What They Say:
When the prestigious all-girls Hachimitsu Private Academy becomes co-ed, five young men are the first males to attend. But the girls aren’t so accepting of their new classmates. Despite their best attempts, Kiyoshi and his friends are met with cold shoulders from the girls. So what better way to deal with rejection than a little bit of peeping? When they chance a peak at the girls during bath time, their plan falls apart and they are caught by the Underground Student Council. Unwilling to hear any excuses, the USC enforces an absurd punishment imprisonment! For a month, the boys must live within the school’s very own penal system while enduring long, hard, and grueling tasks.
But the work is the least of their worries.
With the sharp crack of a riding crop and the harsh discipline from a stiletto heel, it’s going to take more than sheer will power to survive the next month especially when the ladies of the USC have their own secret agenda.
The audio presentation for this series is one that’s fairly straightforward as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show has a lot of wild take moments and over exaggerated reactions, but it’s still primarily a dialogue oriented show and that reflects on it. There’s a lot of intense discussions of varying levels and some great internal dialogue bits and these are handled well when it comes to placement and depth as needed. The more wild reaction moments ramp things up a bit but it’s not a huge thing overall. The show takes things where it needs to and the encoding plays it right with what it does, though the English mix comes off just a bit louder and fuller because of it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by JC Staff, the show definitely has a certain attention to detail quality here and the encoding captures it very well, even with the more muted and earthy tones that it uses. The Animators were put to the test in creating things with so many creative angles and designs to showcase the sexuality that it’s definitely impressive. What we get here is a clean and solid looking transfer that gets the job done and presents it in the best light possible, but some of just how it was created keeps it from really standing out due to the color palette. It’s definitely well encoded and problem free but it’s not a set that you’ll pull out to show off the quality of high definition for the most part, though there are certainly scenes where it’s in your face gorgeous.
The packaging design for this limited edition release is interesting because we get the standard heavy chipboard box plus a “clinger” box onto the back of it within the shrinkwrap when we usually get them inside of the box. The box itself is really nice with some layered elements to the front cover with the guys in their prison uniforms set against a tone down visual of Meiko behind the bars. It has some really nice elements to it with the colors and the way they pop even with being black, white, and grey. The back cover is an all black panel that does a full length shot of Meiko abusing Gakuto, who is in the lower right corner looking in rough shape. Meiko’s naughty bits are all covered but it feels weird for them to do that instead of just embracing what the show its. Within the box we get the two Blu-ray cases that hold the two separate formats where it uses a white background with the logo across it in black and some nice character pairing artwork from the Japanese releases. It adds some character to the packaging overall because it’s not just a lot of overdone sexuality. The back covers continue the white background and have more character artwork to it while also breaking down the episodes by number and title, where they appear, and the extras along with their respective format. Both covers have artwork on the reverse side that goes for a darker background with the logo on the left and the male cast along the right. The Blu-ray puts them in their school uniforms while the DVD has them in their prisoner uniforms.
The spacer box clinging to the back is an interesting one as it’s just the fabric poster bonus item, which is admittedly nice for its sexuality, but it feels like it should have been a proper spacer box inside the overall package so that those who cannot put it out can keep it but store it safely.
The menu design for this release is simple but effective as the bulk of it really is just a series of alluring and tantalizing clips from the show itself, highlighting the costume design and character design. With the logo along the upper left in proper prison style, the main thematic element is the navigation strip along the bottom. It’s kept to a simple dark grey that you can see through a bit, but lined along the top is barbed wire and posts to add to the whole prison feel. It’s a nice touch and certainly sets the tone just a bit more. The navigation works simple white on grey and it’s problem free in navigation as both the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback. A solid menu without much in the way of bells and whistles that gets the job done.
The extras for this release are pretty nice as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and a small batch of Japanese related commercials. On the new side here, we get two English cast/staff commentary tracks to talk about a couple of the episodes while the last episode gets a very fun video commentary. I’d love to have seen reaction shots to the actors upon their first time watching the show and their own respective roles!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name from Akira Hiramoto, Prison School is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the summer 2015 season. Animated by JC Staff, the show had plenty of material to work off of as the manga as of this writing is at twenty-three volumes since it began in 2011 in the seinen property Weekly Young Magazine. The show even spawned a live-action incarnation that Funimation simulcast during its nine-episode run and there’s a currently unlicensed OVA that came out in 2016 as well. The TV series here is largely self contained as an opening chapter to a larger world and I’ll admit that while I struggled with the show at times, it’s one that left me wanting to see more at the end with the change-up that occurs.
The series focuses on Hachimitsu Academy, a prestigious place that for the first time is allowing males to come enroll in it. It’s limited to just five at the moment and the ratio is like one to two hundred, which means the guys are pretty excited about their chances. What they discover, however, is that there’s such a level of hatred toward them for changing the tradition of the school that they’re pretty well abused verbally and physically from nearly the start of things. They don’t help themselves much either by going on a peeping expedition early on that has them caught and hauled off to the Underground Student Council to deal with them them. With the head of that being the daughter of the chairman of the academy, a man who is hilarious in his oddness with how he stays out of the way of everything to let this student council do what they want, they pretty much get everything easily and without question.
Over the twelve episodes we get to know the guys fairly well within the context of the school as they have little in the way of lives prior to this. Kiyoshi is our lead and the most normal and accessible as he ends up befriending and getting close to a student named Chiyo who shares his love of sumo wrestling. Gakuto is the brains of the group and extreme otaku that comes up with all the plans that they try to employ while Shingo is the pessimist of the group with the looks of a delinquent but enough charm to pull it off. It’s rounded out by the lesser used Joe, a misfit type that’s all about the ants he befriends, and Andre, a heavyset simpleton who ends up discovering that he’s a huge masochist along the way. Realistically, the show wouldn’t suffer too much if it dropped the last three characters and just had the first two, but they do all add a little variety to things.
What this show wants to do is work in the extremes and to find the humor in that area, which can really work well – though more in a weekly viewing than a marathon session. I was exhausted by the end of this show because of the abuse leveled against these characters and the way that the sexuality was just ground out of it over and over and over. When the guys get busted for their peeping, the student council hauls them to the middle of the sprawling self-contained courtyard and it has them begin their month long separation from the rest of the academic community as punishment. But that’s just the start as they’re forced into building a prison complex and barricades around it so that they’re truly contained, all while wearing standard prison stripes. It’s brutal and the mental breakdowns pushed upon them are significant.
Of course, there’s the positive side at first for them in a way as the student council is made up of some very attractive women. Mari is the standard cool beauty that’s whipsmart and controlling, though she’s kept refined and at a distance for much of this. She puts most of her plans into motion through the vice president, Meiko, she of meaninglessly short skirt and open top that has her popping out on both ends constantly. Along with Hana, a strong physical type that provides some serious beatdowns on the guys, the trio are just intense. A few other women come into play from time to time such as Chiyo as she grows warm toward Kiyoshi, but also Anzu as she ends up with a relationship with Shingo along the way because of his time spent as a collaborator that got him out of the prison for a while.
The first half of the series spends its time on the construction of the prison and the first wave of psychological and sexual warfare and it mixes in Kiyoshi doing his best to figure out how to get out so he can go on a date with Chiyo to see a sumo match. The back half works problems within the prison and their jailers while slowly building the tension about that escape and who was involved and the punishments from there. It is, at its core, a very simple series. But it just beats you so hard over the head with the oppressiveness in how the jailers all deal with the guys that it’s a long, hard, slog to work through it because you really do question at a point as to why they would continue going there even with the odds so stacked in their favor. It’s a level of oppression they face that would break the most hardened of professional soldiers, never mind some horney teenagers who have great options out in the rest of the world.
While the physical and psychological sides are intense, the sexual abuse is huge as well. Yes, there’s a whole lot of titillation at first because of the costumes and time spent showing the students in general in their rooms changing or in the sprawling baths, the early encounter of which Kiyoshi really gets sucked into in a hilariously bad way. Meiko’s uniform is ridiculous at first but the way they work it over the course of it with her sweating, the positions of the camera and her body, and then the skintight black outfit? Never mind the repetitive squatting she does with a camera placed low? I’m a huge fan of fanservice but this show over the course of a day just ground my interest out of me for a while. It’s so blunt and pushes it so hard, so regularly, that it was just as bad as the physical torture they put the guys through. And that’s without sticks being jammed into Kiyoshi’s posterior, the crop being used on the guys crotches regularly, and all the other abuse put through them. Yeah, Andre discovers he likes it as a masochist, but that was minimal overall, especially compared to what Kiyoshi and Gakuto go through. Before the end run where they’re figuring out how to avoid expulsion, and I kept wondering why they’d want to stay, I just felt pity for the guys in a huge way and for the girls as well because of how warped they’d become.
Going into this mostly blind beyond the occasional clip and some of the promotional artwork, this is a show that has some good ideas and concepts to it but ends up going so far as to really push the envelope. I can appreciate it for trying to do that, and definitely for the quality of the animation and the design work, which is what propped the content grade up a bit. I suspect I would have enjoyed this a lot more if I had gone through it on a weekly basis and not been beaten down so much so fast, so I can appreciate that this is definitely a show that can be viewed differently based on approach. Funimation’s release is solid for the most part, minor quibble with the packaging design aside, and I’m glad we got another video commentary as those continue to be great. I’m actually hopeful for another season to pick up where it leaves off but I’m also wary of revisiting this in marathon for again. It’s a good release for fans of the show but those trying it out are advised to not binge it.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary, Episode 11 Video Commentary, Episode 12 Commentary, Textless Songs, Commercials
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 22nd, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.