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March 28, 2012

Bento Bako Lite: GTO: 14 Days in Shonan volume 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: GTO: 14 Days in Shonan
Author: Toru Fujisawa
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $10.95
Vintage: 2009 by Kodansha in Japan, January 2012 by Vertical
Genre: Comedy, action

This spin-off series of GTO takes place during fourteen days of a very memorable summer for everyone’s favorite bad boy teacher. Eikichi Onizuka is back, and he’s ready for a vacation. He decides to return home to Shonan, but as usual, finds himself wrapped up in someone else’s troubles. What starts off as a perfectly normal train trip, ends with Onizuka stopping a pervert from photographing a girl’s underwear…though she doesn’t seem to want his help. He runs into her again later, but she’s not thrilled he’s stopped her from shoplifting, and nearly gets him arrested on a false sexual harassment charge. If not for a young woman named Ayame Shiratori standing up for him, Onizuka would have been in a heap of trouble. Ayame is a caretaker at a children’s foster home, which also happens to be the home of the aforementioned troublesome teen. When Ayame realizes that he is the legendary Great Teacher Onizuka (she’s heard of his exploits from Azusa), she invites him to stay at the foster home for the next two weeks to work his magic on the troubled youths that live there. Far from easy, the next fourteen days will prove to be a nightmare even the great Onizuka will struggle with. And a certain teenage girl (Miki Katsuragi) he’s already had trouble with is ready to make his time at the foster home a living hell. Onizuka vows to do his best, however, especially since it will get him on Ayame’s good side, presenting a perfect opportunity for the perpetual virgin. (Hey, he’s only 22; his hormones are still in full swing.) When he arrives at the White Swan foster home, he finds that his usual straight forward tactics might not work on these kids who have been left scarred and abandoned by the adults in their lives. They are far from welcoming, and some are even outright hostile. Never mind that Miki Katsuragi is prepared to do anything to make him leave. Including on calling on some local thugs to beat him to a pulp. Her first plan fails, of course, as she has grossly underestimated the power of Onizuka’s heart…and fists. So she calls in a favor from her high ranking police officer father, and gets Onizuka arrested. He’s not deterred, however, and is actually fired up to get serious and break through to the foster kids. Frustrated that Onizuka has returned, Miki comes up with a new idea, only this time it places one of her fellow house members in serious danger. Just as Onizuka is finally starting to get through to the extremely shy Sakurako and very aloof Ryoichi, Miki calls up Sakurako’s abusive father and lets him know where his daughter is. Miki expects Onizuka to stand in the way and fight off this deadbeat gangster dad, so he’ll be arrested and kicked out for getting violent, but Onizuka appears to be used to such situations, and knows exactly how to handle Ken Sugawara. Miki refuses to stop, however, and Onizuka finds himself in a whole heap of trouble with her newest scheme.

It is now time to admit that I’m not very familiar with GTO as a series. I know of it, and I have a very basic understanding of what it’s sort of about, but that’s it. If you’re not already a fan of GTO, you might still enjoy this series, however, I think established fans will get a lot more out of it. There are various jokes and character cameos that only a person familiar with GTO would understand. It’s written for an established fan base. However, that doesn’t mean it’s alienating to new comers. Fujisawa establishes the character of Eikichi Onizuka well, and even someone unfamiliar with his past exploits can get a grasp on the kind of man he is. He’s recklessly brave, surprisingly compassionate, handsome (just had to throw that in there), and unflinching in his resolve. In short, he’s a bit of a thug, but in his heart he’s a really good guy who just wants to heal the wounds in the hearts of others. I was reminded of Gokusen, which is about a yakuza heiress who wants to be a teacher; Kumiko and Onizuka share some of their more amusing traits, and if y0u like one, I suspect you’ll enjoy the other. This volume is mostly a set up. It puts Onizuka in position, and gives him a force to be reckoned with in Miki Katsuragi. All of the kids in the foster home will take some extra care and attention, but Miki will most certainly be the hardest of them all. She is determined to make him leave one way or the other, and is willing to use her father’s influence to make it happen, even if it also ends up bringing her father disgrace. It’s curious that the daughter of a high ranking police officer is living in a foster home. It doesn’t seem like Miki was abused by him, like many of the other children there were by their parents. Nor does he appear to have abandoned her outright, since she’s still able to call down a police force within moments whenever she wants. Maybe he doesn’t have time to raise her himself, or just can’t handle her outrageous methods of rebelling. Whatever the case may be, she feels like the odd one out at White Swan. It’s going to take a lot of effort for Onizuka to get these kids to open up in just fourteen days, especially with Miki keeping him constantly on his toes (and constantly battered and bruised). Vertical has done a good job with 14 Days in Shonan. There are a few very nicely printed color pages at the front of the book, the translation is solid, and the back contains some useful translation notes. Fans of GTO will be happy to know that Vertical is also publishing the rest of (previous licensed by Tokyopop) GTO: The Early Years starting with volume 11.




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