Sunday, December 2, 2012

Anime Review: Great Teacher Onizuka

Hi there. I really have nothing much to say to start out this review. Only that my computer is craptastic, crashing every few hours or even every few minutes, even when there is nothing going on that would cause it to crash. Yeah, fun times. Anyway, this time I have something of a classic to review. Nearly everyone who has ever had any interest in anime probably have heard of Great Teacher Onizuka (or GTO) at some point in their hobby, but does this series hold up when one doesn't look at it with nostalgic eyes? Let's find out.

Onizuka: Educating tomorrow's leaders with a sledgehammer.
Eikichi Onizuka, 22 years old, single, former gang leader, high school dropout, and self-proclaimed Greatest Teacher in Japan. Despite his colorful history, Onizuka is determined to become a teacher no matter what. It doesn't matter that he was a part of a rather violent gang in his teenage years. It doesn't matter that he has only a C-average degree from a community college. It doesn't matter that he has a temper as short as the diameter of his bleached hair and a libido as large as his over developed muscles. He is determined to not only be a teacher, but the best teacher in the world. Why? Because he sees a problem with the current educational system. Teachers are more concerned with keeping up appearances and holding on to their jobs than actually teaching, students are spoiled brats who aren't taught what they really need to learn, and the ones who truly need help are the ones who fall through the cracks. Now Onizuka is hired at the Holy Forest Private Academy to teach Middle School Social Studies and is assigned to one of the most troublesome classes of the school. Can Onizuka turn these brats around, or will he fall victim to one of their schemes? It's all in a day's work for the Greatest Teacher in Japan.

You better get use to the ridiculous costumes and faces right now.
GTO is largely a comedy series with a lot of references and parodies. One episodes makes references to Doraemon, Fist of the North Star, and Initial D in very short succession. As such it makes sense why this series is popular even in the US during the early days of Anime Distribution. Knowing and understanding each reference is like a grading system for anime fans, and a way to have a subculture all to themselves. Of course other gags in the series require greater knowledge of Japanese history and Pop-culture which means you need some sort of "Translator Notes" nearby in order to get some of the more obscure references (fortunately, the Tokyopop release of the series have such Translator Notes with the Packaging). However, even if you don't get the referential humor, there is still the over-the-top antics of Onizuka to keep you entertained. Not only in his mannerisms and reacts to events (made better by Steve Blum's voice acting talents), but also the shear absurdity of some of the scenarios he finds himself in. Some of it is self-inflicted considering his own inept intelligence and hay-wired imagination. However, there is a heart to the character and to the series as a whole making it more than just a comedy series. Onizuka truly wants to help his students with their problems (even if he has to cause collateral damage do to it), and while his methods can only be described as madness, the end result is a lesson that is more meaningful than just memorizing facts.

I swear, I didn't know she was only 14.
Although, the series isn't without it's faults. Because of it's cheap localization budget, there are several times where you will have Steve Blum talking to Steve Blum while Wendee Lee's talking to Wendee Lee. Also, while Onizuka isn't a bad character (hell it would be really hard to enjoy the series if he was) I found him to be a very static character. Onizuka at the beginning of the series, is exactly the same as Onizuka at the end of the series, nothing changed with him. This is rather disappointing considering several of Onizuka's students do change. True most of them change from being antagonistic towards Onizuka to being friends, but even with that seemingly minor change you get to see different aspects of each character and how they evolved after dealing with their problems. Onizuka on the other hand doesn't change one bit. It would have been great to not only see a Teacher's effect on his Students, but also the Students' effect on their Teacher, demonstrating that it's not just a one way street. The fact that this never happened showed a great missed opportunity. And finally, the motivations of each of the students for their hatred of teachers seems really... dumb. Most of the time, their motivation is "One bad thing happened because of one teacher, therefore all teachers are evil." It's easy to see the logical fallacy of that line of thinking, and it would have been okay for one of the student's motivation (particularly if the student was highly emotional at the time) but to have that be the center of ALL of their motivations is just lazy story telling.

Great Teacher Onizuka is a fairly well-done series, and it is understandable why it got so popular. While it isn't perfect, it is certainly one of the better made series that was localized in the early days of anime distribution. However, the quantity of references coupled with a rather sense of humor that may not be for everyone and some missteps in overall storytelling does not insure that everyone who watches it will enjoy it. And so, it is just recommended.

Until next time.

-Crescent, It's great being a teacher.

No comments:

Post a Comment