Gokusen Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, March 03, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 01, 2005
What They Say
The renegade dropout Kudoh is back, and he's joined forces with the Nekomata group to terrorize Kumiko and her students.
But Kumiko's big worry is Shin. He's dropped out of school, and she's determined to get him back. However, his own father is holding him, and even though Kumiko may fear no man, Shin's father is the police commissioner! He'll take control of his son's life, even if it means challenging the Ooedo group with the power of the law and the power of his countless political connections.
Bringing the series to a conclusion though with plenty of possibilities for more, Gokusen does much of what it has before and ends on some good notes.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a pretty standard stereo mix to it with only a few areas of really noticeable directionality to it. These typically come in some of the sound effects moments such as a weapon moving across the soundstage or a very clear and distinct voice coming from one side of the screen. The bulk of it is center channel based though and sounds clean and clear throughout it. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions on either language track during regular playback.
Originally airing in early 2004, Gokusen is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio for its transfer. The materials for the show are pretty good overall but Gokusen isn't a show that has a really high budget or a look to it that gives it a really glossy feel. The color palette is fairly dull but well represented and the bulk of the colors maintain a good solid feel to them. There's a touch of cross coloration in a few scenes but nothing terribly noticeable unless you're pause-stepping through them. Aliasing and color gradation issues are basically non-existent and the transfer looks good for the most part.
Using the same cover as the Japanese release but with a re-arranged Japanese logo and the addition of the English logo, this cover goes with Sawada leaning against something that you can't see while wearing his school uniform and is set against a very blue background. I like that they kept most of the Japanese cover and just made some slight re-arrangements. The back cover has a lot of shots from the show provided in a couple of different strips that separate up the small summary and the short list of the discs features. The shows production and technical information is all easy to find and understand. No insert was included in our copy of this release.
The menus go for simplicity here with a static image that's basically the front cover but with the menu selections and a portion of the ending song playing to it. Some of the cursor movements are a bit awkward due to the layout and moving down to the second row isn't always intuitive, particularly in the episode/scene selection submenu. Access times are nice and fast but unfortunately the disc did not read our players language presets.
The only included extra on this volume was a series of dub outtakes which are more often than not intentional joke pieces and a bit of singing. There's some comical stuff in there but some of it falls flat as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Gokusen enters its final set of episodes, it goes to flesh out some of its characters just a bit more and play with some of the setting but you know that it intends to end with the open ended possibility of more being made, or at least to end in such a way that they can always revisit it. Most series do this these days and for many years now so some of the closure you used to get with older series simply isn't there anymore. Gokusen doesn't end but it does end on an good note.
A couple of stories cross the four episodes that end up bringing things to that conclusion, and it starts with the return of Kudoh, the punk kid that has shown up previously. He's managed to create a new scam that works wonders in making money and providing his friends people to beat the crap out of. Keeping the focus on the same school so as to instill some fear into them, they offer up little cat clip-ons for about a hundred bucks to the various kids. Then when a bunch of them are walking home, the group gets attacked but anyone wearing the cat clip isn't touched at all. This gives incentive for others to pick up the clips as well and before you know it, you've got a bunched of smacked up kids but a larger number of paying customers.
Since this has the feel of something bigger than Kudoh would pull off on his own, Yankumi goes in to research it herself, especially since it does feel like a family kind of operation and something that she's probably familiar with in general. Of course, Sawada ends up becoming involved and through the two of them; they figure out that Nekomata Group is indeed the ones pulling the strings behind everything. This is a fairly straightforward piece but I liked how it segued into the next piece where Sawada's father gets into the picture and has decided that his son won't go to the school of losers anymore and has other plans for him. Yankumi is of course unhappy about this and goes to confront him but it's not what she expected when she finds out he's really high in the police force, enough so that he uses his status as a way to get everything he wants. The two brush up against each other completely wrong but it's good to see more and more of the good side of Yankumi about her students.
All roads lead to dealing with the Nakomata Group however since they've been messing around for some time now and that comes to a head over the last couple of episodes here. All told, it plays out well enough and it does what any high school related series does at this point in that it strengthens the characters relationships. The challenge between the two groups is kept on a lower level since Yankumi doesn't want to bring her grandfather into it and having mastered the police in the previous couple of episodes, she doesn't want it to escalate either. But with her students at risk and other issues complicating things, she ends up doing much of what she's done throughout the series by just leaping into it without thinking, only to have to regroup later and properly finish things off.
While there's an end to the stories that get told on this volume, and a final scene that shows on possible future for this group of characters, it doesn't feel like the end of the series itself or anything of that nature. It's easy to finish the episodes here and think there'll be more if you didn't know otherwise. This series been fun and I liked some of the initial comparisons to GTO but found that it is definitely more its own show and not something that's heavily influenced by GTO, which is good. Gokusen has a nice energy to itself but when all is said and done it feels more forgettable than I thought it would at the start. Gokusen is a good fun show to watch but not something that I think merits much revisiting.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Dub Outtakes
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2