Prison School is one of those series that upon initial inspection I would normally just walk away from, but on a recommendation from readers of the manga I jumped right in and I regret nothing. Ecchi and fan-service levels are through the roof but it’s also a brilliantly written comedy and hilarious to boot.
The prestigious all-girls Hachimitsu Private Academy opens its doors to five young male students as it becomes co-ed. An exciting prospect for each of these lucky five individuals upon being accepted, but their new school life doesn’t quite match up with expectations. Met with cold shoulders and being outright ignored the boys set about a plan to get to know their female classmates on a more personal level by peeping during bath time. This carefully laid out plan and, quite honestly, rather epic venture turns south quickly and the boys find themselves on the wrong side of the Underground Student Council.
Their punishment by the USC? One-month imprisonment within the school’s own penal system. The five must endure long, hard, and gruelling tasks at the hands of the USC and usually in full view of the entire student body which can make for very humiliating situations. The members of the USC, of course, have their own agenda while the boys must overcome their own desires and wants.
Having watched Prison School for the second time now I can honestly say the series works so well on multiple levels and should cater to people of different tastes. There is, without doubt, a very large focus on the fan-service but, much like the recent release of Shimoneta, this is, in my opinion anyway, used in a parodying sort of way. While it can be very much in your face throughout the entire 12 episodes it is tied to the story and without it, a lot of what makes the series enjoyable just wouldn’t work. On the subject of Shimoneta, I found that Prison School‘s dialogue greatly rivalled that of Shimoneta which was praiseworthy due to the restrictions the setting places on the use of vulgar words. Prison School on the other hand really let’s loose with its dialogue thanks to the free reign it’s allowed itself.
When it comes to localisations, the decision between a literal and liberal translation can help or hinder the enjoyment of a series. Prison School certainly gained some notoriety during its simuldub run when it included a line of dialogue that referenced the then-recent Gamergate controversy. Now, regardless of the events of Gamergate and those involved, this line of dialogue did not fit the context of the scene in question and an immediate outcry of anime fans made their displeasure heard. I, for one, did not appreciate its use within the scene as it changed the meaning of the conversion between the characters and would become a dated reference that has no bearing on the story being told. Thankfully, the line of dialogue has been removed from the home video release and is replaced with a more natural piece of dialogue that more accurately resembles the original Japanese line.
Even though the series adapts a still currently ongoing manga it does feature a very well-paced and structured story that fits neatly into a one-cour 12-episode run. I would hope that a sequel is in the works for Prison School seeing as the manga is still ongoing, meaning the source material is there and it appears to still be a rather popular series. An OVA episode was bundled with the limited edition 20th manga volume in Japan but sadly this has not been included on this release.
When it comes to visuals, J.C. Staff are pretty much a safe bet at this point that it’s going to look better than good. Prison School is certainly no exception, looking both fantastic and finely polished and for those no doubt wondering yes this release had passed BBFC uncensored though that does come at the price of being rated 18. This release features both Japanese, with English subtitles, and English audio language options and having already watched the series previously in subbed format I decided to try out the English dub this time round. Overall the English dub is a decent effort and a largely enjoyable experience but lacks the presence of Kana Hanazawa. Some of the characters possibly could have been better represented but I also liked the slight differences with some characters between audio options.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a retail copy of Prison School to hand (yet) so I can’t speak to the quality of the physical extras such as the lenticular image of USC Vice President Meiko or the 44-page booklet. As far as on-disc extras go, however, it’s very standard fare including episode commentaries, commercials and textless opening and ending songs which, of course, are not textless.
*Please note screenshots used have been pulled from online sources and are not representative of the final retail product.
Prison School is one of those series that is all too easy to write off based on its looks - “never judge a book by its cover” could not be more accurate here. Well, that's not entirely true as it's exactly what it looks like. If fan-service and ecchi are what you're looking for then Prison School will serve you very well but if like me that generally turns you away then I say give this one a chance. It's certainly hard to ignore all the fan-servicey elements of the series but it's also really enjoyably hilarious.