Information "Also known as "Great Teacher Onizuka." Former juvenile delinquent Onizuka finds himself thrust into to role of high school teacher, facing students who behave just as he used to and an administration that doesn't trust him. Using the brash and unorthodox methods he picked up in his youth, Onizuka manages to reach through to his kids and help them with their problems." - IMDB
Based on the 1997 manga of the same name, "GTO" is a 12 episode Japanese drama that aired from July 7 to September 22, 1998. It contains a television special aired on June 29, 1999, and followed by a movie in January 2000. - Wikipedia
Background So, I initially wanted to do a review hub for GTO like Eva01, but I felt like it's kinda clunky to leave several threads for each episode, so I'm going to contain all my reviews here instead in separate posts.
Originally, I wanted to do a single review for the entire series, because episode reviews can be difficult if each episode doesn't have many interesting things to talk about. However, having seen the first episode, I now feel like I could do episode reviews for this because it has one of those "highlight/story of the day" kind of format, where a problem student is focused on for each episode. Even if that isn't the case in the future, I still think there's enough here to cover for episode reviews.
Do note that these reviews will be written without prior knowledge of the manga or anime (the latter of which was released after this series anyway).
It's been a long time since I saw this series. I was 8 years old when this was released in Japan, and perhaps a few years older when it was aired in Singapore. Couldn't remember a lot, but I did remember liking the unconventional ways Onizuka helped his students a lot. Only after rewatching this do I remember how much I liked it.
Episode 1 sees the introduction of biker/pervert Onizuka played by Takashi Sorimachi. In all honesty, looking at him now, he couldn't be more far off in looking like his manga counterpart. Black hair, tanned complexion, and a pretty bishounen face. He's nothing like Onizuka at all. Even as someone who has never read the manga, this does bother me a little bit, as it would've been more interesting to see someone gruff-looking acting as a teacher (which hopefully, the 2014 drama would provide - if I ever get around to watch it).
That being said, this episode is off to a great start. With mild difficulty, Onizuka manages to get hired as a teacher at a private academy. He begins immediately in helping out his students of Class 2-4. While there were two punks from the class that Onizuka had to get rough with using his underworld connections, the main highlight in this episode is a rich girl named Nanako Mizuki. Her parents are never around because they're fixated on making money in their respective businesses, and this has bred a rebellious streak in Nanako. In this pilot in particular, she and two other classmates tried to blackmail Onizuka (to no avail). Nanako later opens up to Onizuka and talks about her family, and how they barely see or talk to each other anymore.
Despite my earlier complaint about the casting, the writing of the episode easily made up for it. You would usually expect a raunchy comedy full of dirty jokes, but what we have here instead is interesting character developments on not only Onizuka, but also the supporting character of Azusa Fuyutsuki, a somewhat unconventional woman herself (by Japanese standards of how a "proper woman" should act anyway). She's a bit on the wild side, has a feisty attitude suppressed inside, and even partakes in Pachinko on her free time. Fitting partner to Onizuka if I've ever seen one.
More than that, the episode is also focused quite heavily on the drama side of things immediately, particularly Nanako's troubles and how Onizuka helps her out. Even when you take into account the two punks from earlier, the show quickly establishes what kind of teacher Onizuka is and how he's helping the students in a tough love, almost fatherly figure kind of way. As a troubled student back in the day who rarely received this kind of aid from any adult, this was quite a refreshing watch.
One thing I was initially bothered by when I first watched this as a kid was how the teachers and staff were so blatantly one-dimensional and so quick to suck up to the parents. As I grew up learning about Japanese ethics, however, I also learned that politeness is an important aspect of the Japanese culture, so much so that sucking up even in the face of bad parents might not be so unimaginable. Of course, the staff here is probably more concerned with the funding of the school than their national ethic. Still, it's an interesting element that the writers might have coincidentally touched on.
So, as someone who has seen clips of the anime filled with gratuitous ecchi, it's nice to see that the drama isn't as focused on that aspect. I won't spoil how he helps out Nanako (nor would I spoil about his aid of other students), but I'll say that it ends up being quite heartwarming, showing a lot of charm and promise for the future of this series.
Episode 2 - The Pervert Teacher and the Madonna Teacher
Another refreshing and heartwarming episode. I'm loving this series!
The second episode focuses on arrogant smart alec Yoshito Kikuchi (Yosuke Kubozuka). Unlike the manga counterpart, Kikuchi here doesn't wear glasses and has the same characteristic that defines most of the male characters in Japanese drama adapted from manga or anime - he's another pretty boy. That isn't much of an issue for me though, however. In recent days, we have come to stray away from the tired stereotypes that all nerds and geeks are bespectacled pimple-faces, so this casting merely made it more realistic.
In fact, I want to talk more about Takashi Sorimachi as Onizuka. Previously, I said that Onizuka's lack of similarity with his manga counterpart bothered me. Now, I would like retract that statement. Having seen Onizuka's motivational speech of the episode, I feel like the casting is right, and might have even made the character even more effective. Rather than being this stereotypical "dirty old man", he comes off as more of a big brother type of character, someone whom you could imagine as a high school drop out and is thus wiser for it, understanding the consequences and pains of being a delinquent. This is, again, a more realistic take on an otherwise stereotypical archetype, and I think I'm more satisfied with the casting now.
Speaking of casting, I would like to bring up Nanako Matsushima, who plays Azusa Fuyutsuki. You might remember her from Ringu. She was not bad in that, but I think she offers a much better performance here as the frustrated teacher who didn't even want to be a teacher in the first place (her dream was to be a stewardess). Unlike the manga, Onizuka is portrayed here as a drop out who (ironically) aspires to be a teacher, and this plays well to Azusa's character, a "proper" and well-respected teacher who wants to be anything but teaching. So, props to the writers who made this character change.
Azusa in this episode also displays a significant women's issue in Japan today, that women are still expected to act a certain way instead of being rambunctious or rowdy. While the series hasn't addressed this directly so far, you could still see that Azusa is trying to put up a false facade of politeness while keeping her real thoughts suppressed, unlike the male characters of the show who speak their mind freely.
Unlike the pilot that focused more on establishing Onizuka's personality and style as a teacher, the second one is reduced to a more light-hearted and comedic script, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The episode features some fairly comedic squabbles between Azusa and Onizuka as they team up together to convince Kikuchi to come back to school. Back then, I would criticize such comedic scenes as pointless and annoying, as I felt such scenes don't offer much in character development. The squabbles here between the two, however, have changed my perspective. Even with such hilarious moments, you could still learn the traits and desires of these two characters here, along with how they really feel about each other, so such moments are not all superfluous, and the writers here did a great job.
As always, the episode comes to a conclusion of Onizuka helping out a student with their problem (in this case, Kikuchi's indifference towards staying in an inferior school as opposed to one with better education and academics). It's formulaic storytelling, but it's nonetheless effective, as Onizuka still manages to bring out wise words that ring true in real life, words that would undoubtedly resonate with the audience quite well. It's not exactly the kind of false platitudes like "Friendship is wonderful", and his words are more like, "That's cheesy, but this guy's still got a point."
Unfortunately, the episode ends with a much darker turn, one which we have to learn how it unfolds in the next episode...
"To kill yourself doesn't take courage. It takes more courage to go on living!"
Due to the particular theme in this episode - bullying - this amazing episode touches on so many relevant topics that Japan faces in both schools and workplace. This is undeniably GTO's best episode so far.
Beginning from last episode's cliffhanger, we immediately touch on the sensitive subject of teen suicide and bullying in school. Like many issues in Japan, School bullying has always been an unresolved problem. Unfortunately, Japan as a culture prides itself in the status quo, so many problems like women's rights and bullying went on unsolved, and all people could hope for is the many J-drama that touch on these issues (particularly the latter) over and over again. Bullying has always been existent in Japanese high school drama and anime, so it was inevitable that a show about high school like GTO would touch on this. Episode 3 in particular offers a more idealistic but hopeful approach to how it might be resolved. It might be unrealistic, but it certainly warms one's heart and has the potential to spur people into taking action against these problems.
And the great thing about this episode is that it doesn't just touch on bullying at school - that's a common theme we've seen in many teen drama - but also touches on bullying at the workplace, particularly how women are bullied by men with greater power. In the case of this episode, it's Azusa Fuyutsuki being ordered around by her male co-workers as if she's the local waitress or secretary. While it's largely played off as comedic, there's a very clear emphasis on Azusa's inability to speak up for herself against such bullying by other men, and that's something very relatable not just in Japan, but all around the world.
The highlight of this episode is the introverted bully victim, Noboru Yoshikawa (Shun Oguri), and also another bully victim in the workplace, an elderly teacher teaching literature for Class 2-4. Being a bully victim myself, I sympathize greatly with the both of them, and just about everything portrayed here about their bullying circumstances is accurate, especially their inability to speak out against their bullies. This is doubly true in Japan, where Japanese are expected to adhere to the status quo, to care more for the collective at large than individualism, and therefore, to not do anything that might bring problems to others - including ruining someone's reputation. Thus, it can be difficult for the Japanese people to speak out against injustice, and bully victims suffer all the more for it.
Despite the heavy subject, the overall tone of the episode is still largely comedic and light-hearted. There's more banter between Onizuka and Azusa as the former coax the latter into speaking out against her co-workers (to no avail), to which she replied aptly, "You have no idea what a woman has to go through in the workplace." There was a fun bonding session where Onizuka shares ghost stories with his newfound student allies, including Noboru and the literature teach; the former even surpassed Onizuka in telling a scarier ghost story. Regarding Noboru's casting, once again, I'm glad they didn't just pick someone weak-looking and adhere to the stereotype. Instead, Oguri here had an innocent and boyish face, but still looked like he could defend himself if only he had the courage for it.
And something great I noticed amidst all these comedic moments is that, even though the show still tries to portray Onizuka accurately in his lewdness and perverse nature, it's not the main focus of the show and it merely feels like background dressing. I'm glad it's that way, that it's more strongly focused on the students' problems and the overall drama, but I'm sure many fans of the manga would be rather bothered by this.
The best part of the episode is definitely the ending. In spite of its idealism (which someone might even label as "shallow"), I feel that it's more inspiring than it is shallow. They didn't push it so much that the victims who stand up ended up being unbelievably courageous. Instead, there's a particularly realistic and heartbreaking moment at the end that hits just a bit too close to home that made it hard to watch, when evidence of the bullying was shown. It didn't say anything about how the bullying is magically solved because of their actions, so I wouldn't necessarily call the writers naive or shallow for it.
Being a formulaic and episodic series, the episode ends with yet another cliffhanger of sorts, this time not as shocking or disturbing. I feel like I'd be expecting these cliffs from now on though if they keep doing this.
"The most important thing for a woman, I think, is being able to have confidence in herself. Waiting for a prince in shining armor to come, that's no way for Nomura to spend her life." - Azusa Fuyutsuki
Continuing from the cliffhanger of last episode, episode 4 shows that the entire class of 2-4 (except those whom Onizuka befriended in previous episodes) have boycotted the class! As punishment, the director of the school is forced to cut Onizuka's salary by half while also taking away his end of the year bonus. As summer vacation approaches, Onizuka seeks ways in making up for that money by recommending shy and air-headed girl, Tomoko Nomura (Miki Kuroda) in joining an idol contest. The problem is, Miyabi Aizawa (Aimi Nakamura) from the same class is joining, and she looks to be a sure winner!
Oh boy, oh boy. I have mixed feelings about this episode, as it contains some of the worst elements of Japanese shows (anime or live action)... and also some of the best. As you know, creepy sexual humor is abundant in Japanese media, especially with Japan's loose promiscuity about the concept of sex. This episode takes that to the next level with a scene involving a fantasy of statutory rape. Yeah... Real uncomfortable (and dated) in this day and age, I'm afraid. There's also a scene where Tomoko, having been brought to Onizuka's house to meet the makeover artists for the idol competition, mistook that he was going to enter her into an "Adult Video"... basically "pornography" in Japan. Yikes! So many warning bells ringing here.
Having seen these moments, I almost wanted to dismiss any scenes I've previously seen tackling women's issues in Japan, specifically those involving Azusa's frustrations about adhering to the status quo of how a woman should act like. I felt like they were merely played for laughs and not taken seriously. There were conversations about how her clothing is too "flashy" for a teacher in a comedic light, and I barely thought much of it by that point because I thought it's all for mere comedy's sake.
Thankfully, this was not really the case in this episode. It might be hypocritical of the writers, but they did manage to incorporate the theme of how a woman should have the confidence to be herself regardless of the dated culture on women's proper behavior, largely through Tomoko's struggle to find her own voice and individuality throughout the episode. The teachers tried to suppress her more adorable side in class (trying to convert her into a "proper Japanese woman"), but both Onizuka and Azusa managed to encourage her to remain true to herself.
Azusa also has a nice character moment where we learn more about her childhood complex, how she used to be unconfident like Tomoko and tried to imitate everybody else before she came to like herself more (through the aid of a teacher no less). I enjoyed her involvement in this episode, because it felt like she was trying to help Tomoko the same way her teacher aided her. We don't really get to see Azusa participate much in Onizuka's crusade to help his students, so it's nice to see her being involved in a storyline that's more personal to her.
Furthermore, the end of the episode features yet another tearjerking moment (these seem to be abundant in this show), yet again involving Onizuka's wise words, but Tomoko's speech is the main reason for the "feels" here. As someone who isn't very confident myself, her words kinda made me tear up a little bit. Okay, a lot. This show really knows how to hit you in the feels.
The uncomfortable sexual humor aside, this could've easily been at least the second best episode of the series. But I suppose that when you have a pervert main character like Onizuka in the story, these things come with the territory and they are expected elements.
Summer has arrived in this fifth episode, and that means even in a J-drama, we need to have an obligatory summer episode. However, this episode isn't anything like your fanservice summer episodes you'd find in an anime. Instead, things take a more creepy turn as the spotlight turns on the math teacher, Yuu Teshigawara (Kunihiko Ida), who's revealed to have a dangerous obsession with Azusa Fuyutsuki.
Unfortunately, things become predictable from there. This is easily the weakest episode of the series thus far. Aside from the majority of the episode being a bore with nothing interesting happening, the writing can be summarized with the word, "lazy". Whenever the subject of sexual assault comes into play, it's a well-known fact that many writers handle the subject poorly and in a lazy fashion. This is one of those cases, especially when Azusa is presented as a victim who needs to be saved. This pretty much nullified all the prior strong writing tackling women's issues in Japan, especially when Teshigawara here is not arrested for his crimes, and it really shows how dated this '90s drama really is.
That said, there is some (very little) decent character development going on. We have more funny banter between Onizuka and Azusa, showcasing the great chemistry between Sorimachi and Matsushima. The conversation ironically involves Onizuka calling out Azusa for using men like playthings, and this becomes more relevant later, when he criticizes her for comparing all men to her friend's high-status boyfriends, claiming "Love isn't just about status!" Even though I felt that it was bad writing to use Azusa's victimization to present Onizuka in a positive light, I have to admit that it is kinda nice to see that even Onizuka, despite being a massive pervert, has proper standards as a gentleman. I just wish it could've been shown some other way.
Episode 6: The Dangerous Teacher Who Puts Out His Hand to a Student's Mother
After that previous "very special episode" of GTO, we (thankfully) return to the usual formula of Onizuka tackling his student's problems in this episode. This time, it's rebellious cool boy with a knife's edge of a death stare, Kunio Murai (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi).
When I first saw this series as a kid, I remember that Kunio was the second toughest student Onizuka had to crack, right before Miyabi the head honcho. IIRC, Kunio won't fully reform till the final episode. And throughout the episode, we learn why this is so: Kunio's father was a biker like Onizuka, and more importantly, he has a past tragedy involving a teacher, which increased Kunio's mistrust of teachers in general. Things don't get better for Kunio this episode when Onizuka started to become close to her mother, even going out on dates with her.
One thing I realized about Onizuka (or at least this live action version of him) is that he likes to push his students' buttons to understand them, and this whole "pervert teacher" shtick is just a facade. In fact, the more I watched this series, the more I couldn't picture him as the stereotypical dirty old man from the manga. He just comes off as way too street smart for that, someone with years of wise experience on what it means to be at the lowest points of life. And it's made me respect him a lot. Previously, I had assumed that this is just a comic character who accidentally solves his students' problems, but of course, I was wrong, and perhaps he does truly live up to the title of the show - a great teacher indeed who planned from Day One to aid his students.
Much like a lot of the past episodes, this one treads into rather heavy subjects as well, particularly the Japanese's idealistic views on bikers. It's common knowledge that bikers and gangsters in Japan were sometimes worshiped as antiheroes who protect the weak. Kunio in this episode, however, calls out on his father's selfishness in playing biker instead of caring for his family. And to be honest, I kinda wish they gave Kunio's argument more of a platform to stand on. I know a lot of these Japanese shows are going to end up praising these bikers and calling them heroes who were in the right, but it would be nice to see the other side of the argument once in a while, to ask the hard question of whether if they were merely glorified criminals. But this episode didn't go somewhere like that and ended up being quite predictable. The way the "problem of the day" is resolved isn't as powerful as the previous episodes either.
But that isn't to say I dislike the episode. Kunio did make some strong arguments about how Onizuka and his ilk are just foolish thugs wasting their lives away, and Onizuka did prove (in a way) why men like him and Kunio's father are respected and looked up to, especially when he later risked his life to protect Kunio. And honestly, I like Kunio's character in this. Initially, I thought he looked like someone who could kill you if you stare at him the wrong way. But it turns out he's just a kid with baggage like the other students. A talented kid at that.
This episode also sheds light on P.E. teacher, Hajime Hakamada (Masahiro Kobayashi), who attempted to reach out to Kunio to make himself look better in the eyes of Azusa. At the start of the episode, I was initially going to call him a "lovable jock", but by the end of it, when he did something quite appalling, I just lost all respect for him like with the other teachers. It's annoying though, that all the teachers here aside from Azusa and Onizuka are either morally questionable, selfish, or just plain unlikable. It makes for a very boring cast of characters, leaves very few reasons to care about them, and not to mention making the story rather unrealistic.
That being said, I do like that the episode isn't wrapped up cleanly with a bow like the others, and Kunio's problem remains unresolved. It's still sloppy writing, but at least it's somewhat different this time.
My Movie Reviews Watching: Kino's Journey (2017), Tonari no Seki-kun, Zankyou no Terror
Episode 7: The Teacher Who Does Compensated Dating
This episode, we focus on Chikako Oshima (Minami Shirakawa), one of Miyabi Aizawa's cheerleader "posse". You know the kind; they are the girls who would follow the "mean girl" around in high school drama. Unfortunately, Chikako isn't originally from the manga, so she's an original character. I suppose that, to fill up the 12 episode slot, they needed to take time to focus on non-manga characters every once in a while (much like in episode 5). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can often lead up to mediocre writing when they don't have a source material to guide them.
The theme of the episode focuses on money, including Miyabi and her posse's attempt at conning men of their money in compensated dating, as well as Chikako's father being forced into an illegal financial situation. Initially, I had assumed that the first situation was going to be resolved in a less than tasteful manner, considering how the previous episodes dealt with the subject of sex. But fortunately, as opposed to Chikako conning a bad man she shouldn't have (and giving us a predictable storyline), Onizuka was the one she cons (or tried to) instead, and he offers her both the cash and wise words about the superficiality of money.
Personally, I did feel that this episode was a bit mawkish about the value of money, especially when they brought up the subject of recession in Japan. I understand why they tried to frame the story that way, but it just felt... awkward, and fairly unrealistic at that. Not only that nobody would throw away such a large amount of money (teenagers especially), it just seems like a stupid thing to do, regardless of what your point about money is. It all feels like a Saturday morning special on Sesame Street is all I'm saying.
On one hand, I could understand why Chikako is as infuriated as she was about her father's actions, considering that Japanese have such stringency about a tarnished reputation. Being caught in a crime, no matter how petty, can be very embarrassing for the Japanese people, so they are especially sensitive about that, even the children.
On the other hand, it's still quite a mediocre episode. I just feel that the message this time isn't as well-written or powerful as the previous ones, treading schmaltzy territory. Much like the other "original content" episode, episode 5, this is yet another weak episode.
That being said, the ending does leave much anticipation, as Onizuka is finally confronted by the president of the PTA we've all heard so much about previously in the show: Miyabi's mother, Reiko Aizawa.
Episode 8: The Teacher Who was Fired in the Opening Ceremony of the Second Semester
Finally, GTO has returned to form! This is one of the best episodes in a while.
Episode 8 is about Miyabi's mother, Reiko Aizawa (Reiko Tajima), and her crusade as the president of the PTA to have Onizuka fired and Miyabi's posse, Chikako Oshima (Minami Shirakawa) and Erika Tsukushima (Tomoka Hayashi), expelled (because of their inappropriate participation in compensated dating in the previous episode). Meanwhile, Onizuka deals with the situation in his usual unorthodox fashion - by spending the entire day having fooling around with Chikako and Erika.
I think this episode contains easily one of the strongest writing in the series, as you could really feel the culmination of all the build-up since the beginning when you see all the bonds Onizuka built with the students pay off greatly at the end. We also finally get to learn the reason why Miyabi is hateful towards adults and teachers in general, and it is a particularly sympathetic story involving corrupted adults. Coincidentally, it also involves another student named Takeshi being expelled because of a corrupted system.
Previously, I mentioned that I was bothered by how most of the teachers were unlikable human beings as it makes for an unrealistic setting. But the way it's written here in this episode, however, it's more about kids feeling betrayed by lying adults who are too busy playing politics with each other to give a damn about the children's feelings. That's something that's very relatable today, especially in America and what is happening with the "Never Again" movement. And even in Japan, I would imagine that with all the sucking up going up to uphold their reputation, such corruption among the ranks probably isn't too uncommon either in the country.
In spite of most teachers here being one-dimensional villains, it does make Onizuka look better and more inspiring as a teacher. Onizuka is at his most heroic and coolest here as he puts in a lot of effort in fighting the system (sometimes literally), not only to keep Chikako and Erika from being expelled, but also to ensure they have a great time before they are forced to leave school.
We also get to see Azusa finally speaking up against the other teachers. It's nice to see that it's only when other students are put at risk that finally pushes Azusa to speak her mind. It probably wouldn't be as special a moment if she had spoken out before for herself, so this is a nice writing here. Good to see Azusa finally becoming her own person. I also love that she compares the two students' expulsion to Takeshi here, calling out the other students' hypocrisy in letting yet more of their classmates getting kicked out of school.
I hope GTO could continue to keep this momentum up for the rest of the series. This is the most "feel-good" episode I've seen so far, and it shows that idealistic values don't have to be unrelatable or cheesy. Bravo.
Episode 9: The Teacher Who Has Students Withdraw from School By Force
Tomoko is scouted for an idol talent school! Unfortunately, it's overseas, which means she has to choose between dropping out of school or abandoning her dreams. Naturally, Onizuka would pull all stops in ensuring Tomoko not suffer the regret of giving up her dream, even if it means he has to enforce some tough love on her.
This was a surprisingly endearing episode for me. I'll be honest - Tomoko just isn't that interesting as a character for me, nor is her dream. But the writers here manage to keep me engaged nonetheless with some very heartwarming moments at the end showing the bonds of friendship Tomoko shares with her classmates, especially Miyabi. And to see this once air-headed girl mature into an independent woman confident in herself is inspiring. There are many storylines in both anime and J-drama where becoming an idol is either treated as comedic content or just superfluous in nature, so it's nice to see the issue here being taken seriously, and questions about whether if a student should abandon her duties are being asked.
In fact, that's why I enjoyed the down-to-earth conversation between Miyabi and Tomoko, where the former warns her about the consequences of becoming an idol. I particularly liked what she said about idols becoming successful only because they were trained from a young age instead of starting from older age like Tomoko. For a drama show, GTO has many moments with very grounded and practical moments like this that caught me by surprise.
Also in the spotlight is Azusa. As she help Tomoko reach a decision, she too struggle with her own ambition of being an air stewardess - with a little push from Onizuka's wise words about having more confidence and not waiting for a miracle to arrive. This was quite a significant episode for her as well as she takes yet another step in growth as a character.
As we near the conclusion of the series, you can see the story becoming heavier and more emotional. I feel like the last few episodes are really going to have some serious stakes that would make it difficult to take my eyes off the screen. Here's hoping.
Episode 10: The Teacher Who Gets Excited Over Staying at Fuyutsuki's Room
The staff of Seirin Institute is trying to get Onizuka fired again. This time, they force him to take an exam alongside the students and score at least a cumulative amount of 400 points (80 marks per subject)! Azusa thus decided to tutor Onizuka for the rest of the week with a strict schedule that results in hilarious moments. The other subplot of the episode involves Miyabi meeting a Takeshi lookalike who has his own schemes with the girl. This latter subplot, unfortunately, leads to a rather predictable storyline.
The 1998 GTO has often had some rather edgy and graphic scene involving sex, with Onizuka coming out (ironically) the only gentleman among lowlife scums. I don't mind that they were trying to make their main character look good, but I still feel like it's fairly lazy writing and hurts the series more than it helps it, especially with this episode. I don't know why a number of Japanese drama shows like "GTO" and "Life" like to portray these high society elite students as despicable and sex-craved bastards. It's cliched, and the shock factor doesn't produce very shocking or surprising results. It's eye-rolling, if anything. But in GTO's defense, unlike "Life", this was produced in the '90s, so at least the dated content made some semblance of sense (though the Life manga was technically released only five years after the GTO manga).
But I could understand the need for a clear and unapologetic villain. Not every villain needs to be ambiguous. Sometimes, you just need a shallow plot device to make the hero look good. It's still lazy writing, but I could understand why. It's when the supporting characters whom you are supposed to care about, a woman no less, become one of the plot device in making the main hero look good that becomes a bigger problem than mere lazy writing.
It also doesn't help when Onizuka in the episode attempted to kiss a sleeping Azusa... Yeah. It's that kind of show. It's probably funnier watching this in anime form where perverse behavior is the norm, but in live action, it's just downright disturbing, especially in politically correct 2018.
I remember a review for the GTO manga commenting that the series is about chivalry and how a proper man should behave. It might be a dated concept, even in Japan, but I could appreciate the kind of story they are trying to tell through Onizuka. And because such chivalry is the main subject of the story, I guess Onizuka being portrayed as a hero among one-dimensional fiends and a plot-device cast is probably inevitable. Writing the story any other way can be challenging and creates a lot of problems. On the other hand, with a series that tries to incorporate realistic and relatable topics about Japanese culture, such cartoonish chivalry seems contradictory as well, and it doesn't work well as a story.
Having said all that, it's hard to completely hate this episode because Onizuka is indeed quite cool and heroic in this episode, and that surprise cliffhanger at the end was shocking and so very memorable. It's probably the only thing I remembered about the show as a kid. Just one of the examples where the series becomes very graphic and gritty. It's also nice to see that Onizuka is capable of studying well when he puts effort into it, proving what I believed all along, that he's not stupid, just lazy and thick-headed (traits that many Japanese shows like to associate with their male protagonist, especially in anime).
My Movie Reviews Watching: Kino's Journey (2017), Tonari no Seki-kun, Zankyou no Terror
Episode 11: The Violent Teacher Who was Scolded By a Beautiful Nurse
It all comes down to this, the penultimate episode. All the build-up has led to this moment!
After being injured due to events in the previous episode, Onizuka is hospitalized. Meanwhile, great forces are once again trying to get Onizuka fired - and this time, they might actually be successful. With their hands tied, Onizuka's allies are forced to watch as the corrupted bureaucrats finally dismiss their beloved GTO.
This episode was once again a tear-inducing one, with all the love Onizuka poured onto his students bearing fruit. It's a heartfelt moment that even has the usually stoic and emotionless Kikuchi crying out for his teacher. As heartwarming as those final moments were, however, it's unfortunately burdened with those same one-dimensional caricatures playing villains. The system is so corrupted and their ability to get away with it so unbelievable that the story comes off as sloppy and hackneyed. In fact, it recycles the same tired cliches as many high school drama - morally bankrupt teachers with agendas of greed, sociopathic bullies who are either rapists or murderers, and mean girls with a heart of gold deep inside. I know what I said about corruption being existent in Japan, but this is really pushing the envelope.
But if I can be honest, there's a side of me who just don't want to care about all of those problems, good writing or otherwise. GTO, Onizuka and his students have this charm that make me simply root for the hero beating the bad guys. And sometimes, I guess that's enough. It's easy for me to call out on the structural problems of the story, to call out on its political incorrectness, to just criticize all those things for criticism's sake... but frankly, I still enjoyed the show in spite of those problems. So does that make it a bad show, if I still enjoyed myself?
In spite of his occasional disturbing behavior around women (Azusa included), I have a lot of respect for Onizuka. I love his interactions with his students, and I love seeing those students express their gratitude for all that this great teacher has done for them. And I love to see Onizuka's allies like Azusa and that one soft-spoken literature teacher I still can't remember the name of, the good guys, fighting for what is right. There's a lot of things to like here in this episode in spite of what I said earlier.
In the future, I'll probably look back and said, "Eh, this series could have been written better." But I highly doubt I would hate this adaptation. I think I would remember it fondly.
After Onizuka's termination from Seirin Institute, the school is bought out by the head of another school and is being torn down! It's up to both students and teachers of Seirin to protect the school that they cherish.
So as you can tell from the premise, the storyline is rather trite. Defending a school from being torn down by an evil corporation isn't the freshest story you would hear. Nevertheless, it works. There are a lot of problems regarding the antagonists of the show turning a new leaf in protecting the school (especially certain attempted rapists who got away scot-free), but you know what? I just couldn't care anymore. When I look back, I feel that it's fair to say the good of this show outweighs the bad, this episode included. Teshigawara aside, it was nice to see the other teachers who once criticized Onizuka finally acting like passionate teachers (thanks in part to Azusa spurring everyone into action by questioning why they wanted to be teachers in the first place). It feels like the kind of obligatory character development that would only arrive at the last episode, but whatever, it works for me. Even the head teacher, Hiroshi Uchiyamada, finally shows his awesome side and delivered an inspiring speech about the laws in Japan being broken.
Also awesome is the fact that the once timid literature teacher, Makoto Fujitomi (Baku Numata), finally speaks out for himself. Again, it felt like a "final episode" moment, but it's a nice moment. Meanwhile, Azusa finally approaches her dream of being an air-stewardess, but she still struggles in her decision to remain a teacher. I won't spoil too much, but the teacher who once didn't want to be anything but a teacher has a significant character development by the end of the episode. Being the final episode, there's also naturally some very romantic moments between her and Onizuka we've been waiting for sooooo long to see.
Overall, I think this final episode has a bigger focus on the supporting characters than Onizuka himself, which is appropriate, considering how the other teachers have a total lack of character development throughout the entire series, Azusa aside. It's more of a "wrap up" episode to tie all the loose ends, so it's not a very amazing episode. However, while I did want the series to go out with a bigger bang (like having each student Onizuka helped reflect on their experience or something), and while the last episode isn't as emotional or impactful as the previous ones, it's still a solid conclusion to the series that gives everyone proper closure - which is more than I could say for other drama series that leave it at an "ambiguous ending".
It's been one long lesson, and I'm glad I got to attend it. Great Teacher Onizuka (1998) - COMPLETE! Go check out the series, everyone. It's not a perfect drama, but it has a lot of heartfelt moments worth checking out. For me, I can't wait to watch the special and the movie!
Plot Summary In this drama special, Onizuka is assigned to an all-girls school as a substitute teacher! In the usual Onizuka fashion, he helps three students with their relationship problems. The main focus among these three girls is Rika Yamaguchi who has a complex history with an ex-teacher... Meanwhile, Azusa struggles to convince her father that Onizuka is the right man for her.
Review Man, they really know how to liven up a special.
This special has everything I love about specials, in that it adds meaningful content to the main series. Usually, I'm bothered by specials because oftentimes, the writers don't know what to do with them and thus turn them into superficial fanservice episodes or fill the screentime up with dumb comedic moments. This special, on the other hand, brings back together all the supporting characters and shows us how they are leading on with their lives. And it's not just Onizuka's students from Seirin Academy either, as the new character development also extends to the teachers. In a way, it's almost like a continuation of the series, which is nice, because I did feel that the last episode of the main series was in a bit of hurry to tie up all the loose ends.
I love that the whole gang of students we know and love from the main series have come back - including Tomoko! There are some very interesting developments among these older students' love lives, making this special a definite must-watch! Unfortunately for Onizuka, his own love life is facing crisis in this special, and he stumbles a lot in his attempt to please Azusa's father.
Meanwhile, with Onizuka being assigned to another school, we get to see him tackling new students and their new problems, specifically a student with a past affair with an ex-teacher, Rika Yamaguchi (Nana Katase). There's yet another attempted sexual assault scene here, which hardly surprises me anymore, and it's even more intense than before. Fortunately, it didn't last long and was barely the main focus.
The central theme of the episode is about love, and what it takes to achieve happiness in a love life. Instead of throwing around mawkish platitudes like how true love conquers all, the subject matter is handled quite realistically by the writers this time round. I also like how the writers subverts Onizuka's style of solving problems in the main series. Without spoiling anything, let's just say Onizuka's recklessness doesn't produce ideal results this time. From these good points, you could feel that this is truly a special episode, and that the writers put in extra effort to make it just as good or better than the main series.
But in spite of the solid writing for the new students, I still feel that the best part about the special is still the character growth the older supporting characters go through. There's just a warm feeling seeing Onizuka finally getting along with all of his Seirin Academy students who used to mistrust him. We didn't get to see such light-hearted moments near the end of the main series because it was too focused on wrapping the story up, especially where Miyabi is concerned since she was the last student Onizuka helped.
Worth mentioning is two special actors from the live action Death Note movies I love - Nana Katase as Rika who would go on to play Kiyomi Takada, and Shigeki Hosokawa as Takeda who would go on to play Raye Penber.
Ironically enough, more than the last episode of the main series, this special has reignited my interest in GTO more than ever! It's a shame this is the only special of the series, as I wouldn't mind seeing a slice-of-life spin-off with just Onizuka and his Seirin Academy students, just having fun together. That was a delight to watch in this special.
Plot Summary "Picking up from where the special left off, Onizuka is hired as a substitute teacher in yet another school, this time at Horobonai, a small rural town in Hokkaido. Ever since the closing of the local theme park, Horobonai has fallen into an economic tailspin, and many of the town's teenagers have sunk into a deep depression. Onizuka, however, isn't the sort of person who respects the town's newly somber personality. Willing to mouth off to both his students and his superiors, Onizuka isn't much of a teacher, but he knows how to get people's attention, and soon his brash style (and willingness to kick a few butts) brings new life to Horobonai." - MyDramaList
Review There is a concern I always had about movies adapted from a TV drama - it's rarely good. I think this is especially true among Japanese drama, like Liar Game, another disappointing movie that's an embarrassment to the TV series. I don't know the reason this is so, I could only presume. I presume that they needed an excuse for a movie (because every popular thing needs a big-screen something), so they just came up with whatever. Going into GTO, while I was pleased with the main series and the special in spite of their flawed writing, I had that same concern about this movie being bad... And boy, did it live up to my cynicism.
But first, let me get this straight - this isn't a terrible movie. It's just very blend and average, much like many movies spun off from TV series. I had to stop watching halfway and take a break because I got so bored. If you are aware of GTO in any form, then you pretty much know how this movie is going to go down. Onizuka comes into town, cause some trouble, helps a select few students with their problems because he doesn't have enough time in the one and half hour movie to help everyone, and then everyone would realize what a nice guy and a great teacher he really is, the end.
What usually made the formula interesting in the TV series is how the students' problems were relatable issues we would care about - bullying, death of a friend, being discouraged from pursuing your dreams, betrayal by your loved ones, etc, etc. This time round, however, the hard-hitting sob story just didn't really do anything for me emotionally. It's about a girl, Ayano Katsuragi (Rena Tanaka) whose father's bad reputation got all her classmates to ostracize her. On paper, this has potential for a nice story, but Ayano is just so unlikable and self-entitled, practically whiny - and this is in comparison to the rest of the rotten eggs we've seen in the TV series! And the way the problem was resolved is just so anti-climatic and boring. Being a big-screen movie, you would think that the solution to the problem of the day would be on a bigger and more dramatic scale.
There were also some subplots about supporting characters I could barely care about either. A timid student, Raku (Hideyuki Kasahara) who is bullied (which is resolved quickly) falls in love with Ayano and struggles to confess his feelings, and Kaoru (Norika Fujiwara), a reporter in pursuit of the next big scoop misidentifies Onizuka as a serial criminal on the run. Both subplots are uninteresting and lead to predictable outcomes. The acting of these new stars isn't the greatest either.
But what really drove the final nail in the coffin is the overarching plotline of the school being at risk of getting torn down - again! Isn't this the same plotline from the final episode of the TV series? In fact, we've seen this premise countless times even in American teen movies! How the evil corporations threaten to tear down the poor children's school and they rally together against the mean money-grubbing adults! Hell, there's even a clock tower (also getting torn down) thrown into the mix here! A clock tower! How many clock towers getting torn down have we seen already in these kinds of movies?
You know what I said in my episode review of the TV series, about how the problems with the writing were made up with the charm and the warmth between Onizuka and his students? That warm feeling was the result of 12 episodes of build-up, something this movie unfortunately could never achieve. I wouldn't have been bothered so much if this movie was about one of the older Seirin Academy students from the TV series getting in trouble again. That would at least involve characters I could care about.
It's unfortunate that the end to the 1998 GTO adaptation is so uninspired and lackluster instead of going out with a bang. Here's hoping the 2012 remake (which I am going to watch some time in the near future) will bring something new and refreshing to the table.
Great job on the reviews. I have never seen any live action Japanese drama shows ever. I did see GTO anime but never finished it. I wish I can comment on the reviews. I just show my support if you welcome it or not.
What are the advantages of a live action TV show over the anime counterpart?
I definitely promote this on the Anime Vice's social media sites.
Great job on the reviews. I have never seen any live action Japanese drama shows ever. I did see GTO anime but never finished it. I wish I can comment on the reviews. I just show my support if you welcome it or not.
What are the advantages of a live action TV show over the anime counterpart?
I definitely promote this on the Anime Vice's social media sites.
Thanks for the kind words. I definitely welcome your support!
The advantages of a live action TV show... Well, I feel that when it comes to live action drama, they often tend to be more grounded and realistic than their hyperbolic anime counterpart. With live action, the bigger draw is also the acting, which like I said in my Death Note review, can be the main factor that entertains you rather than the familiar story you already know. I am very often fascinated by Japanese live action adaptations of anime because of this key factor, because it's interesting to see the expressions and emotions of real people, not animated ones, in the larger than life kind of situations from the anime. I feel like it's easier sometimes to relate to (or cry to) a live action actor that way (like in the case of Death Note). We as people are around real people for so often that it's easy to have this empathetic connection with them when we see them on-screen. Depending on the production quality, live action movie adaptations can also have better looking visuals than the anime (but definitely not live action TV shows, unfortunately).
Thanks for the promotion! I'll work hard to improve the quality of these reviews.
Taka: Welcome to Anime Vice. Please check the battle rules. It's best to make a battle thread in the forums not the chat box.
Sept 17, 2020 0:56:16 GMT
Old Man Dream: Update with Three Callaberos. Only about halfway through it at the moment. Because it's a package film with a series of animated shorts, been taking my time getting through it this past week. Never got around to seeing it last night since I got swamped...
Sept 17, 2020 15:44:16 GMT
Old Man Dream: ...in my freelance work. But will try to get through it as I have time to do so.
Sept 17, 2020 15:44:42 GMT
Old Man Dream: Done with Three Callaberos. See if I can do some sort of review for it tonight or if not, tomorrow at the latest.
Sept 18, 2020 1:21:34 GMT