GTO Vol. #01 (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 30, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002



What They Say
Tough on the outside, all heart on the inside, Onizuka turned to the life of a high school teacher for less excitement and action . . .or so he thought. GTO, A.K.A.: Great Teacher Onizuka, is the racy story of Onizuka, a former motorcycle gang member who becomes a teacher to make a difference and... to meet girls? Using his street smarts to deal with colleagues, students and troublemakers, Onizuka finds that he too has many lessons to learn!

Contains Four Episodes:
Lesson 1: The Legend Begins
Onizuka is assigned to teach a class of juvenile delinquents. In the class, he meets the beautiful, young Nanako Mizuki. He invites her to his place, but finds out it was a plot set up by the class to blackmail him.

Lesson 2: Enter Uchiyamada
Onizuka decides to interview for a teaching position at the prestigious Holy Forest School. On the day of the interview, Onizuka rescues a cute young girl from the Holy Forest's vice principal Hiroshi Uchiyamada!

Lesson 3: Late Night Roof Diving
As a new term begins at Holy Forest, Onizuka begins his lifelong dream of running a class. Unfortunately, Onizuka learns that everybody who has taught his new class has left because of the mental stress.

Lesson 4: The Secret Life of Onizuka
A disturbing picture of Onizuka is going around school. Onizuka starts to worry about himself, thinking he might have multiple personalities. The truth is, his students are plotting against him.

The Review!
GTO, otherwise known as Great Teacher Onizuka, is one of those titles that started as a manga, became quite popular, spawned this series and a live action series. All in a relatively short period of time. This is one of those shows that just hits everything right.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. But we also listened to a dub screener tape a month or so back a few dozen times as well. For the disc though, we gave it a good run through on our main home theater setup and the show played perfectly, though since it's mostly just dialogue with a few bits of special sound effects here and there, it's really just limited to the forward soundstage. The opening song by L'Arc-En-Ciel is the real musical highlight so far and sounds great and is the perfect way to kick off each episode.

Video:
Originally airing in 1999 and 2000, GTO makes use of both traditional animation and digital animation which produces at times some odd looking sequences where things look slightly out of place, but fit within the framework of the shows world. The colors used for the show are done in traditional high school/real life style mode. There's lots of school interior and exterior shots so there's plenty of dull blues, concrete grays and the like. We didn't notice much in the way of cross coloration, shimmering from panning was very minimal and overall this was a great looking transfer. There's some slight frame jitter during some scene transitions but seems consistent with the films editing.

Packaging:
GTO is one of the few releases where I'm really glad we don't have the region 2 covers, as what I've seen of them, they're far too busy. The first volume is orange based with a filmstrip image along the top showing a shot from the show while the center gives us a couple of variations on Onizuka and what he's like. The style of the cover is similar to TOKYOPOP's manga, so there's part of the reason I like it. The back cover gives a rundown on the show and its appeal and then sows a few more animation shots. Episode numbers and titles are clearly listed as well as the discs features. The insert is basically a two-sided advertisement, but the first pressing of this release contains a "tattoo" with the GTO logo.

Menus:
The menu system for the first volume of GTO is spot on with a green chalkboard layout that lists the selections on the left and has an image of Onizuka being drawn on the right while you hear background chatter from a cafeteria. The folks at Nightjar provide another slick and efficient menu here where things are just set up right. Access times are nice and fast and language selection lets you know exactly what you've got selected. Good stuff all around.

Extras:
There's a good selection of extrs included here for the first discs. While we don't get a clean opening, we get to see the original opening with the Japanese credits which is something I know a lot of people like to see as well. The "going wild" section provide about ten different facial expressions of Onizuka going wild and plays that section (in whatever language is default). This is useful for those who want to compare acting abilities to be sure. There's also a few black and white pieces of character conceptual artwork provided.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
GTO is a title that's both easy to explain and yet difficult to really sell to someone. The quick sell is to describe it as a 22 year old ex gang leader whose a master of karate has decided to become a teacher so he can someday have a 16 year old bride.

That'll give you a quick impression of what Onizuka is portrayed as on the surface. Once you get to see his motivations in action and with the various consequences he faces for doing them, he doesn't come off anywhere near as bad sounding, but still plenty bad-ass.

We get our full introduction to Onizuka as he and a couple of other student teachers are beginning their two week "in the class" training by taking over various classes in a particular high school. Onizuka ends up with the worst class in the entire school, and it's almost entirely male and the couple of girls in there do not fit his dreams of what he's been lusting after all this time.

But he perserveres as he knwos there's greater greens out there to visit someday and he just needs to get his foot in the door. The students verbally push him around, as they look like rejects from any number of bad post-apocaltyptic high school movies. His second day though perks up a bit as he finds there's at least one really attractive girl in his classroom. There's a bit of eye flirting going on there, but the real action happens much later that night when he gets home and finds her waiting outside his apartment nearby.

She tells him that there's troubles with her parents and that she's run away from home and wants to stay the night with him. Going against every rational instinct that tells him to send her away, the wolf in him comes out and he brings her in where she cooks sukiyaki for him. She then turns to him and strips down to her bra and panties and kneels before him. He can't believe this is happening and after only two days when suddenly the window flies open and some of his rougher students are there taking pictures.

Blackmail at its finest.

They demand a million yen or the pictures get taken to the media and head off laughing. Mizuki smiles about all of it while getting dressed, explaining that it was her plan anyway and they do it to all the new teachers. We leave Onizuka in his apartment and follow the males students to the park where they're now gloating about it all, in that they'll either gt their money or they get rid of yet another teacher. They end up making a mistake though when they threaten a biker to knock off the noise, only to realize that they're on gang turf and the rest of the gang shows up. A whole lot of roughing up is just about to begin when Onizuka shows up, dressed in just his pants, and ends up garnering instant respect from the gang and from the students.

He then proceeds to torture them.

All of this covers maybe the first half of the first episode, which is a double-length episode. The show follows Onizuka on his very non-standard path to becoming a teacher and how he deals with both his odd students and the often even stranger fellow teaching staff. The show mixes a great balance of humor and drama along with some just plain bizarre situations that Onizuka gets himself into.

While he's good at his heart, he makes no bones about being perverted. In thanks for one of the things he does, one of his students flashes up her skirt for him after tossing her panties down to him from several floors up. One of his later classes use photoshop to make Onizuka's life even more creative and his responses usually end up along the lines of, "I don't remember a wooden horse like that!". The character is both outrageous and completely believable.

About a month or two prior to getting this disc, we ended up getting a copy of the dub VHS screener tape and ended up listening to that repeatedly for a week or two since we were lazy and didn't take the tape out while in the office. The dub for this show works really good with Onizuka being captured almost as good as the original for the most part while making the role his own at the same time. This is definitely a disc where I encourage people to check out both versions, but again must make the caveat that there's more rough dialogue in the English version that's just not in the originall (but was in the manga).

GTO's a slick series that has absolutely no real competition to it out there on the market. I can't think of anything else like it that I've seen in the past twenty years of watching anime. And for that alone, it's definitely worthy of a recommendation.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Opening,Onizuka - Gone Wild,Character Designs

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: GTO