Transactional psychology in Prison School, or, why Chiyo will win
It has been more than six months since my last anime-related blog post. I have as much consistency as a schizophrenic does with his thinking. It’s been a few years since I have written volubly regarding anime. I’m not making any excuses: it’s not as if it’s surprising that working as a medical doctor takes a lot of time away from writing and enjoying anime. I’ve never really stopped watching anime, although I do it sparingly nowadays. I was still able to watch Zankyou no Terror recently, and while I planned a write-up on that one, it never really materialized because of its disappointing ending. I just think it would have been a better anime if it focused on Nine and Twelve and the girl in their quest for truth rather than introduce a confounder into the series which is counterproductive because the series is short at only 12 episodes.
I wasn’t as passionate with that series as this one that I just finished watching. I have spent the better part of two days devouring everything I could on Prison School. I came for the fun and the tits, but I stayed for the story: I say this with a straight face because the story has great insight on abnormal psychology. I am heavily invested in this series: I recall it was when Tatami Galaxy aired that I was this involved with a series, so it’s been a very long time. My only problem now is that I have to wait for the future chapters of the manga, although the chapter the manga is at during this article’s writing (ch. 208) is a great spot to elaborate my thoughts on the series.
I have a confession to make. I enjoy this series a lot, beyond its comedy and sensuality, because I very nearly became a psychiatric case in my toddler years. I tended toward obsessive-compulsiveness, and absolutely loved to play by myself (I still do). I was lucky, however, that I have a great mother who is well-versed in child psychology that she steered my incipient perversions toward transforming me into someone on the fringes of normalcy.
Instead of being scared with holding money because it contained germs, and being fearful of all types of dirt, I was transformed into a normal-enough kid. Knowing my past, I learned to appreciate psychology and have read a few textbooks on it while I was growing up. I guess I was also able to develop my sense of empathy through reading a lot of fiction. My reclusive nature was compensated by my voracious appetite toward reading.
II. Character Introduction and Series Synopsis
The series begins with Kurihara Mari and her Underground Student Council devising ways to ostracize the five new male members of their school. Mari is actively against these boys because Hachimitsu Academy has been an all-girls school since its inception. Because the five boys in this story are on the more aggressive side of boyhood, they are quickly entrapped and incarcerated once they attempt to peep into the girls’ bathrooms. Because their school has a prison, the boys are quickly placed there.
In Discipline and Punish, Foucault says that ‘[t]he shift from a criminality of blood to a criminality of fraud forms part of a whole complex mechanism, embracing the development of production, the increase in wealth, a higher juridical and moral value placed on property relations, stricter methods of surveillance, a tighter partitioning of the population, more efficient techniques of locating and obtaining information: the shift in illegal practices is correlative with an extension and refinement of punitive practices.’ Put more simply, the prison is a microcosm of society’s dominant forces. The prison reflects the actual society.
In the beginning of the series, this is very true. Mari is the de-facto leader of the school, and she is misandrous, owing perhaps to the fact that her father is a dilettante who had destroyed her faith in men. In fact, this perspective trickles down into the rank-and-file students that with the exception of Chiyo, the boys are mostly ostracized. In their society, the women dominate over the men, as was the case in prison.
Another point to note is that imprisonment tends to reveal the true character of individuals. This also occurs in this series. I am only going to focus on Kiyoshi and Gakuto, since their characters are the most exemplary among the five males. Kiyoshi, however, is undoubtedly the most resourceful, clear-headed, and balanced male character in the series: this is corroborated by the fact that he exerts a different effect on the series’s most dynamic characters.
Vice President Meiko, as the warden of the males, should be discussed afterward. In the manga one becomes privy to the deep bond she shares with Mari, and also finds the reasons why she is passionately loyal toward her. Meiko, having been bullied at a younger age for her shapely body, was protected by Mari more than a few times that when Mari came to be in danger at one point, she became confident and defended Mari to the best of her abilities. This continued on until a little after her imprisonment, where her tough exterior was broken down by both the stress of physical work, and the guilt of her murdering Mari’s beloved crows. In their friendship she has developed a compulsion toward following Mari, and does so as if Mari were a goddess. While she is the most buxom character in the cast, she pales in character development to the final member of the USC, Hana Midorikawa.
Hana is the most peculiar member of the USC, because while she has a short fuse and tends toward aggression much like men, she has been a blank slate with regard to interactions of the opposite sex. It didn’t really help that she was in Hachimitsu, either. At best, her interactions with boys were limited. She would grow the most, psychologically and emotionally, among the three officers, however.
Other characters that feature prominently in the plot are Kurihara Chiyo and Gakuto. Chiyo is the antithesis of Mari, especially early on in the series. She is open to conversing with men, initiating a conversation regarding sumo wrestling with Kiyoshi once she finds they have similar erasers. She is also kinder to the men and rivals Mitsuko as among the most kind-hearted ladies in the series. She is the genuinely innocent and kind lady that Kiyoshi falls in love with.
Gakuto, or Takehito Morokozu, is the other male that could go toe-to-toe with Kiyoshi in terms of intelligence and virtue. He is a fanatic of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and he also possesses a lot of resolve. While all five boys are lechers, I think that these two are the better men.
III. Transactional psychology, or why Chiyo will win
It was Mari’s blind misandry that caused the five boys to be punished for a significant amount of time. This was in contrast with Chiyo’s faith in the inherent goodness of people. Even early on in the series, Chiyo already built up credit toward Kiyoshi with her kindness toward him. While everyone else was afraid of the USC, Chiyo openly talked about sumo to him. He and Gakuto even executed an intelligent plan in order that he could have a date with her because he promised her he would be there. It was a well-executed and elaborate escape plan if Chiyo and Mari weren’t siblings.
In the end, however, he was caught and this soured his relations with the rest of the boys (except Gakuto). Despite this, however, at the risk of her own dismissal, Chiyo defended Kiyoshi from Mari and the USC. In dealing with his exile, Chiyo became his raison d’etre. Kiyoshi’s emotional investment had bloomed into love. There is no doubt that Kiyoshi’s heart, even at this point in the story, belonged to Chiyo alone.
This is simply the nature of transactional psychology, which is the main reason why ‘first impressions last.’ People are told to look snazzy and clean in a prospective job interview because it is difficult to efface a first impression, whether it is good or bad. In our daily interactions with people, we unwittingly wish to get something from them. Chiyo is heavily in the green in Kiyoshi’s heart, because she has been consistently kind to him without asking anything in return. He just as quickly invests in her, letting himself be incarcerated for the sake of helping Chiyo’s sister, despite their animosity.
It is in this vein that we discuss the series’s most complex female character, Hana Midorikawa.
The first time the two met, the five boys were assigned to pick up four-leafed clovers (perhaps parodying the masterful Honey and Clover series). Because the boys were getting used to Meiko’s violence, Mari tasked Hana to discipline them. Hana then beat up the men more brutally and with less panache than Meiko.
She debited a lot of goodwill from Kiyoshi from that horrible start. The debt only worsened when, after falling off a tree, he sees her urinate and she beats him up even despite the fact that it was an accident. This incident triggered her fixation with him in regard to the idea of fairness. Most of her subsequent attempts toward vengeance end up poorly on her part: she gets urinated on by Kiyoshi through her prodding, and when she finally enacts her vengeance prior to her believed expulsion of Kiyoshi by stealing his first kiss — fully knowing that he loves Chiyo — he turns the tables on her by kissing her with pure lust. He did it not because he loved her, but because he knew it was his only chance to save themselves. (Ironically, by enacting this kiss, Kiyoshi acted like an adult in transactional analysis: this was the most rational course of action.)
Studies have consistently concluded that men are more effective toward focusing on one thing at a time, while women are more capable multi-taskers. If he did not do anything, he would still be unable to realize his dream of being with Chiyo, or saving his friends. To my recollection, he even parodies the idiom by saying, ‘you have to give an inch to take a mile,’ subverting it.
In the resolution of the males’ prison break, Hana was visibly affected and angered when it was her own weakness that allowed the boys to prove that it was the plans of the USC that would facilitate their expulsion. She broke Kiyoshi’s arm and could have further battered him if Mari weren’t there to shield him.
Alas, fixation is difficult to extricate from the beginnings of love. Her continual efforts at seeing Kiyoshi urinate have thus blossomed into something beyond the wish for fairness or equality. In the quest to gain material in order to blackmail Kiyoshi into silence, she discovers his agency and reliability – and falls for him. By taking cute, compromising pictures with him, her emotions toward him grow in the course of the manga: she expresses anger towards Kiyoshi’s comfort in urinating in spite of Risa’s presence and feels offended at his discomfort with her. After she finally urinates over him and restores parity between them, she does not disappear from his life.
Among the manga’s most symbolic panels is the one in chapter 178, where she French-kisses him full in the mouth, aggressively, as she also waddles in her own urine.
She has deeply fallen. Yet despite that, because of their horrible start together, she could never chase the credit that Kiyoshi has toward Chiyo.
Let’s admit it: the more we are emotionally attracted and invested in someone, the more we become sensitive to them. She notes, in later chapters, that in Kiyoshi’s suggestion to exchange underwear something has occurred, and that she jealously tells him to treasure her underwear just as she will treasure his. It does not take a genius to ascertain her message.
Chapter 208, the latest shown chapter, reveals the deep tragedy of Hana, warranted comeuppance though it may be. Her face on this panel is full of determination, and she has not been one to go back on her word if one had read the manga. Love is always self-sacrifice, and Hana manifests her twisted love in this regard: because she asks so much of Kiyoshi’s already tattered reputation, she promises to protect his love by protecting Kiyoshi from the wrong perceptions of the only girl he treasures, who is Chiyo.
Self-sacrifice is also a manifestation of self-control. In this vein, Kiyoshi also loves Chiyo. In her emotional weakness she bared herself to him. Because he loves Chiyo, despite his struggles, he never touched her. Character Education (Veloro, 1963) speaks of self-control in the context of purity in that ‘it gives a man clear-sighted courage to fight off the savages and the wolves of the world‘ even if that wolf may be he himself.
IV. On Mari and Kiyoshi
The relationship between Mari and Kiyoshi is nowhere near as prominent as the contrapuntal ones between Hana and Chiyo. It’s important to note that her perspective toward men, especially Kiyoshi, significantly improved because of his demeanor. Other than her father, Kiyoshi has been her most developed interaction with a male. In a past chapter, she even admits that she was wrong with regard to her perspective toward Kiyoshi and his crew. She nevertheless retains a strong misandry, but significantly softens when she is alone with Kiyoshi. She has in fact approved of his confession toward Chiyo, and while it’s not as obvious as Hana’s, she has grown to trust him with her life.
Prison School may predominantly be a sex comedy, but it is also a very thought-provoking anime and manga in its own right. I have only yet focused on Kiyoshi’s main female interactions, after all.
It’s such a fecund series.