Great Teacher Onizuka was a popular anime and manga that was created by Tohru Fujisawa. The manga had about 25 issues and the animated series had over 40 episodes to play with. The concept was so popular that it was also translated into a live action version with some episodes and a movie. Of course if you're into anime this shouldn't be anything that is new to you.
I understand that these movies are made for a particular audience and unless you are a diehard fan of the anime your appreciation for the live action material will be greatly affected. I have actually only seen a few bits and pieces of the GTO anime so I would by no means consider myself an expert, though I have enjoyed what I've seen. There have been a lot of things have been changed in regards to this film, but for the most part the tone of the anime appears to be intact.
In the tiny town of Horobonai things seemed to be going well in the past. The town had opened up a Canadian amusement park and the community was booming. Sadly once the park closed the quaint village quickly became boring and lifeless. To make matters worse the school system has become corrupt and a powerful chairman seems to be in charge of the town. At least that's how Horobonai was until Eikichi Onizuka (Takashi Sorimachi) came to town.
This badass biker rolls onto the screen and not only has run out of gas for his bike, but he also lost his wallet so he has no way to refill the tank. Luckily for him he encounters two schoolyard bullies picking on another kid (Raku), but he doesn't really step in to stop them from their bullying. Instead he kind of shows them how it's done and in the process forces them to push his bike to the local school. From there his unorthodox teaching methods come to light as he goes to the rooftop to stop a girl from jumping to her death.
Ayano Katsuragi (Rena Tanaka) is the daughter of the town's chairman and does things like attempted suicide in order to get attention. She's a convoluted irritating character with all sorts of problems and we get to know her as the film goes on, but I digress. Onizuka gets the girl off of the ledge but in the process convinces Raku (Hideyuki Kasahara) to do a swan dive from the building. Needless to say Onizuka makes an immediate impression with the student body and faculty alike.
As the movie goes on the focus splits into a few different directions. On one hand Onizuka makes it his goal in life to teach Raku all about becoming a man and getting the guts to go for the girl of his dreams (Ayano). He ingratiates himself to Raku's family for some room and board and forces the kid to drive him around on his bicycle. It's often hard to tell just which side Onizuka is on, especially when he forces Raku into a fight with a bully and threatens the kid with public humiliation. The biggest mystery surrounding Onizuka though seems to be his past that we see catching up with him. A drop dead gorgeous reporter named Kaoru (Norika Fujiwara) shows up in Horobonai looking for a criminal, though her only clue is Onizuka's wallet. Needless to say the town gets turned upside down thanks to our anti-hero and it will never be quite the same.
It may not be a masterpiece or a modern marvel in terms of filmmaking, but GTO is a really fun movie that is easy to get into. The characters are likeable for the most part and they have decent chemistry that works well. As with most anime to live action attempts you have to leave your brain at the door and have some suspension of disbelief. If you can do that you'll get quite a few laughs out of GTO like I did and walk away wanting more.
GTO is presented on DVD with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and looks pretty good despite being roughly six and a half years old. The image contains a fair amount of speckle, grain, and some soft edges here and there, but otherwise looks very good. Many scenes feature crystal clear picture quality and natural colors. There are a few too many earthy tones in the film and a lot of the video can seem washed out at times.
There are three separate language tracks to choose from before you start watching GTO. The English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are decent enough for a stereo presentation and simply feature straight forward audio as you'd expect. The 5.1 Japanese selection beefs things up a bit with more a pronounced soundstage though the rear channel gets used mainly for music and light dialogue bits. The quality is fair and I didn't notice any technical errors while I watched the film. As you'd expect some English subtitles are also included.
For extra features there is a theatrical trailer and collection of TV spots for the film as well as a tacky looking teaser. The only other thing worth mentioning available on the disc is a collection of interviews with the cast. For the most part they just talk about their characters though there are some points where they talk about their experience with working on the film.
The plot can get a little convoluted and farfetched at times, but if you can shut your brain off and sit through GTO with no expectations you'll have a good time. I know I did. The characters are memorable and actors do a decent job, though it is often difficult to tie Onizuka's teachings to a lesson learned. I think it's safe to recommend this to anyone that is interested in a fun loving Japanese that's based on an anime.
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