GTO Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, March 24, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002
Some day, someone will read this review (I'm serious). And when they do, they will realize that they have made a mistake. That mistake will be that they had never given a chance to what may well be heralded as the best new release of 2002. And the title of that release is Great Teacher Onizuka.
I know what you're thinking. It's a bit early to call it a game right now, isn't it? Well, my friends, just sit back, relax, put your hand on the Menu button, and enjoy the show.
But first, let's dispense with the usuals.
The front loaded trailers have been brought up before. And they're pretty good trailers. With the possible exception of the title "Reign", I liked watching the trailers. But I might not want to watch them again, especially every time I put in the disc. And the "Menu" button on my remote is so far away! But once I press it, I get to:
Menus: The menus here have thankfully been done by Nightjar. As such, the visual quality and layout is superb. The only thing detracting from the menus is the fact that there is only sound on the main menu (I like a little consistency in my menus). Other than that, it is another success for Nightjar.
Extras: We get the original Japanese opening, which, aside from the credits being in Japanese, basically amounts to the same thing as the English opening up to the last 2 seconds. These last two seconds differ only in that one says "GTO" in block capital sans serif, and one has a stylized "GTO" with the words "Great Teacher Onizuka" at the bottom. Which is which? Who cares? Both of them look fine. The next extra we get is Onizuka - GONE WILD! (no, it's not Onizuka taking off his clothes while on Spring Break). This is a set of clips for when his face goes into "Ugly Mode." Next, we get an art gallery. Pretty standard stuff here.
Packaging: I love the GTO cover art. It is clean, organized, and very stylistic. The film motif works very well, and the cover doesn't look too busy.
Video: With one glaring exception, everything here looks great. With some of the art (especially faces) in the video, there can be a lot of black lines close together, and rainbowing wasn't noticeable. The one glaring exception came at the beginning of the third episode, where Onizuka drives up to school in an "ISOZU" van. The misshapen "O" in the name sticks out among the other letters, and looks like it is an overlay over a "U" (spelling "Isuzu", for those who never learned to read). I can understand why an overlay would be used here (copyright or licensing issues), but it still jumps out at the viewer.
A word on the art in the show: The faces can get pretty unusual (looking more like some drugged-out junkie than standard anime expressions). In my opinion, this only adds to the charm and uniqueness of the series.
Audio: Being the first volume, the voices will take some adjustment (both for the listeners and the performers). Fear not, however; it is in good hands. Our main character is voiced by the inimitable David Lucas, and he performs admirably here.
Content: Great Teacher Onizuka is unlike anything I've ever seen. It opens with Onizuka staring up girls' skirts as the ride an escalator. Sure, they could spend two hours doing this, but wait! It gets even better!
Onizuka is a former gangleader-turned-student-teacher, serving a two week trial period in a public school. Ostensibly doing it for the tail, he gets in over his head after being led on by one of the students in his class. Caught in a compromising situation and blackmailed, is faced with either coming up with a million yen in extortion money or facing career-ending humiliation. The blackmailers get their comeuppance however, when a local streetgang gets hold of them. Onizuka happens by, and, being the former leader of a rival gang, lends them a hand. The gang, that is; he tortures the students in revenge for their extortion plot. Onizuka wants to be the greatest teacher in the world, and he makes sure no one gets in his way. The students capitulate, and Onizuka is rewarded with an obedient and servile group of young hooligans. The staff is amazed at the transformation, and everyone praises Onizuka's teaching ability.
The rest of the episode deals with the girl who planned the blackmail, and how Onizuka comes up with a solution to her problems. Will it all work out? Who knows. But he has earned her respect (and panties.)
The next episode deals with the transition from student-teacher to full-fledged teacher. Onizuka goes for an interview with a man who, in a freak coincidence, Onizuka happened to beat up for acting like a pervert (the pot calling the kettle black, perhaps, but a lady was present). Knowing he isn't going to get the job, he explains his reasons for wanting to be a good teacher to the commissary clerk. Onizuka will not stand for calling people trash. His teacher did that to him, and he wants to make sure he never does that, as he believes it has a genuinely negative effect on the path the children's lives take.
As it happens, a group of expelled students arrive to bust some heads, specifically the vice-principal, who calls them garbage and tries to weasel away from them. Onizuka steps in and, in an odd twist, beats up the vice-principal. The students leave, their work done (by Onizuka). Onizuka then decides to live the life of a trucker.
Impressed with his actions (or, more accurately, the reasons for his actions), the Chairwoman of the school decides to offer Onizuka a job.
The next two episodes deal with Onizuka's first days at school. In the first episode, he befriends a young boy in his class, and deals with life in school (as he has taken up residence in the rooftop storeroom). The next episode deals with a plot to humiliate him by digitally altering photographs. Both of these episodes get us familiar with the school and the characters, while providing us with entertaining and insightful looks at how Onizuka approaches problems. (The solution to the final episode is hilarious).
Why am I so ecstatic about this show? For several reasons. By and large, this is not your average anime. There are no mechs, no superpowers, no sexy android sex-bots, no hour-long fights, just Onizuka, his friends and coworkers, and his students. As a recent college graduate, Onizuka is easy to identify with - he's starting out in his career, feeling his way through situations, and coming up with solutions by himself. They may not always seem appropriate, but there's where the humour (and insight) can be found. He still hangs on to his immature, lustful side, but underneath, we know he really wants to be a good teacher, and make a difference in the lives of his students. The combination of the atypical storyline, the superbly mixed comedy and drama, and the accessibility of the characters make for what will be one of the best anime series of the year.
Plus, he's a badass.
Bottom Line: I'm telling you now, give it a spin. You can thank me later.
Microsoft X-Box, 27" Sony WEGA FS12, Sony MHC-M630AV Sound System
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2