Digging up backlogged gems, like Great Teacher Onizuka

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If MyAnimeList has taught me anything, it’s that for every merely-good new anime series airing right now, there are many more excellent but old (and therefore, forgotten) gems just waiting to be found. Since I joined that site, I’ve spent countless hours trawling through their hefty archives of anime, trying to build up a well-structured list of everything I’ve ever wanted to see. And now, as of speaking, there are 87 TV series, movies or OVAs on my official back-log; scary, but as long as I’m an anime fan, the list will never drain.

Building such a resource is a daunting task, but at the same time, it provides me with a useful reference for the future. If I’m looking for some comedy, or action, or drama, all I need to do is consult my list. For example, I doubt I’d even think to watch something as obscure as “Animation Runner Kuromi” had I never bothered to note it down on MAL, but I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be an entertaining little comedy about the anime industry, helmed by one of my absolute favourite directors, Akitaro Daichi, he of “Fruits Basket” and “Now and Then, Here and There” fame. Discovering that, amidst everything else that’s supposedly vying for mine anime-viewing attentions, was well worth the effort.

I found the anime of this blog-post, a certain Great Teacher Onizuka, for the same reasons. I’ve often read mentions of GTO, but up until the end of 2007, I’d always ignored it. However, since the dawn of the new year, I’ve been feeling tired after work and regularly struggle to keep my eyes open long enough to get through even one episode of so-called thinking-man’s anime (because, you see, thinking is too much effort). I suppose big, dumb Great Teacher Onizuka looked like the perfect antidote, and indeed, I was right; light entertainment for the win.

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Great Teacher Onizuka’s real name is Eikichi Onizuka. He often introduces himself as a 22 year-old bachelor looking for lurrrv, but his blonde hair (quite rare in Asia, apparently!) and hot-blooded, aggressive attitude fails to conceal his history as the legendary leader of one of Japan’s most violent motorcycle gangs. Indeed, he only starts teaching because of the many “hot girls” at school, but quickly realizes his passion for setting straight an abusive class of misfits; themselves more than willing to squish his fledgling career.

That’s all you need to know about the plot of GTO, it’s that simple. Onizuka isn’t like other teachers; he isn’t up-tight, strict or serious, he’s the opposite. He’s a punk, irresponsible, easy-going and up for laugh; consider that he wins the admiration of one student by asking him for porn, while he punishes bullies by hanging them upside-down from trees.

So much of the fun is in seeing how Onizuka’s lack of regard for social boundaries (e.g. spanking a female student) knows no limits; the bemused reactions he forces from parents, teachers and students alike are priceless. You know they’ll never defeat Onizuka, but the bigger the bastard, the harder they fall. Of course, there are the obligatory slips into serious drama too, but it’s apt, and in some cases, heart-rending. In one particular arc, there is a rather-weak boy that’s being bullied by a group of girls; he considers suicide. It ends when he strips down naked in front of a packed hall of PTA members to reveal the extent to which his body has been battered and bruised.

With the animation from Studio Pierrot, the studio behind the likes of Bleach and Naruto, GTO is a fairly standard looking anime from 1999, but some of Onizuka’s facial expressions are hilarious; it’s like he suddenly tenses every muscle on his face to emphasize the sense of embarrassment or confusion he’s started feeling. It’s really unique and amusing to see, and was apparently based on the actor who played Onizuka in the live action drama.

Talking of Pierrot, they also curse GTO with their other major affliction, ridiculous random filler episodes. It’s not as bad as Naruto though, well, not as obvious, anyway, considering Onizuka proves himself capable of sitting an exam with a gun-shot wound to the stomach; no-one even notices until he passes out! You can’t really get more ridiculous than that, right? Besides, GTO has no plot to speak of, it’s just Onizuka rescuing the hearts and minds of a group of kids who, at some point or another, lost faith in school.

Though it’s low-brow and stupid, Great Teacher Onizuka is entertaining and likeable. Sometimes, that’s all I need; nothing too intelligent or opaque, but just wholesome, good-hearted fun. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, but I’m glad I did. Now, back to the back-log, any suggestions?

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

25 thoughts on “Digging up backlogged gems, like Great Teacher Onizuka”

  1. I’m about to start my way through both Akagi and Ooedo Rocket myself, but I see you haven’t watched Ghost in the Shell 2nd yet. I recall you were pondering whether or not to start it a short while ago. GitS is my suggestion.

    Ookiku Furikabutte is up to 22 subtitled episodes from Central Anime now, so it might be completely fansubbed toon.

  2. Found some anime to watch for my self from your list :)

    from those on the list i would recomend myself:
    Touch!! – a must watch old anime.
    Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid
    Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG
    Hikaru no Go
    Hunter x Hunter and all its ovas
    Patlabor

  3. Necromancer/JKTrix/Soomer: I must admit, I’m quite looking forward to having a look at some more sports anime. My only problem with some of the older stuff, especially the likes of Slam Dunk and Touch!!, is that the fansub video quality is often really bad (probably a VHS rip). I’d say right now, I’m most looking at trying “Ookiku Furikabutte”, since it seems fairly highly rated and obviously, it’s quite recent too. Talking of sports anime, Haijime no Ippo remains one of my all time favorite anime series.

    Also, I’m ashamed to confirm I still haven’t seen SAC 2nd GIG, definitely something I need to put right before we hit the spring season. Also, it’s another case where I’ve downloaded the soundtrack and almost memorized the songs before even watching an episode of the anime itself.

    And ahh, Hunter x Hunter, one day I’ll tackle it full on. Seems like I’ve been planning to watch that for what seems like years and years now.

  4. you must watch Hunter x Hunter YOU MUST
    and if you watched slam dunk please tell me which you prefer slam dunk or Haijime no Ippo ? (for me its slam dunk)
    read or die ova
    excel saga if you liked FLCL
    basilisk
    i dont know if you stopped watching d.gray man or not but since episode 56 it has become very nice

  5. Second person to recommend GTO, I’m watching it. XD

    As for suggestions for the backlog…I think it goes without saying that you need to watch 5cm, whether you like it or not is another issue. Truth to tell, I haven’t watch most of what is on that list. XD The FMA movie is worth a shot, depending on whether or not you liked the series. I’ve been reading Oofuri and it’s pretty good, the manga anyway. Saikano is a must see, of sorts. It’s a tad bit melodramatic, but I liked it. Scryed was enjoyable, but nothing to write home about there. Zetsubou Sensei is another must watch series, even though it’s getting a bit tedious to watch. I just watched Tokyo Marble Chocolate. It was good, worth watching definitely. I’ve been meaning to look into Yakitate!! Japan for a while, maybe I’ll start on the manga.

    Hope you have fun going through the backlog. I might construct one of these lists myself, Owen, apparently, has been very successful at getting people to join MyAnimeList. Must, resist, peer, pressure!

  6. Heh, I’m actually reading Shonan Junai Gumi, the prequel featuring Onizuka and his friend Ryuji Danma right now. As for anime, I’d recommend watching the movies first, then maybe starting on some of the short ova series. As for TV series, I’d say Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Ghost in the Shell and Utena are absolute must-watch series in my eyes. I’d also recommend The Soultaker to you, but I haven’t seen the last half of the series so I can’t say if it gets better or worse. I’ll also go ahead and recommend Hunter x Hunter, even though I’ve only read the manga and the anime doesn’t seem to complete the entire story (although it chooses a good place to stop).

  7. Hunter x Hunter is the best anime in its category.

    Touch is a romance sport anime. Not a sport anime with some romance! but also not a romance anime with some sport even tho first part of the story might seem so. I’ve watched it 3 times so far even tho it has just over 100 episodes. I just like its Romance/Sport mix. Also i suggest not reading too many reviews, it might spoil one of the most important part of this anime.
    Another one i would reccomend is: Kimagure Orange Road, but this one is a pure romance comedy, not sure if you’d like it. Same author (manga) as the Touch. This anime has The best female character ever.

  8. @qwertypoiuy: Yeah, I stopped watching D.Gray-man when it became clear that the ridiculous filler to actual story development ratio was disproportionately high. Basically, the shopping trip episode with all the crazy robots killed it for me. I might have another crack at it if/when the story hits a sustained run of quality, but in the mean time, I might have another go at getting into Hunter X Hunter.

    @Xerox: You should join up at MAL, that way we can pressure you when your blog goes quiet for a few weeks :) Anyway, right now I’m hesitant to watch “5cm” and “Tokyo Marble Chocolate” because they’ve been so hyped that I’m almost reluctant to see something that’s going to “change my life” or whatever. I think that explains my attraction to GTO too, right now I’m just not into the emotionally over-wrought stuff. And actually, I adored the Fullmetal Alchemist TV series, but once I heard mixed things about the movie, I started to wonder whether or not its worth tainting my perception of the original series with what’s supposed to be a “dodgy” ending to the film.

    @Protodude: Shonan Junai Gumi, eh? What’s it like? I read on Wikipedia it was written before GTO, and I think it’s kinda cool that Tohru Fujisawa built up this universe for his characters. Shame he went on to create something as terrible as TOKKO.

    And another vote for Hunter x Hunter too, seems like it’s everyones favourite. It’s inevitable that when I too eventually come to love it that I’ll feel stupid for waiting so long to see it. Also, I have no real reason for ignoring Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, definitely something I’ll try to put right.

    @Soomer: I just placed Kimagure Orange Road on the list :) And Touch sounds very interesting; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sports anime mixed with a heavy emphasis on romance, but the fact we’re still talking about it today is a tribute to its lasting impression on people. I’ll “investigate” its availability.

  9. ‘any suggestions?’

    Even though it’s not on your list, I’d say Gasaraki is worth a shot. Especially the English dub.

  10. If i were you, I’d watch “Mind Game”. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this absolutely phenomenal delirium/psychotic anime brought by Kôji Morimoto (the same genius who did “Beyond” from Animatrix). Animation and graphics look similar to Tekkoninkreet, while the overall hypnotic atmosphere is undescribable. I consider it a masterpiece, yet few people have seen it or talked about it.
    Anyway, good luck.

  11. Touch – you can get it from Central Anime fansub group. Not sure where you’d get Kimagure orange road. Actually i do know one but that is not a free source.

  12. One more thing.

    I decided to check out Yamara, but it seems only 57 episodes out of 124 have been fansubbed, it was licensed last year (or so) and should come out soon, from website 50 first episodes will be let out on DVD in the start of this year.

    I did find all episodes from secondary source but they are in spanish, heh. Will download one episode and see how bad it is :|

  13. as far as suggestions go what you’ve got on your list seems to be more than enough

    although I would recommend gundam : the 08th ms team. It really strikes that anti-war/WTF are we doing killing other people chord.

    also windy tales is pretty rad although the animation feels dumbed down for the myspace generation. “oh my god her calves are so skinny! but her hips are huge…I can so relate” and if you go through the comments on the series’ eps on crunchyroll they are just like that. Some of the people watching it can’t get past the animation

  14. Damn, you beat me to GTO. Honestly, I’m a big fan of this series. Mostly because I’m a big fan of those “one teacher against a group of students.” In the same vien, I have to recommend Gokusen, which is awesome. I have to admit, I’m not much for the more light-hearted stuff, but I did like Starship Operators. And Burst Angel, which I have to admit is a guilty pleasure. If you’re renting you might want to go with BGC Tokyo 2040 or Heat Guy J. I actually liked s-Cry-ed, but that one’s kind of a mixed bag for most people.

    The first section of Otogi Zoshi was pretty good too. Oh, and L/R Licensed by Royalty. Blue Seed is okay, but I can’t give it a really strong reccomendation, it’s kind of dated, both in plot style and animation.

  15. @Animated FatCat: Cheers for the reminder. Officially on my list; I’ve always liked the look of Gasaraki, though I suspect it’s probably more of a “weekend” show due to its Gundam 00-esque emphasis on war, religion and politics (you know it’s bad when religion mixed with politics, what with one being all about fantasy and the other all about reality).

    @Ubiquitous urchin: It’s another of my great laments that I’ve still to watch Mind game, especially considering how much I loved Kemonozume (if you don’t already know, both are from the same director and share a similar frentic style). Anyway, I’ve got this downloaded (from the now-defunct but frankly awesome fansub group Jolly-Roger)… Mind Game and Paprika are probably the most serious over-sights in my backlog.

    @Soomer: I might buy Kimagure, considering its from AnimeEigo and everything. I’ll watch Touch!! first though, considering I <3 sports anime and all. Yes, I did just make the '<3' symbol and I'm not a fan-girl...

    Also, when you say "Yamara", do you mean "Yawara"? If so, that's from Naoki Urasawa of MONSTER fame. Let me know what you think of it, anyway, because I've always wondered how he went from writing about Japanese judo girls to neo-nazi conspiracies!

    @berkles: Windy Tales looks good. Never noticed all that talk about body shapes, but it definitely is a unique looking art style and if just for that reason, I want to give it a chance, ala Mahou Shojotai. I love it when anime pushes beyond the "norm" of how it's supposed to look, it usually results in a superior series.

    @Cameron: I've seen a lot of those series you've mentioned, but I'd have to say I'm now totally pysched about Gokusen. Not sure how I missed it in the first place, I remember it came out around about the same time as "Gungrave" and back then, I was a bit less interested in drama and all about action. Now though... I really want to it see it, and as long as it's not too "Dangerous Minds", I'm sure I'll adore it.

  16. Another vote for Windy Tales, the animation was great (what’s wrong with big hips?) and Kawai Kenji’s soundtrack for it was really good, I’ll have to find it and listen to it later (took ages to download, very rare it seems).

  17. Yeah, Gokusen was a Media Blaster’s title too. And it had a horrible trailer. It’s not really “Dangerous Minds”. In fact it’s hard to find a real good comparison, I want to say “Kindergarden Cop” but it’s not quite that stupid. In a lot of ways, it’s like GTO only with the daughter of the head of the local Yakuza as the lead. It was a lot of fun. Especially when I was tired and working two jobs.

  18. Yes, i meant Yawara. I’ve watched through most of the fansubbed ones.

    I like it, its not the best of them, feels like few things are missing, but its not bad. The main character is nice but her grandfather and “rival” is annoying. The story is about japan media finding out about her, her not wanting to continue judo because she wants to be a normal girl and because she blames judo for her father leaving when she was 5. There is also her grandfather trying to force her continue in judo whatever cost and a little weird love-quartet(4 people).

  19. @Necromancer: Cheers for linking me the OST. You know, I’m still hooked on those songs you sent me from Gigantic Formula, they get me through a busy day at work!… I so have to watch that now too, any anime with a soundtrack this good can’t be bad.

    @Cameron Probert: Sounds perfect. Incidentally, have you seen Black Lagoon? Seems like something you’d enjoy, it features an inverse of the formula you mentioned above; this time, a timid school girl becomes the leader of a bunch of nasty yakuza. To say the least, it’s very cool.

    @Soomer: Yawara seems a bit hit/miss, which is the general impression of gotten elsewhere too. Reading about it on Wikipedia, it sounds like it was a big deal in Japan when it first aired and the manga even won an award (I swear, Naoki Urasawa’s won this same award for every manga he’s ever written). Let me know if it suddenly improves.

  20. Nope, haven’t gotten around to Black Lagoon yet. I’m planning on buying it though. I’m really up for anything ( I mean I’m watching ROD TV, Monster, Le Chevalier D’Eon and Claymore at once right now. Well not literally at once, but intermittently.)

  21. If you ever read a manga in your life. (or if you ever seriously fall in love with a manga) it needs to be Fruits Basket. It needs to, needs to, needs to. I will seriously cry if you liked the Fruits Basket anime but don’t read the manga. I will lay awake at night and feel that a great injustice has come upon the world. T_T tears will fall. I swear. READ that manga.

    1. Okay, it’s now officially on my list of things I need to read! Will be interesting to see how things are different, given the way the anime had an original ending, etc.

  22. stumbled upon your blog completely by accident on google. i just want to say that you really havnt truly experienced the greatness of GTO unless youve read the manga (preferable before watching the anime but i guess its too late for you). dont know if your a fan of manga but seriously, the manga is just hilarious! Onizuka’s facial expressions and antics never get old. iv read it twice already and its one of my top ten mangas. well worth the read.

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