Panning the Stream: SCHOOL-LIVE, Prison School, Himouto! Umaru-chan

And so the summer 2015 premiere week ends with a resounding: “Da fuq?”

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I’ll have a “sequels and carryovers” panning post come out later, but this’ll be my last post for new shows this season (if the delayed God Eater makes the watch list, I’ll hit it up in a Rule of Three Review). Very few shows jumped out and grabbed me by the throat, but a whole lot caught my attention and suggested there were reasons to stick around. As of right now my “at least come back for Episode 2” list contains 18(!!) series. That number’s gonna have to go down at some point, but for now, I’m kind of… excited, actually. I feel like a kid in a candy store: Most of this stuff is sure to rot my teeth, but dang, I’m gonna enjoy munching on it.

Fittingly, we end with a trio of shows thick with WTFery, two of which (I am only slightly ashamed to say) are getting full meet ‘n’ greets, and one that didn’t make the cut. Hit the jump and know the depths of my poor taste.

SCHOOL-LIVE! (Gakkou Gurashi)

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Studio: Lerche
Based On: The manga by Kaihou Norimitsu (Gargantia, Gunslinger Stratos)
Streaming On: Crunchyroll (click here for the list of regions)

In a Sentence: Carefree student Yuki loves hanging out with her friends at school and especially in the School Living Club, but something seems a little… post-apocalyptic, here…?

How was it? Not what you think, that’s for damn sure.

Overall

The vast majority of this premiere plays like a typical “cute girls in a club” story, but right from the opening scene (where we discover the protagonist is living in one of the school’s classrooms) it’s clear something weird is going on. The hints keep dropping all through a sequence of dull and unfunny dog-chasing shenanigans, and finally build to a major reveal in the last couple minutes that puts a grim spin on everything that came before it.

The question, now, is how much of the series is going to keep being cute-girl fluff, and how much is going to address the new information given to the audience. Depending on how SCHOOL-LIVE juggles its dual stories, this could end up being a surprisingly dark psychological study and maybe even a smart commentary on the “cute girl” genre. Or it could devolve into one of those frustrating “break the cutie” tragedy porn Madoka knockoffs we get every few seasons. Or it could just be a dull show that keeps sidestepping reality the way it did this week. At this point I don’t have an answer, but I’m curious enough to come back and find out.

Prison School

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Studio: J.C. Staff
Based On: The manga by Hiramoto Akira
Streaming On: Funimation (U.S./Canada)

In a Sentence: Five horny boys enroll as the first male students at a prestigious, formerly all-girls’ academy, but no one told them the Underground Student Council is here to lay down the law and ensure they behave themselves.

How was it? Uhhhhh…

Overall

Writing this as a proper review is pointless, because everyone’s reaction to Prison School is going to be wildly different, and also because Prison School doesn’t give a shit what you think about it. So instead of telling you if it’s good or bad, I can tell you what it is, which is an intentionally trashy, balls-to-the-wall, black comedy prison exploitation story that puts awful people in absurd situations and laughs at them when they’re punished for their awfulness. Prison School wants to be ridiculous and nasty and does an exceptionally good job at it. In fact, it might be the best executed premiere of the season. The question, of course, is whether you want to buy what’s it’s selling.

Trying to explain this series defies a simple one-to-one comparison. It’s as hyper as Future Diary and as grotesque as Gantz, with a cast as unlikable as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and a story that cares as little about audience reception as Death to Smoochy. It’s full of sexuality but isn’t remotely sexy, thanks to its contorted art style and whiplash camera movement, and is bound and determined to keep you off-balance and reeling, assaulting you with rapid-fire sound and image from start to finish. I honestly don’t know if I liked Prison School, but I laughed at it an awful lot, and I can say with total conviction I was never once bored by it.

Everything it’s doing it does on purpose, so if you’re turned off by its style or content within the first, let’s say, five minutes, then run far away and never return. As for me? Well, I just gave it a full meet ‘n’ greet, so something in this pile of manic trash has piqued my interest. Or maybe that’s just my respect for the staff (the same director/writer team who gave us SHIROBAKO) talking. I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach this much contempt for very long, but, like a train wreck, I can’t quite tear my eyes away yet either. I’ll be back for the second episode at least.

Dropped

Himouto! Umaru-chan

The opening theme is a thing of hyper, adorable, geeky magic and the central premise (a ladylike high school girl becomes a lazy nerd the minute she gets home) had the potential to be a lot of fun, but things go awry the moment Umaru actually opens her mouth. She’s self-centered and obnoxious, harassing her older brother constantly, and grates on me so hard that even the funny stuff doesn’t land. I suppose if you enjoy comedies about unlikable people, this one might work for you. As for me, I’ll stick to pretending the whole show is the opening theme, and nope on outta here, too.

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7 thoughts on “Panning the Stream: SCHOOL-LIVE, Prison School, Himouto! Umaru-chan

  1. This is by far the best explanation I’ve seen for what Prison School’s appeal is. I read the first few chapters of the manga and liked it, then watched the first episode and liked it, all without having the faintest idea WHY. All the other reviews I’ve read just sort of shrugged. It’s kind of a relief to have a reason, honestly!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, happy to help! It’s a weird series for sure with a very particular brand of appeal. Shows like this rarely work for me in the long-term, but I’m engaged enough at this point that I’m willing to see if it can keep me entertained.

      Like

  2. Prison school is definitely something that I might not be able to sit through this season. It’s hilarious but there’s only so much painfulness I can sit through before I explode. Plus if my family sees me watching this im probably being disowned

    Like

    • Haven’t actually watched it, although I s’pose I should at least give the premiere a try since that’s kind of my whole schtcik, “every licensed premiere” and all. Thing is, no one had anything particularly good to say about it, plus I actually have to open a browser and go to Daisuki and find the video and switch over to Chromecast and ugggggh… CR and Funi apps have made me incredibly lazy, is what I’m trying to say.

      Liked by 1 person

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