At one point, Prison School was my favourite manga. There were several reasons for this: First, I found the art incredibly good, maybe even better than the art in One Punch Man (Yusuke Murata’s version). 200+ chapters later, I still find the art in Prison School very impressive, but it’s not as mind-blowing anymore, probably because I’ve come to appreciate unique art styles (ONE’s Mob Psycho 100, for instance) more than sheer, raw detail. Secondly, I was a huge fan of Prison School’s way of making anything and everything as dramatic as physically possible (and often even impossibly dramatic). This aspect, however, did not really survive into the later story arcs, at least not for me. Sure, there are some very funny moments occasionally, but in general I feel like the humour has stagnated a bit.
Both of those epiphanies came to me when I watched the anime adaptation, which aired in Summer 2015. The story was mostly unchanged from the manga, so it reminded me of how much I enjoyed reading the first chapters of the manga, but art-wise the anime diverged from the near-constant ultra-realism of the manga. Instead, the anime utilised a variety of different art styles, from pencil sketches all the way to imitating stop-motion Lego animation. At first, I missed the manga art, but later on I came to appreciate the anime version as well, because the unorthodox art styles added an element of surprise that I could not otherwise experience due to the fact that I already knew everything about how the story was going to unfold.
Will I eventually continue reading the manga? If it ever ends, will I finish it? Would I watch another season of the anime if they made one? Yes, yes and yes, but no longer without reservation. I’m still a fan of the extravagance and bombastic nature of Prison School’s storytelling, but I feel like the story has gradually lost steam after the first 100 or so chapters. Were I to reorganise my list of favourite manga right now, I’d probably drop Prison School from it, but I still think that as a whole, it’s a worthwhile and entertaining read.