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By Charles On 3 May, 2013 At 01:52 AM | Categorized As Animation, Comics/Manga, Editorials, Featured, Old School Otaku, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarEveryone has a favorite teacher; that dedicated, funny, sympathetic role model who helped shape your formative years and provided comfort from the often callous and vicious world of school angst and the pitfalls of growing up. Think about that person for a moment, and what made them great. Picture them in your mind, hear the memory of their voice in your ears. Got a clear image of them? Good.

I bet your mental image looks nothing like this:

Eikichi_OnizukaThis man is Eikichi Onizuka, age 22, virgin, and for a class full of misfits and “social rejects,” he was that favorite teacher, the man who challenged and taught them all about the “real world.” How? By just being himself, and teaching them how NOT to act.

Great Teacher Onizuka was one of those “unlikely anime,” the type that is completely devoid of fantastic elements, lolicons, twenty minute power-ups and skimpy clothing, but still manages to pull the viewer in and keep them interested. Rather than deal with otherworldly enemies threatening human existence, it focused more on the trials and tribulations of being a high school student, which at times could be just as chaotic, and just as terrifying. It lacked “good guys” and “villains,” eschewing instead for a whole lot of gray-shaded cast members who were as petty as they were devoted to their jobs. In short, GTO (as it was so fondly referred to) was a sort of “dirty shonen” slice of life series, more concerned with its world and residents than impressing its reader base.

And that was not a bad thing at all.

A lot of that appeal centered around the aforementioned Onizuka, himself a social misfit more concerned with sex and violence than educating the youth of Japan. A former biker gang leader, he somehow managed to leave the “thug life” behind, enroll in a “5th rate college” and graduate with a degree in…something. You never really find out how studious he was, nor where his “academic” inclinations actually lie, given his preoccupation with porn, fighting and “keeping it real.” But next thing you see, he’s trying to find gainful employment, and failing miserably. Blame his bleached hair, his “yakuza tendencies” or the constant mountain of arrogance that he’s the proud king of, but poor Onizuka can’t seem to catch a break.

gtoAll that changes the day he meets, then loses, the “girl of his dreams:” a spunky high school student whom the future Great Teacher is absolutely positive he will finally lose his virginity to. And just as they’re about to do the deed, she literally jumps out a window and into the arms of another man. Who does he lose this wellspring of sexual energy to? Her high school teacher, a dumpy, bespectacled man with a sour face and apparently all the pull in the world. On that day, he swears to become the best teacher in Japan. Why? To get laid.

Let’s put aside the blatantly horrendous motivation for this decision, and focus on Onizuka for a moment. What does he have to offer his students? Forget about the three “R’s,” as Onizuka can barely read himself. Valuable lessons on life? Does one really want to accept the words of a “reformed” biker and generally viewed “lowlife?” Common sense? Not at all, since he’s doing this for the worst reason possible. For all intents and purposes, this man should never be anywhere near children, let alone given the task of teaching them. And yet, that’s exactly what he does.

Finally scoring a job at a prestigious private academy, Onizuka is immediately given the worst class in the school, made up of people either just like him, or well on their way to becoming just like him. Wannabe gang-bangers, unmotivated geniuses, promiscuous girls, awkward kids, and all manner of students who just don’t fit in. These are the students destined to fall through the cracks of the educational system, that the rest of the faculty have given up on, but can’t simply expel because their tuition checks have already been deposited. So, shunted off to the side and ignored, they plod through one ineffective teacher after another, until Eikichi ends up at their door one day, the latest in a long line of schmucks suckered into teaching the class. The “Great Teacher” brings in bluster in the door with him, trailing arrogance like a proud bridal train, ready to talk some “sense” into these students. How do they take to this new teacher, so completely “different” from any they have ever encountered before?

As far as they’re concerned, Onizuka isn’t any different from the others, except maybe that he’s dumber than any one of them, and starving for respect and attention. And they hate him.

Great-Teacher-Onizuka-3Why? Because they can see right through him. They know he’s not a teacher. They know he only cares about having fun. From his “tough guy” facade to his horrible sense of humor, this is a man worthy of only their contempt, which they heap on him in droves. hell, the only reason he’s even in this class is because they’ve driven off every single other teacher assigned to them, and the administrators hope that they will do the same to Onizuka.

Until he starts saving them, one student at a time. Whether it’s giving them a reason to live, putting their problems into perspective, telling them to get over themselves (often with associated punches, kicks and getting his own ass handed to him), helping them get “revenge” on those who wronged them, teaching them to stand up for themselves or just not take any s**t from “the man,” the Great Teacher imparts whatever wisdom and street smarts he can, while often taking lumps and plenty of attitude along the way. It’s like the School of Hard Knocks, 90210-style.

gto1His tenacity eventually overcomes even the most stubborn (or stuck up) of the students he encounters, and by year’s end, he manages to reform the worst class at the academy into something resembling a productive learning unit, while teaching even some of his “colleagues” the value of knowing themselves…or at least giving them lessons in self-extracting their heads from their own asses. A little humility goes a long way, and while Onizuka might not know the meaning of the word, he sure can impart its value on others.

That tenacity is the key to GTO’s appeal. Knowing from the outset that Eikichi Onizuka is an “eternal f**k-up who just doesn’t give a s**t” lends him a certain humanity that drives the story. You know he’s going to fail, yet you cheer for him anyway. When he occasionally succeeds, you celebrate with him. When he gets caught with his pants down (literally, on more than a few occasions), you feel for him, but also realize that it’s only going to make him more careful in the future. His crass manners have a certain charm to them, you root for him to find the “right girl,” and when he finally gets the better of his naysayers, you want to clap him on the back and buy him a drink.

Onizuka is the ultimate underdog. And like most underdogs, you want to see him win, regardless of whether its against “corrupt” educators, “conniving” students, or even his own shortcomings. You want Eikichi Onizuka to win. And I guess in that regard, he already has.

Gratuitous shot of...well, everything.

Gratuitous shot of…well, everything.

You can consumer GTO in a number of ways: the 1997-2002 manga, while out of print, is excellent. The 1999 anime is a faithful adaptation of the manga, and easier to track down. The 1998 J-Drama (with 99 sequel film) is a bit short on the plot, but the actor who plays Onizuka is phenomenal. Or you can look for the 2012 reboot. Honestly, it doesn’t matter: any version of GTO is worth consuming. Honestly, how many properties can say that these days? There is also a prequel manga “GTO: The Early Years,” and sequel”14 Days in Shonan,” both available now from Vertical Publishing.

 

By otakuman5000 On 11 Feb, 2011 At 04:46 AM | Categorized As Animation, Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews | With 1 Comment

No GravatarOf all the different variety of anime that have been released, there are very few that can juggle the concepts of comedy, drama, and overall fun. Many other shows tend to be too confused as to what genre their creators wanted them to be, and they almost always end up failing because of this. And then there are shows that get it right. These are anime shows that have a great story, many dynamic and memorable characters, and a cool beginning and ending theme music to go with it. They are the type of shows that make us anime fans praise how much we really love the anime genre.

The Most Epic Teacher Ever

Enter in Great Teacher Onizuka. The story about a 22 year-old former biker gang leader, Eikichi Onizuka, who follows his dream of becoming the greatest high school teacher in Japan. Now while on paper the concept sounds kind of cheesy, as is most anime shows that deal with high school settings, there is much more below the surface of this plot. There are a ton of characters that everyone will find both hilarious and dynamic in their own right. The students of Holy Forest Academy will provide many funny and cool moments for the hero Onizuka, while the overly mean and hilarious Vice Principle Uchiyamada will try dozens of shenanigans to get the great teacher fired. Along the way, the show will dive into different issues about High School, Japanese culture, relationships with the opposite sex, and what is it that makes a man really a “great” man.

Fun Times at Holy Forest Academy

The best moments of the show are when Onizuka interacts with many of the different students he is responsible for as homeroom teacher for Class 2-4. In the beginning, most of the students are hell bent on getting their teacher fired, using all sorts of tricks ranging from fake Photoshop pictures catching the teacher in a vile act, all the way to crazy bets where the stakes could spell disaster for everyone involved. However, there are also other students who will try to befriend and help Onizuka as he deals with all the challenges that come to him. Including Noburo Yoshikawa, a student who is saved by Onizuka as he tries to commit suicide from being picked on by everyone in class so much. The friendship between the two is both emotionally impacting and a means for them getting into many different awkward and hilarious situations. At first there might seem to be a lot of characters to keep track of, but each episode gives each character a time to shine and develop over the course of the series. There is never an overabundance of plot elements or important events at one time, everything is evenly spread out nicely and given it‘s own time for viewers to digest.

The Gang of Class 2-4

There is a love interest to Onizuka in the form of Ms. Fuyutsuki, a female teacher who employs at Holy Forest Academy the same time as Onizuka. The chemistry between the two can at times be a little bit cheesy and bland, but there is growth in their relationship as Onizuka gets into more and more trouble with the school administration, most of which Fuyutsuki has to help him out of. Towards the later episodes of the series, the spark between them does reach a sort of climax, but never fully comes full circle, reason being because most of the original story from the manga ending of GTO was never made in the anime. Fuyutsuki’s presence does add something to the mix, but it would have been great to see a better outcome of her and Onizuka‘s relationship.

Onizuka and Fuyutsuki

This leads to the only other real gripe I have with GTO, which is how quickly the ending comes. During it’s publication on television, the anime for GTO was running at the same time the manga for GTO was still being serialized. When the time for the ending to the anime series, the manga continued on for much longer and resulted in a different ending. Without giving too much away, the ending of the anime series was good, but is highly overshadowed once the ending to the manga is known. When comparing the two endings, the manga is where fans will get  the more definitive, and ultimately satisfying, ending of the two. This is almost always the case with anime shows that are based off of manga, in that the manga has the better story and ending between both.

Ouch, my bad…..

If there is one anime show that all fans of the genre must see, that show would be GTO. With such a great blend of comedy, drama, and romance; anime fans would be getting the best the genre has to offer. The overall atmosphere that GTO sets up is both bright and heart warming that delivers the fun experience of being back in high school, dealing with both good and bad times. The character of Eikichi Onizuka is one that will make many people wish they had such an awesome teacher back when they were young and still in school. With a title that has “Great” in the name, one can only experience and testify to how awesome this anime show really is.