Honestly, I was worried that the direction of this new arc meant that this title’s best days were behind it. Flipping the premise to put the Shadow Student Council in prison and the boys on the outside felt too obvious a way to mix things up for “Prison School” going forward. The good news is that mangaka Akira Hiramoto has managed to find some clever ways to mix up this setup. He hides it well at first, though, after the volume gets past the flashback to Meiko and Mari’s grade-school years we see current student council president Kate scheming to fracture the bond between her adversaries. She does this through the skillful application of logic and cookies with Hana and then proceeds to set Meiko up for a fall so savage that it breaks her sadistic mind into a submissive one. None of this stuff is fun or possessed of the creative perversity that this series thrives on. In fact, Kate is the biggest problem with the series now as all of her scenes are incredibly mean-spirited. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if we saw how she struggles to achieve her goals, or were witness to any of her faults, but neither of those are in the cards here.
What I’ve described above isn’t a huge part of this volume, however. Amidst the struggles of the Shadow Student Council, we see Andre’s masochism plans (“Andrenomics”) modestly rise and then come to a surprising and well-deserved fall. More surprising is the relationship he develops with Risa, the eybrowless enforcer of the student council, as she displays some unexpected vulnerability in learning the ways of being a proper dominatrix. Meanwhile, Gackt finds out about Mitsuko’s BL hobby and does his best to try and understand it with Joe’s help in a way that actually makes it past gay panic. Best of all is Kiyoshi who consistently, brilliantly manages to screw things up for everyone despite the best of intentions. Whether it’s instructing Shingo on the right way to (not) get a kiss, enduring the strange direction his relationship with Hana takes when word of that gets back to her, trying to keep Meiko from fainting at the sight of his penis, or the snakes in a bathroom venom-sucking position he finds himself in at the end of the volume, he bravely hoists the standard for gloriously perverse idiocy and carries it high for all to see.