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Monday, June 22, 2009

Great Teacher Onizuka/GTO (1998)

A Life Altering Drama! GTO is simply a timeless classic of J Dramas!

About 9 years ago, my best friend lent this inspiring drama to me in VCD format. That time I wasn't much a fan of J drama, but I couldn't bear to reject his recommendation, so I decided to watch it with my sis as usual.

Little did I know that the couple of days that followed would be exceptionally fruitful and motivating. Seriously, every episode of GTO is nearly equally engaging the first time we watched it. Onizuka drives the show with his immense charisma and energy, joined by a solid storyline and soundtrack which is directed to maximum comedic effect and emotional level. Much of this drama's success is displayed through Takashi Sorimachi's good acting and the magic of the Japanese drama music industry.

It has been stated that Onizuka was the actor,Takashi Sorimachi's most favourite character among all the roles he has played. Though the drama adopts an episodic structure for the first half like many other J dramas, the characters' involvements are eventually tied in from halfway to the end of the main story, wrapping up nicely. I find this transition from episodic to continuous feel suitable and wise as it is less easy to get bored compared to watching the same characters' story arcs episode after episode, which can become draggy.

At the same time, it doesn't make you feel that the earlier episodes are of little or totally no relevance to the main story. It's not too draggy, not too episodic and the message is very clear and easily understood and agreed upon, executed through uniquely memorable scenes as Onizuka earns each student's respect by unconventional and moving ways.

The tunes of 'Poison Instrumental' and the 'Ballad For Fuyutsuki Asusa' are two unforgettable melodies played during many of the emotional scenes that few can ever forget. It is no wonder that the last episode is said to receive the highest viewership ratings in the history of J drama!

This drama lifts my spirits every time I watch it, and inspires me greatly to be as optimistic as Onizuka. Sounds really extreme but this is truly the work of its magic. Somehow Gokusen, as good in its own way, didn't have that a punch as hard as GTO. When this drama was aired in Japan, it was reported to have boost students' interest to go to school! Life altering or not, watch it to be your own judge! :D


*Below Info taken from DramaWiki.

12, + 1 Special, + 1 Movie


Viewership ratings:

Broadcast period:
1998-Jul-07 to1998-Sep-22

Air time:
Tuesday 22:00




General Synopsis

Onizuka Ekichi is the leader of a biker gang, who aspires to become a teacher. By chance, he gets to teach at a college, as the homeroom teacher for Class 2-4, where all previous teachers have either gone missing or been inflicted with nervous breakdown by its bunch of problematic students. With his unconventional teaching methods, Onizuka's firm passion gradually wins over the students' respect and trust as he imparts valuable life lessons rather than school work. Besides the students, he faces constant challenge from the school and educational authorities who oppose his teaching methods and doubt his ability as a teacher, for the fact that he is only a lowly graduate from some 3rd grade college.

Episode 1 Detailed Synopsis

The scene opens at an crowded outdoor swimming pool with sexy bikini ladies swimming and chatting under the sun. High up outside the building's windows stands a puzzled window cleaner, Onizuka, unpleased with his job. Seeing this, his colleague asked what he wants to be most in life, and Onizuka's answer is, a teacher. Instead of being supportive, his colleague laughs at his misfit ambition that seems unlikely with his punkish character.

A police officer arrives shortly after their conversation, asking for Onizuka. The officer is Saejima, Onizuka's close buddy, who tells him that a teacher had just tried to commit suicide and shows him a notice stating urgent need for a replacement teacher. Without much thought, Onizuka runs off for the interview, telling himself that this time, he is going to make it.

During the interview conducted by the unimpressed school's headmaster and supervisor looking through his resume, they go on to ask him the reason for being a teacher. Anxiously, he answers that his versed karate skills should be of much use when it comes to teaching difficult students. Hearing this, the headmaster declines his application straightaway as the supervisor mumbles sarcastic remarks about him. When asked to leave, Onizuka stares sternly at the headmaster, who goes on further to say that the school is no place for trash like him.

In rage, he shoots up from his seat, startling the two interviewers as he did, but leaves in disappointment with an apology. At the beverage counter tended by a friendly old lady who presumes he was rejected, Onizuka questions the views of teachers towards students nowadays, and says to her that he will never think his students as trash if he is a teacher. The old lady reacts bewildered at his words.

Just then, two rough looking students armed with bats rushed up the stairs towards the interview room. The old lady suggests that perhaps Onizuka should try to stop the students to turn the situation around. The students upstairs chase the frightened headmaster and supervisor who run frantically out the door. At the corridor, Onizuka interferes the pursuit, and introduces himself to the students that he is someone who shows respect for the headmaster. The students explain their rage at the headmaster's crude decision to expel them even after they apologize. But when the headmaster enforces that trash like them will never change, Onizuka grows stern and turns to give the headmaster a kick on his face. The onlooking students and the old lady look in surprise at Onizuka, who walks off with a pleased look.

That evening at the arcade, two male teenagers tried to intimidate the dispirited Onizuka at the arcade, only to be threatened by him instead. Onizuka commands them to sponsor him supplies at the convenience store. Onizuka finds Saejima back home, who is in the middle of watching porn video. Saejima reveals that someone came looking for Onizuka earlier and passed him a name card knowing he wasn't around. To Onizuka's surprise, the name card belongs to the director of the school where he was interviewed that very morning. Saejima conveys that the person promises to wait till 12 am if Onizuka is interested to be hired. With less than half an hour to spare, Onizuka hops on Saejima's police car and makes haste to the school, jumping over the closed gates.

Onizuka stops panting in front of the faculty office doors barely in time, and is received by a lady just when he thinks he is too late. The lady, Akira is pleased and introduces herself as the director, who happens to be the same lady who tended the school's beverage store. She accepts Onizuka's application, to his disbelief, saying that the school's problems lie not only with the students, but the teachers as well. Thus she needs a teacher with a stout character like him, and pleads for him to help her make the school better. For the first time, Onizuka hears someone else addresses him as 'Onizuka sensei' and is overjoyed. Yet the director only agrees to hire him on one condition...

The next day, the story introduces Fuyutsuki, a beautiful female teacher dragging herself up from bed as her alarm rings, showing great reluctance to start the new school day. At the school's gates, she runs into Onizuka who stares at her in fascination, giving her the impression of a pervert. She ignores him and hastens her way to school while Onizuka stops before the gate anxiously to prepare himself for his first day as a teacher. This he does by smoking and peering at passing female students' legs under their short skirts.

Much talk about a new unqualified teacher has spread around the teachers, and the headmaster tries to dissuade the director from her reckless decision, having ownself been kicked by him on the face. The director however insists to give him a chance, and let him takes on the most problematic class, 2-4.

Onizuka's arrival is treated with unwelcome and despise from the teachers, who do not even care to look a second glance at him. Fuyutsuki, under the headmaster's order, guides Onizuka with annoyance to his class. Once in, he writes his name on the blackboard, and turns to face the students, observing him in puzzlement and fascination. A friendly looking girl, Miyabi requests him for an introduction. Some of the girls comment on his good looks, while a girl Chikako teases another female student, Nanako that Onizuka fits her type of guys. At the back, Onizuka notices two male students who were the ones he met at the arcade. A male student Murai convinces Onizuka that the two, who apologize upfront with reluctance in their eyes are repentant for their actions. As he conducts his rollcall, Miyabi's friendly exterior melts away into a cold stare, as did Murai, scribbling wildly the words 'Kill Onizuka' on paper, and Kikuchi, the intellectual class leader, takes a sneak shot of Onizuka on camera.

After school, Onizuka finds Nanako, crying alone at one corner, saying that she doesn't want to go home. So Onizuka takes her to his place hoping to help her, unaware that it is a trap she sets with her two classmates who Onizuka met the arcade. At his place, she strips before the shocked Onizuka while her classmate shoots the moment she throws her arms around Onizuka's body. The guys threaten that his picture be made public if he doesn't pay up a certain sum by the next day. Before they leave, Onizuka asks Nanako whether her saying that she has a problem was purely an act from the start. Nanako hesitates and replies that even if she really does have a problem, why would she ever come to a teacher for help.

The three students gather at a cafe in celebration, but Nanako isn't in the mood and leaves curtly. As the two chases after her, they are stopped by Onizuka who brings them to a deserted road, where mean looking bikers appear and surround them. One of them reveals meanly Onizuka as their leader.

News of the the two students being dragged on bikes across the streets reach the school next day, with the headmaster bent on having Onizuka resign on the spot. With no choice, the director agrees and requests that Onizuka passes her his preprepared resignation letter which was the condition of his hire that should he break the school rules, he will resign on his own will. However, the teachers are taken aback when the two students speak in agreement with Onizuka's actions and request for him to stay, when in truth, they are acting under Onizuka's instructions in fear. Fuyutsuki realizes this after overhearing their conversation, and declares him as despicable.

On the other hand, Nanako grows interest in Onizuka as he is the first teacher to resist the students' notorious threats. She invites him to her big house, where Onizuka learns that she actually comes from a well to do family, though Nanako resents her parents' constant absence from home. Nanako decides to stay at Onizuka's place for the night, without telling her parents, who call up the school the next day to learn of her daughter's whereabouts. When the headmaster pressures Nanako to tell where she went the night before, Onizuka stands in to testify that she was at his place because she didn't want to go home. Despite the headmaster's order, she insists to stay at Onizuka's place.

During dinner which she prepares for Onizuka at his place, Nanako reveals how badly she misses the days when her house was smaller, and her parents were closer to each other. Now that her parents are rich, their relationship turn cold, they hardly talk and even sleep in separate rooms blocked by wall that seem inpenetrable. Hearing this, Onizuka tells her to leave, saying that she doesn't belong here. At once, Nanako throws down her apron and leaves in rage.

Wandering alone, Nanako encounters Fuyutsuki outside the arcade, who just received a call from her supervisor about Nanako parents' concern that their daughter has yet to return. Nanako asked Fuyutsuki about her opinions of Onizuka, which puzzled Fuyutsuki. She sent Nanako home, meanwhile followed by Nanako's two male classmates. At Nanako's house are the headmaster and her parents. When her parents ask why she did such an irresponsible thing for letting them worry, she simply says that they aren't fit to be her parents for realizing their daughters' disappearance only at such a late hour.

Furious at her answer, her parents blame each other, and eventually the school's mishandling for letting such an incident to happen. Fuyutsuki refuses to acknowledge this as the school's fault, until the cowardly headmaster presses her to do so and apologize for her attitude. Suddenly, Onizuka shows up with a sledge hammer in one hand before the startled group, yelling for Nanako who later runs out from her room upstairs. He asks Nanako 'Where is it?' The next scene shows a determined Onizuka storming into her father's room, stopping upon the wall. He slowly lifts the hammer and begins hammering. While Nanako's parents run to call the police, the headmaster goes after to stop them. Nanako watches on in silence moved to tears, along with Fuyutsuki and her two classmates who look on speechlessly while Onizuka hammers.

The smashed wall reveals a hole that leads to Nanako's mother's room. As Nanako peers from her mom's room, she breaks into a cheery smile. Onizuka tells her that the rest is up to her and walks off. The next day, he hands in his resignation letter to the director. When asked if he has any regrets, his answer is a no. Meanwhile Fuyutsuki and Nanako's two classmates' opinions of him begins to change. Nanako arrives in time to thank Onizuka as it was through that hole her parents saw each other's faces and smiled again for the first in a long time the night before. Nanako's parents then call saying they would lodge a complaint if the school fires Onizuka. The director gladly withdraws his resignation while the headmaster retreats in dismay.

Onizuka asks Fuyutsuki out for a date, who agrees to his rejoice. However, while passing by a commotion at the noticeboard, Fuyutsuki goes forward to check and sees a poster of a naked Onizuka posed in a S & M treatment with two ladies at his side. Stunned with disgust, she slaps Onizuka and runs off. Onizuka is no less shocked than Fuyutsuki to see such an obscene poster of himself.

1 comment:

  1. I like it, but with Sorimachi as Onizuka, it made Onizuka looks far more intelligent than in the manga/anime