Editorial: Introviewing Prison School

A.K.A. Kiyoshi and Chiyo
Main Boy and Main Girl

This week’s episode has a name that describes it perfectly. It began with a bunch of kids nailing railroad pins into the ground. The security guards were all women in skin-tight outfits and, of course, they had very large breasts. As they whipped their prisoners while they worked, you could tell from the beginning this was obviously a modern retelling of Fifty Shades of Grey.

After the credits rolled, viewers were introduced to a few female students with exaggerated features flashing the audience from various angles. The scene moved forward to where the male students were seemingly talking about getting with the females. So, at this private school, there seemed to be heavy segregation to the point where the sexual tension was out of control. The boy-to-girl ratio was very unbalanced. The female population outnumbered the males astronomically. These fellows were nearly unable to even talk to any of the girls, and they could hardly contain their inner pubescent urges. The girls, having the upper hand, seemed to use this to their advantage.

The Prison School male cast
The Men

But there were two students who met in secret, where they were possibly arranging future encounters. Then there was a salute to Grease as the two met with their separate friends, and told them about their plans to fornicate. The boy who made the meeting with the girl then led his friends to spy on her and her friends while they were changing. This seemed like the old college movies from the ’80s. The group of infiltrating teenager boys planted their cell phone to spy on the girls changing. The phone was dropped in a potted plant, and the main male boy character went down to fix it. He was caught by the main girl, and then she invited him to get into the showers with the rest of the girls. The boys on the roof also got naked for some reason, but there were promptly caught by the guard women with big breasts. They were bound and beaten, especially in the crotch region. The boy in the showers was also caught by the warden.

The Prison School female cast
The Women

For their transgressions, the male students were put in stripes and treated like true prisoners. It seemed to be that the school policy was designed so that, if anyone broke rules, they were put in prison. Likely enough they called it something witty like “detention”. In prison mode, they were punished by hard labor and regular beatings. While the guards worked they flaunted their womanly forms to make it even worse for the prisoners. The main boy seemed to stand up to the unnecessary cruelty, and surprisingly enough he was not punished for it. At the end, the girls tried a new punishment, and made the prisoners pick flowers–but they also kicked the heads of the prisoners when they mouthed-off.

This episode was violent, and was definitely not for children. The concept of these boys being sexually oppressed in prison is not a new one in the anime world. But nonetheless, it was entertaining to watch. If you like cartoon-drawn female features, then this (like so many other anime series) is for you. We can only hope that it will get better for the poor boys of this story. Maybe some of them will get laid in the end–we can only pray for them. As always, I hope you have enjoyed another tale from the minds of the Japanese animation gods. Until next week, Excelsior!


  1. I came into this show expecting fanservice pandering to my particular fetishes. What I got was something much, much better that will probably be overlooked by a wider audience because of the subject matter. Make no mistake, this show is gold. For far more than just the lovely Dominas.

  2. I’m sorry, but I think it’s ugly.
    I am not sure why some anime studios try to incorporate western comic/animation styles into their art, but it should stop.
    There’s a lot of it in Kill La Kill and even some in Actually, I Am.
    It’s poor.

  3. They didn’t put ‘western comic’ into their style, they adopted the exquisitely well-done manga art of Akira Hiramoto, who is one of the most talented artists in manga today. A cursory look at his previous series, ‘Me and the Devil Blues’ demonstrates the sheer talent of his craft.

    Kill la Kill also is a barrage of references to old anime series that veterans of the whole otaku scene (like myself) know and appreciated from first sight. And it’s worth noting that this industry has always struggled with low budgets, and it’s only become more pressing since the 00s with the industry contracting on itself. Not likely to improve.

  4. @Wolfe: That’s not what I am talking about.
    Aside: Hiramoto is clearly working in a western aesthetic tradition, though. His work is built upon a western tradition that predates him, not a Japanese tradition. He may be Japanese himself, but that doesn’t mean that his work has to be foundationally based in Japanese styles.

    As to what I am talking about: I am referring to artistic animation moves originally popularised in the west: Ren and Stimpy has some of the early examples of it hitting ‘mainstream’ (if we can call R&S mainstream). Without downloading a bunch of comparative screenshots and showing you what I mean, it is difficult to explain via text. I’ll say that when some anime zooms in on a character’s distorted face in a fight scene, where the details are weirdly muscularised (usually with the teeth prominently displayed and the pupils rendered as dots) and the background is just a scrolling series of lines, you can see an example of it. This is not the only time it happens, and it is not the case in every anime. But I have noticed it in quite a few modern anime, whereas a few years ago I never saw it at all.

    Here’s something similar from Prison School the anime (this is not an ideal example, but it is similar):

    That’s not after Hiramoto. It is aesthetically unattractive. Flipping through the manga, I am unable to find examples of it there, so I assume it is local only to the anime itself.

  5. You do realize that manga itself originates from Osamu Tezuka, who was inspired by the
    cartoon drawings and Disney stuff that occupying American GIs brought with them in the war?

    There is no exclusively eastern tradition. Many of the most successful manga-ka of any era have professed their love of American and European comics. Kia Asamiya did Batman manga. Rurouni Kenshin manga-ka Nobuhiro Watsuki professed ceaseless love of Jim Lee (and routinely ripped off designs from his 90s run on X-Men). Manga is every bit the domain of global influence as any other style.

    What you seem to have an issue with in Prison School is purposefully grotesque exaggerations of faces and anatomy, in which case, that boils down to taste. And as I have the Bible-sized volume 1 of Prison School right next to me, I assure you, that grotesquery (not a word) is intact, though it doesn’t quite stand out as strongly as it does in the animated form, due to the simplified art and cell shading.

    As to criticism of animation technique? There’s nothing here I haven’t seen in my 30 years of watching anime.

  6. @Wolfe: There absolutely is an Eastern Tradition; it doesn’t have to be free of the anxiety of influence to exist as a separate tradition. Otherwise, we couldn’t argue for JRPGs as a form. We also couldn’t argue for a Western tradition either.

    There are plenty of grotesque (grotesquerie is a word) depictions in, say, Fullmetal Alchemist, of faces and anatomy. But that’s not what I am talking about, in terms of volume and approach

    There is a scene in Actually, I Am where the principal is forced to eat some really horrible chocolates. Here is specifically what I am thinking about when I talk about being derived in part from mainstream moves in R&S:
    There’s quite a lot of this sort of thing in Kill la Kill as well. Relying upon it as a shock tactic is lazy aesthetically and it is not unfair to say so. If it existed in Japanese anime twenty-five years ago, it would have been exceptional to say the least. It hasn’t been common enough that I’ve seen it until the past few years, and it has now become *so* common that it shows up in every anime I watch. It’s poor. There are better ways to cut corners than this.

    I have been watching anime since the early 90s, although not perhaps in the same volume as other people. That said, I have never seen stuff like that latter picture in the same volume and intensity as recently. Trying to find it at all in most of the other things I’ve watched is impossible. Even in relatively recent stuff like Black Butler and FMA, quite apart from older stuff like Trinity Blood, Vampire Knight, SE:Lain, the original Vampire Hunter: D, Ghost in the Shell, etc. Hellsing Ultimate does a bit of grotesquerie, but nothing like that second example above–much more like the last example in this comment, and even then it is different in its complexity, deployment, and scope.

    With regard to Prison School, it is this aesthetic…
    …which I find genuinely unappealing. I am fully aware that it did not begin with Prison School (I never said it did; in fact I said the opposite). However, *this* aesthetic is also becoming more prominent, and seems to be derived from a movement that began in American comic books, oh, about 10-15 years ago (based on what I’ve seen from my wife’s prodigous reading and collection), and which has kind of passed out of our current aesthetic and been replaced with a motif that is (in the largest, most general, most reductive sense) broadly eastern!
    And again, I cannot find this sort of thing in the Prison School manga to the same extent or intensity. The manga is far more artfully done than the anime seems to be.

    I would be perfectly happy never to see this sort of thing again: http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/001/009/430/6bb.jpg (a fairly tame example)
    A better example of what Is howed you before, now really overused and only slightly less lazy than the preceding example from Actually I Am. And this is absolutely in the manga, too. Again, not something I have seen hardly at all in the past twenty years or so, but now showing up in almost every anime I watch, sometimes in every episode. It’s a crutch, and not a very good one.

  7. Of course Japan has their own unique comic culture. But to imagine it doesn’t take or borrow from the outside, or ignoring the fact that the outside world kickstarted manga as a thing is willful denial. And I don’t feel like anything we have to say here is going to bring us to any sort of agreement, so I’m not going to press the matter. Debate is not my strong suite.

    As to the grotesqueries? (Nice to know it is actually a word, I know I’ve heard it before).

    It’s -not- new. In any capacity. And shows like Prison School are not aping western foundations, they’re rooted in much earlier stuff like Lupin, City Hunter, Lupin the 3rd, the many works of Rumiko Takahashi, Akira Toriyama etc.




  8. The first two examples don’t really get at what I’m talking about: the third sort-of does (but again, not in the same way as the first example from my previous comment), but then it is from Akira Toriyama, who might be the laziest drudgemaker in the business.

  9. Akira Toriyama. The man who worked himself to exhaustion at the behest of Shonen Jump’s demanding editors is anything but lazy. I think this is a good stopping place for me.

  10. Worked himslef to exhaustion – and it shows. I have often watched Dragon Ball and thought that the artist looked utterly exhausted.

  11. As I recall, one of his later editors blamed the ppl in charge at the time of preventing him from having a potential third hit on part with Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball because they kept him locked into DBZ to the point where it wore him down. How he found time to do work on the Dragon Quest series in between I don’t know. I respect the hell out of that man.

  12. How he found time to do work on the Dragon Quest series in between I don’t know.

    Is that a trick question? He just licensed his DBZ designs for Dragon’s Quest – it’s a shared universe.

Comments are closed.