Great Teacher Onizuka
Eikichi Onizuka had come to a crossroads in his life. He had come to Tokyo years ago and had been in a biker gang ever since. But at some point a guy needs to make a bit more out of himself. Onizuka had an epiphany one day - to be in a place loaded with cute young girls. The place was somewhere he had often skipped out of himself: school. Onizuka decides that he will become a teacher.
During his initial trials Onizuka finds that he is indeed capable of being a teacher, but finding an actual job is another question. It was fortunate for him that he did eventually manage to find a private school in need of a teacher of unusual talents. And so Onizuka became the new teacher for class 3-4, a class which had driven one teacher to suicide, another to a cult, and another to a nervous breakdown. Even for a former gang member, this wasn't going to be easy.
But Onizuka is determined to stick with teaching. To make school not only a place for students to learn, but a place for students to have fun. In keeping them from being bored, he hopes that they will not fall into being a thug as he had in his own youth. But each student in the class is a new battle, and a completely different challenge. Challenge is a good thing however, as it separates those who simply teach, and those who become GREAT teachers.
Despite the buzz on this anime, I would say I'm a late comer in checking into this title. It did probably raise my expectations of it a bit though. And I was not too surprised to find that I actually did like this title quite a bit. Well the guy becomes a teacher so he can check out school girls - a guy who thinks like me, so how bad could it be?
Well actually that's a funny thing because there are a LOT of potential pitfalls for this sort of show to dive into, and the history of anime is littered with crap titles that took a good idea and basically turned them into a load of junk. Not so with GTO. First of all Onizuka NEVER becomes polished and you never mistake him for someone more cultured. In this sense Onizuka "keeps it real" as opposed to just becoming a premise that the anime doesn't actually stick to. Onizuka also goes into teaching for the girls, but he doesn't really end up being a lecher teacher like you'd think. In the end it seems like he finds he has morals and really wants to become a great teacher and someone who makes a difference in the lives of his students.
Probably the biggest trap for this anime would be in the problem solving department. During each episode I always expected Onizuka to just beat the crap out of everyone. If someone is giving you trouble, just kick their ass and be done with it. He doesn't do that however, which is actually pretty cool. You see Onizuka solves problems, but it's often in a rather insightful way, and his methods actually seem plausible instead of the load of BS you would expect. By disarming each situation, he wins over students in a way that you could actually see happening instead of glossing over that part - and lets face it, that's the real core of the story here.
The characters were also very good. All of them have very distinct personalities but isn't just a tired old stereotype. Tokoro for instance is a girl who is said to be very "slow" which in normal anime terms would mean she does stupid things deliberately. Instead you see that Tokoro isn't all that different in her actions, but is truly slow to catch on to things. My favorite would definitely be Harumi. Sexy, ultra smart, and she's got an evil streak 10 miles wide. No, she's really that evil. Although she gets "converted" eventually, you still see that she's more than capable of taking revenge at a whim. And actually that's another interesting thing. Some students side with Onizuka as he wins them over, but others simply take no side. It's not like some BS divine light shines over them all.
Actual animation wise this title was nothing great, but it wasn't too bad in any way either. Onizuka's facial expressions while scary in appearance when you look at screen shots, is often fairly amusing when you're watching the show.
The story was well paced and quite well thought out. This isn't surprising since it followed the manga well. There's a problem in that the manga was only half finished when GTO was produced as an anime. I REALLY wished they would have simply gone and hiatus and waited for the manga to finish. Instead GTO goes strong until episode 40. The next two episodes deviate from the manga and the "invent" the anime ending in two episodes. The last two episodes feel really spastic and like they were grasping for a plot. It's disjointed enough that it doesn't feel like the rest of the series. Much like watching a beauty pageant and having that girl you were cheering for suddenly stumble and fall down the stairs right at the very end. In the same way GTO did a disappointing job with it's ending that I didn't like much at all. Even so I'd say the series is certainly worth watching despite this transgression.
So all in all I rather enjoyed this title. It's a fuzzy feel good sort of anime, but it never gets cheap with it's approach. The biggest strength for this title is in the character development. And they never get thrown away either. The students continually interact with things after they're introduced so in a way you get to know the class better in the way Onizuka does.
The main drawbacks are the lackluster animation, although I don't think there is much to be expected there honestly. Onizuka's facial expressions don't sit well with some people. It's certainly a signature gag that this anime continuously uses, so if you don't think you'll like it, you'll keep seeing it throughout the series. The ending left a bit to be desired as well.
It's tough to recommend this title outright to anyone because many people like it for many different reasons, and I honestly can't say I'd know how to predict if someone would like it. The first four episodes are on one DVD and it should be easy to tell if you like the series by the end of episode 4. The series is actually quite consistent, so by that point you'll either like it or not. Overall I'd probably recommend this more to males, then females however, pretty much any anime fan who likes a wide variety of characters should enjoy GTO.
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