This review is spoiler-free!
Title: Prison School (TV)
Animation Company: J.C.Staff
Genres: Ecchi, Romance, Comedy, Seinen
Aired: Summer 2015
Number of episodes: 12
Summary: On the outskirts of Tokyo stands Hachimitsu Private Academy, a storied all-girls boarding school for elite young women full of potential and good breeding. But as the new school year rolls around, one tradition is going out the window: For the first time in the school’s long history, boys are being allowed to enroll. But on the first day of school, only five boys make the cut. Kiyoshi Fujino, one of the lucky few, is thrilled by this discovery, his heart leaping with joy at the thought of being surrounded by all those girls, day in and day out. But little does he know of the shocking fate that awaits him. (Source; Yen Press)
Warning: This anime is under the ecchi tag for a reason. There is a lot of nudity and sexual content (but also lots of censorship to go with), so tread with caution. Strictly for the 18 & up by traditional standards.
What a ride Prison School is. It’s one of my all-time favorite manga (I pretty much caught up after seeing the first few episodes of the anime), so my judgement is definitely biased, but even then I didn’t think the anime would be able to nail the appeal of the manga while also making excellent use of a different medium. Seriously, this is how you do a top-notch manga adaptation. The anime is perfectly paced – it was considerably faster than the manga, but unlike manga where you can look past smaller, more insignificant panels of content, you can’t do that in anime! The anime knew where exactly the fat needed to be trimmed, and we got a story that has masterful pacing that manages to completely hook the viewer in.
I normally detest comedy in anime – it tends to be incredibly shallow, does NOTHING to add to the overall package and is usually incredibly repetitive. Prison School obviously avoids this problem because the comedy actually progresses the story, but also because it’s goddamn hilarious. The comedy is straight-up disgusting, crude, immature, but also refreshingly honest. It knows (very clearly) what it is, and doesn’t try to hide it. Breasts, asses, wet t-shirt contests, penises…it goes the extra mile to shove these things into your face, but also does it with lots of care and attention to detail. I find it funny that Prison School is the project director Mizushima decides to work on right after Shirobako (another great series you’ve probably heard of) – they’re COMPLETELY different, but both are works that have so much love put into them. Shirobako has all its little cameos and references, Prison School the Chairman’s weird speech patterns, Meiko being a huge loser that sweats a lot, and Gakuto being disgusting but also somehow really lovable and respectable. It pushes these little things to the extreme and that’s part of the series’ magic.
Comedy aside the series also works as a solid entry into the prison break sub-genre – it’s high-stakes, high-intensity pretty much 24/7, and possesses all the standard conventions of the sub-genre. What surprises me is how it has excellent writing in this regard. It’s a grossout sex comedy and yet it’s so intricately plotted that it boggles my mind. It’s not just funny, but also totally unpredictable (unless you read the manga, woe is me) and it’s left me unsure of whether I should be in shock or if I should be laughing.
On to some other things about the anime specifically – it has excellent art and sound direction. The anime miraculously manages to adapt Hiramoto’s hyper-stylized, detailed art without losing too much motion. The animation does seem like it needs a few in-betweens in some of the cuts, but for the most part it manages fluidity without compromising on detail. It has surprisingly good coloring and cinematography – its not exactly subtle, but more than gets the job done to ramp up the tension & provide tons of extra laughs, and has some pretty neat stylistic touches (the lego scenes & other occasional random changes in art style throughout).
Special mention to all the glorious facial expressions that has brought me so much joy:
(Insert obligatory ‘Hana is the best girl’ comment here)
As mentioned, the sound design is also excellent. The actual soundtrack doesn’t really add much to the series, but the sound effects and voice acting were bloody spectacular. The voice cast (special mention to Kana Hanazawa WHO WAS BORN FOR HER ROLE AS HANA, AMEN) is spectacular and the performances were on-point and made all the comedic scenes that much funnier. Special props to the Chairman’s voice actor as well, who I am sure had a blast with his weird but incredibly endearing speech….patterns! There was also some excellent variety in sound effects, and they were used perfectly & actually, legitimately improved my viewing experience. This is how anime adaptations of manga are supposed to be!
Well, I think that’s a tad too much gushing about Prison School, but I honestly don’t think it has any legitimate ‘flaws’. Sure, it definitely has very niche appeal, comedy is subjective et cetera, et cetera. Those are more based on personal preferences than the series actually not being good in whatever aspect. It may not be the funniest anime ever, but it wasn’t really trying to be. I think it more than achieves what it set out to do – it has got great pacing, excellent dramatic AND comedic highs, memorable & larger than life characters, great art & sound design. Yeah. Prison School is a great anime. It’s one of the best trashy anime there is.
Detroit Metal City (OVA) – Another excellent comedy anime. It’s also somewhat gross, but its humor has a much more satirical edge to it. Great if you want to be completely disillusioned about the music industry
Welcome to the NHK (TV) – The comedy here is also top-class, but very, very bleak stuff. It also gets relatively serious later on (no, not like Prison School’s ‘serious’) and covers a wide range of subjects that comment on Japanese societal problems