Prison School Review — Aren’t Comedies Supposed To Have Jokes?

This anime is shit.

..

.

*Sigh* Alright, I’m going to need to say more than that, don’t I?

First, I’m going to have to say what Prison School is about. Because I’m honestly still trying to wrap my head around the concept and the hundreds of planning paper I bought at Office Depot isn’t helping. In some weird universe where parental absence is even more out-of-place than normal by anime standards, there is a private girls’ academy called Hachimitsu (not gonna dignify that name with a response) that has recently started to admit boys for no particular reason like some gender-reversed version of Zoey 101. However, Hachimitsu is an academy that’s far from being suitable for the Nick-audience viewing or the four complete freaks who claim that Green Green is good – unless their favorite part of that show was watching those horny boys get their comeuppance in ways I can only label as repulsive, in which case this show is easily for you you sick fuck.

It’s a harsh place where the most minor of infractions will cause you to get treated like a literal prisoner complete with wearing the stereotypical white and black outfits or face expulsion, which is something the five boys who transferred to the academy learn the hard way after making the stupid mistake of trying to peek into the girls’ locker room. Although why they’d want to is beyond me, considering every single girl in this show is less sexually appealing than Bayonetta in clown make-up. In fact, come to think of it, what exactly happens to these boys after they get expelled, considering they don’t exactly seem to be learning anything as is? Well, it turns out they want to stay so they can see a girls’ wet T-shirt contest that’s supposed to occur sometime in the future. Something I find very hard to believe actually exists in this academy – which is quite a feat considering everything else that goes past the headmaster’s eyes.

Prison School is an incredibly difficult show to summarize because it seems like it was based on somebody’s Madlibs and the guy who filled it out was off his meds that day. I get that it’s supposed to be combining prison exploitation films with the standard “anime harem/school” tropes, but some things just don’t combine, like the Hercules legend and Michael Bolton. Every single element of the series is so contradictory to another element that I have a hard time trying to find out what I’m supposed to be caring about and more importantly, what I’m supposed to laugh at. So the vice-president punishing the boys for being perverted shows ample amounts of cleavage in school? These girls hate the male form and yet they’re open with showing their vaginas to them and the audience at every opportunity? There’s a guy who really loves ants to the point that he’d die for them? There is a gun in my drawer with a special mechanism that only fires the trigger if I’m pointing it up my nose?

Oh sorry. My head was getting overwhelmed and I was thinking for a fast way to clear some thoughts. This whole show plays out like a South Park episode that was stretched to twelve times the length and stripped of all the life, memorable characters, great movie parodies, and subversive topical humor that still played by the rules even when it showcased a magician entertaining kids by sawing his penis off and hiding it behind a kid’s ear, causing it to fall into the same lifeless monkey cheese the shows it tries to parody fall into. Get past the presentation and all Prison School is is another goddamn story about the opposite sex trying to fit into a same-sex school and discovering what qualifies as romance in this medium whilst being about character types rather than characters. And unless you’re one of those people who really like over-the-top art styles, you’ll get tired of the presentation real fast.

The humor relies entirely on overreacting, awkward situations that the characters narrate to the point that the joke overstays its welcome (which is any length of time above zero seconds), or just being nonsensical for the sake of being nonsensical. And unusually for a Tsutomu Mizushima anime – and especially compared to JC Staff’s other perverted comedy that aired in the same season – the comedic timing is completely awful, so forget laughing at it unless you’re one of those people who get off on watching awful English dubs that become dated the instant it airs. I know Funimation has never been above being a little liberal with translations, but poking the bear aside, I find it very hard to believe that video games even exist in this universe. And once that thought entered my mind, the shock chuckle I got from seeing that became like the shock chuckle of seeing a piece of wood stuck down someone’s sphincter: incapable of provoking an emotion from me other than confusion.

Seriously fanboys, name me one joke in this show that’d be funny the second time around if I very generously accepted that it was funny the first time around. Just one. I dare you. I’m really daring you here. Because as far as I’m concerned, this show isn’t the least bit as edgy or gritty as it thinks it is. It’s more like a desperate dad trying to make his baby smile by stretching his face out and go “abloogeewoogeewoo”. And when that’s not working, he tells the kid about all the fucked-up things he saw in the world like a twelve-year old who doesn’t know any better. Who’s the baby at that point, huh old man?

There’s this stupid conversation between the male students and their principal in which he’ll allow them to stay a little longer if they can tell him whether or not boobs or asses are better and why that is. The punchline is supposed to be that being perverted gets you rewarded, which I think has only been used in at least ten different gross-out comedies, as well as every Kevin Smith film ever. Most of all, I don’t even care about the semantics regarding which is better. It’s a dumb conversation to have in real life and it’s dumb in fiction.

Another memorable attempt at the show’s desperation was when the closest thing to a male lead tried to sneak out of the school in order to show up for a date. Let’s be generous for now and say we give two shits for if he actually shows up or not, but the attempts at hiding his break-out are just pathetic because it’s very obvious he won’t get caught until the episode ends at the very least, and the punchline is always that he avoids getting caught due to last-minute circumstance that’s too weird to be funny. I’ll admit to smiling a bit at the defecation radio because that actually seemed possible in reality, but that’s it.

But I think the biggest thing that got to me was the finale. First off, it was incredibly obvious who was going to win in the end and the plan to achieve said end was pretty damn simplistic in of itself with virtually no twists to the formula or any attempt to make the characters less boring resulting from it. And yet the show drags the plan out for three episodes just so it can cram in a hundred more overlong “oh shit, I saw a woman’s privates” joke whenever it spots an opportunity to do so whilst tying up loose ends that quite frankly missed the mark for payoff ages ago. Yeah, South Park itself has a tendency to overreach, but not to this extent.

Second, I won’t spoil the final result, but I felt nothing for anybody after everything was wrapped up, and not just because of the rampant yet confusing sexism. Because at the end of the day, nothing’s changed aside from certain circumstances. The characters have achieved nothing, learned nothing, will never be remembered for anything, and have certainly not learned how to be funny to anyone older than twelve. All the suffering they went through? What exactly was the point of it all? Please tell me. I’m dying to know.

I’ve heard from some fans who acknowledge this show’s problems that it gets by on the tension, but these are the same people that seem to think “no really, Durarara is totally going places” with a straight face. And as we’ve covered before regarding Detroit Metal City, I find this impossible to feel when the show has an over-the-top style that is ALWAYS on. It NEVER takes a break to have the characters actually act human or feel like they’re in real danger. Imagine if Kamina’s death in Gurren Lagann was dealt with using the same “who the hell do you think I am/raw raw fight the powah” atmosphere as mostly everything else in that show. We’d think Imaishi wasn’t taking the audience seriously, or that Baz Luhrmann somehow broke into the industry. When they say style can be substance, they don’t mean keep the style on 24/7. Because even the most powerful religious symbolism gets old if you just hammer in the same verse over and over.

No likable characters, no funny jokes, not a lick of sense regarding anything that happens, and whatever tension that’s supposed to exist throughout the series is undermined by the fact that I’m watching a bunch of Daily Lives of Highschool Boys rejects constantly trying to perform bad stand-up comedy. Final grade? Utterly forgettable.

4 responses to “Prison School Review — Aren’t Comedies Supposed To Have Jokes?

    • I’m kinda surprised the guy above you thought this review was funny, personally. I had to really stretch to fill out my usual 1000-word minimum limit for this, because Prison School is ultimately an “it is what is” anime and I find it hard to write anything substantial on them for the same reason I find it hard to write about music. It generally either works for you or it doesn’t.

      • I can imagine. This review in particular had me thinking, “alright the show did do that but I don’t see how that’s a necessarily a bad thing” a fair bit.