Wanting to get a dose of yaoi slash shounen ai, I gave the anime series Gakuen Heaven a try – which has the amusing but nonsencial sub-title Boy’s Hyper Love.
Our main protagonist is Keita Ito, a student who suddenly gets a letter of admission from the prestigious all-boy’s school Bell Liberty Academy. He’s confused as to why he was accepted, believing himself to be merely an average person with no special abilities nor very high grades, and the mystery of his acceptance to the school is gradually revealed through the series.
Oh yeah, and the entire student body seems to be implicitly gay. Not one of the characters ever says “I am gay”; the closest we get is an easily effactuated character whom one of the other characters explicitly states doesn’t care about the gender of his pray. Aside from this instance, sexual orientation is never really brought up, yet it is heavily implied that many of the show’s male characters are in love and perhaps even in official relationships with one another.
At one point a tournament gets arranged to show who the best student at the academy is, and in order to prove that he’s worthy of his admission to the school Keita has to enter and win this tournament – which would’ve been an excellent opportunity to have turned the series into a children’s collectible card game anime à la Yu-Gi-Oh. When the tournament was announced I figured it would consist of different tests measuring one’s abilities in typical school classes; history, math, gym, maybe cooking, and so forth. No, instead the students have to go on a treasure hunt (which we call rebusløp in Norwegian), running around following clues and solving semi-puzzles. Because apparently those who are good at treasure hunts are also somehow the best students at any school. This tournaments takes up about half of the series, becoming the main focus for several episodes, with a couple of sub-plots thrown in.
At the start of the series I had a genuine problem telling the different characters apart, as most of them look very similar, and I tried to see if I could find some good images online showing off the entire cast, so I could consult it while watching. (Unfortunately I only found images showing off some of the series’ character rooster.) Eventually I learned to recognize some of their differences though; long haired guy #1 generally looks sad and wears his school uniform, whereas long haired guy #2 doesn’t look sad and wears his school uniform looks more scruffy. Here are a few stills to illustrate, showing four different characters from the show.
Though Gakuen Heaven is ripe with implied homosexuality, it’s a fairly non-raunchy series. It does have some absolutely hilarious opening introductions though, in which two characters are having a conversation where we can’t see what they’re talking about, which makes it seem like they’re up to various perverted actions until we get to see the scene in its entirety. You can see said introductions on YouTube here. I wish the entire episodes could have been like this, or at least that all of the openings could have been like this. Apart from those, pretty much the only other raunchy scene we get is an awkward and amusing case of spontaneous elbow disinfection.
It’s an odd series, and an oddly forgettable one, except for some of the elements mentioned above. It’s not bad, but there is certainly better stuff out there more worthy of one’s time and scrutiny. It didn’t have any very memorable characters (certainly doesn’t help that manylook roughly the same), no intriguing overarching story or smaller sub-stories, and too much time is spent on that silly tournament. The implied homosexuality and relationships are at first amusing, but it grows increasingly grating, and by the end you’ll just want to shout at them, “Take off your ******* pants already, and shove your big fat ***** up each other’s ***** and get it over with!”