I have not read the manga, so know that that will in no way influence this review.
Cromartie High School is a very funny show, I just want to get that out there from the get go. I'm sure someone reading this review will automatically look at the 7 as my overall rating and think, "I guess he didn't find it all that funny, humor is subjective." Well, in fact, I did enjoy this show a great deal.
So, yes, Cromartie High School works very well as a comedy. But, it is lacking in other areas and thus isn't a great anime. For one, the characters are very flat and usually run on one mode only: Stupid. I mean, yes, this works very well for comedy purposes but I believe anything and everything should have well developed characters and/or plot even if the works sole objective is to make the viewer laugh.
In any case, to focus on the characters there is a very large cast in this series. The most prominent seem to be Kamiyama and Hayashida along with their group of friends. Kamiyama is at first played as a normal everyday high school kid who tries to fit in (to hilarious effect in the first episode) and Hayashida is just an idiot delinquent, along with pretty much every other character. He just has very..interesting hair that may or may not be alive.
Other important characters include the Freddie Mercury look alike who is named..Freddie, who says nothing the entire series and usually seems to do incredibly random things such as taking over in a comedy tv series. Mechazawa, a robot who fits in very well at the school and our two main characters seem to be the only two who initially realize he is a robot. And then there is Gorilla, who is exactly what his name entails.
There is also Maeda, who seems to be one of the few characters who seems to have a decent head on his shoulder as he is frequently baffled by his compatriots actions.
The series, being purely episodic comedy, has no real "story" and instead touches on topics such as getting a song stuck in your head and not knowing what it is, a Gorilla learning how to make Sushi, what is or isn't funny in comedy, and an alternate universe where the characters go to an all female school. Unfortunately, this series can be either hit and miss as some of the stuff covered just fell flat to me.
The Art is decent and has some..interesting character designs throughout the series. One of which being Freddie's and, of course, Hayashida's mohawk. Speaking of said Mohawk, there is actually very little animation throughout the series so much of the comedy is delivered through "talking heads" for all intents and purposes. Given the nature of the series this isn't a big deal at all, but I can imagine it bothering some viewers.
Being one of the few anime I've watched as I dub, I was surprised by how well it is done for the most part. Almost all the characters have the usual tough guy voice aside from Kamiyama and a few others. So, it's normally hilarious when they talk about random stuff such as how to make people laugh and numerous other topics people like them aren't normally known for discussing.
Not really any story to speak of, just different topics for most of the episodes. Can be hit or miss depending on the viewer, as this series is mostly just random humor with occasional moments of "smart" humor thrown in. An example of this is the episode where Kamiyama talks about how people perceive others taking actions they normally wouldn't.
For the most part the character designs are realistic, aside from the robots, TV show comedy duo, Hayashida's hair, and the guy who wears the mask all the time. Pretty good art style overall, not much to complain about. The animation, however, isn't there for the most part. If the viewer likes to see characters move about and such, it just won't happen here. But, given the style and nature of this series it isn't a big deal.
A pretty good Opening track starts the episodes off and the voice acting is well done for the most part. Though I will say that the voice acting could get irksome at some points, such as Takenouchi who's voice seems to crack every now and then. Otherwise a pretty solid dub.
The series takes the delinquent stereotype and runs with it, putting the characters through all kinds of odd situations and most of the time it works. These characters aren't deep or anything and aren't particularly well developed but..that was never ever the point of the show to begin with. These characters were meant to make us laugh and they do a good job of that.
I enjoyed the series, though some of the later episodes weren't quite as funny as some of the early stuff. I think the jokes run thin towards the last half, though I will say that the final 3 or so episodes were some of the series best episodes.
Not a great series by any stretch of the imagination, but a very enjoyable comedy for sure. I believe that any genre should have character development, so I can't give this series high marks though I will say that Cromartie High School is probably one of the better series of it's type I've seen.
In any case, I recommend anyone who is looking for a well done comedy anime to look up this series. Chances are you will laugh.