GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Box Set 2 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, May 12, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2007
What They Say
Time to head back to school as Onizuka, who only sets the greatest example for his students, really goes for extra credit... First order of business, privately tutor the daughter of the vice-principal at Holy Forest! Next, what high school student doesn't need to learn about managing money? - especially when it comes to embezzlement.
But what's the greatest teacher to do when he's got to constantly set the best example? Gamble the cost of the class field trip to Okinawa on a lucky raffle ticket of course! When it rains it pours for Onizuka, who's always willing to put himself on the line for money, the right girl, and his students - on the way to becoming the greatest high school teacher in the world!
The second half of the series works through more student and faculty issues as Onizuka's style allows him to get right to the heart of matters - through unusual routes.
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 second 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 well done as it uses a green background with a shot of Onizuka that's a bit further back than the first cover as it shows him in a sweatshirt with his driving goggles. It's much more laid back and not quite as aggressive as the first one which sort of fits the feeling of this set. 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 green theme throughout which definitely works better than the black did in the first set. The front of the digipak mirrors the slipcover front while the back of it has a great shot of Onizuka with a pretty relaxed and personable atmosphere about him. Opening it up, everything else is pretty much just green 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. While the extras do slim down a bit as it goes along, which should be expected from a ten volume release, TOKYOPOP did manage to find some good things to put in here:
Disc 1: The extras section continues to be fairly well stocked, though at last it's missing one piece. The eye-catches are now gone and can be found back where they belong inside the actual program itself. So we're left with the good stuff here, such as the third part of the interview with Fujisawa over a meal in Japan. The interview continues to provide some good insights into his creative process and how he viewed Onizuka as the character started taking over its own writing. We get a textless opening and ending sequence provided here as usual and a section on the outtakes. And if you're really special, kids, you can throw your head to the music video of Initial D.
Disc 2: The extras continue to be good with the primary one being the fourth part of the interview with Fujisawa, where we learn more goodness of what went into the manga series creation and its anime adaptation. The opening and ending sequences are shown again in textless form and there's a four minute or so music video entitled "School's in Session", where it's more of a promotional video since it has plugs at the end. The outtakes run barely a few seconds, but they're rather amusing.
Disc 3: The extras here are about on par for what I'd expect at this point. We get another round of dub outtakes and the textless opening and ending sequences, but not a textless version of the new ending that appears on this volume. The schools-in-session music video/promo makes another appearance as well.
Disc 4: We get another round of dub outtakes but we also get the original Japanese opening sequences (two of them) and another Japanese closing sequence. The schools-in-session music video/promo makes another appearance as well.
Disc 5: The final round of extras provide some good material, which is still surprising considering the series ran ten volumes. There's a new section of dub outtakes that run barely 90 seconds as well as a couple minutes worth of footage from the San Diego Comic Con entitled "Waiting for Fujisawa". This is the lead-up to his arrival at the TOKYOPOP booth where they have the band that does the "schools in session" song for the series. The two closing sequences are presented in their original Japanese format here as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Going into the second half of Great Teacher Onizuka, it's a bit odd because of lot the novelty has worn off and you're pretty familiar with the cast and their quirks. So much of the shows opening energy revolved around wondering what Onizuka would do next and how out of control it would all get before it wraps itself up neat as a bow. The same pretty much occurs in this second half but I have to admit that it plays out much better because of the familiarity and because you want to see him win over everyone else in the class and faculty. At its core, GTO is a feel good show and that's what you want to walk away with. And just like with the single disc releases, I've walked away feeling very good again.
The second half of the series, which encompasses episodes twenty-four through forty-three, runs through a lot of the familiar story layouts as there are a handful of standalone stories mixed into some longer arcs revolving around particular characters. There are some great callback moments to earlier encounters, notably revolving around Murai's far too hot of a mom, but a continued exploration of the students lives and how they've come to the place that they're at. They teachers are examined as well which proves to be pretty interesting since they've been stereotyped in general and in a way mocked by Onizuka with how he tries to break them down the same as he does the students. Uchiyamada in particular is nicely dealt with, though it doesn't last, early on where he starts to understand how Onizuka really looks at things. It doesn't hurt that Onizuka ends up saving him a great deal of face either when Uchiyamada thinks that his daughter is being taken advantage of by Onizuka and he ends up in a nasty situation.
One interesting if pleasantly underused addition to the series is the introduction of Nao Kadena, the new school nurse. She fulfills the role of the buxom hot young woman who enters the school and has all the boys a flutter with passion in their hearts. Her character certainly isn't original as even my earliest remembrance of such a character goes back to Sakura from Urusei Yatsura way back in the early 1980's. Her role here is a bit more amusing in a way since she has an ulterior motive to being in the school and she's a bit more outgoing in certain ways. What she does bring to the show is something of a mild confidant for Fuyutsuki over time and a bit of a flirty foil for Onizuka. She's only mildly disruptive to the flow of the show at first and then she's really not used much from there on out beyond a few brief key scenes.
What did make me happy with these episodes is that Fuyutsuki managed to get some more good material throughout, though again she feels a bit underutilized as well. Her role as a potential love interest for Onizuka hasn't been too deeply explored but there are small moments throughout that helps to push the slow progression of that possibility. The more she realizes that she cares for him, the more confused she becomes since he's certainly not the type that she ever envisioned herself with. Yet at the same time, he's becoming the kind of teacher that she's aspiring to become like in a lot of ways so there's a natural draw to him through that. She does get to have a number of good comical moments as well which helps, such as when she goes through an entire episode dealing with getting ready for the class trip. If it's not the boys and men talking about how flat chested she is, she's spending it trying to become something she's not to really bad effect. Episodes like this help to humanize her greatly which she needs.
When it comes to the larger storylines of the volume, there are certainly a few that stand out as very memorable. The first one that stands out involves Onizuka doing his best to help out Tomoko as a manager since her real manager can't get her the gigs that he wants to yet. Onizuka's methods are amusing and at times shocking to some as Kikuchi as he has to wonder if Onizuka is really a gifted genius with the way he comes up with things. Tomoko isn't exactly exploited - not that it would be difficult to exploit her - but he's able to elevate her career through interesting methods while keeping a number of his students in tow with him. Taking it to a vote in contest as well, they're able to hit up a lot of traditional parts of the rise of a star and play with them in a cute and endearing manner.
The best material for me comes in two very different areas however. The first part once again involves Miyabi as she's still hell bent on getting Onizuka kicked out. Her anger at others in the class over the way they've gone to his side hasn't abated either and she's left with only a pair of friends who help her plot and scheme his downfall. Her plans are quiet amusing this time around as she frames a fellow student for theft, brings in a teacher to accomplish her goals and puts Onizuka in a compromising position with a "student bar" that has a group of girls from another school pawing over him while he's drunk. It's what he's been looking for but it's something that gets him into a heap of trouble both professionally and financially. Doing his best to protect Kusano from being framed, he finds himself now in the position of having to come up with eight million yen in a week to be able to get the year three students to go to their class trip.
The class trip is something that you know will happen, but it's how he gets it done and where it is that's so much fun. With his students trying to help him figure out how he got framed, he spends most of his time working odd jobs and trying to bring it all together. The real fun is when they do make it onto the trip to Okinawa of all places as Onizuka is able to really make an impression on everyone, both students and faculty. The trip has a lot of the standard bits to it, with the late night games of the boy and girl pairings to a scary place, field trips that involve finding treasure and so forth, what really made it special was that it went back to one of the earliest relationships in the show and explored what was really going on there. Once Onizuka made it to Holy Forest, one of the first people he connected with was Yoshikawa because of the way Uehara and her friends were bullying him. The relationship between the two of them has been interesting since, especially after the paddling Onizuka gave Uehara, but the field trip pushed them together in a new way that made her realize the two of them are more the same than the believed. You could see the buds of a relationship there very early on with the whole "the more she picks on him, the more she likes him" mentality, but to see it come together at the same time that Yoshikawa is growing more confident in himself as a man is just great. Their storyline is the best among all the Okinawa episodes and it really drove home just how much I enjoyed the show.
The one story that needed to be explored in the show, one that should have been explored earlier but couldn't be, involves what made Class 2-4 become as bad as they were until Onizuka started to show them something different. Miyabe has the been the one hardest hit by it and even though she's been out of the picture for awhile during this set, she's had some strong moments where she's don't her best to get rid of Onizuka. The revelations about what caused it isn't too much of a surprise, nor that it affected peoples impressions of Onizuka at the start since he had that whole "get myself a teenage wife" mentality to him, but the way it's essentially shoehorned into the final two episodes really breaks up the narrative flow of the show. The series could have used a few more episodes in order to not rush it out as it did. It also elevated the show to something bigger in a way that didn't feel quite natural as it brought in the Board of Education, the media and some sobering issues. The impact of the events in the past certainly go a long way towards explaining it all that and that provides a better understanding of why the kids were like they were at the start.
None of these characters are who they were at the start of the series. There are so many series where the characters are the same from beginning to end that when you get a show where the changes are as many as you get here, you forget just how enjoyable it can be. The whole purpose of the show was to introduce an unusual character into a respectable setting, pair him with troublesome students and let it all go. It could have gone so many ways but it opted for a very positive and affirming message that leaves you smiling in the midst of a lot of bad things going on. Onizuka is certainly the central character of the show but it's an amazing ensemble cast of characters that comes to life here. The series, and the manga, left a wonderful impression on me years ago and this just reaffirms my belief that Great Teacher Onizuka is one of the best shows released in the last ten years. This is classic material that hits everything right. Very highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,All extras from single disc releases
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: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 625
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2