By Dustin Cabeal
The last volume of Prison School raised my review bar. There will be slight spoilers for the previous volume, so if you haven’t read it yet, I will encourage you to abandon this review and do so post haste. Go on… get. POST. HASTE.
At any rate, the previous volume was a masterpiece in how it built the relationship between Kiyoshi and Hana. The Ouroboros they’ve become is sometimes beyond simple summaries. While they haven’t engaged sexually with each other, they’ve gotten intimately close. That and the exchanging of urine between the two of them have far surpassed any normal intimacy. Which is something Kiyoshi is struggling with at the end of the previous volume leading into this volume. He doesn’t know how to function now that he’s been peed on… and at such a large quantity. He asks Hana how he’s supposed to go on living and she kisses him. Because all the men in this series are still quite dumb, he doesn’t understand this gesture, and after cleaning up, he heads to the group where he finds Hana acting normal. Kiyoshi goes off the deep end though, finding himself unclean and unworthy of Chiyo.
Even in the face of everything going on around them, the boys still find time to be perverted. They snag a spot under the score stands and take a peek up girls shirts to see what bra color they’re wearing. They’re placing bets on the color and when Kiyoshi gets involved… it gets dark. If you thought there was going to be a break between him and Hana, think again as they now have a weird symmetry… involving underwear.
The bulk of the volume is spent trying to revive the Vice President through hilarious re-enactments of her previously fan-service moments. I’ve said this countless times, but the fanservice in this series is intentionally absurd. This is illustrated perfectly by Akira Hiramoto’s work on these scenes which take everything the VP is known for, from soda exploding on her chest, to hot oil splashing on her chest, to sitting on a toy horse and breaking it. It goes on and on, one after the other and none of them are sexy anymore. They’re ridiculous but hilarious, and I’m sure to some people, still sexy to some degree.
What’s truly amazing about this volume is the fact that it’s all over the place. Almost every character is given a chunk of the story which means that it jumps from one character the next. Yet, it’s never out of control. The pacing may appear frantic, and if I were to bullet point everything you’d think there was no way that everything makes sense, but the plotting is masterful. Whereas the series is typically slow and methodical as it leads up to its fast-paced endings, this volume fools the reader. Because simply put, but the end of this volume we still haven’t seen the two student councils square off against each other… because Hiramoto is still slowly building everything up, even though the speed appears to be much faster.
The comedy is of the highest level. Sure, you could say it’s lowbrow humor, but the mastery that’s used elevates it beyond poop, pee, and sex humor. They way that Kiyoshi comes out of his funk is so brilliant that it’s the only way it could. Then there are the simple things like the boys showing up for their race. They’re the only boys in the school, so they’re all just racing each other. This scene is short and yet one of the funniest and best scenes in the entire volume. Just thinking about it made me actually laugh out loud again. The shape of my mouth changed and sound left my chest cavity because that’s what this damn book does to me. It makes me laugh like nothing else in the world. It’s the only damn series I read and have to stop to laugh. Usually, I hate starting and stopping while reading, but it’s an absolute necessity with Prison School. I have to stop to wipe the tears of joy away at some point. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to see the page.
Hiramoto’s artwork is on another level. Form my money; I don’t think there’s a single better artist in all of manga or American comics. If I could, I would purchase original pieces. I would buy shirts. I would buy a goddamn coffee mug. His simplest of scenes is extremely detailed and full of life. From Kiyoshi’s transformation into someone that’s “unclean,” to way the VP looks in her innocent form… to Andre, the T-Rex/horse… suddenly Optimus Prime riding Grimlock in that shitty Transformers movie that I didn’t see, seems more ridiculous. But I would wear that on a shirt. There isn’t a single thing about the artwork that I don’t enjoy, even the Chairman’s well-defined ass in thong underwear. Yes, even that. The artwork is masterful, and Hiramoto is a once in a lifetime artist.
I will share a strange story that will hopefully illustrate why I’m okay with this series going on forever, even though it isn’t likely. I believe it’s already wrapped, but I could be wrong since I limit my knowledge about the series to avoid spoilers and such. I have this series on a prominent spot on my bookshelf; it’s also about eye level to my son who since the age of two has used the volumes to count. He’s not how he learned to count, but it's certainly how he’s practiced. Over and over as I add new volumes. I was as excited to read this tenth volume for its content as I was to see him count to ten using Prison School. Which he did instantly on his own when he saw the spine. He recognized the artwork, which is amazing and illustrates how defined Hiramoto’s style is, that even a three-year-old, can recognized it in an instant. I wish I could see him count to a hundred, as I would gladly buy every volume of this story no matter how many bookshelves it took. And I have never done that with another manga or comic before, but then I’ve never read something with this level of storytelling, comedy, maturity which is just code for boobs and such, and artwork. This is the type of book I believe all creators strive to make, the complete package from beginning to end, without a single dip in quality. If I could read one series forever, it would be Prison School.
Prison School vol. 10