Prison School – 01

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I had a very full Summer 2015, so it stands to reason a show fell through the cracks. But what a show! Prison School’s first episode zooms along, laying everything out with succinctness and flair. It’s better looking than Shimoneta, for a start, and on at least some levels, the comedy is a little more sophisticated (no one’s going around blurting out double entendres, for example…though “Joe” does blurt out bad words).

This is the story of five guys lucky enough to be the first male students at Hachimitsu Private Academy, but after a few awkward attempts to interact with the female supermajority, they get greedy, blow it, and end up incarcerated by the super-conservative, super-sadistic Underground Student Council (USC).

The biggest victim is our protagonist and window into this world: Fujino Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Kamiya, bitches!), who is, among the five guys, the one most likely to score a date. He’s hardly confident, however, and stumbles upon the lovely (and sumo-obsessed) Chiyo quite by accident: ironically, he’s able to hang with her in convo and even score a date thanks to his also sumo-obsessed mom.

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But like I said, the boys totally blow it, by going on a black ops peeping mission involving a smartphone (Kiyoshi’s no less) dangling from a wire in the girl’s bathroom window. When it falls into a plant (physics!) Kiyoshi has to go in and retrieve it, and horror of horrors, the only girl still in there is his beloved Chiyo.

The tension of almost getting caught so many times is infectious, but Kiyoshi’s luck is formidable, as Chiyo is woefully nearsighted, mistake shim for her dark-haired best friend, and leaves before she realizes who he really is. Unfortunately, that’s where Kiyoshi’s luck runs out, because as his four tied-up friends are caught by the USC, the council president herself (Ohara Sayaka, bitches!) sidles up to him and takes him into custody.

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What’s great about this premise is that there isn’t any particular injustice here; the guys are guilty, and they deserve punishment. It’s just a matter of levels. The USC decides to incarcerate them in an underground facility under the school, where they’ll take their classes by video and perform manual labor all the rest of their waking hours.

When Kiyoshi locks eyes with Chiyo, he assumes she knows all and has condemned him along with all the other girls. But in a nice twist…she hasn’t; absolutely certain “no one who loves sumo can be a bad person.”

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As for the USC’s tactics, the prez tries using her extremely violent Veep Shiraki Meiko (Itou Shizuka, bitches!) as an enforcer, but quickly determines that the guys are masochists who come to love Meiko’s punishment. So Mari switches to Midorikawa Hana (Hanazawa Kana, bitches!) whose short temper, devastating karate-based punishment, and bulky leggings that cover all conspire to deprive the lads from deriving any pleasure.

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While searching for four-leaf clover (again hinting at Kiyoshi’s general luck thus far), he finds a baby crow on the ground, and without giving it a second thought, climbs a tree and puts him back in his nest with his siblings. This is all witnessed by Chiyo from a classroom window, as further evidence Kiyoshi’s a good guy.

Kiyoshi is a good guy, precisely because he feels so bad about not telling her he’s as guilty as the others insofar as he conspired to peep on girls. Instead, he tells her he’ll come with her to the sumo match, despite the fact he’s in prison. I’m interested to learn how he intends to swing that, and how he’ll continue to wrestle with his guilt as his courtship with Chiyo continues and possibly deepens.

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Rather than a bad guy, Kiyoshi is extremely suceptible to bouts of both extremely good and extremely bad luck. Case in point: right after getting to chat with Chiyo, he finds himself an unwitting witness to Hana having a tinkle in what she believes to be a secluded, unsurveilled part of the forest. As for that baby crow he saved? His mom doesn’t care about that act of kindness, and when she defends her nest, Kiyoshi falls…right onto Hana.

All in all, a very snappy, punchy, generally hilarious first outing that, had I seen it back in June, would definitely have had me sold right from the start. The show looks great; the boys are all ridiculous characters who are funny just to look at, let alone hear (tiny-faced Andre…what’s up with that???). The show also has a penchant for intense close-ups and weird, interesting camera angles and framing, and an all-world voice cast.

My exposure to Prison School has come late, but but better late than…well, you know.

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Attack on Titan – 19

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What does Levi’s big flare gun shot set into motion? Well, in the immediate moment, not all that much; it’s only an acoustic round that doesn’t seem to affect the She-Titan at all, but could serve as a signal for the soldiers ahead of them, as well as wiping everyone’s slate clean, so to speak, and focusing them.

But the more Eren focuses on what’s behind him—scouts engaging the Titan and getting killed, while he runs away—the more upset he gets, to the point he’s ready to bite his hand and become a Titan himself so he can stop the killing. Levi, looking ahead the whole time, doesn’t discourage him from this. Rather, he tells him to make his own choice, though Petra begs Eren to believe in her and his other comrades.

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Those words—“Believe in us.”—triggers a flashback, which is another suspension of the momentum of the present events, but actually turned out to be a worthwhile detour. When Eren climbs down a well to test his Titan-transforming powers, biting his hand doesn’t work. Levi tells him not to sweat it, and they have some chow.

But as Eren reaches for a spoon that’s just out of reach, the Titan transformation occurs, as he unwittingly creates a partial Titan torso and arm grasping that spoon. All of a sudden, Eren’s comrades draw their swords and start yelling, ready to kill him if he so much as flinches. The sense of cascading fear and mounting chaos in this scene was quite palpable.

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Eren tries to de-escalate by shouting “Be quiet for a second!”, but he’s really saved by an elated Hange Zoe, whose mouth is literally watering at the chance to see Eren’s ability in the hot, skinless flesh. Ironically, it’s Hange’s crazed, reckless thirst for knowledge and unapologeticly light mood that defuses the tense standoff. And Romi Park is immensely entertaining in this role.

An assist goes to Levi, who stood between Eren and his trigger (or rather blade)-happy officers and insisted they all basically chill the fuck out. No one acts in the time between Eren’s transformation and Hange’s arrival because the others are heeding their Captain, even if the compulsion to act decisively without thinking too much is strong.

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In fact, those instincts are one of the very reasons Levi chose them for his unit. None of the men or woman directly under Levi can be said to be like Armin; they’re not overthinkers. If they see an imminent threat, they don’t assess; they act. But another reason he chose them is their unswerving loyalty. When Hange determines Eren’s actions were involuntary, they know when they’re wrong and that they were threatening jerks to Eren, and not only apologize, but bite their own hands.

Would they act exactly the same way as they did if the clock was turned back (as tends to happen on this show) and they faced identical circumstances? Definitely, but that’s not going to ever happen, because now they know a little more about Eren and his ability: he only transforms when there’s a specific purpose to it, whether it’s protecting his friends from a cannon, plugging the gate, or reaching for a spoon.

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That night when Petra and the others bite their hands pledge to believe in Eren, and urge him to believe in him; that’s the end of Eren’s deliberations. Petra’s look up top is the same as the one from that night, an earnest plea for him to put his trust not only in himself, but in her, and Levi, and the rest of his comrades. Rather than transform, with the purpose of beating the She-Titan, he decides to keep racing forward on his horse. He’s growing a lot on this mission…without having to grow into a Titan.

His faith in his comrades and the Scout Regiment in general pays off, as the She-Titan, having been harried by several scouts who gave their lives to enable Levi, Eren, Petra & Co. to stay just ahead of her, is led straight into an elaborate trap consisting of hundreds of restraining wires that stop her in her tracks.

This was Erwin’s plan all along: using Eren to draw the She-Titan into captivity. She’s covering her nape, but they believe someone is in there (probably someone with that same hairstyle, I’m thinking), and they’re itching to get her out of there so she can answer for what she’s done…whoever she is.

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