By Dustin Cabeal
I lost track of how many times I stopped to laugh while reading Prison School vol. 6. It was somewhere after ten or eleven I know that much. There were subsequent pages that made me laugh; there were long con gags that made me laugh. Overall, there was a new level of humor added to the series with this volume.
The craziest thing is that the fan service art is starting to be unnoticeable. There was still a lot of it, but I tell you this, there was no time to dwell on panty shots when you wanted to get back to Joe and Gackt practicing BL so that Gackt could have a better understanding of the genre. Yes, that is a weird sentence to write, but it’s damn true.
Before we get into the thick of the volume, it’s important that I attempt to explain what makes Prison School by far the best manga I’ve ever read. It’s Akira Hiramoto’s storytelling. Not just the writing and not just the art, but the complete package. I won’t profess to know how the manga industry works completely. I know more than a little, but I’ve never sought to get at the inner workings like I have with American comics. That said, I don’t know if this series at one point was released weekly/bi-weekly like the bulk of manga or if it was allowed to go at its own pace. My guess would be the latter, but if it’s not, it would only show why Hiramoto is ten times the genius of his peers.
In the past year, I have read a lot of manga. More than I have ever before in my life. It’s been a lot and more than some, but there’s always the hardcores that are reading everything they can get their hands on and have all the time in the world to do so. I’m quantifying this next part because even though I don’t read a huge amounts of manga, I can still tell which are just phoning in stories to get by from week to week. The lulls are part of the charm, but they’re also telling of the industries demand. How can anyone pump out so much content week after week and have it remain good?
Which brings me to Prison School, there’s not a dull page or one that doesn’t feel intricate to the plot. With a lot of manga you can see after the creator got over the first year hump of the series, they added and changed the direction of the story. Essentially, figuring out what they needed to do to continue the story, but sometimes, more than you think, they’re finally plotting the story for the long term. It’s why the first major arc of a manga can be the first season for an anime and the second major arc can be two to four seasons of anime. With Prison School, everything has been plotted from the beginning. There’s no change in direction, no inconsistencies with the story or characters. It’s as if Akira Hiramoto has worked his way backward from the ending to the beginning. There is never a doubt while reading this series that he doesn’t know what’s coming next.
It’s unfortunately, not something I can describe perfectly since any example I could give would be argued against instantly. It’s one of those things that you just need to see for yourself if you can take the blinders off long enough.
As for this volume, the plot against the shadow student council continues, and it has amazing effects on everyone. The guys all continue to be wrapped up in their own drama and Kiyoshi gives everyone the worst or possibly the best advice on how to get a girl to kiss you. Also, more Kiyoshi and Hana… yes… and I’m still wrestling with if it’s better or equal to their last big scene together. That’s all of the plot I’ll give away.
The character development is incredible in this volume as the bulk of the cast all take huge strides. It became clear in the sixth volume that since their release from prison, the boys have all been on their own path to find love. All of those paths have been complex, strange and hilarious. For Andre, he created a stock market for S&M, which has amazing consequences in this volume. His plan didn’t line up to student councils plan and his market crashes, but in doing this Hiramoto peels back and reveals so much of his character and S&M, as strange as that is to correlate.
With Gackt and Joe, well, it’s very complex, to say the least. Gackt is trying to understand the interests of the woman he’s in love with and Joe has offered to help which complicates Joe’s emotions. Making matters worse for Gackt, there’s a fourth party that at one point complicates things further. It’s a delicate house of cards, but it’s wonderfully crafted and layered.
I have simply run out of words to describe how wonderful and powerful the art is for this series. Again, the fan service, while noticeable, is not the focus of the story. It's there to act as a misdirection or in some cases a representation of teenage distractions/hormones. By far the best scenes are between Kiyoshi and Hana.
If you enjoy manga, then this is a must read no matter what genre you enjoy, but if you enjoy comics for their layered and planned out stories, then you’re missing out if you’re not reading Prison School. You will not find another story being printed today that has a balance of every genre, humor, drama, love, sex, friendship, actual prison related plots and so many complex emotions that your head will spin. This series has a little of everything for everyone.
Prison School vol. 6
Creator: Akira Hiramoto
Publisher: Yen Press