Gakuen Handsome – Mid Season Review
Original Air Dates: October 3rd, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Yoshiki Maeda is transferring into the Baramon Private Academy. But as soon as he enters, he’s already encountering handsome pretty boys one after another, from his teacher, the captain of the soccer team, or even his childhood friend he hasn’t seen in seven years. This is a love story that covers every unique scenario imaginable.
Mid Season (6 episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Right from the start, Gakuen Handsome made it clear that its humour isn’t for everyone and as the show continues, this fact is only been reinforced time and again. I started the show hoping it would be accessible to the audience as a quirky comedy that parodies dating sims. However the more episodes we watched, the more obvious it became that the jokes are extremely specific to the otome dating games and culture it parodies to the point where most jokes are likely to fly over your head unless you are very familiar with the topic it’s making fun of.
Tom: There’s, perhaps, a little comedy that extends beyond the Otome veil, acting as more accesible humor for audiences less familiar and obsessed with lampooning the Otome genre. The trouble is that humor is few and far between, and is often so weird and unapproachable itself that very little value is ultimately added.
Linny: There’s also zero effort to tell a coherant overarching story. The show began with its main plot seemingly all about our faceless protagonist transfering to a new school and meeting all kinds of different men with the end goal being him falling in love with one of them. So far, that has been heavily tackled in a couple of episodes but then there are random episodes that focus on some of the men that end up feeling like one shots with little to no tie in to our main character or plotline. One could technically consider it character development but thanks to the absurd and extreme nature of the comedy in the episodes, it all ends up feeling like random comedy one shots that don’t always hit the mark for a more general audience.
Tom: It doesn’t help that characterization is practically non-existent. Each of the characters exists purely as an archetype, and a rather thin one at that. The average length of an episode is little more than two-minutes, already hindering the show’s ability to offer anything of true substance, but even then Gakuen fails to do what so many good shorts do, pack in worthwhile content. Unfortunately, Gakuen is so busy lampooning Otome games that it fails to really present truly engaging, funny and enjoyable characters.
Linny: Gakuen Handsome’s characters are obviously all meant to be cariacatures of otome stereotypes. Some of them obvious like our protagonist who isn’t even given a face, spoofing the fact that the protagonist in otome games are often made to be generic or vague so any player can easily fit themselves into the role. On the other hand, some of the spoofing is taking to such an extreme that it’s likely to leave the audience bewildered rather than amused.
Tom: It doesn’t help that Gakuen Handsome’s animation is wonky. Sure, maybe that’s part of the point, to further lampoon Otome games by depicting all these supposedly pretty boy characters as ugly messes, but everything is so simplistic, so barebones that Gakuen is intensely visually unappealing. With a little more creativity, budget, and talent, I’m sure you could present Gakuen Handsome with a bit more of an enticing flair. Unfortunately what you see in the gifs is what you get.
Linny: As someone who has never played an otome game nor the very game this show is based on, it’s hard for me to decisively say just how spot on the show is with its adaptation and spoofing. However, it’s clear that the show will have limited appeal and at the most, MIGHT entertain those of you who like their comedy extremely absurd and random to the point of making no sense. Due to it’s barebones animation style and its rather peculiar comedy, Gakuen Handsome is most likely doomed to be appreciated only by those well familiar with its source.
Tom: Gakuen Handsome is too barebones. It’s run time may be short, but it feels like little effort has gone in to even making full use of that. The joke it’s running with is too simplistic, too one note, too lacking in nuance to make for a truly worthwhile experience. At less than three minutes run time an episode it’s hard to truly hate what Gakuen offers, but it’s also hard to find true appreciation for what little is there.
Gakuen Handsome is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com