Yata’s 12 Days of Anime – 2015 – #9: J.C. Staff and (NSFW) Surprise Hits

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(In case you haven’t guessed, this post is NSFW. Leave now if that could be an issue.)

J.C. Staff has never been among the greatest of anime studios. For the last few years in particular their offerings don’t seem to follow any specific genre trend, nor are many of them utterly awful. Their recent work of note that I’ve seen includes such shows like Golden Time, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Kimi to Boku, and Witch Craft Works, none of which are terrible, some even verging on recommendable, but nothing that substantially raised the bar or made J.C. Staff stand out in a world where other studio powerhouses still reign supreme.

But 2015 was quite a year for Japan Creative (bet you didn’t know what that stood for, did ya?) Staff. Instead of just putting out acceptably average works with a few duds here and there, they went absolutely bonkers in all directions. Some would argue nothing they aired this year worked. With cringeworthy filler contributions like Shimoneta, Tantei Opera Milky Holmes TD, Heavy Object, and Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?, the studio aired at least one shit show all year long. But two of their most off-putting titles ended up being not only two of the studio’s most memorable shows in years, but also two of 2015’s best series…for reasons I can’t possibly portray in a positive light, but I’ll try.


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See, on one hand, there’s Food Wars (Shokugeki no Souma), which is essentially what would happen if a Food Network star, an Olympian, and a Japanese pornography director found themselves in the same room and were forced to create an idea each of them could be satisfied with. Food Whores, as I and many others have kindly taken to calling it, is a show that shouldn’t work. The first episode probably repulsed a lot of people, and with good reason. If you thought the whole series would just be cook-offs going in, you were probably stunned to see a young girl get figuratively fondled by a squid she was eating among other things. But in an odd twist of events, the series exhausted almost all its hentai potential at the beginning, quickly transitioning into a series that more often than not genuinely focused on the protagonist Souma Yukihira’s rise to the top at an elite culinary academy. Furthermore, by swapping out what I feared would be relentless ecchi antics with a mission to properly characterize nearly the entire large cast, the show changed from something I thought I’d sit with for another week or two to get some cheap laughs from into something I genuinely looked forward to seeing week-in and week-out. The fact that this sensation lasted a full two back-to-back cours is even more impressive, because even with the best shows, I tend to burn out on motivation to watch them weekly near the 20-episode mark. It helps that the food in Food Wars actually looked like some professional gourmet shit; like, just look at this and this and this and if these doesn’t get your mouth watering, I don’t know what will.

Unless amazing-looking food just isn’t something that gets your blood flowin’. Maybe you prefer…

…asses.

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In which case, J.C. Staff’s other unbelievable 2015 hit Prison School (Kangoku Gakuen) has what you’re looking for. Prison School is disgusting, but it revels in its disgust. Like, picture an action-packed prison break thriller filled with twists and turns, a tone and visual style that’s half-psychological mindfuck/half-physical humor, and a level of comically twisted masochism that would make Filthy Frank and co. proud. That’s Prison School in a prison cell-sized nutshell, and it’s impossible to advertise in a way that doesn’t make it sound like the worst hurricane of an ecchi show in years. At first I – again – thought the shock value was good for a quick laugh or two, but then I found myself coming back over and over. As its characters and situations got more and more desperate, I struggled to find the elusive reason I enjoyed this so much, but finally, ANN reviewer Hope Chapman answered my prayers and deduced what I think made the show work so well: tension.

Her thoughts abridged:“It’s the tension. Prison School is engrossing because there is always, always, always tension, and that’s also what makes the comedy so unique. Prison School is different because instead of trivializing the unmentionable, it treats the unmentionable with dread, and it totally sells the fear as a new flavor of comedy. It feels like a bizarro-world version of Flowers of Evil where the show was supposed to be funny. Almost every gag in Prison School seems to be derived from fear, whether it’s fear of embarrassment, fear of isolation, fear of your own hormones, or just fear of having a sexy stiletto heel shoved up your anus (and maybe liking it.)”

So it’s not a show for everyone. Neither is Food Wars. But between the two, J.C. Staff somehow helped craft these ludicrous tales into the animated medium brilliantly this year, and at least one of them is bound to make you chuckle. Shit shows can be fun to hatewatch (hell, all three of us here at FGJ did that with Aldnoah.Zero S2 last winter), but when they suddenly become genuinely fun to watch for their own merit and not a lack thereof, one has to ask if they’re really as shit a show as they first seemed to be. Some will claim that yes, they are, and furthermore I’m a shit person for liking them.

But if not being a shit person means not getting some hearty laughs from vulgar comedies every once in a while, I’d rather be Kiyoshi’s shit-stained inmate pants anyday. A toast to J.C. Staff, cause these shows should not have worked…but by golly, they did.

View the rest of Yata’s 12 Days of Anime for 2015 here.

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