The public high schooling system has become one of the most depressing institutions in the history of mankind, right down there with the Spanish Inquisition and the Nazi regime. Where else can you see bright young youths transformed into jaded, apathetic and thoughtless “adults?”
When I finished high school, I graduated with a plethora of facts in my head, but little motivation to use them. My sole goals were to go to a third-rate, easy college in the middle of Kansas, and to work as little as possible for the rest of my life.
School doesn’t just turn the students into disillusioned, skill-less automatons, either; teachers are equally victimized. Faced with a horde of uncaring adolescents with no motivation, the initially idealistic teachers soon realize that they can do nothing whatsoever to help their students, no matter how much they try. Underpaid and underappreciated, they soon begin to doubt the value of what they are doing.
However, what if, hypothetically, a teacher came along who played by his own rules? What if he refused to stop caring about the students that he was teaching, and forcefully protected them from themselves? What if he focused on actual life lessons rather than meaningless facts that would never, ever be useful? What if he put his career, reputation and life on the line to do so?
…he’d probably be fired instantly. But what if he wasn’t? What if, through sheer luck and a little bit of elbow grease, he was allowed to stay in school and convert a group of misguided, Machiavellian students into feeling, caring people with actual life goals?
This, in a nutshell, is what Great Teacher Onizuka is about: the triumph of ideals over pessimism, of self-worth and humanitarianism over mindless conformity and heartlessness. The show is no more realistic than Chrono Crusade or Fullmetal Alchemist, but unlike either series it provides a fantasy world that hits much closer to home. Over the course of the series, I was enchanted by the idea that school didn’t HAVE to be a prison for the mind and the body.
Not only that, but GTO is also uproariously funny. I generally hate ecchi comedy, but GTO’s brand of it is almost always absolutely hilarious. Combined with the witty, smartly portrayed characters and the often outrageous solutions to the problems at hand, Great Teacher Onizuka is easily one of my favorite shows of all time.
One college diploma later, and I find myself seriously contemplating teaching as a career. I'm currently working as a teaching assistant for the statistics department at my school, and have found the work both challenging and rewarding. Could GTO have influenced my future decisions when I watched it more than six years ago? As much as I hate to say that an anime has changed my life, the evidence seems damning.
I thoroughly enjoyed the facial expressions of Onizuka, but other than that the show falters in animation. Every once in a while, horrifically bad cgi will intrude, and in general the character designs are unappealing and somewhat ugly. Motion is stiff or simply non-existent. Fortunately, the animation doesnt do anything to hurt the amazing storyline or characters.
Hilarious voice acting is coupled with a pretty good soundtrack. Not stellar by any means, but good nonetheless. The OST’s blaring trumpets work well with the overall mood of the show, and Onizuka’s loud, abrasive voice actor is a perfect fit.
Onizuka, as mentioned earlier, is not only tremendously loveable, but downright inspirational. In addition to this, the students that he teaches are all well fleshed out. Though initially intensely dislikeable, the development over the course of the series is simply phenomenal. Watching each of these initially worthless individuals be converted to Onizuka’s way of thinking is a treat to behold.
In my mind, this is one of the classics of modern anime, and will hopefully be enjoyed by future anime fans for years to come. If you haven't already seen it and are looking for an anime that is both hilarious and inspirational, I can't recommend GTO enough.
PS: If you enjoyed this series as much as I did, you may also like the live action version. In my opinion, its almost as good as this one, and different enough to be entertaining for those who are already fans of the anime.
With a history of leading a motorcycle gang and getting bad grades in school, why would 22 year old Onizuka ever want to become a teacher? Is it to educate young minds or spread the joy of education? Sure, if it involves being able to look up high school girls' skirts! Watch as this would-be educator uses his own life lessons and unconstituted methods as a means to control a delinquent class of students -- students who certainly aren't as happy to have him as a teacher as he is happy to be teaching...