Review: Gakuen Heaven

Clearly, I am still going through what I call “wall of guys” kinda of anime.  You know, when a show literally has a shot of bishi lined up for the camera like in “The Last Supper.”  Well, Gakuen Heaven certainly falls into that category, with 14 main characters, all bishi and all male. And this isn’t the cute and fluffy BL.  It’s the tall, dark, and handsome sweep you off your adorable feet BL.

The premise of the show is that the main character, Keita, is suddenly accepted into the insanely famous and elite Bell Liberty harem School (otherwise known as BL gakuen, *cough cough, hint hint*).  The school sends out acceptance letters only to famous and elite people who are very good at whatever it is they are good at, so middle-of-the-road, not-so-special-but-adorable-and-lucky Mr. Protagonist is rather confused as to why he gets accepted, and even though he questions his qualifications, transfers in.  In actuality, he got in because the chairman has the hots for himis his childhood boyfriend … gave him a special recommendation and overrode the board of directors. Whether or not he is qualified to attend becomes the driving plot point, eventually culminating between and out-and-out, no holds barred challenge between the corrupt Vice Chairman and the Chairman (he does actually have some amazering lucky luck, and this is sorta given as his special skill that got him in and keeps him in. And I suppose it does count as great luck to have run into the chairman as a young boy and won his heart…).

The cast consists entirely of males, and they’re pretty much all bishi, all slashable with one of the other supporting cast, and all slashable with the main character. At one point the main character even comments on the all-male cast, to which the bishi he’s talking to is like “Oh no, females totally exist! I can introduce some to you” and the protagonist is like, “Oh, there’s no need, k thx.”  To which I snorted loudy in amusement.

There are some of the typical BL tropes in the cast but they actual stood apart for me as moderately unique, especially due to the size of the cast and their unique talents.  It’s no Angelique, but the selection of pairables is pretty extensive.  And the show makes a great many overtures to turn your mind down a dirty dirty BL path.  The first few episodes (before some angsty plot kicks in) start of with salacious sounding dialogue between two mostly off-screen supporting characters, only to pan out and show them doing mundane activities (such as paperwork and patching a leak). Which, honestly, I adored!  It was exactly the note I wanted to start a fluffy show like this on, though I am glad it phased out when the tone of the show changed.  Most of the eye-catches were also meant to titillate.

So taken out of the BL context and appeal,  the show isn’t really anything impressive.  The huge cast of characters doesn’t really allow much characterization and relies heavily on tropes, though some of the individual character’s personalities do manage to shine through rather well.  The plot is mainly exploring the fit of Keita to the school, in order to inevitably hook him up with his main love interest, but never really explains to my satisfaction why he belongs there, whether or not he is actually qualified to be there.  It just sorta was like, well you’re a lucky dude, and look at how happy you make all of these extraordinarily talented bishis! Of course you belong here! The Chairman wants to bang you so bad! The directing wasn’t bad, and did what it could on a the typically low BL budget, but I never really saw anything noteworthy to it either.  The art and animation was similarly restrained by lack of money, so talking stills abound and most of the backgrounds are fairly blase at best. The movement was occasionally awkward and bad, and there are a few shots that are bad enough to deserve a facepalm scattered throughout the show.

It confines all of it’s SD silliness to a very, very poorly animated segment at the end of each episode called Hamu Hamu Heaven (which clearly is because it features chibi hamster versions of the main characters).  I enjoyed them, but I wish they had added a little more to the show, instead of being a silly aside that gave a smidgen of characterization.

Overall, the characters are underdeveloped and the cast massive, the plot totally falls flat when you stop and think about it and the tension of the show is mostly sexual and slashy. however, for the most part the show is interesting to watch and feels unique and distinct from other, similar titles.  I especially love the treasury vs student council dynamic (plus I heart the treasury pairing, so…).  I enjoyed this show, though I didn’t love love it, but I like BL.  If you are into BL, enjoy a moderately silly premise, don’t really want to think to much but aren’t in the mood for one of the fluffy, foolish titles (like Princess Princess), this is a great show to just sit back and enjoy the titillating yet serious BL bishi fun. If not, run, don’t walk, away from this show. It will hurt your thinking parts, and if you have them, your homophobic ones, and it won’t even be cracked out or insane enough for it to be so bad it’s good.

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