Cromartie High School
Writer/Artist: Eiji Nonaka
Number of Volumes: 17
Available on MangaFox: Yes
What It’s About
Takashi Kamiyama is an average high school student who wouldn’t hurt a fly. But as fate would have it, he’s ended up at the notorious reform school, Cromartie High. After becoming friends with a motley crew of thugs, a gorilla, a trashcan-shaped robot, and a mustached man that look a lot like a rock idol, Takashi won’t just learn his ABCs – he’ll learn everything there is to know about being a juvenile delinquent.
Cromartie High School is a shōnen manga, aimed at an 8-18 male crowd, but anyone looking for short, absurd, satirical, comedy vignettes will find ample things to laugh about throughout. Humour for little boys isn’t usually the most refined, but Cromartie High School isn’t anything crude or overly childish. I think the shōnen categorization comes from the fact that it’s a completely male led manga.
Each story is less than ten pages and are all a workup to the last page that reveals the punch line. None of the stories have any real consequence on the stories that comes after it. Past events are often mentioned, but just in passing. Like when the Cromartie gang suddenly have a gorilla attend their school and in later chapters, another gorilla shows up. No one questions it for long and from that point on, they just have another gorilla. That’s just what happens when you attend the school for the biggest badasses in Japan. Sometimes gorillas show up.
And sometimes a giant man that never wears a shirt and looks like Freddie Mercury rides his war horse to class. And sometimes a fully grown man in a wrestling mask is mistaken for a sixteen year old boy. And sometimes their robot friend gets mistaken for product in an electronics store and sold. It’s just what happens at Cromartie!
It’s just so irreverent, random, and absolutely bizarre that it’s hard to sell it. It’s a satire that mocks the genre and literature of its inspiration, using the serious art to make the humour even more ridiculous. Think comedy sketch show from the 1990s or The Mighty Boosh or Spongebob Squarepants, but in manga form and you pretty much have what Cromartie is all about.
Unless you know exactly what Cromartie High School is before going in, the first few chapters are going to confuse you beyond belief. There’s no on-going story, at least nothing beyond the occasional storyline that stretches over a few chapters, and the whole series feels a little like a Family Guy cut-away gag (the difference being that Cromartie High School is non-offensive, clever, and excellently crafted for maximum hilarity come the punch line, instead of just a bunch of random garbage thrown on screen by Seth MacFarlane).
It’s also a very wordy manga, not as physically driven as you would assume a manga aimed at young males would be. The first few chapters feel like sitting down to read a hefty novel, not a series of comedy vignettes. Everything that’s said is leading towards the punch line though, so it’s worth it in the end.
Give it a Chance/Leave it Be
Cromartie High School is great to pick up and kill some time with. The short vignettes are often laugh out loud funny with the crazy punch lines and expressive art. Some might be put off by the non-congruent storyline, others still by just how wordy the whole thing is. But as long as you don’t try to take the series too seriously, you’ll have a great time with Kamiyama and his gang of beatniks and badasses!