Monday, December 14, 2015


A lot of manga releases this year were hoping to follow in Attack on Titan's footsteps in that they too were hoping for a huge surge in sales thank to an animated counterpart.  Today's selection is just one of the many to ride that trend, and it is easily one of the most notorious manga releases of the year.

PRISON SCHOOL (Purizen Sukuru), by Akira Hiramoto.  First published in 2011 and first published in 2015.


Hachimitsu Private Academy is an all-girl boarding school that has only recently gone co-ed.  Only five boys made the cut, a motley crew of awkward losers led by the relatively normal Kiyoshi.  Kiyoshi is on the verge of actually getting a girlfriend when he gets roped into a scheme to peep on the girls' bath.  Having been caught red-handed, the gang are turned over to the girls of the Shadow Student Council, who have sentenced the boys to a month in the school's prison.  The boys are subject to all sorts of punishment, much to their delight.  Kiyoshi is the only one who is determined to escape their captors and keep his promise to a pretty girl to see a sumo match.


You've probably heard the story behind this manga by now.  Hiramoto previous made a manga called Me and the Devil Blues, a manga about the urban legend about notable jazz musician Robert Johnson.  It was well-reviewed, but a massive flop on both sides of the Atlantic.  Thus Hiramoto vowed to himself "Oh, they want nothing but stupid fanservice-heavy harems?  I'll show them! I'll make a manga all about fanservice!"  He certainly delivered on the fanservice front, but he also managed to deliver a wholly unique experience while he was at it.

A lot of fanservice-driven manga are not subtle about it, but Prison School takes that to the extreme.  This is virtualy gonzo in its approach, leering at every curve at every opportunity and liberally sprinkling these instances with plenty of kink.  It's practically soaked in tits and ass.  It's so extreme and in-your-face that the fanservice becomes bizarre and unappealing.  I realize that this is more of an art criticism than a story-related one, but it's so omnipresent that you simply have to discuss it.  It's open about being a pure exploitation piece, so I have to give it points for honesty.

Still, there's a lot of character lurking just under the surface of that fanservice.  Kiyoshi may be fairly average as far as male protagonists go, but the rest of his gang are very distinct sorts of weirdos.  They're not just your average sort of perverts or otaku.  Each of them has their own personality going on and sometimes even their own plots.  The same goes for the shadow student council girls.  Each of them have their own issues going on, and the story is clearly making a point about them being just as repressed as the boys.  That's kind of the theme of the story, or at least as close to a theme as it'll ever come.  Both parties prove that sexual repression breeds perversity, regardless of gender, and it gets exercised n some interesting ways.  Even more minor characters like the school chairman have their own stories that feed into this theme, as he tries so valiantly to give up his love of big Latina butts. 

In its own way, Prison School reminds me of those weird German or Italian exploitation movies from the 1970s.  It makes no bones about wanting to be smut, but it also wants to try to tell a story and make some sort of commentary to justify the sexual extremes it takes.  It's up to the reader to determine if this is an experience that works or not, but it's certainly one I've never experienced before or since.


It also has to be said that Hiramoto is a damn good artist.  He's got a great grasp on anatomy (no pun intended), so much so that he's just as good at drawing it normally as he is at exaggerating it for comedic effect.  The expressions here are priceless, so much so that the anime version of Prison School went out of its way to replicate them.  He puts that same level of care into the fanservice, so every boob bounce and curve is rendered with loving care (along with those bizarre shiny blush things that are so common in anime and manga that make any woman looks like she's been waxed to a shine).  He even emphasizes these curves with lots of extremely low and virtually fish-eyed angles, having them practically fill up the entire panel.  It's art that is extreme and often outright tasteless at times, but it's also incredibly skillful and often darkly humorous. 


Prison School is what it is.  It's a gonzo experiment in fanservice that zooms straight past weird and comes right back around to brilliant, but it's so extreme that I can see a lot of people taking it at face value and rejecting it outright.  Honestly, it's so weird that the only way to know if this is for you or not is to check it out for yourself.

This series is published by Yen Press.  This series is ongoing in Japan with 19 volumes available.  2 volumes of 2-in-1 omnibuses have been published and all are currently in print.

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