Tomokazu SugitaTakuma TerashimaYuichiro UmeharaYusuke Shirai
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2015: C
Also known as: Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2015
Director: Shinji Takamatsu
Actor: Kazutomi Yamamoto, Kotaro Nishiyama, Mugihito, Toshiki Masuda, Yuichiro Umehara, Yusuke Shirai, Hiroki Yasumoto, Hiroshi Kamiya, Jun Fukuyama, Takuma Terashima, Tomokazu Sugita
Keywords: anime, SF, magical girl, gay subtext
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Season One: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2015
Review date: 9 July 2016
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!
It's a magical girl show, like Sailor Moon. Five pretty teenagers will save the world, but only when they're not in school! They're brave! They're kind-hearted! Their best friend is a talking animal who gives them superpowers! They have nude transformation sequences into costumes with lots of bows, frills and ribbons, followed by a declaration of their name and a little speech or catchphrase. They carry magic wands covered in hearts. They'll fight a Monster of the Week and defeat it by showering it with their love and helping it overcome its emotional issues.
They talk about love all the time and show deep, nay, suspicious levels of affection for each other. They're all beautiful, of course. (They're also blatantly designed for audience appeal, e.g. the Young Genki One, the Cool One, etc.) They even have a group of similarly beautiful enemies with Sailor Moon villain names (Aurite, Argent, Perlite), who want to take over the world... but very elegantly.
They're also boys. It's a parody, aimed at fujoshi, i.e. female fans of anime and manga about gay men.
Did I like it? Well, I loved the first episode. The show's central joke is brilliant. Take a genre made for primary school girls and make everyone in it male, aged 16-18. Almost everything they say and do is funny. Fairly soon, though, you might start needing a bit more meat on the show's dramatic bones to get you through twelve half-hour episodes. If so, whoops. It's quite a clever show, but the protagonists' characterisation is paper-thin. They're types, not people. I have a theory that parodies should ideally also work on a non-parodic level. Thus for instance Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein is also a solid Frankenstein movie, whereas Spaceballs falls apart in the last act. Here our heroes are throwaway bimbos who can talk for hours about nothing. Episode after episode will spend a good five or ten minutes on wibbling about nothing of significance. Look, we're all in the public bath together again! What's wrong with disposable chopsticks? What should our club do at the school festival? How about a restaurant! What food should we make for it? What about curry? What kind of curry do you like? I don't like Thai curry. I like Japanese curry. Do you like the smell of curry? SHUT UP AND GET ON WITH THE EPISODE, YOU TIME-WASTERS.
This goes on and on, episode after episode. It's not exploring character, because our heroes aren't invested in it. It's random conversation. They're just opening their mouths and letting their bellies rumble. In fairness these discussions tend to foreshadow the motif of the (silly) Monster of the Week, but that doesn't make them dramatically meaningful. Of all the things this show could have been, I hadn't expected it to be on the cusp of being boring. About halfway through, I realised that I couldn't marathon this show. One at a time was my limit. Soon it improved and started having more dramatically coherent episodes, thankfully. Ep.11 breaks the show's formula, then ep.12 is a classical season finale. Nonetheless I still wanted to like the show more than I actually did.
Our heroes are, in order of tolerability:
1. Atsushi Kinugawa, aka. Piercing Prince, Battle Lover Epinard. He's the normal, sensible one and he wears glasses. He was the only one who actually seemed like a likeable person, as far as I was concerned. His colour is green (natural?)
2. Yumoto Hakone, aka. Sparkling Prince, Battle Lover Scarlet. A bubbly boy who seems much younger than his actual age and doesn't like thinking. Loves cuddling things, especially their Magical Wombat. His colour is red (i.e. excitable?) and he's actually the nearest thing we have to a character.
3. En Yufuin, aka. Flashing Prince, Battle Lover Cerulean. He's lazy and his colour is blue (i.e. cool).
4. Ryuu Zaou, aka. Thrilling Prince, Battle Lover Vesta. His characterisation isn't much thinner than Yumoto's or En's, to be honest, but it's more tiresome because his One Personality Trait is louder and more repetitive. Ryuu loves girls. That's it. That's almost all there is to his personality, unless you choose to build fan theories upon the the inevitable gay subtext. (We never see any of his supposedly endless girlfriends and it would be entirely possible to speculate that it's all an elaborate deception on his part.) His colour is pink (no explanation needed).
5. Io Naruko, aka. Roaring Prince, Battle Lover Sulfur. He's even worse than Ryuu. He loves money. On top of that, he loves money. Sometimes, for a change, he loves money. His color is yellow (i.e. gold).
Is this deliberate? Is it a parody of the kind of characterisation you'll get in the heroines of little girls' shows? If so, for me it doesn't work. You'll be clutching like a drowning man at the gay undertones, since at least that creates relationship texture and gives the script something to build occasional episodes around.
The genre homage really is superb, though. I think it's brilliant to do a gender-flipped version of the "butterflies, hearts and rainbows" world of magical girls. The word "love" is everywhere, even in the title. The boys wear love-racelets, get out their love sticks and spray a love-up of their inner love. Their magical transformation is called "love making". No, I'm not joking. The wombat says it every week. "Love, while gentle, is also harsh." Please, someone tell me that some mad broadcaster has broadcast this show on children's TV. (You could probably do it, too, since everything's innocent on the surface and the show obeys all the forms and trappings of what is after all a children's genre. The biggest obstacle might be ep.4's strapline: "Small Boy Love Making.")
Anyway, every week Yumoto grips his love stick, makes magic gush out and gives his love shower to the Monster of the Week. This turns the monster back into a boy, apparently overwhelmed by post-coital bliss. He'll be in a daze of blushing and sparkles. Not only do all these boys look orgasmic, by the way, but it seems to have been specifically a female orgasm.
The genre gags are often clever. There's an in-story reason for the effectiveness of the Clark Kent Disguise Technique, ep.12's twist on "conquering the world" is funny and they even create a name for the trope of fight scenes being put on hold for emotional discussions.
It's possible to take the show the wrong way. The whole point is that it's a big gay joke, but those gay heroes are shallow stereotypes played for laughs. Gay men aren't the target audience. Some have called it homophobic and queerbaiting. I can't really comment there, although I do think the criticisms of its lack of female characters are a bit silly. All I can do is provide anecdotal evidence. I only know one gay man who's watched the show. He didn't have any of those problems and liked it.
Another element of questionable taste is our heroes' school club advisor, Tawarayama-sensei. Yumoto kills him. Twice, in fact. Our heroes are carrying around a corpse throughout the whole show and none of them seem to think that, say, accidentally killing someone is bad. Admittedly Wombat has promised that his alien technology will resurrect Tawarayama-sensei, but he still starts getting mouldy, smelling, etc.
I should explain the title. "Binan" means "handsome man" or "beautiful man", but here it's also the name of the high school ("koukou"). Hence the English title's "Cute High". "Chikyuu Bouei-bu" is a "Defending The Earth" school club. After that, "LOVE" is just sticking "LOVE" on the end for no reason, which is what the show does with everything.
The franchise has also had light novels, an online manga, a smartphone romance game and (eh?) a live stage show.
Do I like this show? Sort of, yes, but it has those empty-headed protagonists and their empty conversations. I'm sure that dead air is another genre homage, but it's still dead air. I shouldn't overstate my case, though. The gay angle saves the show by creating relationships around which episodes can be built. Even Io Naruko can be the focus of a "money vs. friends" episode. This isn't a top-drawer magical girl show, but it's a light, witty and mostly entertaining one. It's unique, at least. I don't know if I'd recommend the whole show, but it's worth watching ep.1 at least. The idea is hilarious. Overall, for me, it was both funny and a little underwhelming.