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Series Name: Great Teacher Onizuka
Year of Serialization: May 1997
Author(s): Tohru Fujisawa
Artist(s): Tohru Fujisawa
Genre(s): Comedy, Slice of Life, School, Drama.
Current Status: Both Anime and Manga finished.
Moment of Reviewing: Episode 43 (Finished)
Eikichi Onizuka is a 22-year-old ex-gang member and a virgin. While peeping up girls' skirts at a local shopping mall, Onizuka meets a girl who agrees to go out on a date with him. Onizuka's attempt to sleep with her fails when her current "boyfriend", her teacher, shows up at the love hotel they are in and asks her to return to him. The teacher is old and unattractive, but has sufficient influence over her that she leaps from a second-story window and lands in his arms.
Onizuka, upon seeing this display of a teacher's power over girls, decides to become a teacher himself. However, he earns his teaching degree, just barely, at a second-rate college. In his quest, he discovers two important things: he has a conscience and a sense of morality. This means taking advantage of impressionable schoolgirls is out, but their unusually attractive mothers are a different matter. He enjoys teaching and, most of the time, he teaches life lessons rather than the routine schoolwork. He hates the systems of traditional education, especially when they have grown ignorant and condescending to students and their needs.
With these realizations, he sets out to become the greatest teacher ever, using his own brand of philosophy and the ability to do nearly anything when under enough pressure. He is hired as a long-shot teacher by a privately operated school, in Kichijōji, to tame a class that has driven one teacher to a mysterious death, another to nervous breakdown, and one other to joining a cult. He embarks on a mission of self-discovery by breaking through to each student one-by-one, and helping each student to overcome their problems and learn to genuinely enjoy life. He uses methods that would be unorthodox, against the law, and also life threatening, yet somehow, he manages to succeed to educate and open up his students.
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Great Teacher Onizuka. You’re probably thinking it’s quite old now, over 14 years since the anime first aired. That doesn’t mean anything especially for a show of such calibre. Swaying away, one thing I have noticed is people generally degrade the slice of life genre which I don’t quite understand. Supposedly, this may be why GTO hasn’t got the recognition it so deserves as its content is well on par with the likes of Rurouni Kenshin for example or perhaps even better, I name RK as my example as both shows aired around the same period and apparently RK is far more and further emphasise on more recognisable than GTO which is unfortunate as people generalise that action > slice of life which doesn’t hold true in MANY cases.
I actually discovered this anime thanks to a recommendation from a good friend a while ago as I was looking for an anime similar to Gintama in terms of the humour and boy am I glad I took his advice watching this excellent show. Now diving in, GTO as you’d expect of a comedy has a fairly basic premise to it but that doesn’t stop it from being a great anime. It certainly doesn’t. It’s even somewhat cliché, I mean it’s not like we have never seen a school teacher attempting to discipline a classroom which possesses students with unique traits and aim to get rid of their so called teacher, Onizuka. But, the way this is done in GTO is what makes this show so spectacular, that being with plot twists out of the bloom which keep you poised for more and more. If you have ever watched the series “Azumanga Daioh”, imagine that with a story and there, you’d have Great Teacher Onizuka. The use of exaggeration in this show is discernible, as you’d never find there to be such “demonic” students stationed in Japanese classrooms. It’s just not happening. Well at least, I hope that not to be the case from such an established education system. Anyways, I’m swaying away so I’ll return back to the topic. This exaggeration is by no means should leave you dissatisfied as that is what gives birth to the hilarious comedy we see.
The show although being classed as a comedy which is certainly true does also address many social issues based in Japan and even other countries but does it with a comedic edge which leads an effect on the reader to laugh but also think about the problems in today’s day and age which I’m especially fascinated about. The integration of the two ideas is seamlessly done but you’d never miss it!
The structure of GTO as a whole is very straightforward. The show as a whole is dealt in arcs as you’d expect in which we meet a divergent individual who plans to overthrow Onizuka, who then attempts to solve the case and as these people tend to have pasts where they have been psychologically affected in a negative manner of-course. He helps to bring them back to their true consciousness and finally see hope within Onizuka.
As we vaguely touched upon Onizuka, let’s talk more so about the characters of the show as that is the part which kills or makes the show well at least that’s the case for me. At first, Onizuka seems like your average perverted man who only seeks a job within a school to get his hands on girls and I’m not denying that as that is a certain fact but my lord, there is so much more to him than just that. I was actually one of the culprits that judged him as such in the first episode. I guess this is why you listen to the popular saying “Don’t judge a book by the cover” because that certainly holds true in this case. He was first shown to be a delinquent as highlighted by his blonde hair colour and one of the most known in the area as well. You’d probably be thinking how could such a guy be something more than a simple moron and most of all how could he even teach? About him being a simple moron, he is. There is certainly no doubt about that. But when the situation calls for it, my word, I’d listen to his words as law. His speech is dignified which makes even the most rebellious kids listen to all his honourable words. He is also quite cunning which is contradicted by his “dumb” looking appearance as his way of dealing with student is exemplary and he is willing to go to any measures which is what makes him such a likeable character. He certainly can’t teach, I’d certainly not want to learn any Maths from him, as he would probably end up teaching me Biology, who knows. But what he can teach is and very well at that is the aspect of righteousness. Look at the students of his in the beginning of the show and contrast it with the ending of the manga as the final two episodes of the anime are filler (42, 43). Tell me what you think. It’s truly remarkable what one man can do. No, let me correct myself, only Eikichi Onizuka can do.
Besides Onizuka, there are also other characters, whether they are Onizuka’s students or the his co-workers, his ex-gang friends or even the students’ family although let me tell you something, they are not very memorable as even I who is writing a review, have forgotten a few of their names which is quite bad, yes. It’s not just that though, it’s more like Onizuka steals so much spotlight from them. He’s truly the star of the show. Although, it’s really nice to see distinctive personalities in work as the show goes on, feels almost refreshing whilst most other shows get more stale and stale as each episode passes on. This is what GTO does so well, it really never gets old. New arc, new idea.
The art of the series is quite good especially for its time of June 1999. There really isn’t anything to specific to comment on except that the faces seem quite realistic, especially Onizuka’s. The animation, again is not bad, as you’d expect from an animation studio like Studio Pierrot, especially since it is a fairly old anime like stated above but it certainly doesn’t detract anything from the show in fact it quite suits it. If this show was made in this anime season, in my opinion, it would only make it worse since the atmosphere created in the original is quite incredible and it just flows so smoothly. The character designs just seem so right; it’s hard to word it even.
The sound of the show is obviously judged via its voice acting and its music. The voice acting in the sub is done brilliantly, credits to Wataru Takagi for Onizuka’s voice. It was splendid, perhaps one of the better of all the time. Yes, I said that. It really fit his rash personality. The voice acting for the other characters in the sub were also very good, namely Kunio and Kanzaki, whose voice fit perfectly for the role like Onizuka. However, the dub, simply said is really badly done, at least in comparison to the sub. This may be a biased judgement as I’m not particularly a fan of dub ever since I started watching anime in sub but David Lucas just didn’t do it for me in the role of Onizuka. But I’ll leave it there as I’d rather keep this as a review not a rant. Give me your feedback if you’re a dub watcher. The music of the show is really good. In fact, both of the openings “Hitori no Yoru” and “Driver’s High” are incredible and go at least within my top 50 anime songs. “Driver’s High” was also incredible in that it really showed the badass persona of Onizuka and in black and white. The endings weren’t too special for me, but went fine with the show. The OST was really good and appropriate for the settings provided as you’d expect. Nothing to complain there.
Overall, this show is a great anime although its concept is nothing unique and is full of excellent humour that you should be able to enjoy and is basically built around Onizuka who although comes off as a “simpleton” at first but in reality, he is truly a complex character in that he’s full of wisdom that you could incorporate for yourself but of-course with a comedic twist. It’s a fairly mature anime in that there are a lot of sexual connotations involved thus might not be so appropriate for a younger audience. This certainly doesn’t take anything away from this masterpiece however and I hope you are able to enjoy it.
Please, do feel free to leave your feedback on this review if you found this helpful or if I could improve in the future. Thanks and I hope you check this show out, you certainly won’t regret it! ¬¬¬
- Reviewed by Ezio..