The Importance of the Song in the Final Episode of Wave, Listen to Me!

Wave, Listen to Me! is a great manga and anime about a woman who unexpectedly becomes a radio host—a mature comedy that is about five genres away from author Samura Hiroaki’s most famous work, Blade of the Immortal. I recommend everyone check it out. For those who have recently finished the anime TV series, I’m here to point out that the song played in the finale has a special kind of relevance to the episode.

SPOILER WARNING, of course.

In episode 12, an earthquake hits Hokkaido, causing blackouts. As the characters look up at a starry night sky, a song plays: Kyu Sakamoto’s “Miagete goran, Yoru no Hoshi o” or “Behold the Nighttime Stars.” This song originally came out after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and it responded to the fact that the lack of light pollution made the stars more visible than normal. A common interpretation of the song’s lyrics is that the stars are also the souls of those who died in the disaster. In short, having “Miagete goran, Yoru no Hoshi o” play was an active choice with a specific meaning to Japan.

Incidentally, I actually only learned about the song and its significance because I’ve been following Kio Shimoku’s current manga, Hashikko Ensemble. The tune has a central role in the narrative up to this point, and one of the characters goes as far as to explain everything I mentioned above. I find it a little funny that these two streams dovetailed so nicely together.

Both Wave, Listen to Me! and Hashikko Ensemble run in the magazine Monthly Afternoon, so maybe this synergy isn’t totally out of the question. Most likely, however, is that they’re both referencing the same major moment in Japanese history.

Interdependence Day: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for July 2020

It feels like 100 years have passed since June and July. The world feels liable to change in the most drastic ways, but also to revert back to the same old ignorance. We’re all just individuals in the end, but I hope that we can enrich ourselves just as much as we help those around us. As COVID-19 spikes around the US, I want everyone, even those I vehemently disagree with, to have long, healthy, and fulfilling lives, and to remember that we’re in this together. It shouldn’t be “every man for himself” in this situation.

Thank you to my Patreon sponsors, who support me even as I deviate from the main topics of this blog at times.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy (NEW PATRON!)

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

I like to think that everyone who follows Ogiue Maniax knows my passion for anime and manga is genuine, even if there are times when more important things are at stake.

Blog highlights from June:

Beyond “Friendship, Hard Work, and Victory”: The Promised Neverland

A full-series review of one of the best shounen manga ever.

Beastars and the Fight Against Behavioral Absolutism

My interpretation of what Beastars has to say about civilization.

Learning About the Butterflies and the Bees: Saotome-senshu, Hitakakusu

A great and silly boxing-themed romance comedy series. Highly recommend.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 29 shows a bit of tension between Akira and Jin—a first for the series.

Patreon-Sponsored

Thoughts on Open-World RPGs and the D&D Legacy

It basically turned into a post about JRPGs vs. WRPGs.

Apartment 507

The Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba manga has finished. Could this mean one of the overall best anime adaptations ever is on its way?

Closing

A new anime season is upon us, but in this current situation, that means a lot of shows that went on hiatus due to coronavirus are coming back. I’m most stoked for Healin’ Good Precure, which is finally going to be streaming on Crunchyroll in the US. It’s time for Precure to claim its rightful place!

Dissenting Voice: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 29

Akira vs. Jin?! It’s Chapter 29 of Hashikko Ensmble!

Summary

The Hashimoto Chorus Appreciation Society arrives at the site of their training camp, which is packed with seemingly all the audio equipment they’ll ever need. But as Jin is living in audiophile paradise, Akira is still thinking about seeing Jin at Himari. Jin explained that he was there to help Himari build her own speaker, but it still doesn’t sit well with Akira. 

Hasegawa (who has declared her intent to join the club proper as conductor—and drag Kanon in along as well) reveals to Akira that having Jin help Himari was all her idea. In fact, she purposely timed things so that Akira would be on the previous castle trip. Hasegawa also prods Akira about his obvious feelings towards Shion.

Jin talks about his next plans for the group, which involves having the guys all sing a capella for the school festival. His motivation seems a little off somehow, but what’s even more unusual is Akira vehemently disagreeing with the decision—a first “fight” for the two. The group later goes outside to look at the stars and to practice harmonizing, only for the debate about the school festival to continue. However, the argument is suddenly interrupted when everyone realizes that Shion is missing!

Feelings and Tensions

It feels harder and harder to write chapter summaries for Hashikko Ensemble. Whether it’s the burgeoning (?) romances or the friction that exists between the characters, everything feels important and frivolous at the same time. Jin and Himari could just be as innocent as they claim, seeing as Jin is not one for deception, but maybe there’s still something sparking there. Akira’s crush on Shion seems to only grow stronger, and it’s clear that his reluctance towards doing a capella is that Shion (who’s only just recently healed from her hand injury) wouldn’t be able to play. Meanwhile, I suspect Jin’s eerily forceful desire to do a capella comes from wanting to further defy his mysterious mother.

Orihara seems especially tense, but I can’t really tell for sure what the reason could be. He seems like he’s trying to work through something possibly related to Shion, but I feel like the series is trying to use him as a red herring romantic rival. Orihara’s a complex yet simple character, so it’s hard to peg what he’s about, even when knowing his tragic past.

Sound Training

I like seeing Jin nerd out about audio electronics, even if I don’t fully understand everything that’s going on or how it’s supposed to all fit together. To be fair, that’s something I share with most of the characters in this chapter. Still, I at the very least learned that Accuphase is a manufacturer known for its power amps, and that with sufficiently good equipment, you can even hear where the singers were positioned in a room. 

There’s also an interesting little training regimen shown in this chapter, meant to strengthen your voice and your muscles at the same time. In fact, the manga itself points to the original source, “Muscle Voice Training,” which can be found on Yamaha’s official Youtube channel!

As for its portrayal in this manga, one thing I find curious is that Shinji is able to generate more force in his “He!”s than the bigger and stronger Orihara. I think either Orihara is just not trying very hard (possibly out of embarrassment), or there’s something about Shinji’s castle-exploring cardio that gives him a slight edge.

Songs

You know the drill by now. It’s“Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi o” by Kyu Sakamoto. Most likely, things will change now that we’re seemingly moving into a new arc.

Final Thoughts

Kanon joining the club seems inevitable, but I have to wonder what role she’ll end up in.

Also, this series being a manga and all, I often picture Akira’s voice in my head as something soft and light, only to remember that he’s supposed to have a  serious bass to his voice. It’s so unlike what’s typical that I want even more to see it in anime form.

Beyond “Friendship, Hard Work, and Victory”: The Promised Neverland

The Promised Neverland recently concluded in Weekly Shounen Jump, and it caps off a four-year run as perhaps my favorite dedicated shounen manga of the last twenty years. It both elevates and challenges the foundational Jump motto of “Friendship, Hard Work, and Victory” by pushing far past simple power fantasies and the thrill of adventure. It dives deep into the territory of political thought as it tells an intriguing story about kids trying to both survive and make a difference in their world.

This is not the first time I’ve praised The Promised Neverland. I’ve previously written about the significance of its main heroine, Emma, and the fact that the series criticizes the entrenched systems of injustice that stay in power by pitting people against one another. Now that the series has crossed the finish line, I feel that my positive opinions of the manga have been more than justified. The Promised Neverland is a series that dares to say something about the world, utilizing its world and its characters to challenge readers to imagine a better world.

The Promised Neverland places a female protagonist front and center, gives her the agency to make changes, and emphasizes the idea that we don’t have to perceive the world as some zero-sum game of absolute winners and losers—a world where the first thing we ask is how we can save as many people as we can, and not how many people we need to sacrifice to achieve a goal. Here and now in the year 2020—between COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, democratic protests in Hong Kong, and countless other human rights and safety issues—these are messages we need. 

An opinion I keep seeing online is that The Promised Neverland was at its best in the first arc, when it was about orphans trying to outsmart their sinister and powerful mother figure in order to escape. And certainly, there was a kind of thrill to the “high stakes battle of wits” that defines the  early manga. However, I am so glad that The Promised Neverland evolved past that point. It would have been all too easy for this manga to simply be about the nerve-racking excitement, but it became a genuine piece of thought-provoking science fiction—the kind that encourages readers to imagine a different world, one that looks at concepts of utopia and dystopia, and asks how one could turn into the other and vice versa. 

There is another Shounen Jump series that I feel hits with a similar weight, though it’s a far different series in a lot of ways: Barefoot Gen, the story of two siblings who live through the bombing of Hiroshima and the pain of post–World War II Japan. No, The Promised Neverland is not couched in the trauma of directly experiencing a nuclear explosion, and its pain is abstracted through its fantastical setting, but it still looks deep into who we are as a collective people called humanity, and challenges us all to be better. 

Beastars and the Fight Against Behavioral Absolutism

Exploring the tension of anthropomorphic animal society from the perspective of high school students, Itagaki Paru’s Beastars can at times feel like it’s encouraging a very dangerous view of the world. In a world where carnivores and herbivores co-exist peacefully and eating your fellow animal is illegal, the constant pressure faced by the timid wolf protagonist, Legoshi, for not embracing his violent, meat-eating ancestral nature seems to bleed into sexist alpha/beta nonsense territory. Yet, by the end of a first anime season filled with tumultuous and shocking developments, the message I took away was something far different and more nuanced than a simple animalistic nature vs. civilization dichotomy.

Warning: Beastars spoilers ahead

Legoshi is portrayed as shunning the spotlight. Although he’s in the drama club, Legoshi works as a meek behind-the-scenes stagehand, leaving the attention to others such as the club’s star actor, Louis the red deer. But what Louis notices is that Legoshi is clearly stronger and potentially more intimidating than he lets on. As a gray wolf, he possesses might that no herbivore can hope to match, and it incenses Louis that Legoshi can be such a pushover. When Louis gets hurt and a shuffling of roles causes Legoshi to appear in a play, a tiger clubmate named Bill tries to bring out Legoshi’s dormant ferocity.

However, Legoshi is afraid of his own carnivorous side. Not only was his good friend, Tem the alpaca, eaten by a carnivore, but Legoshi himself comes dangerously close to succumbing to his lupine instincts and devouring a female dwarf bunny named Haru—a girl he later develops strong feelings for. Legoshi does not want to be that kind of animal, which is why he looks up to Louis, who accomplishes things through grace and diplomacy. Even so, there’s no denying that Legoshi would be incredibly powerful if only he let himself be. 

Part of what holds Legoshi back is a society that discourages carnivores from exerting dominance through force. Meals for them are made with high protein content, e.g. eggs, as a way to sate hunger, but the appeal of real flesh can be overwhelmingly difficult to endure. Throughout the series, Legoshi struggles to fight that desire for meat, which then blends in odd ways with his love/lust for Haru, further complicating things in his heart.

Towards the end of the series, Haru gets kidnapped by an organized crime group—a cadre of lions called the Shishigumi—with the intent to eat her. Having discovered previously that Louis is seeing Haru (though what Legoshi doesn’t know is that Haru is extremely promiscuous as a way for her to have some control over her life), Legoshi tries to bring Louis along. However, Louis declines, having already learned about the kidnapping and being told that he must stay quiet if he is to accomplish his goal of rising to the top of society and being able to effect widespread change. Legoshi storms the Shishigumi base without the red deer, and by fully tapping into his violent side, is able to rescue Haru. 

At first, the lesson seems to be that Legoshi finally set aside his false persona of timidity for what was truly inside, but what happens afterwards communicates what I found to be the most important takeaway from Beastars: when it comes to instinct vs. reason, there is no universal answer.

Having saved Haru, Legoshi and her end up at a love hotel prepared to take their relationship to a physical level. Legoshi confesses that he was the one who tried to eat her, and Haru says she always suspected it was him but was still drawn towards Legoshi. However, just as they are on the verge of consummating their relationship, Legoshi’s mouth moves uncontrollably as if he’s going to eat her, and Haru’s body moves, as if on its own, to be eaten by him. Built into their genetics is a relationship of predator and prey, and sex between them isn’t “supposed” to happen. Even so, they’re genuinely in love with each other and they want to make it work, which means denying what their DNA is screaming at them to do. If Legoshi wants his heart’s desire, reason must prevail over instinct.

The underlying message I take away from Beastars is that the question of whether to follow or rebel against one’s animalistic nature is not an all-or-nothing proposition. There are times when it can be of great benefit, but other times when it can be a mistake or lead to disastrous outcomes. Moreover, whether or not doing so is a right choice will vary from individual to individual. Legoshi is not Louis. Legoshi is not Haru. They can naturally accomplish things he cannot and vice versa, but they’re also all capable of going out of their inherent comfort zones to do even more. It is the moderation of both reason and instinct relative to each other that allows us to flourish.

Learning About the Butterflies and the Bees: Saotome-senshu, Hikatakusu

The first thing one notices when looking at the cover of a volume of Saotome-senshu, Hitakakusu (Saotome Covers Up) is the main heroine and her abs. Who is this muscular girl? How did she get that impressive six-pack? What’s her deal? The answer: she’s the heroine of a beautiful manga that’s a little romance, a little sports, and a whole lot of stupid in the best possible way. More than that, its central boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is portrayed so wonderfully and positively that I would present it as a shining example of a love that feels healthy and genuine.

Saotome Yae is her high school boxing club’s ace, blessed with strength, agility, and a preternaturally good knack for fighting. But the first chapter opens up with a low point, as the boy she likes, Tsukishima Satoru, rejects her confession. The reason: he’s also in the boxing club, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize her next crucial match. However, the romantic feelings are clearly mutual, and by the end of the chapter, Tsukishima has become Saotome’s coach—a setup that not only hides their going out against school rules, but also allows Tsukishima’s endless passion for boxing to benefit Saotome as well.

Saotome and Tsukishima are the definition of adorkable. They will try to hold hands, but their unfamiliarity with doing boyfriend-girlfriend things makes it look closer to a test of strength. At another point, Tsukishima declares that they’ll succeed through the power of love, only to realize that he’s talking to Saotome’s little brother, who proceeds to forever call him “Power-of-Love Man.” This is one of those series where everyone is kind of an idiot on some level, and it results in a wonderfully silly and sweet series that isn’t afraid to go for a heartfelt scene one moment and immediately transition to a gut-busting gag the next. The humor is somehow both subdued and absurd, and I can’t really think of many similar works. It somewhat approaches the stylings of Shibata Yokusaru’s 81 Diver, but isn’t quite as extreme and over-the-top.

Virtually every character, from the main couple to the wide array of side characters, are hilarious and memorable—even Saotome’s random clubmates. Above is a scene where one of their clubmates tries to get some alone time with Wakano, a college-aged boxer and childhood friend of Tsukishima’s, by incapacitating his own friend with a punch to the stomach. …Except, they’re all boxers and can take a hit, so his friend just gets up anyway. This whole thing ends with Wakano showing how to really deliver a body blow, leaving the clubmate doubled over but also a little happy.

Of the supporting cast, my favorites are Satsukawa Mizuki, a rival of Saotome’s who transitioned from karate to boxing with the most terrible sense of direction, and Konno Mito, the boxing manager who basically teases anyone and everyone. In those rare instances where the two are together, it’s even better.

But what I think really anchors this series and will make it endure is the depiction of Saotome and Tsukishima’s excellent relationship. On the surface, the two look like a somewhat mismatched couple that seems to thrive on reversing gender roles. Saotome is big and tough, and knows how to achieve victory after victory. Tsukishima is small and weaker, and has yet to win a single match in his boxing career. However, you can see that the two think the world of each other, and both inspire each other to greater heights. Saotome does not see Tsukishima as a “loser” who’s capable of less, but rather as a guy full of love for boxing, and who is making progress on his own terms through his own power. Tsukishima, for his part, is 100% supportive—not jealous—of Saotome’s greater success. He’s a challenge to toxic masculinity and the fear of emasculation: he’s shorter and less skilled in his own chosen sport than his own girlfriend, but absolutely no one thinks less of him, especially himself.

One unfortunate thing about Saotome-senshu, Hitakakusu is its timing. Saotome’s boxing path is about aiming for the  2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the series even ends with a flashforward to them. Before, it would have been possible to imagine the characters actually being there for the real deal, but COVID-19 has turned the 2020 Olympics into the 2021 Olympics, forever dating the series as a pre-coronavirus title. However, while that dates the manga, this doesn’t really detract from its overall excellence, and I hope as many people as possible end up reading it.

The Panda from Beastars Is Basically Black Jack

The manga and anime Beastars by Itagaki Paru features an eclectic menagerie of personalities, but one that caught my attention is the panda character Gohin. The reason: the character is likely an elaborate reference to the classic Tezuka Osamu manga character Black Jack.

Gohin, like Black Jack, works as an unlicensed doctor, being called upon by those who cannot (for whatever reason) request more legitimate professional help. Both have a moral code, but it lies outside the normal boundaries of society. Even Gohin being a panda has hints of the Tezuka character: Black Jack’s skin on his face has two shades—the darker skin comes from a skin graft he received from his half-African best friend. 

What seals the deal on Gohin being the Beastars Black Jack is that he’s voiced by Ohtsuka Akio, who has been the voice of Black Jack in numerous anime adaptations since the 1990s.

Basically, I can’t wait to see Gohin operate on himself while fighting off some dingos—albeit ones who walk on two legs and talk.

Boy, Become Mythology: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 28

It’s Shinji’s turn to live his passion in Chapter 28 of Hashikko Ensemble.

Summary

Now that M-Con is over and the rest of summer break is left, Shinji decides to do what he’s been wanting to this whole time: visit a castle! After all, his original plan in high school was to make a Mountain Castle Club, before he got roped into singing. He wanted to bring the other members along, but only Akira and Hasegawa ended up joining him. Also, it’s technically a valley castle and not a mountain one, but that’s better for amateurs like the latter two anyway, according to Shinji.

As the three take a break, Akira expresses his desire to sing more, while Shinji admits that even he got into it more than expected. Hasegawa surprises the both of them when she suddenly starts conducting, and the two guys start singing. She reveals that she’s been practicing in secret while watching Mimi-sensei, and the two immediately realize that she’s actually better at it than their club adviser.

The singing draws the attention of an old man walking around, who explains that he’s a member of the Suns—the chorus they had visited when they were trying to figure out Orihara’s “hearing issues.” The old man, whose name is Yoshinaga, is himself a castle enthusiast, which thrills Shinji. During their conversation, he mentions having a vacation home in a nice outdoor area they could use for a training camp. After some calls, most of the club is into the idea, including Jin, who responds to Akira last. However, just as Akira is leaving his place, he sees Jin exiting Himari’s apartment while greeting Akira with a smile!

Oh Castle, My Castle

I had been wondering if Shinji’s love of castles would forever remain on the back burner in Hashikko Ensemble, so I’m happy that he finally gets to enjoy his true passion. Unfortunately, we don’t actually get to see the castle they visited, which is a reminder that this is indeed a manga primarily about music. I hope he eventually gets a true mountain castle.

I wonder if we’ll end up seeing more of Yoshinaga, if only because this would give a real mentor to Shinji—someone who can foster his love of castles and his burgeoning interest in singing. It could be something unique to Shinji among all the characters, and it might be the key to leveling him up really quickly for the next time the Chorus Appreciation Society performs.

Jin x Himari…?

In all likelihood, Jin stepping out of Himari’s family apartment (along with Himari’s angry grunt at being discovered) is going to just be some innocent misunderstanding on Akira’s part. Still, if i were to entertain the notion that something happened between the two during summer vacation, I have to admit that I think they’d be a cute couple. There’s something about the contrast between Jin’s overwhelming cheer and Himari’s curmudgeonly attitude that would appeal to me if they were an item, and one can only imagine how awkward everything about their relationship would be.

But putting that aside, the real purpose of that last-second shock is to highlight that Akira has romance on the brain to a certain extent. He’s been thinking about Shion a whole lot, even feeling continued jealousy toward Shunsuke after finding out that Shion’s been visiting Shunsuke’s home to practice piano now that her hand has healed. Now that Hasegawa is aware of the truth, her teasing is getting stronger, though it’s interesting that Hasegawa isn’t being protective of Shion. Instead, she seems to be encouraging it.

The innocence of the romances in Hashikko Ensemble is such a contrast to Spotted Flower, I must say.

Conductor Hasegawa

I figured at least a few of the characters not directly involved in the music would eventually join the club in a more involved capacity, but certainly didn’t expect Hasegawa to start working towards a role as conductor. I have to wonder how the others might eventually reach this point, and if this is the real reason behind Jin being at Himari’s home.

Then there’s Kurotaki Mai, the girl with the deep voice. I still think she’ll come in for a more prominent role eventually.

Songs

As Hasegawa conducts, Akira and Shinji sing “Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi o” by Kyu Sakamoto—the same featured song as the last handful of chapters.

Final Thoughts

Given that M-Con is in the past now, I can only assume they’ll be practicing some new songs to add to their repertoire. I wonder where they’ll go next. I personally don’t have any must-see songs, but something far off from “Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi o” could be a nice change of pace.

Artistry in Manga and Anime, and What’s Lost in “Translation”

Every so often, I come across someone on Twitter who talks about how they love anime but don’t really mess with manga. To them, manga is inherently inferior to anime, or at the very east, doesn’t give them the full multimedia package that anime offers—animation, music, voices, etc. Of course, people are free to enjoy what they want however they want it, but a part of me can’t help but feel a little frustrated that manga, as a mode of creative expression, is not reaching them. They can appreciate the artistry of anime but not the artistry of manga. 

“Artistry” is a very loose term and it can mean a million different things. Moreover, you’ll likely find people arguing that certain styles are better than others, and that certain creators are more imaginative and skilled than others. When I use the word “artistry” here, I’m thinking from a very broad sense, where it means how something is portrayed as opposed to what is being portrayed. Two titles could wind up portraying the same thing—a blond guy throwing a punch, for example—but the execution could create two very different experiences. 

Years ago, I wrote a couple of blog articles: one on decompression in comics, and another on its opposite, compression. One of the big takeaways is how the page as a whole is typically used in manga, where the panels and visual elements are geared towards a very smooth and continuous experience that allows the eyes to quickly move from one panel to the next. There are many different avenues of manga artistry, but this is the one that sticks out to me most because it’s a form of creative direction where time and space seem to transition seamlessly. But even given the history of comics in Japan, this is something that had to develop over time, and there’s no one right way to make the pages “flow.” It’s not as fundamentally intuitive as treating a comic like a picture book playing out one panel at a time, and I have to wonder if maybe that extra step needed to engage with manga is a step too far. Without it, perhaps manga really does seem like a lesser version of anime. That engagement has to be learned on some level.

In a sense, the difference between anime and manga is a less pronounced version of the separation between film and books. Anime and film engage more senses, and they progress without the viewer needing to actively move them along. Manga and books are focused mostly on the visual (on a basic level), and the story does not continue unless the reader actively chooses to move it forward. While anime and manga are closely tied in the sense that they often draw from the same stylistic trends and adaptations from one to the other are incredibly common, this difference in how one engages the medium seems to be too large a disparity for some. If I could help it, I would want to take someone who only reads manga and help them appreciate anime, as well as vice versa. If that were possible, then I would do what I could to help people appreciate the artistry of these creative endeavors.

This post is sponsored by Ogiue Maniax patron Johnny Trovato. You can request topics through the Patreon or by tipping $30 via ko-fi.

The Moral Trolling of Prison School

What if I told you that there’s a manga that points out the vanity of its male heroes, and ends by emphasizing the degree to which their shallow treatment of women is their undoing? Now, what if I told you that this series is actually, of all things, Prison School—a series generally known more for its gratuitous T&A and absurd toilet humor? By the time Prison School reached its conclusion, that’s exactly what we got. 

Prison School is about a group of teenage guys who are the only male students at Hachimitsu Academy. When they get caught peeping, they discover that the school actually has a complex prison system underneath run by the “Shadow Student Council,” three powerful girls who are all extremely attractive and who all hate men with a passion. Over the course of 277 chapters, the manga gets increasingly ridiculous in just about every way possible, from fanservice to schemes to the fact that the series will set up exceedingly complex plots just for the sake of delivering a stupid pun.

If you look at the fan reaction to the end of Prison School, a great deal of comments express utter disappointment. There were shipping wars over who the hero Kiyoshi would end up with. There’s frustration that the story went far off the rails from where it started. Somehow, people read this series as if it was some kind of romantic comedy, as opposed to an exercise in the absurd. What’s more, I truly believe this this bitter response towards Prison School by its former fans is actually what the author, Hiramoto Akira, was actually going for. Prison School was a long, elaborate troll to point out the inanity of anyone who cheered for the heroes.

The Case of Kiyoshi

Kiyoshi is the hero of Prison School, and throughout the series he’s motivated by a few key factors. Early on, he develops a crush on one of his classmates, Kurihara Chiyo. She’s the first girl to really talk to him in class, and one of the reasons he strives to escape the school’s prison is so they can go on a date together. However, while he’s unusually smart in certain respects, he’s also an incredible dumbass who’s 1) ruled by his hormones and 2) often jumps to the wrong conclusion about things.

Kiyoshi does good deeds, but he’s not necessarily a good person, and his antics lead him to having oddly close love-hate relationships with two of the Shadow Student Council members. Early on, he accidentally sees Midorikawa Hana (the Shadow Student Council secretary) peeing in the woods, which starts this bizarre bond based in trying to see the other pee and involves angry kisses, swapping underwear, and other “unorthodox” forms of affection/revenge. And while Shadow Student Council president Kurihara Mari starts off as Kiyoshi’s greatest nemesis, the two eventually end up as erstwhile allies who begrudgingly respect each other. Also, one time Kiyoshi had to suck snake venom out of her butt.

By the end of the series, Kiyoshi is ready to confess to Chiyo (to Hana’s frustration). He’s been thinking about Chiyo all this time and sees her as his ideal girl, despite the fact that many of his “firsts” are with Hana. Chiyo, for her part, sees Kiyoshi as a brave and noble soul. However, Kiyoshi has tried to get by entirely on his ability to bullshit others, and it all comes home to roost at the end. Chiyo is an avid fan of sumo, and Kiyoshi pretends to like the sport too to get closer to her. Kiyoshi and Hana at one point accidentally switch underwear, and both realize that they’re more comfortable wearing the other’s. When Chiyo asks what happened to Hana’s panties, Kiyoshi tries to tell a half-truth by saying that he keeps them in a drawer and is ashamed about it—except that’s a lie, and he’s wearing them during his confession. Early on, in regards to Kiyoshi, Chiyo prophetically says, “There’s no such thing as a bad person who likes sumo.”

When Hana suplexes Kiyoshi and flashes Chiyo with the truth, Kiyoshi accidentally pees on both of them. All of his graceful ploys and last-minute reversals of fortune are for naught because, in Kiyoshi’s own words, “I never learned anything.”

The Case of Gackt

Gackt is one of Kiyoshi’s fellow inmates, and is known for his absolute love of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. He even speaks Japanese in an old-timey way (never mind that it was originally Chinese) as if to emphasize his love of the literary classic. Part way through the series, he begins developing feelings for a girl named Yokoyama Mitsuko, a hyper-klutz who also happens to be obsessed with Romance of the Threee Kingdoms.

(Fun trivia: Mitsuko’s name is a reference to Yokoyama Mitsuteru, legendary creator of Tetsujin 28 and author of one of the most beloved Three Kingdoms manga adaptations ever!)

Despite all the trials and tribulations, Gackt and Mitsuko seem destined for each other. However, one major curve ball shows up in the form of a character nicknamed “Slut-senpai” (real name unknown). Slut-senpai starts to fall for Gackt, and it motivates her to start learning about Romance of the Three Kingdoms to the point that she develops a genuine interest as well.

Eventually, the girls confront Gackt and ask for him to decide. However, he ultimately is unable to make a choice, and the two basically leave him and become friends with each other instead. In other words, Gackt based his entire criteria for his ideal girl on a good but ultimately limited trait—sharing a common hobby—and he couldn’t handle the possibility that there might be more to consider. Even his supposed preference for a chaste and innocent girl fell by the wayside at the prospect of a girlfriend who was willing to get down and dirty.

The Case of Andre

Unlike the two examples above, this one results in a happy ending—arguably against all odds.

Another one of the boys allied with Kiyoshi, Andre is a gentle soul and also a raging masochist. When he finds himself in his school’s prison, nothing excites him more than being under the eye of Meiko, the Shadow Student Council Vice President and the very epitome of a dominatrix.

But one day, another girl named Risa enters the picture, and around the same time, Meiko has a traumatic experience that turns her mentally into a meek 10 year old. For Andre, this means losing the very person he worshipped, and he spends most of the series trying to bring her back. At the same time, however, Risa sees a kind of inner strength in Andre and has fallen in love with him. Yet, because she cannot match the lofty ideals of sadomasochism Andre possesses, he has trouble seeing her in the same light.

Eventually, Meiko does recover, and all seems right in the world for Andre. However, what he realizes in the end is that Meiko might be the pinnacle of his carnal desire, but his heart and his feelings belong to Risa. Andre may have one hell of a kink, but in the end, it’s not enough to be the basis for an entire loving relationship. Andre chooses a person over a fetish.

Lessons Learned

Prison School is a series where one character, despite having multiple potential love interests, ends up with nobody because he’s ultimately an immature idiot who can’t truly take others into consideration. A different character has two romantic prospects but ends up with neither because his entire criteria for “ideal girlfriend” is “likes the same book.” Not only that, one of the few guys who does end up in a relationship chooses the girl who truly cared for him (and he, in turn, her) over the girl he’s worshipped and fetishized for ages. “Did you really cheer for this jackass of a protagonist?” Prison School asks, as it ends, perhaps against all odds, on a moral note. Goodness and genuine human connection win out. Shallow reasoning and deception are the realm of losers.