First Impressions – Kangoku Gakuen

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How can Prison School be exactly what I was expecting when I had no idea what to expect?

Having watched that utterly preposterous and offensive premiere, I’m beginning to understand why so many people seem to have a hard time explaining just what this series is.  Is it satire?  Is it a straight sex comedy, or cynical exploitation?  Is it a condemnation of the worst trends plaguing anime these days, or a celebration of them?  And just how, exactly, does it want to be perceived?

To be honest, I’m still not sure.  But I will say, if nothing else, Kangoku Gakuen has the distinction of being demeaning to both males and females – both genders come off looking pretty awful here.  I think it’s safe to say this is not a series that wants to be taken remotely seriously – I can’t imagine any show with this premise does.  But it’s a long way from there to actually figuring out what the point of all this is, if indeed there is one.

I can see this show being a sort of wet dream for Mizushima Tsutomu, because I always sense his instinct is to go as outrageous and balls-out as possible all the time, and only the strait jacket of expectations ever keeps him in check (as in, I think it was the last two episodes of Another that represented his real aesthetic).  And Prison School is a series that removes that strait jacket, because it wants him to be as vile and outlandish as possible.  Sadistic girls torturing masochistic and grotesque boys for the sybaritic enjoyment of the audience – what more could a berserker of a director like Mizushima ask for?

If you totally shut off the part of your brain (and soul) that’s ever heard words like “decency” or “dignity”, there are certainly moments here that are funny.  Hey, Mizushima is good at whatever it is he does.  But is he – and is mangaka Hiramoto Akira – laughing with the audience, or laughing at them?  Does it even matter?  There’s definitely less sinister intent here than in something like Aku no Hana or Sundome, but on the other hand I don’t see this series as the harmless sex comedy, say, To LOVE-Ru is – I think Kangoku Gakuen knows exactly what it’s doing in appealing to the darker side of the human libido that exists in both sexes.  I can’t make any kind of judgment on the larger merits of this series – I’m not qualified to, and even if I was I’d have no clue where to start.  But as pure entertainment, it’s so ruthlessly bleak and degrading that I’m skeptical that it can keep from wearing out its welcome pretty quickly.

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  1. l

    The first 10 or so chapters of the manga of which this episode adapted 6 are actually by far the weakest in the series. Once the premise gets laid out and rolling things only get crazier and funnier with a surprisingly tense and suspenseful plot amid the craziness. I just hope the anime manages to flesh out all of the characters with this pacing as each guy in the group is unique in their own way, each with their own stories and in terms of interest I'd put Kiyoshi solidly in the middle.

  2. g

    I've had a "pleasure" to read the manga. I started to read knowing only it's an ecchi comedy, and it's highly recommended everywhere. And because I do have some ecchi titles in my reading catalogue (and I even don't count Shoukugeki no Souma), so I'm not completely against the genre but I feel stupid now, because haven't I learnt not to trust opinions' of the Internet?

    When I red first chapters, my feelings overall took a shape of big UGH. That's was a clue I should stop and abandon an idea reading the rest of it. Unfortunately for me – I didn't listen to my instincts and I red 120+ chapters of this trainwreck. I just couldn't stop myself and wanted to know if it could surpass its own stupidity, and oh boy, let me say, it definitely did. For now the manga is on hold, with a cute title: "an one obligatory trainwreck manga".

    I found couple of jokes funny, mostly when the author turned up a volume of the sheer absurdity, of course you can laugh at the condensed stupidity of characters, if it's what somebody likes but for me most of it was cringeworthy. And an objectification is high in this, especially of the vice-president (BTW the anime recoils on the censorship by making vice-president's bust at last twice bigger than in the manga). Sometimes her face isn't showed through pages and pages, even when she speaks and speech bubbles emerge form her bust or crotch.

    I know many will take a parody path as a line of defence but even if it's a parody, it's a bad one, because, just like this harem anime about making-heroine-from-boring-girl, tries to eat a cake and to have it too. But I have to gives the manga a credit, where it's due. The manga is set at the lowest bar of tastes and it's pandering to its audience how much you can imagine and then even more and at the same time it creates an illusion it's done only to laugh at the ecchi genre, in result stroking an ego of the same audience.

    Now about the anime as an adaptation. I don't like it, even if we're only talking about technical aspects. First and most glaring its censorship is distracting as fuck but it's not a fault of the anime's crew.
    The second issue I have is a pacing. It's too fast to be funny. Yes, I know I said it isn't funny for me but I intellectually can recognise where is a joke's punch line.
    Theoretically they didn't omit anything important but because it's so packed with jokes there isn't any gap between them. A breather, little time where a punch line can sink or where a next joke can built a momentum. Sometimes in the manga it takes too much time or is annoyingly repetitive that you want to shout: "Get to the point, dammit!" but here jokes go over your head.

  3. g

    "The manga is set at the lowest bar of tastes and it's pandering to its audience how much you can imagine and then even more and at the same time it creates an illusion it's done only to laugh at the ecchi genre, in result stroking an ego of the same audience"

    I honestly have no idea what the hell you're talking about. I never really got the idea that this meant to satirize the ecchi genre or anything for that matter. It just is it's own thing. If it was meant to be an ecchi parody then it would hardly be worth even talking about since we've already got many of those in existence. It's less about the fans stroking their egos and more about them finding the excessively gross cringe humor funny. It's that simple.

  4. g

    I'm talking about some people, who told me how they see the manga, when they went defensive about my opinion about it. If your interpretation is true, it just means the some of the biggest fans of it, don't understand what they're reading, doesn't it?

  5. C

    I really love Prison School. Besides Soma, it's the only ecchi manga I read, but I honestly don't read it for the ecchiness, I do it because it's high-tier comedy and, this might sound ridiculous, but you eventually come to love its characters. Also the art is phenomenal. It does start out very generic "oh the boys are peeping toms/perverts how original!" but as the story progresses it gets so insanely absurd and hilarious you can't help but love it.

    As for the anime adaptation, it was fine, for now. It definitely felt kinda rushed… which worries me, how many episodes will it have? If it's only one cour I will be dysfunctional for the next three days…

  6. S

    Hah, I was hoping it'd be like Rainbow (way to set the bar unrealistically high)

    If anything I’m only disappointed because I feel like I can predict the next couple of episodes: More torture, an escape to see wrestling, some fanservice and lovey-dovey, a capture, a longer prison sentence and the reveal that the MC was peaking at the girls. A desperate fight to redeem himself in the eyes of the girl, more torture and possibly a revolution. Oh, and ofc extreme amounts of fan service on the way, maybe a fucking beach episode.

  7. R

    Haven't picked this one yet, but it seems to be working in the same level preposterousness as Sunrise's Cross Ange (which actually turned out to be an interesting love-hate relationship for me, and was arguably a lot better than the previous Valvrave).

  8. E

    I don't know, I was pretty grossed out by the premiere…

  9. e

    Uh-uh. I tried reading the manga. The first chapters were a chore. And Meiko especially is a walking offence to both decency (any) and gravity. Then hopped to the last ones available at the moment to see if there was any shift in tone. Silver lining of sort: the art in the latter got a bit closer to what I remember of Me And The Devil Blues… and in a vacuum there is one visual gag that I found amusing (because visually it's a straight nod to Greek mythology… with a Versace logo spin on it). But aside from that it's really not for me, animated or otherwise.
    Talking about author intent there's an interesting bit in Zac's review of the anime premiere on ANN… 'This is based on the manga by Akira Hiramoto, which, as the story goes, created the manga out of spite after a lukewarm reaction to his dramatically more sophisticated and literary work, Me and the Devil Blues.' I am tempted to believe that.

  10. K

    I watched this episode and was actually kind of confused by what all the fuss was about. Yes, it was weird and spastic and ecchi but if that is all a series is going to bring to the table, it needs to hit harder that that to keep my attention. Then I remembered that this was only the first episode so, out of curiosity, I pulled up the manga and began skimming my way through it and, I'll admit, I had a hard time putting it down. Not because the characters or plot were compelling but because every few chapters, something outrageously disgusting happens and found myself continuing to read on just to see what they are going to do next to top it. Outside of those spikes in depravity, I didn't find anything else very interesting and, since the shock value only works once, I don't feel any interest in watching the anime where most of that will be censored anyway.

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