Rokudenashi Blues, Shakotan Boogie, Taiman Blues Hen... If you take a close look at most of the Yankee animes, it seems like there is no shortage of these titles branded with music genre typology. Turning an uninterested head, video distributors never distributed completely any of these. During their heyday, little was known about their high growth character in the market, so they never knew an overseas release past an episode or two. Yet, it is not a sub-genre as monolithic as one could think, because creators may decline it enough tonally, to preserve its founding spirit while still introducing some variety: for instance, directing it around a gang rivalry with narration taking side for nobody, a raunchy process around a couple of car jackers, a serious tale about street's code of honor or, in the case at hand, a comedic foray into the lives of a tough duo of goons. Obviously, breaking apart comedy is a risky exercise but at least, the present review's humble ambition is to enlighten you about whether "Be-Bebop Highschool" is satisfactory as a delinquent student title.
Indeed. Very often, you hear people telling that comedy is difficult to apprehend objectively. It is not something you can break into a basic formula working all the time. However, centering sense of humor around a keen observation of the surroundings often leads to conclusive outcome. So does B-BH fully succeeds in that regard? Assuredly. Its firm stance is to paint its characters with unembellished colors, making their everyday adventures all the more natural looking. Toru Nakama is a mischief maker who seems innocent but love to bamboozle his people, as for Kato Hiroshi he is seemingly an impulsive guy prone to terrible fits of anger, which never turn into grudge. Their chemistry at screen is remarkable as they play each others out, through squabbles and moments of complicity. They're larger than life, and yet their approach of the world isn't dumbed down in a stereotypical fashion. While they appreciate to be dignified as strong brawlers, on the surface they're mostly unruly clowns chasing for fun and skirts... Like almost any bully idiot you have probably seen in your school years. The characters, while rowdy and cocky, are all far from the caricature of the seedy sadist we often see in the medium. The only thug matching this description is Kameman, and is consistently portrayed so while others are played out differently. Whereas the characterization absolutely does not allow for depth (it would be beside the point, anyway), it features a diverse and properly fleshed out cast... The crazy weasel so afraid of Toru he can turn into a beast if pushed in a corner, The capable right hand man who cannot help but stay under his leader, The tough dull witted guy with a funny moniker, the sukeban who enjoys to tease Kato, the biker highly protective of his girlfriend, the temperamental gang leader who gets riled up every time his shameful nickname is brought up, the boisterous tailor with a knack for brawls even though it is past his prime, you name them and they brandish their enthusiast fists before your eyes. Also, all of them are not bunched together in one town. It is Nobuo, at the beginning of the series, who suggests to grope around the JR lines to see what really lurks in the area. Once Toru and Kato meet all of them, they appear as recurrent parts which, as stated above, get them to be more explored along the way.
So, character writing and world building are sturdily laid out. However, in a Yankee anime, there are still three easy temptations. Does B-BH avoid them all? Firstly, turning the main characters into invincible steam rollers for the rule of the cool. They are not. In the second episodes, the duo ends in a place so packed with delinquents they have to flee and kick their way out in extremis. Or in the one where Kato faces the biker as he is sorely humiliated, left tied with his brief showing... What also makes a difference, is how items as knife or knuckle-dusters are presented dramatically. The anime does not joke around with their dangerous nature when they are brought up. As a result, the odds never are completely rigged in favor of our good Joes. Secondly, over reliance on fight scenes. Here again, B-BH shows how interested it is in being an opened window in the daily routine of its cast: they do nanpa with differing degrees of success, they go to the Pachinko parlor to try their luck, they head into another city to buy discounted tuxedo pants or they fool a naive brute into going to a perilous location only for amusement. In fact, past the initial introduction of the strongest students of the sector, the direction even completely changes focus as scenes of fisticuffs are barely shown. Thirdly? Overstaying its welcome. In the case of this 7 episodes long OAV of 50 minutes each, you get too little to ever get bored from it. If anything, the abrupt conclusion of the last one makes you wish for three more. It is difficult to reproach it as it is as if the spectator barged into the protagonists' daily lives to begin with, though.
Now that it is out of the way, let us talk briefly about Art and Sound; chara-design is solid and functional. The mood is perfectly conveyed in their expressions during the intense or lighter moments. There is appropriate diversity in translating the beauty of the feminine cast, as well. With her pulpy lips, among other assets, the biker's girlfriend is a different type of cute than the low-key girl Kato falls for, for example. The action sequences animated by Toei, giving their age away, sometimes in a slightly stilted manner but not to an unforgiving extremity. Art direction is competent. Nothing to write home for its dazzling creativity but fair enough. The soundtrack is your typical Yankee anime fare. Its Rockabilly coloration burst with the energy necessary to bolster the narrative. These departments don't exactly struggle for uniqueness but tonal consistency and it works just fine.
All in all, there is little negative to hold B-BH accountable for. A true genre classic brimming with infectious effusiveness, which in return makes you more receptive to its sense of humor. Whereas high profile action staging is definitely not its primary focus, the colorful storytelling is self sufficient enough. Seasoned anime watcher or beginner, it strives to be a straightforward experience, so even somebody not completely familiar with the socio-cultural backdrop presented is not left clueless as about what is going on. As such, it is then warmly recommended as a gateway into the sub-genre. Unlike what the others preliminary reviews suggest, "Be-Bop Highschool" was finalized as a project in January 2019, so you may now watch it in entirety, courtesy of Saizen-Fansubs and Hokuto no Gun. These lines are dedicated to the fruit of their investment...
Praise be unto Sacred Geometry~
..| Colophon |..
This section is dedicated to content indication in order to inform audience in a practical way. On the next paragraph, the buzzwords offer hints about the title's strong suits and drawbacks.
Ketchup meter: Nothing too objectionable, the violence in this anime is present but never displayed under a shocking or a mean-spirited light. It is more as if you witness a bunch of unruly brats battling for the last remaining pork dumpling. There is a little blood, indeed, but if it makes you turn the eye, just grow a spine...
xXx meter: It is not a graphic anime but it is certainly not shy when it comes to tackle certain topics in a salacious way, such as when Chappie is affected with a venereal disease and Kato proceeds to shame him in front of everyone.
Fishing scene(s): More like fishing for trouble!
+ A fairly realistic and yet entertaining take on the delinquent student fringe
+ The main cast's chemistry
+ The sheer variety in episode direction
+ Organic world building
+ The effort put into avoiding reliance on power scale
- Not as keen to depict exciting action scenes past the third episode
- A little too short in regards of the sheer potential