[Editor’t note: I really wanted to have my Anime Fest write ups start up today, but I’m still sick. Fell sick immediately after the con. Been sick all week. So my apologies. I’ll get to it soon, though. For now, my thanks to Drew for another manga review.]
For the unannointed, GTO stands for Great Teacher Onizuka, and was a pop culture sensation in Japan as a live-action TV show, and then an anime series, eventually spawning a live action film and recently another live action TV series remake which started this month in Japan. Of course, it all started as a super popular manga by Toru Fujisawa, which ran from 1997 until 2002. Despite its popularity, Fujisawa never gave GTO an official sequel, although there is a “prequel” called GTO: The Early Years, which was actually published before GTO from 1990 to 1996 in Japan where it’s known as Shonan Junai Gumi (and even received an OAV series), and finally now a brand new side story called GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, which takes place over a 14 day summer break in the middle of the original GTO manga arc.
Volume 1 tells the story of everyone’s favorite gang-leader gone teacher, Onizuka, as he appears on a TV special talking to real teachers, where he’s thrown off for telling a story of how he thought he killed one of his students and almost buried them alive in the Fuji Forest, but luckily they woke up (this really happened with student Urumi Kanzaki in the original manga). Taking lots of heat at the school from upset viewers, Onizuka plays it low-key and goes back to his home turf of Shonan for the 14 day summer break. Upon arriving, he tries to help out a girl by chasing off a business man who is taking pictures up her skirt. She shrugs Onizuka’s help off as the police show up. Onizuka decides to move on and grab some items he needs, and runs into the same girl shoplifting in a book store. Upon confronting her, she yells for help claiming he groped her and runs off. The only thing that gets Onizuka out of trouble with the cops is a young woman named Ayame Shiratori stepping forward as a witness in his defense. Turns out Ayame works at the White Swan Children’s home taking care of a handful of troubled kids who dislike adults; among them is shoplifter Katsuragi. Also surprisingly, she has heard of Onizuka because she’s childhood pals with Fuyutsuki (Onizuka’s crush who is the young female teacher in the main series). A sucker for a pretty face, Onizuka offers to help out these troubled kids, and Ayame agrees, even letting him stay at the home for the 14 day span, working out in Onizuka’s favor as he needs a place to stay anyway, and maybe he can lose his virginity from the deal.
As soon as he gets to the home it’s off to work, as one by one he uses his goofy charm to try and get the kids to open their hearts and let him help them. Katsuragi isn’t so thrilled with this, and sends everything from gangsters to buckets of cockroaches at poor Onizuka. Shit also hits the fan when the abusive father of one the children, Sakurako, shows up (called in as a ploy by Katsuragi again to get Onizuka out of their lives). The final chapter sets up an interesting scenario that I won’t give away here, but it should be amusing to see Onizuka get out of.
For a side story spin-off and not an actual sequel or prequel, 14 Days in Shonan is some surprisingly solid stuff, feeling and fitting right into the pages of the original GTO, not feeling forced, just a true part of the story. Fujisawa’s writing and art hasn’t lost a beat with this beloved character, and if you loved original GTO, you’ll love this. If you have never picked up GTO, this offers a great jumping on point, because aside from the one or two references from the original series, 14 Days in Shonan sets up its self contained story that anyone can follow and learn the ways of goofy/bad ass Onizuka charm.
GTO: 14 Days in Shonan is out now in print from Vertical, Inc. [Editor’s note (again): I also reviewed this volume, back in March, but Drew has previous familiarity with the story that I lack, so the reviews come at slightly different angles.]