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Cromartie High School Volume 3
posted September 19, 2005
ADV Manga, August 2005, 184 pages, $10.95
After praising the first book in the Cromartie High School
series, I feel compelled to write about this third volume of the juvenile-delinquent satire because I believe it's actually funnier and more accomplished than that very strong debut. Following a slightly constipated second book where it seemed like Eiji Nonaka was stuck between introducing a lot of minor concepts and scraping the sides of what had been previously established. By the third book all of this tough establishing work blooms in sublime, dumbass fashion.
It looks like Nonaka feels a lot more comfortable varying his stories, comfortable that his brickwall endings -- a ridiculous moment frozen in time in a big panel on the story's last page, a rhythm likely to be familar to manga readers -- will work no matter what goes on before it. And he's right. There are scenes where Kamiyama rides around on a converted motorcycle Mechazawa shooting missles at some bullies and hopping up in the air that are exhilirating as well as the usual ridiculous. The concepts build more cleanly here, including a wonderful scene where rival gang leader Yamaguchi participates in an impromptu quiz show run by Kamiyama. That scene rewards knowledge of the characters' specific traits, but remains focused on the overly serious Yamaguchi as he decides to approach it as an attempt to do humor rather than answer questions. It's a funny comic, played funny, with multiple flourishes. In addition, Nonaka's throwaways are almost always funny -- a thug asking out loud of his thuggish leader secretly quite reasonble on-line, "Is this what it's like to be in love with another man?" -- the packaging is dense and affordable, and the cartoons at the end about how much Nonaka doesn't like manga, well, I find those amusing as well.