ended with “ma” but the thing that I wished was better explored was Yakumo’s relationship with Harima. Having heard of his success, she decides to reward him with a treat, but what basically happens is a smirk from Tenma and then the section ends there. Even though the series is pretty good at hiding character’s feelings for the sake of suspense, I do wish this would have progressed better.
The second event actually finishes up the ongoing festival with the play and concert. I actually forgot about the festival because of the first chapter; it was somewhat random to have those events cross-patched with this one, but the second event does a good job establishing Eri as a stronger character. There’s a nice bit of role-reversal here: instead of a stereotypical male hero going to the rescue of a young beautiful princess, the two switch off only for Eri to find herself in a tough predicament. The whole concept pays off a little better than I expected and offers some comedic moments as well as some stronger performances from Eri and Yakumo. Their little dispute over Harima heats up, all for the better, although the whole thing ends very awkwardly as Akira makes her well-deserved appearance. I do she would get a larger part one of these days.
The final event that takes up the rest of the novel is the basketball game. Instead of having the main characters slacking a bit, the story switches to secondary characters and sheds that much stronger a light on them. The main characters do make minor appearances, though, with Harima getting shortest shrift. Strangely enough, I was even more confused by Tenma’s involvement into things. First she complains that basketball is boring, but then is more than eager to join. There really is no cause here as not only is she bad at basketball – and not even interested – but Karasuma isn’t even involved. So her involvement is not only small but downright insignificant, even as the story tries to play her as if she has more importance.
Anyway, the main characters for this segment are basically Mikoto, Aso and the newly introduced Satsuki. I actually like Satsuki when she is sweet, but she can also be pretty bitter and insulting – even if it’s subtle – when it comes to a guy she likes. Sadly, her character is pretty much all the other girls in the manga, just with a bit more shyness. She already is proving to be a strong addition to the series, as her attitude is “you let up and you die”. She doesn’t seem to give up on anything physical, even thought she can easily get embarrassed and run away whenever there is a mental conflict.
There are a couple nicely done skits, like the involvement of the always-comical Imadori or Satsuki’s rather tender attitude. Sadly, two people that bring things down drastically are Mikoto and Tae (everyone’s favorite sexy school nurse). Mikoto is way too serious for her own good. Even when Imadori becomes involved, I would have thought she would have done something somewhat humorous, but she only disappears and gets back to work. Tae is also way too serious. Although she may be joking half of the time, her attitude is very random and feels like she is trying too hard on a subject she obvious knows little about. These two dragged this scenario down a bit, but I can only hope the following installment will be a bit better for the two.
As with all the previous releases, there are always extra chapters that fill the void between previous scenarios or just randomize things. The first of the three is probably the only interesting one as it follows Harima’s younger cousin Shuji – who we met in the past. I enjoyed this short chapter because it was sweet and showed a bit of heart when it comes to Shuji’s friend, Mio. It also demonstrates the passion and gracefulness Yakumo can display. The rest are very unfunny, uninteresting and unnecessary. The second is about the Itoko and Yoko who seem to be in a speed race, but it is just some old guy explaining each slow and short situation. The last one involves Yakumo and the eerie ghost we saw in the past, but then somehow ends up being Iori – the cat – taking a human form? I have no clue why this chapter was written, but it felt like a waste of my time.
The best part of School Rumble is probably the characters. Each is unique and really enjoyable to read about. But this time around they’re not given the kind of story twists that show them off, and so the tenth volume into the School Rumble series winds up being short and easily skippable.
Artwork: The artwork varies greatly. While there can be some good looking pieces of art, it’s generally rough around the edges and very bland. That is to say, it does fit well with the comedic sense of the series, but the overall artwork doesn’t jump off the pages. Let’s start off with the background imagery. They can be done pretty good when they are there, but it is generally blank or filled with plenty of animation techniques. Sadly, there are various environmental images and background scenery – such as the crowd for the play – that just look way too under detailed, even for the series. Some very rough sketches really won’t do. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. Character models on the other hand look good and each character stands out drastically, never having me confuse one for the other. It even goes into strong detail when there are serious moments, but there is also a strong balance of comedic moments that are drawn very well with almost chibi style characters. Overall, the visuals are good, but good at best. A little more bland than before but thankfully each character is unique.
Translation: The English-translation confused me somewhat. Generally speaking, there really isn’t much wrong with the English translation as nearly all the sound effects are translated and there are no apparent errors in the grammar and spelling. But on page 99 there isn’t a Japanese sound effect but an English one. It isn’t that what confused me but the note at the bottom that points it out directly and saying that it couldn’t be found in the art file. I can’t tell if that is a mistake or intentional that the text made it in there, but it does take you out of the experience a bit. There is also only one untranslated sound effect on page 90 that is spotted right beside Mikoto’s head. On page 140 Harima’s sign is untranslated whereas his somewhat rival beside him has the same sign but it’s translated. Lastly, on the same page, I don’t really have much of a beef with it but, instead of translating “brother”, it was left as “nii-san”. As I said, not a big deal, but it does drop the value of the overall English-translation. Sound effects are presented in the original Japanese characters and translated into English nearby.
As for extras, there is a fair bit to be liked here. There is a “short rumble” which is essentially a short comic about one of the side characters, Suga which is really not all that funny. Also included are background materials and artworks of the sorts with deep explanations, very long translation notes and a, well I wouldn’t say preview of the following volume, but a date when the 11th volume comes out.
The Bottom Line: I still really enjoy School Rumble despite the repetitious and somewhat uninteresting adventures this volume brings. The basketball idea is pretty good, but it takes things way too seriously, something like the eighth volume where they played an overacted survival game. There are a couple good jokes here and there, but I felt the atmosphere was far too serious for the goings-on. That said, the characters are still unique and offer an enjoyable value to the series, but I just wish that this romantic comedy would lighten up a little more. In the end, it’s an installment that can be missed, but if you’re a fan of the series as a whole and sports, you may take a liking to this.