Prison School
Episode 4

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Prison School ?

Prison School continues to surprise me. After the initial shock of the beyond-belief premise and over-the-top characters wears off, it becomes easier to accept this strange setting and get caught up in the ever-present edge-of-your-seat tension. As the day of Kiyoshi's prison escape approaches, Gakuto continues to sacrifice what remains of his dignity as Kiyoshi risks everything for his sumo date with Chiyo.

Prison School has paced the prison break storyline perfectly so far, giving things just enough time to go wrong during the planning stages before we finally witness the start of the escape in the second half of this week's episode. Kiyoshi almost gets caught on multiple occasions, and it's genuinely tense each time. For every small victory Kiyoshi achieves during the escape thus far, viewers hardly get a chance to catch their breath before something else goes awry. It's downright absurd when you consider the jailers are power-crazed abusive high school girls with complete dominion over teenage boys whose worst crime thus far has been acting completely in character. Still, to great comic effect, this show has always taken its stakes seriously—and manages to get its audience to do the same.

Even if you accept the strange premise, there's one thing that still seems jarringly odd: the background characters are far too unconcerned when boys are abused right in front of them. In time, the series may explain why 1000 different students, and even girls visiting from other schools, have come to hate and fear boys so much that they think nothing of seeing them endure shocking physical abuse. For example, the girls are appalled by Gakuto's actions, but busty Meiko popping out of her uniform and driving her spiked heel into his nose doesn't raise any questions.

This episode features some effective directorial choices. At one point, we see the prison escape from Kiyoshi's point of view. A sassy jazz-club beat plays as we pick up on every little detail of the breakout, from the rustling fabric of Kiyoshi's clothing as he crawls through the drainage ditch, to the echoing sound of Vice President Meiko assaulting the other prisoners overhead. It's a marvelous way to convey the tension of the escape, where the possibility of capture lurks around every corner. Although ravens have appeared throughout previous episodes, never has it been so clear that President Mari has command of her very own winged army. The birds lend a somber tone to some of Mari's scenes and act as an overblown torture device in others. It's an appropriate character quirk for a girl who's equal parts harsh and reticent.

Episode 4 is one of the finest examples of a prison break story in anime—and it's funny to boot. Although it's a safe assumption that Kiyoshi and Gakuto's plan won't go off without a hitch, viewers never quite know where the story will take them next. This episode ends right at a nail-bitingly critical moment, demanding you tune in next week the instant the new episode streams. That said, the series likely can't sustain prison break storylines week after week, but I'm confident this series will be twisted enough to come up with something new and entertaining in the near future.

Rating: A

Prison School is currently streaming on Funimation.

Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.

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