Imagine the most exploitative prison movies, combined in the worst possible taste. The prisoners are male, their sadistic brutalising manipulative jailers are female and everyone's sanity comes between "questionable" and "keep away from sharp objects". The nudity and sexual situations are ludicrously over the top, but in a gross way that's designed to freak you out and quite possibly fill you with terror.
Oh, and it's set at school. Those jailers are all Japanese schoolgirls.
Welcome to Prison School.
Hachimitsu Academy is a prestigious girls' school. ("Hachimitsu" means "honey", by the way.) It has 1000 girls... and, recently, also some boys. Five of them. A lot of people are unhappy about this, with the Underground Student Council in particular making it their mission in life to torture, imprison, blackmail and/or otherwise dispose of these shocking offences against humanity. (This isn't an entirely inaccurate assessment of them.)
Within the first ten minutes of ep.1, the boys have launched a shower room peeping raid. This is a gut-twistingly terrible idea and of course there's no way in the world that it won't go horribly wrong. It does. Our anti-heroes duly discover that Hachimitsu Academy has some eccentric ideas about enforcing discipline. Nonetheless they will go on dreaming up suicidal ideas, which is half of what makes this show so electric.
The other half of it is the tone. It's a sort of anti-fanservice, in which the fetishes, masochism and sexualised situations have been exaggerated to the point of being deliberately disgusting (and hence appalling but funny). Meiko has breasts the size of children and exposes so much flesh that she's like a pornographic parody of herself, but she has the manner of a Nazi stormtrooper and she often seems to be dripping with sweat. In grotesque close-up. The camera's continually leering at her, but it's all horrible.
Meanwhile Kiyoshi's relationship with the (dangerously unstable) Hana mostly involves urination. It's worse than it sounds. Is there such a thing as female-on-male urine rape? Hana starts out cutesy-but-vicious, swapping between a Sweet Little Girl voice and a Drop Dead You Worthless Scum voice, but then later ramps up into actual insanity. (She's also a karate black belt, by the way.)
The third member of the Underground Student Council is Mari, who's basically a witch. She controls crows.
This series is a series of appalling events. Is it sexy? Only if you're broken and scary. Is it funny? Only in its excess, when something's gone so far beyond taste or humanity that your only possible response is to laugh. Are the characters likeable? Well, sort of, maybe. Kiyoshi's quite a nice guy and the boys collectively will eventually learn to trust and rely on each other, in a "we're all on Death Row together" sort of way. However they're still depraved no-life losers who'd beat each other up out of jealousy if they think one of their number has been seeing a girl. The Underground Student Council want to get the boys expelled, which you'd think would be a dream come true from their point of view... but no, they've heard that there's going to be a wet T-shirt contest. (This is the kind of show where perverts regard their perversion as he-man macho manliness, talking about it in a deep-voiced melodramatic way that makes them sound like movie trailers.)
More specifically, Kiyoshi has been lying to Chiyo throughout, which makes their (very) on-off relationship more than a little uncomfortable. He's also just as much of a pervert as the others. Shingo is absolute scum who calls women "bitches", although he gets better. Jou and Gakuto are obsessive otaku, although in very different ways. The fat, deformed Andre is a masochist who enjoys being beaten by Meiko, to such a degree that he falls into terminal depression when not being physically abused.
Oh, and the school Chairman is an even bigger pervert than the boys. He likes arses. It's practically a religion for him. He also has a melodramatic speech... PATTERN. Usually with a sudden turn of his... HEAD.
No, what this series has is sheer bloody terror. Our anti-heroes are regularly put in extreme fetish situations (often of their own devising), but not for fanservice or wish fulfilment. They'll be sweating bullets. When the storytelling's really on form, this is nearly as uncomfortable for the audience. This is a world full of horrific danger that can break our anti-heroes' bones, heart and sanity. Theoretically the show's premise has a huge plot hole (i.e. getting expelled would be the boys' magic ticket out of here), but the show just about manages to cover this with character motivations (evil plotting from the girls, wet T-shirt contests for the boys).
I love the ending theme music, by the way. The opening theme's pretty good too.
Oh, and the manga's sold over 7.5 million copies to date and was the joint winner of the Best General Manga award alongside Gurazeni at the 37th Kodansha Manga Award. There's going to be a live-action TV series and it seems impossible that that will be able to live up to the anime, but... no, wait. The director's Noboru Iguchi. That might actually be worth watching too.
It's great. All kinds of wrong, obviously, but it's almost defying you to look away. The boys are pathetic and their female jailers are psychos, but there's humanity in both if you're prepared to wait for it. Even the worst boy can repent of having been loathsome hypocritical slime, while even someone as coldly brutal as Meiko is capable of putting herself to considerable trouble for the people she hates (viz. the last meal). Meanwhile by the end it's hard not to feel sorry for Hana, even as she turns into a psycho wannabe-killer without the slightest shred of sanity.
Oh, and don't miss the last episode's post-credits sequence. I need Season Two. Now I've found another manga I want to read...