Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Prison School, Vol. 1 by Hiramoto Akira

"You went as far as to ruin your three years in high school to record those poop sounds... and I won't let that go to waste!"

Never has a statement of such pure brotherhood resounded throughout the pages of a manga. It's a statement that sounds completely ludicrous. And it is completely ludicrous both in and out of context. Ludicrous, but genius.

This is only the first volume, but it's a rather large volume. It's twice as long as a normal manga volume, but the pages fly by despite the length. It seems shorter than so many manga volumes that are half the length. 

Somehow, and I don't really know how, Prison School has a story that is pure adrenaline despite having a theme that is still somewhat obscure and with a mega dose of ecchi to boot. It seems like it would be a hentai, but it's not. The story seems like something could almost be akin to many of the coming of age tales novels that I'm a sucker for. Granted, it's more fucked up then that. 

The idea that five school kids at that precarious age get caught doing something naughty at a strict co-ed school and then get punished in ways that gradually get crueler and crueler may not seem like Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life or Stephen King's Stand By Me, but there is something deeper underneath all of the oversexualized torment. 

In some ways this seems like a story of horror, but the way the story is told is too loose. It's too funny of a scenario to be too traumatizing. But it's too traumatizing to be a straight comedy. It's one of those brilliantly crafted tales that one can only laugh at while cringing and wincing. It's a really uncomfortable story and the people that will really enjoy this story won't have a real clue why. 

There is a lot of nudity (mostly in the form of boobies but there's a bit of camel toe and booties, too), but this isn't a very sexy story. At least, not completely. The characters that bring the sex appeal are often diabolical or coldly distant. They are the punishers. Some people might be into finding that sexy, but I draw the line at getting hit in the face repeatedly with a riding crop and then getting kicked in the gut.

If it's sexy it's an uncomfortable sexiness, but that isn't the main draw, either. Anyone looking for a cheap thrill of boobies will be disappointed. There's too much story here for that. The shots of naked girls, while always a plus, are often counterbalanced by scenes of torture at the hands of the sexy Shadow Student Council Vice-President with the rather large oppai

Thematically, I don't know what's going on. Obviously, this manga is a take on the war between sexes. I suppose the big question is "When is what is normally sexy not sexy?" In a repressed society where being curious is punishable by offenses that are just insane, what exactly is the "line" that a young man must walk in the company of women? When pushed too far by the strict rules and atmosphere these five kids take to "peeping" in the girls' locker room and the results are disastrous. The five kids are caught and the Shadow School Council decides to punish them by throwing them in "Prison School." The Shadow School Council is a take on hard-edged feminists of today and the five main characters are just your average joes that aren't too aware what the "standards" of the new world is. They don't fit in and they are hated or ignored just for being men even though, prior to peeping, they didn't do anything wrong other than just show up to school and be young men. 

It seems that sexuality and the awareness of it is the biggest obstacle in this story. The fact that so many of the pages are drenched in sexy sweaty body parts serve as a bit of irony. What we should find enticing is simultaneously off-putting when we see how brutal the owners of those sexy sweaty body parts can be. 

Everything starts off easy enough, though. 

Kiyoshi is just an average guy in a school that had previously been an exclusively girl school. But the integration starts off slow and he and four of his friends are the only male students there. 

Being typical teenagers the five of them believe they've hit the jackpot. They'll get girlfriends for sure!

However, there is a dark side to this school. A presence known as the Shadow Student Council refuses to have males in the school. Anyone that associates with the male students will get punished, a sign promises. Some students even swear that they're always being watched. 

But Kiyoshi manages to hit it off with a girl named Chiyo. They even make a date to watch a Sumo match.

Kiyoshi's friends aren't so lucky. None of them hit it off with anyone. So, out of a need to prove their manliness, they vow to peep. Kiyoshi, compelled by various reasons, joins in unwillingly. He knows it means he'll get to see Chiyo naked if the mission is successful, but he doesn't want the others to see her naked. So he seems to want to sabotage the mission despite the joy he would get from seeing her naked. 

The eyes of the Shadow Student Council are farseeing, though. It seems they can even manipulate crows although this ability is somewhat forgotten later on. There's a scene in particular involving Secretary Hana later on in the volume where the presence of crows suggest that maybe the Shadow Student Council aren't even aware of the crows themselves. The crows only seem to get the five boys in trouble, though. So maybe this is more symbolism or just plain deus ex machina than anything else. 

After being caught, the five boys are in the School Prison. Kiyoshi's Sumo date with Chiyo seems to be a thing of the past. He has to serve a month of hard labor after classes each day. He has to sleep in a cell and wake up for roll call at seven each day. His days of getting a girlfriend in high school are but a dream.

Unless... he can escape the prison and make his date with Chiyo! But after being branded a pervert by the school, will Chiyo even like him anymore? 

This incredibly silly scenario is played with a straight face and I could swear it's as suspenseful as Attack on Titan, but with a lot more humor. Everything is just so serious that it's tough to not laugh. The scene where Kiyoshi and Gackt appear too close in the shower to one of their friends is so far beyond hilarious. The chapter is aptly titled "Brokeback Prison." It's just not comfortable humor, remember that. 

The "golden shower" scene is where my mind can't even grasp what I read. It's one of those moments where this over-the-top story goes even further over-the-top. It makes it tough to question the merit of this work, but it also makes the story even more unputdownable. It makes us ask the question, "What weird ass shit will happen next?"

...then Kiyoshi takes a stiletto in his asshole and starts bleeding profusely... 

I'm eagerly awaiting volume two for reasons I can't quite understand. 

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