WARNING: This review features content that is Not Safe For Work. Though the text of the article is as PG as possible, it is impossible to discuss this series without mentioning and showing some of the more risque elements it employs. Enjoy the review!
In my last review, I talked a little about education and its role in society. But what is education without discipline? Have to keep the troublemakers in line, after all.
And what better way to dole out discipline than with an actual prison inside a school?
Such is the premise of Prison School, aka the most NSFW anime I’ve ever watched.
Kiyoshi Fujino is an average guy who just so happens to be one of the first male students of the renowned Hachimitsu Academy, which has recently become co-ed. To his surprise, he finds himself as one of only five boys attending the academy, outnumbered by over a thousand girls.
Naturally, the boys quickly become good friends and get stuck into their studies.
Their studies of biology.
Of female biology.
They immediately peep on the girls in the shower.
Surprisingly, this turns out to be a terrible idea, and they are caught red-handed. The school’s Underground Student Council offers them an ultimatum: spend one month in the school’s underground prison or be expelled.
Thus begins their life of hard labour, punishments and torment at the hands of the sadistic USC, who endeavour to make their lives a living hell.
Prison School is one of the strangest animes I have ever seen. Though it utilizes a relatively realistic art style, the tone of the series is so over-the-top and overtly sexual it gives Kill la Kill a run for its money.
This topsy-turvy tone doesn’t always work, particularly when the characters interact semi-seriously. The main characters are mostly played straight, to contrast with the sheer insanity carrying on.
Kiyoshi is your standard protagonist – not too distinct or bland and definitely the most normal of the gang, though he does have an interesting thing going on with his kind-of-sort-of-girlfriend Chiyo.
Shingo is Kiyoshi’s friend from his old school but kind of becomes a lying, conniving jerk with barely any plot relevance for half the series. He at least gets something to do later on when he’s interacting with his love interest Anzu.
Gakuto is the funniest member of the group and easily the most endearing bar Kiyoshi, but his entire schtick is “I’m a Romance of the Three Kingdoms nerd”, and that wears a little thin early on. Still, he has more to do furthering the plot than anyone else, so he’s okay in my books.
Joe is a guy in a hood who coughs. He likes ants. I couldn’t even fine a good image of him. Next.
And then we have Andre. He’s a big fat masochist with a tiny face and has a bloody annoying voice in the English dub (and this is Sonny Strait, the guy who played Korosensei in Assassination Classroom, a fantastic performance!), but he’s likeable for the most part. However, like Joe and Shingo he pretty much has nothing to do for a long stretch in the middle of the series.
Let’s face it, the real reason to watch is for their interactions with the USC, who are far more interesting. Let’s compare, shall we?
Mari, their leader, is the daughter of the school chairman and can control crows, for some reason.
Hana is the karate champ who runs into a lot of awkward situations with Kiyoshi. Their… complicated relationship is one of the funniest aspects of the series by far.
Finally, there’s Meiko, the mascot girl of the franchise, and a good indicator of what to expect from the series. She’s huge, ridiculously powerful, dresses like a dominatrix and, much like the series, is inflated to an absurd degree. Armed with a riding crop and judo skills, she gives the boys a run for their money, even though she’s deathly afraid of disappointing Mari.
At this point I suppose I have to wonder – is it right to criticise a series for being utterly crass and ridiculous when that’s clearly the creator’s original intention?
Prison School is, after all, about as close to the bone as anime gets – closer than Queen’s Blade or Seikon no Qwaser to that line of being “too much”.
Sure, those series have their share of questionable plot devices, but did any of them feature a subplot where one character is obsessed with peeing on another character? Did any of them feature pant-pooping? Did any of them have haemorrhoid jokes?Still, I suppose you have to have some spice when the main plot is a mostly average prison break, the first arc or so of the manga. There’s not much else you can fit into 12 episodes, after all.
But this is one of the major problems – to me, the series ends right at the point things start to get really interesting. No spoilers, of course, but let’s just say I was looking forward to the OVA episode… which didn’t advance the interesting part at all. Sigh.
However, despite all the criticism I have for the series, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy watching it. It’s one of the few series I watched multiple episodes of in a work day, which is as good a recommendation as any.
The art style, as previously mentioned, is really great in an unnervingly realistic kind of way. The fact everyone looks relatively real adds to the comedy when their faces become distorted by whatever emotion they happen to be feeling. It’s also worth noting that the attention to detail in matching the anime to the original manga is exemplary.
The English dub cast is incredibly strong (with one aforementioned exception) and the series is genuinely funny, in a perverse, uncomfortable kind of way. I defy anyone to not at least let loose a chuckle at Meiko’s character design. I mean look at it, it’s absurd.
All in all, while Prison School is a laugh to watch, it’s still a series I can’t thoroughly recommend. This is definitely not entry-level stuff, it’s far too weird and nonsensical for newbies. However, at the same time, veteran anime fans may also turn their noses up at it for being too vulgar to compete with, I dunno, Evangelion or whatever the prevailing anime snob series is these days.
But it has its niche, and it’s fun for what it is. I certainly want a second series focusing on the more interesting arc seen briefly at the end of this season. I guess the best I can do is give it a rating of…
If South Park, softcore pornography and anime had a baby, it would probably look like this. Extraordinarily crass and borderline offensive but undeniably funny, Prison School definitely has niche appeal but is hard to recommend for anyone turned away at face value.
Oh, and they also made a live-action series. I heard it’s a pretty faithful adaptation.