Review: GTO Taiwan and GTO 2014 (Live Action Drama

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…I’ll preface this and say you can find all the GTOs on Crunchyroll. I will also go with the assumption you’ve read my review of GTO 2012 (Season 1 + the 3 Specials) before reading this.

GTO Taiwan is a short 4-Episode special shot in Taiwan. Eikichi Onizuka interns as an assistant teacher at a school in Taiwan. Not long after Onizuka, Ryuuji and to their surprise Saejima arrive in Taiwan, things get hectic. Not only does Onizuka have to contend with the obvious language barrier but he must also overcome the cultural barrier to help childhood friends.

In the full 11-Episode GTO 2014, Meishuu Academy and Onizuka’s alma mater Shounan High have merged to become Meishuu Shounan High School and it’s where the new series takes place. Onizuka is also an assistant teacher though Vice Principal Uchiyamida and Director Sakurai are back. Both GTO Taiwan and GTO 2014 have a different director from the first season. The differences are like night and day.

While yeah Onizuka helps his students out like before, unlike the first season Onizuka feels a bit more preachy compared to the first season. He also leans on Sakurai more than the first season. Another interesting thing is the two recurring sub-plots: Ayuna’s pregnancy and a certain incident from Onizuka’s past. Unlike GTO 2012 it’s a bit more obvious early on in each episode what’s gonna happen.

You know Onizuka’s past is relevant prior to Episode 10 due to the obvious hints dropped here and there. And then it’s revealed Onizuka’s best friend in high school was Honami’s older brother. Yikes! The storyline is actually from the Manga but the way it was set up felt way too forced. As other reviewers have said, it’s like they went out of their way to go the anticlimatic route.

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The fight scenes felt forced and over the top compared to GTO 2012 to say the least. In Episode 10, Onizuka stabs himself but fights off almost a dozen guys a few moments later. Him collapsing from blood loss after the fight felt like an afterthought given how it was set up. Clearly it was done with a Western audience in mind (Crunchyroll). That said, it looked like they tried to go two routes with the subplot regarding Ayuna’s pregnancy. The first had Western Audiences in mind (Ayuna deciding to keep the baby and Kuzuki being irrational about wanting to raise it). The other clearly had a Japanese Audience in mind (Ayuna keeping the pregnancy a secret from everyone even after being outed and the school wanting to expel both her and Kuzuki).

Nevermind they clearly timeskipped her pregnancy for no reason: At the end of Episode 3 she’s 4 months along. Come the end of episode 10 (When Sakurai finds out) she’s 6 months along. She gives birth halfway through the finale though it is mentioned she should have another month to go. Even if you’re generous with the time Onizuka spends helping the others, only two and a half months pass between the first episode and the last. It would’ve been better if they just had the birth happen offscreen.

It sucks Sakurai was forced to resign over the scandal Ayuna and Kuzuki’s indescretions caused the school. She did drop a hint she was open to going that route in the previous episode though. Someone had to take responsability. She handled it like a boss–right after Onizuka delivered a German Suplex to the Teacher in Charge in front of the press!

Anywho, the series is done now. I’m surprised and annoyed there isn’t much GTO Fan Fiction on FF.net (132 entries total and all from years ago). I’m surprised given how highly regarded GTO is among Anime fans and annoyed more folks haven’t taken a shot at writing Fan Fics based on it. Can’t be helped I guess.

I give both GTO 2014 and GTO Taiwan 7/10. They just don’t have the polish the first season does. While yes it’s a different director, it’s the same cast and much of the same crew. It’s painfully obvious they tried too hard to do too much at the same time. Onizuka also feels very out of character compared to GTO 2012. He does way more stuff offscreen compared to the first season as well. Like the first season, they did leave the door open for the series to continue. I don’t see it happening unless it’s a reboot and that doesn’t happen in Japan outside Anime. UNLIKE the U.S., Japan prefers not to reinvent the wheel without a really good reason.

GTO overall stands as one of the most-see series hands-down. You can find the Anime and all the Dramas on Crunchyroll.

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Review: GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka 2012 (Live Drama Version)

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….Right.

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.

 

Review: GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka (Anime Version)

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Like many other Anime I’ve been watching on Crunchyroll this year, this is yet another “Why didn’t I see this MUCH SOONER?” Anime for me. If you’re not into Anime, you WILL like GTO trust me. More so if you have teenage kids or work with teenagers XD

Almost every episode had me laughing so hard my sides hurt. The ones that didn’t had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation. GTO is about Eikichi Onizuka, an ex-biker gangster turned high school teacher. His unorthodox style and approach gets him a job working as a high school teacher.

Even after doing this to the Vice Principal:

For comparison, here it is in the live version of GTO:

YES, there is a live version of GTO! More on that in a bit.

Onizuka perfectly delivering the German Suplex to Uchiyamida is considered by many to be one of the most legendary scenes in all of anime and because of WHY he does it. It’s a problem that’s more…open in urban school districts. Having worked in several classrooms in 3 Boston Schools for the last 10 years, I can say that. Politics at all levels is what’s getting in the way of progress. Kids and Teenagers need to be able to trust their teachers will have their best interests in mind while being mindful they’re not perfect. Even more importantly, Teachers shouldn’t be made to feel they have to keep their students at arms’ length and view them as nothing more than numbers. More on this another time.

Getting back to GTO, it goes without saying there are life lessons to be had in every episode. Onizuka doesn’t have any sense of decorum as an educator but that’s what makes him so awesome. He follows his own rules and when he messes up–and he does A LOT–he owns it like a boss. The Anime series is 43 episodes long. In the final episodes, what happened with class 2-4’s original homeroom teacher and why they hate teachers is finally revealed. Of course, by that time Onizuka has won over everyone in the class.

I give GTO The Anime a 10/10. If you are an educator, WATCH IT. I promise you will like it!

I watched it subbed on Crunchyroll.

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As I mentioned before, GTO was so popular a live-action version was made! I just finished watching the first season and so far the scenarios have been spot on. There are three big differences between the Anime and the Live version I do want to point out though: In the Anime version Onizuka lives at the school. In the Live version, he lives with his friends and former biker gang buddies: Saejiwa is now a cop and Ryuuji owns a pub. In the first season, anyways. Another difference is alot of the dangerous stunts Onizuka does in the Anime were removed for obvious reasons. Most but not all. For example Onizuka does total Uchiyamida’s car like before and fights off a mob of gangsters singlehandedly. The third difference is the Live verison’s season 2 ending itself. I won’t spoil it here but I will say Onizuka gives someone a German Suplex!

Another thing about the Live version is each episode is 45 minutes long. The three specials are 90 minutes though. In each episode Onizuka helps one of his students with a problem. He comes off as more laid back in the Anime in his approach but he’s more direct in the Live Version. The emotional impact is definitely there. I will write my review of the first season of the Live Version shortly.