GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka (Volume 1) (2002)
Review by Dindrane

Written by Tohru Fujisawa (original manga)
Published by Tokyopop


Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Rating: 16+

Anamorphic: N/A

My Advice: Buy It!

Eikichi Onizuka, former leader of a biker gang and martial arts champion, wants to be a teacher, mostly because he wants to have his way with the nubile young minds of high school girls. In the process of becoming a teacher and getting started, he has to face blackmail schemes, dysfunctional families, insane students, and more. Along the way, Onizuka discovers that smoking, drinking, and swearing, as well as being violent and under-sexed, might just help make him the best teacher in his school.

GTO does a great job of depicting the comic side of teaching, but it also succeeds in switching from comedy to drama in a heartbeat, and from puerile to serious just as quickly. Unusual, quirky, and amusing, GTO manages to walk the line between silly and serious, and produces an Anime title that works for a wide variety of viewers. Onizuka's office is hysterical - be sure to notice the statues he adds outside the door by the stairs.

On the other hand, American audiences might be uncomfortable with the idea of a physically abusive and sexually predatory teacher. If viewers can appreciate the fact that Onizuka does not actually try to seduce any under-age girls, much less succeed, then perhaps they can appreciate the other aspects of the title. In fact, when given the chance, Onizuka's heart of gold shines through, and he ends up helping the girl in question when no one else could - and leaving her person unmolested. By no means do I or TOKYOPOP endorse child abuse, either physical or sexual, but it isn't impossible to have a fine comedy/adventure that contains such elements when no children were hurt during the making of the film. People who are extremely sensitive to such issues, however, should take warning.

The sound is uniformly good, as is the video. The colors are sharp, and the computer-generated intro is very cool indeed. The English voices suit the characters nicely, able to express emotion beautifully and handle the comic expressions necessary to pull off the humour. The Japanese voices are similarly effective.

The features are solid, if not amazing. The character sketch gallery is a nice addition to any disk, and this one is quite thorough. The animated menus are also extremely well designed, unusual, and very attractive - another example of Nightjar's artistry and creativity. The "Onizuka Goes Wild" collection of shorts presents snippets where Onizuka is either fantasizing about violence or sex - usually funny or important.

In short, viewers who enjoy adventure and comedy, as well as those who have ever suffered the slings and arrows of the teaching profession, will appreciate GTO. Amid the weird sex jokes and occasionally frustrating plot events, GTO delivers humour and an interesting character study, as well as character development. If all you like are mechas and Akira-like explosions, then GTO might not be your cup of tea. Otherwise, give it a chance and see if you don't just appreciate the comedy, Onizuka's growth, and the oddly inspiring messages about what makes a good teacher in today's violent high schools.

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