Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cromartie High School

You probably didn't think I was some kind of manga loving Otaku nut case. (Who would have guessed? It is not like I work at a desk all day, have few friends, communicate primarily over the Internet, obsess over computers and video games... oh wait a sec...)

Anyway, my favorite manga at the moment is Cromartie High School by Eiji Nonaka.

It is very hard to describe Cromartie. First and foremost it is a kind of surreal dry comedy. The humor is based on a mix of surreal characters in normal situations (the robot and the gorilla attending school for example) as well as surreal occurrences on what should otherwise be mundane occasions. At one point the aliens invading the roof are ignored by the characters obsessing over the the social awkwardness of forgetting someone's name. Every character is the "streight man", and every question is treated by them as a matter of life and death: who should break the news to Mechazawa-san that he is a robot? Who has the "hardest" nick-name? Is Freddie really a high-school student and why is he shirt-less? What should we eat for lunch? Where did the gorillas come from?

Nonaka is an expert in gradually adding layers of insanity, with many episodes being a repeating series of the same gag gradually building into a total farce. His portrayal of stupidity is also pretty funny, right up there with Dougal on Fr. Ted, of course an element of tragedy and futility is mixed in. There isn't much narrative structure, you could almost read the episodes in any order, but over time there's a small element of back reference and self reference mixed in. Cromartie High School is a send-up of everything: every high-school story you've ever read or watched, all action manga - itself included, and probably the human race also.

It has been years since I read anything that forced me to stop reading I was laughing so much.