GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Box Set 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2007
What They Say
Former juvenile delinquent Onizuka finds himself thrust into a role of high school teacher, facing students who behave just as he used to and an administration that doesn't trust him. Using the brash and unorthodox methods he picked up in his youth, Onizuka manages to reach through to his kids and help them with their problems.
Contains episodes 1-23.
The best way to handle troublesome students is with love, care and understanding. Fortunately, that's not how Onizuka handles it in his quest to become the Greatest Teacher ever.
The audio selections for GTO are pretty much standard fare pieces as we get a pair of stereo mixes for both the English and Japanese language tracks. Encoded at 192kbps, there isn't anything all that exceptional about them but they do get the job done. The series is generally dialogue heavy with some amusing sound effects mixed in so it isn't a terribly rich or deep mix. The opening and closing sequences tend to make out the best when it comes to the full feel but otherwise it's a decent enough sounding release that you won't notice anything noteworthy. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing in 1999 and 2000, this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The five discs that make up this first box set are identical to the single volume releases that TOKYOPOP put out several years ago so there are really no differences to be found here. 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 are lots of school interior and exterior shots so there's plenty of dull blues, concrete grays and the like. There isn't much in the way of cross coloration and shimmering from panning was very minimal. There's some slight frame jitter during some scene transitions but seems consistent with the films editing. While GTO won't stand out as a strong looking show, it wasn't something that suffered heavily in its authoring either.
TOKYOPOP had previously released the series in singles and then did a bundled box set in two parts. FUNimation keeps the volume split but opted to repackage the series in a slimmer digipak case with a slipcover to hold it all in. The slipcover is nicely done as it uses a black background with a shot of Onizuka in a wifebeater giving a thumbs up sign with that stupidly goofy look on his face. The logo along the side stands out in orange and is definitely eyecatching. It's sort of stark in its own way and it definitely stands out against other shows on the shelf. The back cover uses some of the school themes by having some torn lined paper to go over the premise of the show and there are photographs strewn around with shots of various scenes from the series. The artwork points to Onizuka's goofy weird side and there's a good listing of what's included with the disc, though it's very light on mentioning the copious amount of extras. The technical grid is painfully small though but it does cover all the basics.
The digipak inside the slipcover is pretty standard fare when it comes to how they're produced. If you like them, you'll have no problems with it. If you don't like them, then you won't care for it much. The set uses the black theme throughout which does feel a bit off in general considering the show is pretty light and funny. It works well for the main cover but the whole package in it just feels like overkill. The front of the digipak mirrors the slipcover front while the back of it has a great half shot of Onizuka with lots of chains and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Opening it up, everything else is pretty much just black without any artwork which is a real surprise and a shame since they should have had access to something considering there were ten volumes of releases in total. The panels open up to the three disc holder sections where the five discs are laid out. The right side has a holder for a FUNimation catalog of the month booklet but it's otherwise barren outside of the logo. If I have a real gripe with the set outside of it being fairly bland overall, it's that the discs are poorly labeled as there are no volume numbers or real indication for a casual observer to tell which volume is which if they get mixed up. That goes back to how TOKYOPOP did things as FUNimation didn't even get their logo stamped onto this.
The menu system for the 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. Much as I had loved the menus when I first saw them, they look just as good this time as well as they fit perfectly into the theme of the series. 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. Most volumes correctly read our players' language presets but there was the occasional load where it didn't pick up correctly after a resume play.
With this set featuring the same discs as the original release, there are no differences to be found within the extras provided either. With five discs, there are plenty of good things to be found within this set:
Disc 1: The first disc in the series provides a good selection of extras that sets the tone for the release. 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.
Disc 2: The opening and ending are presented here with the original Japanese credits, something that doesn't happen too often (but I like) as well as the eye-catches to date. The eye-catches have explanations on the insert, explaining the sponsors and so forth. Another round of "Gone Wild" is here as well, showcasing the very diverse facial expressions Onizuka has and a segment of character designs.
Disc 3: Provided as extras for this round, we get the inclusion of the textless opening and endings, which I still have a lot of fun listening to and playing. You have to wonder how that last part of the opening, where he paints a bullseye on himself and shoots himself in the mirror, would go over with a TV censor. The "Gone Wild" section continues with another look at some great Onizuka expressions while we also get the eye-catches included as extras as well. Which is still weird, I'd rather see them in the series. Also included is a couple of production sketches.
Disc 4: With the change in the opening and ending sequences with this volume, there are textless versions of them provided here. Considering how busy they are, it's a definite treat to get a completely clean version to check out. There's a good length video interview with the manga creator Fujisawa that talks about various aspects of the show, including how it's taken overseas. The Gone Wild segment provides more of the insanely ugly mug shots Onizuka manages to produce and the eye-catches once again show up here as opposed to in the show itself. The last nice part is a selection of character design line artwork.
Disc 5: Following up on the interview in the previous volume, we get another ten minutes of time with series creator Tohru Fujisawa. He continues to provide some interesting insights into the series and his general work ethic, making me more and more interested in seeing some of his other works. The new openings and endings that started on the last volume appear here as well and we've got the original eye-catches as an extra too. The outtakes section runs just about a minute and a half and has a few amusing pieces to it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Tohru Fujisawa which ran for twenty five volumes and was released completely by TOKYOPOP, GTO is a forty-three episode series. This box set contains the first five volumes which encompasses episodes one through twenty three. It's actually a slight bit more in a way since the first episode is a double length episode that introduces the basic premise before the show shifts into its true setting. Serving as a follow-up to Shonan Junai Gumi, Great Teacher Onizuka took Japan by storm and earned quite a reputation abroad as well. When TOKOYPOP picked up the series it was certainly worth rejoicing over as they really did treat it right for the most part. Enough so that it stands the test of time even now and comes across as a solidly entertaining release.
Great Teacher Onizuka is the kind of show where you wonder how the kids ever really learn anything academic. The entire premise is centered around life lessons which is done in a very amusing and honest manner but it's the kind of show where you have to suspend disbelief to a strong level. If you can do that though, you'll find an incredibly entertaining show. The series revolves around twenty two year old Eikichi Onizuka, a former gang member and big name boss from his teenage years. Having lived through a whole lot of trash times and being called worthless and trash by teachers, he and his best friend Ryuji made their way to Tokyo in order to change their lives for the better. Ryuji has turned into a rather solid motorcycle shop owner with a beautiful girlfriend while Onizuka has decided to pursue an academic career by becoming a teacher.
Barely passing the course requirements at a third rate college, he's hardly qualified for that kind of position when it comes to the nuts and bolts of teaching. What he does offer is something that certain schools require in droves, and that's an honest connection to the students. The show opens with a standalone piece that shows the audience how easily he connects to troubled kids, saving one girl from committing suicide and dealing with bullying that goes on within the student population. His belief that teachers have been treating kids wrong for years is what drives him to change the status quo and that naturally rails against both old and new teachers who see teaching in a particular way. Where his luck kicks in is when he tries for a position at the Holy Forest Academy where the chairwoman is looking for someone very different to deal with a very difficult class.
Through a bit of luck, something that Onizuka has in weird spades, he ends up hired into the academy to take on Class 3-4 which has managed to get something like four teachers removed so far. The class has grown to distrust teachers for various reasons and they've made it their mission to ruin any new teacher that comes in. So it makes sense that Onizuka is given that class to deal with. Like most school based shows, and comedies in particular, this is really a big ensemble piece where the numerous students and faculty all get involved in the stories. Across the first twenty three episodes, there is a slow but steady progression through the various kids wherein Onizuka gets caught up in their quirks and issues and finds unusual ways of solving them. When timid Yoshikawa is getting beat up by girls, he actually sets it up so they get held against their will for a bit so Yoshikawa can photograph them in compromising positions.
The students surely give Onizuka a lot of trouble along the way. The entire class is out to get him at the start, but once he starts working his strange charm on Yoshikawa, it starts a spiral of events that gets him to touch upon the lives of every student. It's corny and predictable in its own way but it works. It works beautifully because Onizuka is such an odd character who comes to realize that he loves teaching - even if he is bad at it - and because he realizes he has a strange sense of morals that keeps him from going too far. He may go too far in the view of others but he has his own moral code. When one of the girls finds herself being picked on regularly by the others because she's a bit slow on the uptake, he works his magic to get her into a beauty contest that launches her on a new career. At the same time he does it so he can see her in her bloomers while also selling merchandise based on her. Onizuka always looks out for himself but he also takes care of those in his charge.
The faculty side of the story is no less diverse or interesting either. Onizuka's arrival and entrance to the school has him getting involved with a new teacher named Azusa Fuyutsuki. She's in the same boat he is in that she wants to be a good teacher and grow into the job but she has her own set of challenges. Onizuka sees her as quite compatible once he realizes that an affair between teachers may hold more allure than one with a student. The two have plenty of challenges along the way in learning about each other - especially when Onizuka is subjected to some wonderful photoshopping - but it is a relationship that does grow and change. That often comes through the interference of others, such as the vice principal named Uchiyamada who has absolute distaste for Onizuka and his methods and does his best to expel him. Toss in the creepy math teacher Teshigawara who is intent on making Fuyutsuki his own as well as the P.E. teacher who is more man than anyone until he meets Onizuka and you have a fun quirky cast to accent the student relationships.
GTO isn't a series that shines with beauty but that's part of its charm as well. The characters have a real feel to them in that there aren't any truly exceptionally beautiful people but a lot of attractive characters mixed into a sea of average looking characters. Onizuka himself is no prize but he has a very distinct design that makes him ideal within this kind of situation. Some of the students are similar in their own way, such as Murai, while others fall into the mild yanki territory. The men tend to look worse than the women though which is pretty normal since you imagine a lot of this being told through Onizuka's view. Uchiyamada and other male staff members just look awful which is amusing, particularly when it comes to the science teacher who looks like a Chihuahua. The women tend to look quite good, though it's an interesting mixed bag among the older set that's brought in. Fuyutsuki is his ideal and she has a certain kind of simple beauty to her but even the other older women such as the mothers vary wildly and have their own beauty. Murai's mother in particular is amusing since she's so young and Onizuka plays after her a fair bit, much to Murai's discomfort. Add in the busy Tomoko and the strangely alluring Urumi with her blue and red eyes and you have a very distinct looking cast of characters that don't stand out as all buxom beauties from a cardboard cutout.
The release of GTO by TOKYOPOP many years ago was like lightning in a bottle for me as I got to see the show and read the manga relatively close together. The show just clicked in a way that few others of this kind of genre do simply because it has such a great heart to it and a lot of unpredictability even with it playing to a rather standard storyline. You know Onizuka will luck out somehow and save the day and guide the student on the right path, but it's how he gets there that's just so damn fascinating and funny. The way he comes to care for them all while railing against the education system of the day is spot on as he attempts to make these best years of the kids lives just that all while having fun doing it. This is really the kind of character that you want in every school for at least one or two classes a day. While FUNimation hasn't done much more than repackage the release, it's one that definitely need to be put back out on the market for more exposure. High recommended and worth having on just about everyone's shelf.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,All extras from individual volumes
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 575
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2