I’ll preface this in saying the 2012 version and the three 90-minute specials were done by a different director than the one that did GTO Taiwan and GTO 2014. I listed them in that order because that is the order in which they happen. In order there’s GTO 2012 (Season 1), the 3 Specials, GTO Taiwan (4 Episodes) and then GTO 2014 (Season 2). I also want to say something I didn’t say in my review of the Anime version: There are folks I will call “purists” who like the Manga version but refuse to watch the Anime adaptations of Manga because of changes made to it. The Live Drama version of GTO is no exception.
This review is for Season 1 and the three specials. GTO Taiwan and GTO 2014 will get a separate review because they have a separate director from Season 1. Moving on, if you saw the Anime some changes were made to make the Live Action Drama work:
- Director Sakurai has a recurring role throughout Season 1. She is the de facto principal of Meishuu Academy (Holy Forest Academy in the Anime and Manga). When she’s not covering for Onizuka’s antics as the Director, she gives advice to him and Fuyutsuki–Onizuka’s teaching assistant in the Live version–advice.
- Fuyustuki, who has her own class in the Anime and Manga is Onizuka’s teaching assistant in the Live version. When the class turns on her in Episode 6, Onizuka inspires her to view their students as people, not statistics.
- Urumi Kanzaki isn’t aloof like she was at first in the Anime. She’s in class every day. After Onizuka helps her out, she is instrumental in helping Aizawa move on from the incident that led to a classmate’s suicide the year before.
- Tomoko doesn’t leave the school like she does in the Anime and Manga. She works part-time as an idol.
- Ryuuji (by the way the actor who plays him is half Spanish and half Japanese) and Saejima have recurring roles as Onizuka’s best friends and fellow ex-gang members. Ryuuji runs a cafe (auto shop in the Anime and Manga) and Saejima is a cop.
- In the Anime and Manga Onizuka lives on school grounds. In GTO 2012, he lives in a house he shares with Ryuuji and Saejima.
- After the first episode, all the problems Onizuka solves follow a more original plot though the characters involved are unchanged. Oh and yes, Onizuka gives Unchiyamida a German Suplex in the first episode =D
- There’s far less fan service compared to the Anime. It’s barely there in fact. Mostly because it wouldn’t work actually.
As you can probably guess, the fan service just wouldn’t work in the live action drama. Speaking for myself, the changes make the Drama work. Akira does an outstanding job as Onizuka as well. As some critics have said the situations are a bit over the top but this is GTO we’re talking about: It’s supposed to be over the top. I will also admit Onizuka’s obvious made-for-tv speeches at the end of each episode does feel forced. Even so, it doesn’t take too much away. Same with the fight scenes.
The three specials are the After Story to the first season as Class 2-4 graduates from high school. If you want to pretend GTO Taiwan and GTO 2014 don’t exist, feel free. Overall I give GTO 2012 + the three specials a 9/10. I only wish they would do a crossover special featuring students from each series. It really is hit or miss though.
Once I finish watching GTO 2014 (about halfway done) I will post the review as well.