By Dustin Cabeal
This volume of Prison School changed me. I didn’t come out of it the same way I went into it, and for the first time in reading the series, I became nervous about where the story would lead the ending. Mostly due to this being the best volume of the entire series thus far. With practically every volume the bar is raised, but with the ninth, it makes me re-evaluate all of the perfect scores I’ve given this series. Hell, it makes me re-evaluate every score I’ve ever given because has anything been as amazing as this volume? And if and when you read this volume, I want you to come back here and re-read this paragraph because you’ll probably think I’m a goddamn madman for saying that.
For those familiar with the girth of these novels, you know that they’re a thick book. A lot of story is typically covered from beginning to end, but this time around its just two scenes. There are bits in-between, there’s a subplot with the Chairman that develops (by the by, he’s an incredibly kindhearted man!), but for the most part, it boils down to two scenes.
The first I can talk about for the most part. The last volume left off with Mari and Kate handcuffed together and faced off in a battle of wits. That game continues as Mari’s escape plan comes to fruition and just like Kate, we’re along for the ride. Let’s just say, that everything, and I mean everything, is unexpected. Very unexpected. VERY. UNEXPECTED!
The scene ends. I won’t say how or why, but the playing field is leveled between Mari and Kate and the fate of the student councils is set to be decided on field. Like an actual field, it’s fucking field day, and they’re doing the shoulder war thing where three people are the horse, and one is the rider. That’s all fine and dandy, but that is not what the rest of the story focuses on. Three words for you, Kiyoshi and Hana. That’s right, the bulk of this volume is the two of them… and if you thought that piss wouldn’t be involved, then you haven’t been paying attention to the way things have been going between these two. That’s all I will say about this scene; it is long but amazing. It’s goddamn life changing.
Since this review is a bit light, I will tell you what the other boys are up to. After nearly being killed by Risa, they decide to enter the shoulder war as well. The catch is that because of all the people shuffling, they find themselves down a person and must recruit a girl to join them. Joe and Shingo both manage to find a girl willing to join them, but because Gackt couldn’t find anyone he auditions them and puts them through a variety of test. The scenes are short and really just a break from Kiyoshi and Hana’s business, but they provide a lot of hilarity.
Usually, when any manga hangs out on one or two scenes for an absurd amount of time, I hate it. Even if it’s a manga, I’m really enjoying. It’s usually lazy and just filler while the creator thinks of the next arc or worse, is trying to stretch the material for the anime to source from it. With Prison School though… I have never been so enthralled in a book. Instead of time standing still, it moved at a rapid and this incredibly long scene that likely took close to 200 pages of the 374 pages total, felt like it ended as quickly as it would have in real life. To put it another way, it read at the same pace as real life. I have never experienced that before, and it was amazing. My heart was rushing when I finally put the book down, but even stranger, all I wanted to do was read it again.
Now, that’s a throwaway statement. It’s commonplace in reviews to say, “I can’t wait to read it again.” Well, I find that to be horse crap. As a reviewer, I don’t have time to read shit again, nor do I have the desire to. Reading anything twice is incredibly boring for me because I can visualize the entire story in my head without the source material. That’s not a brag, that’s me setting the stage for this next part… I wanted to read this book again. I would have already if I didn’t stop to write this review, but for the first time in my life, I wanted to re-read something instantly upon finishing it. Sure, I’ve re-read stuff before. I’m not going to say that I’ve never once re-read anything, but this was something different. I needed to read it again and still, do.
Here’s the obligatory part in which I talk about the artwork. I don’t know if anyone can surpass Akira Hiramoto at this point. His artwork is incredible. The level of detail, the way that the mature scenes have more meaning than just lust. The way they feel like teenage moments tip-toeing into adulthood and how the rekindles the same feeling in the reader. The writing is great, but the story is told from the artwork. The last sequence of the volume was tremendous. It was astounding. Frankly, I don’t have the words to do the art justice, but anyone that loves comics or manga for the artwork is robbing themselves if they’re not reading Prison School.
I mentioned in the beginning that I’m nervous about the ending. I don’t know why, but after this volume, I realized that this story couldn’t go on forever like this. The gimmick will wear thin, and the story will crumble under the weight of everything it’s already done. I’m going to believe in Akira Hiramoto to come through all the way to the end. When that day comes, it will likely be the most bittersweet moment in my manga reading existence. Now if you’ll excuse me, I desperately need to re-read this volume.
Score: 10/5 (Not a typo)
Prison School vol. 9