By Dustin Cabeal
I have been waiting for this volume for what seems like forever. I pre-ordered it and got it on the day of release and unfortunately had to wait an extra day to read it and now review it. It was worth the wait. I’ve read a lot in the past few months… okay, I read a lot in general, but in the past few months, nothing has satisfied my reading appetite. Some left me hungry for more, while others were an undesirable meal leaving me craving a story that had some meat on it. Damn, am I hungry? Are you hungry? Ready to take a big ole’ bite of… butt… or something?
The story starts off with the conclusion of the boys being expelled. Moderate spoiler if you couldn’t figure this out from the fact that there’s another volume after this one, the story doesn’t end here. I wasn’t surprised by it having watched the anime, but I was curious to see how the story would transition after the reveal. Here’s where the anime and the manga differ because the anime teased the second season whereas the manga doesn’t break the narrative and continues its journey.
Now… there’s going to be spoilers. It’s the unfortunate structure of this volume in which one arc closes and the other begins. If you don’t want to know anything about it, that’s cool. I’m not going to drone on and on about what happens, but I do have to mention things that happen to talk about them the way I want. So, you’ve been warned!
The boy's plan has a couple of layers left in it, but I won’t spoil it for you. They do win, and they’re set free from prison and rejoin the school population. Hana kicks Kiyoshi so hard it breaks his arm because she’s conflicted by their kissing… he’s a little conflicted as well we find out later which is probably the angle I want to explore the most, but we don’t. I’m sure we’ll get there, but their entire strange relationship has been slowly built up.
The results of the Shadow Student Council’s plan coming to light is that they end up prisoners in the school prison and the real Student Council is put in charge of their discipline. Which is tremendous. While the story sticks with the boys, it switches its focus to the now disgraced Shadow Council. In particular Mari and Meiko. Even then, the focus is on Meiko as we see her in elementary and being picked on by none other than the real Student Council president. It seems our new baddie has a long history with Mari and Meiko and has waited to get her revenge.
While all of this is great and full of real drama the way this story can only do it, there’s still the very real prison side of it. Upon release, the boys have a hard time adjusting. They don’t trust anyone, they’re confused by freedom, Joe even tries to get thrown back into jail… it’s fucking amazing. Eventually they kind of snap out of it, but they get sucked into the drama between the two Student Council’s as Gackt has strong feelings for one of them. She’s on the cover, by the way; her entire schtick is that she’s clumsy. So clumsy that she ends up half naked every time Gackt runs into her. The rest of the boys dub her Boob Goldberg.
Andre is particularly fantastic in this volume. He and Gackt have the most development, but while Gackt’s is used to develop him into a tool to be used against the Shadow Council, Andre’s is on a different level altogether. It’s just so amazing that I don’t want to spoil it, but four pages are revealing his thought process, and I was dying laughing at it.
The writing continues to be brilliant. The story does feel a bit hefty with characters this time around, but we’ll just have to wait and see if that brings it down at all. It doesn’t here because again, it’s the start of a new arc and feels very much like the first volume in it's set up and execution. The balance between the drama and comedy is what stands out the most. The flashbacks with Meiko and so touching, but then you’ll be hit with a Boob Goldberg moment and back to laughing. What’s impressive is that you now feel sympathy for the jailers turned prisoners. I never hated the Shadow Council, but I did root for the boys to win. Now Akira Hiramoto makes you feel torn because you do feel for them, but at the same time, they always remind you that their actions put them in this situation.
The artwork continues to be amazing as usual. The over the top illustrations with tons of detail, the fan service, the humor in general, it’s all amazing still. Oh, and young Meiko… so adorable. Unlike a lot of manga, the art isn’t just good looking to be good looking. With Prison School, it is a part of the story and contributes equally. If you look at a lot of manga, especially your run of the mill releases, the art is just hanging out with the story; it rarely helps tell the story in a sophisticated way. It’s reactionary to the narrative and dialogue, whereas Prison School conveys the story alongside the narrative. I do wish it was colored and if they ever did a colored version, I would buy it as well.
The next volume of Prison School is out in March, but after finishing volume five, I was satisfied. Yes, I want to read more, but I’m in no rush. It’s like getting a delicious, good steak. You don’t want it every night, but when the moments right, you’ll have it again and savor it once more. I have been underwhelmed by a lot of comics lately, but Prison School made me laugh, it made me feel, it hit my perv button, but more importantly, it left me with a smile on my face. It did one more thing too; it made me not want to read another comic, because I finally found something so good, that I didn’t want the feeling replaced by something lesser.
Prison School vol. 5
Creator: Akira Hiramoto
Publisher: Yen Pres