GTO – episodes 1 to 6

November 16, 2004 on 6:34 pm | In GTO | 1 Comment

Comedy is funny. This is the lesson that GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka teaches us. There are some other things that can be learned about society and schools, but comedy is the key.

Onizuka Eikichi, 22 years old, is an ex-biker who wishes to be a high-school teacher. After passing the student-teaching period, he goes on to win a place at a private school teaching the biggest problem class in its history. Over the course of these six episodes, Onizuka reacts to blackmail, foils two suicide attempts, uncovers a photoshopping circle and is called before the PTA. That’s not even counting all of the Crestas he goes through.

GTO is a comedy about one man who wants to come good, and also to marry a sixteen year old at age forty. These two objectives seem to clash initially, and soon enough Onizuka realises that his second plan is not entirely practical. Thereafter he aims to make school fun, but not in any lousy patronising way: despite his class being full of delinquents, Onizuka takes it in his stride, and vows never to tell his students that they are no good. Basically Onizuka had a rough time of it in high school and does not want it to be the same for anyone else.
So while Onizuka has his comedic moments with night-time exorcisms and bathing in hallway sinks, he also deals with very serious issues such as bullying and sexual blackmail and Playstation games. Onizuka is an excellent character because he makes hilarious faces with great frequency, as well as knowing exactly what to do … eventually.

Onizuka even has a nemesis, Vice Principal Uchiyamada – whom he met in a lecherous incident on the bus. Uchiyamada is a fantastic character for laughing at, and his constant failures are the source of much levity. However, the writers have made none of this cruel. Somehow, despite his homicidal wishes towards Onizuka’s career, the Vice Principal is sympathetic. His home life is shown from time to time, and all of his actions can be seen to spring from there. This adds an extra depth to what would have been pretty damned funny itself gains another layer because it can be understood.

This series is full of vital social issues, and Onizuka is a reformed character who won’t doubt the power of redemption. The problem here is that some of these characters do things so bad that they don’t seem redeemable – perhaps this is proof that Onizuka is a better man than I. The school life is shown as a scene that does indeed have a darker side, including the rarely discussed notion of female bullies (as in girls that actually beat up guys). GTO is definitely interesting for anyone who has recently been through the school system. Or maybe it’s always been like this and will have universal appeal. That’s entirely possible. Whether funny or ponderous, this series is always worth watching.

The cast is great, with Takagi Wataru kicking total arse as Onizuka. The ultimate proof of this is his “Terror Shumai” story delivery, which shows beyond doubt that he is perfect for the role. Nagashima Yuichi is marvellous as the eternally-suffering Uchiyamada, bringing a boundless vitality and an unequalled energy for meaningless rambling. The rest of the cast is filled out by some fairly big names and some obscure ones as well, but they are all enjoying their work and bring Holy Forest Academy to life.
Onizuka refers to himself always in the third person: “Onizuka Eikichi, 22 years old”. This is not quite translated in TOKYOPOP’s subtitles, and the dub changes Uchiyamada’s motives to something more selfish. It’s a pity, but everything else is good.
The production is cheap, but not in a bad way. From 1999, GTO was made at the turning point from celwork to digital. The OP is digital with some CG thrown in along the way, but the body of the episodes is made up almost entirely of cels. The traditional money saving techniques of sweat drops and stupid faces are all over the place, and bring a lot of character to proceedings. The general energy of the production makes any poor animation unnoticeable and ultimately negligible.

GTO is great – it’s episodic yet each episode leads into the next. It’s one big story of excellent school life. Onizuka definitely makes school fun. By not actually seeing what he teaches, you can’t judge him by his technique in that regard. But to make his students laugh with him and respect him Onizuka Eikichi, 22 years old, is doing a great job.

1 Comment

  1. Rarely is something so perverted, so funny and endearing.

    Comment by Matt — January 19, 2006 #

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