Cromartie is not so much a school as it is a playground for the unteachable. Its student body consists near-exclusively of thugs, delinquents, and the city’s local nut cases. The sole exception appears to be Takashi Kamiyama; an above-average student and a standup guy all-around. He hopes to change the school for the better, but it seems like the school might be changing him instead.
Based on the manga by Eiji Nonaka, Cromartie High School is a surreal comedy through and through. Sure, the premise of a school full of delinquents may seem straightforward enough. See also Great Teacher Onizuka. But these are not your everyday bullies. Every named character has something crazy going on and—without wanting to sound discriminatory—some characters don’t even belong in class at all. There is a wanted terrorist who keeps wanting to talk politics, a mute Freddy Mercury, and even a gorilla. None of this is explained and it’s soon accepted as perfectly normal by the other students.
Each episode is only 12 minutes long, but they feel substantial. Their storylines had me snickering constantly and I was always looking forward to what absurd nonsense might happen next. My favorite storylines were those involving Mechazawa; a smooth-voiced guy who is clearly and undeniably a robot, yet most everyone thinks that he’s just a normal person.
The half-length episodes are not the only indication that Cromartie High School was a budget effort. Visually, it’s a very below-par anime too. The thing is, the anime knows it looks kind of crap. In fact, it’s absolutely delighted by that fact. Shots gets recycled constantly and linger for an eternity, so the anime doubles down by putting in meta-sketches that lampshade this issue. Instead of being embarrassed by animation errors, they put in even more inconsistencies on purpose.
Rather than try to mask its weaknesses, Cromartie High School emphasizes them. It points at its own flaws and laughs along with the audience. I respect that.
Surely it’s not an anime for everyone. It’s great if you’re in the mood for a style of comedy that you don’t see often in anime. My closest comparisons would be Golden Boy, GTO, and the dub of Ghost Stories, so if you’re into those, then definitely give this anime a try as well.