How does one go about talking about something as silly as Cromartie High School? Should you attempt a plot synopsis? That wouldn't get you very far into the hearts of any readers, due to the total lack of sense it would make. You could attempt to describe the jokes, but that wouldn't go over very well either. There's always hammering away at the popularity of the Cromartie series, the strange lawsuit that bogged down the live-action film based on some of the volumes mentioned here. Of course, nothing irritates the majority of hip comic readers and supercool non-super hero fans like a reminder that this manga, and most manga in general, beats the sales of your favorite books and comics, providing your favorite book isn't by Rachel Ray and provided your favorite comics aren't already manga.
See, none of that got us anywhere about Cromartie, did it? We still haven't mentioned any of the people or robots on these delightful images, have we?
That might help. The guy up on the right, with the big bead of sweat, is Hariyama. He ended up in Cromartie, a school well-known for it's "badasses." (That's Nonaka's term, not mine. I'd stick with the British "hooligans," but only because badass makes me think of Omar and Avon Barksdale, and both those guys make Cromartie's toughest look sort of like Dakota Fanning.) The cat to your left (the screen, not whatever basement you're in) is Mechazawa, a robot of some kind. (Although on occasion he's been a motorcycle, an inmate, and a refrigerator. The kids at Cromartie try their hardest to ignore his very obvious robot-ness.) To your right is Masked Takenouich. He's a wrestler pretending to be a high school bad ass. He's fooled most everybody, even though sometimes he forgets to wear his mask. Later in the series, he enjoys a career as a well-trained pillow beater. (I'd so don't ask, but it's not like you were going to anyway.) See? You've already stopped caring about this. So you should know: i fucked your mother. That's where i've been. Fucking your mother. I dug her up.
Cromartie is pretty successful, considering it's a manga that's carried in Barnes & Noble, which pretty much guarantees success right now. (It's no exaggeration that manga is destroying graphic novel sales in mainstream bookstores, but its also no lie that most manga is cut from the same cloth as most graphic novels: they suck pretty hard most of the time.) It's neither offensive, intelligent, nor even particularly attractive, which also guarantees it's going to do alright. Do to it's dependence on flippant humor, which one suspects may be due to a somewhat labored English translation, the book takes longer to read than it might take to read something more intelligent (like a Reader's Digest, or an Entertainment Weekly.) That's not to say it's terrible--Cromartie High School is, at times, pretty funny. Particularly when it focuses on a rival gang leader's struggles to conceal his aspirations at becoming a famous humorist, or the random moments where one of the characters tries to tell his classmates his name--four volumes in, he's still failed at it. For the most part though, Cromartie is a lot like the hat that "Fuck All Ya'll" truckers cap that David Cross used to wear. It's funny, even when you just repeat it out of context, but it's not like James fucking Thurber or something. And it sure as hell needs more titty if it wants to gain some of that Spiderman 3 style money.
-Tucker Stone, 2007