Great Teacher Onizuka, officially abbreviated as GTO, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Tooru Fujisawa. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shounen Magazine from January 1997 to February 2002. The story focuses on 22-year-old ex-bousouzoku member Eikichi Onizuka, who becomes a teacher at a private middle school, Holy Forest Academy, in Tokyo, Japan. It is a continuation of Tooru Fujisawa's earlier manga series Shonan Junai Gumi and Bad Company, both of which focus on the life of Onizuka before becoming a teacher. Due to the popularity of the manga, several adaptations of GTO were established. These adaptations include a twelve-episode Japanese television drama running from July to September 1998; a live-action film directed by Masayuki Suzuki and released in December 1999; and a 43-episode anime television series aired in Japan by Fuji Television and Animax from June 1999 to September 2000. A second live action series aired in Japan during 2012, and two more in 2014. It won the 1998 Kodansha Manga Award for shounen category.
Enough with that long intro. As you see, Great Teacher Onizuka is a very popular title. Let us see why. The series focuses on the life of Onizuka Eikichi, who is an ex-bike gang leader. The man has only one goal now-- to become the greatest teacher in Japan. While doing his teaching internship as part of his studies to become a qualified teacher, he ends up not in an all-girls class as he has been dreaming for awhile, but in a delinquent class. There Onizuka learns the importance of the power and respect gained from one's students. Thanks to pure luck, or Onizuka’s shining charisma, after internship he gets a job at one of the most prestigious private schools in Japan to handle their 'problem class' that made the past few teachers quit. The problem is, however, is that the problem children have some really smart boys and gals that are able to drive even a grownup crazy. Onizuka can, indeed, solve any issue using force. He, however, wants to find the right approach to every pupil, even to the teachers that hate him. Will the most incompetent teach become the greatest teacher there is in Japan?
The story-line is not the best part about GTO, of course. Yet, it has its appeal. It is rather slow, yet you never feel bored. The way it is built gives you one detailed explanation about everything you need to know: peoples’ backstories, their motives, desires, likes and dislikes. And the best thing about it that you will surely appreciate is the fact that it is never boring. The moment you feel it is getting too boring, the story-line will prove you how wrong you are in the same moment you felt boredom.
Animation wise, this is the weakest part about GTO. Cannot expect too much from something that aired almost 20 years ago. However, I would not say that it is too much of a challenge: the animation still captures emotions pretty well, especially Onizuka’s priceless facial expressions. Sound wise, it is pretty good. Do not want to sound biased, but the Japanese voice actors did a much better job than the English voice actors. English dub is not always terrible, but GTO is to be seen in Japanese: the emotions the Japanese voice actors put in their characters is something to see with your own eyes. OST is also pretty enjoyable and helps you appreciate the series even more.
Characters is, indeed, the best thing about this series. Maybe because of the work of the voice actors, maybe because of the ingenious script Tooru Fujisawa, the reason does not matter, the only thing that matters is the result, which is beyond great. While there is really only one protagonist, the series provides all characters with enough development. Even a nurse that has little to do with the story-line gets own screen time and a back-story. Anyways, with that being said, the main focus of the series is the self-proclaimed best teacher in Japan Onizuka Eikichi, who is 22. He graduated from an average university only thanks to cheating and his friends. And all he does now is peering up girls' skirts in a local mall. Well, what do you expect from a 22 years-old virgin? That is the main reason for his desire to become a teacher. This might tarnish your attitude towards Onizuka, but, in reality, it should not. Onizuka is young and, of course, the opposite sex attracts him. He is different. And you will see why by yourself. He has the idea that with the right approach you can win trust of every pupil.
All in all, Great Teacher Onizuka somewhat reminds me of Gintama. Do not hate me for this comparison, please. They are similar in a way that they are both comedies that have some amazing drama that makes you worry about the characters, yet, it never feels to be forced and unneeded. Great Teacher Onizuka will surely make you laugh crying tears of joy and it will also make you hold Onizuka’s actions in high regard. He is the real man, he is the real teacher any person would love to see as a homeroom teacher. Many more things can be said about him, but this will only make your watch less interesting.
With that being said, the anime series is definitely something no one would want to miss. It has all the characteristics of a great show: the scenes are exciting, the script is cleverly written, and the humor will have you chuckling nonstop. Some of the most memorable moments are simply the expressions on Onizuka's face as he goes through various emotions. It is, of course, the last thing you want to see with your kid brother, or sister, but mid and late-teens and older will surely get the message of Great Teacher Onizuka. And I must say that this message is the last thing a person watching anime can miss. Not liking the old animation is also the last excuse one can think of to avoid watching this pure gem. Do watch it! Onizuka is the greatest teacher there is.