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Tokyopop presents
GTO #1: Great Teacher Onizuka (1999)

"Student teaching, it gets me excited. A bunch of innocent high school girls, I can't wait!"
- Eikichi Onizuka (Takagi Wataru)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: May 08, 2002

Stars: Takagi Wataru, Isshin Chiba, Fumiko Orikasa, Emi Kobayashi, David Lucas, Ron Allen, Wendee Lee, Cindy Robinson
Other Stars: Yoshiko Okamoto, Kosuke Okano, Shinichirou Miki, Ayako Kawasumi, Yuichi Nagashima, Yuko Miyamura, Kiyoyuki Yanada, Atsuko Tanaka, Seiki Asai, Junko Noda, Hikaru Midorikawa, John Smallberries, Midge Mayes, Brad Mowen, Debbie Rothstein, Christine Rupprecht
Director: Noriyuki Abe, Naoyasu Hanyu, Nao Okezawa, Hayato Date, Tomio Uchiyama

Manufacturer: Technicolor
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (16+ for mature content)
Run Time: 02h:05m:57s
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 645573013226
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B+A-A- C+

DVD Review

TOKYOPOP delivers the debut DVD of the GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka) series, which runs 43 episodes and ten discs in total. The first four installments—the double length pilot and three regular episodes are included here. Based on Tohru Fujisawa's 1987 manga, GTO is unique in a number of aspects: it was adapted to live action TV and a movie before ever becoming an anime series, and its style and storyline are also very original. GTO tells the story of Eikichi Onizuka, a 22-year-old ex-biker who decides he wants to be a great teacher, primarily so he can fulfill his lusty ambition to surround himself with young pretty girls. As the series unfolds, however, it is clear there is more to Mr. Onizuka than first meets the eye.

We first meet Onizuka as he is caught red-handed peering up girl's skirts on an escalator by a pair of would-be muggers. Unfortunately for the thugs, they don't realize that Onizuka has a black belt and can easily handle himself against a couple of punk kids. His friend Ryuji Danma, a motorcycle mechanic, drops Onizuka off at the new high school where he will be student teaching, as Eikichi fantasizes about all the cute girls who await him along the way. Things aren't quite as expected however, as Onizuka is given the class from hell—a gang of smart ass boys with no respect whatsoever for their teacher—in fact, they have a reputation for destroying them. The one bright side is Nanako Mizuki, a beautiful student who gets her teacher's attention, especially when she begs to come home with him. Believing his wildest dreams have come true, he takes Nanako home, where she proceeds to cook him dinner before throwing herself at him. With a half-naked school girl perched over him, the doors to his apartment spring open, as a barrage of flashbulbs go off in his face: His class have him ripe for blackmail.

With damning evidence against him, he is offered the chance to pay a million yen to stop the spread of the photographs and save his reputation. Dumbstruck, Onizuka doesn't know what to do, and this is compounded when he finds out Nanako herself was behind the setup. However, fate works in strange ways. As the boys snicker over their accomplishment at a nearby park, they make the mistake of crossing the motorcycle gang whose turf they are on, and surrounded by dozens of bikers, the prospects don't look good. Who should appear but their victim, Onizuka, who is well known and feared by the biker gang. This time the tables are turned, as Onizuka exacts his revenge on the students through an evening of humiliation and torture. Arriving at school the next morning expecting to be fired, instead, the principle praises the miraculous turnaround in his student's behavior, as they grovel at Onizuka feet, and show the ultimate respect. And then there's Miss Nanako...

On the surface, the set-up is similar to Sidney Poitier's character in To Sir, With Love, a novice teacher dealing with an unruly class, but the similarity ends there. Onizuka's challenges are much deeper, as the type of opposition he faces is far more malicious. The teacher's personality plays a big part, and is allowed to develop nicely even in these first few episodes. He definitely a pervert with a thing for young girls, but he also has an explosive temper that is backed up by martial art skills and his own sense of justice. He is not at all unlikable, and there is much to sympathize with in the plots launched against him, but at the same time, he does get a bit of what he deserves by having his own misplaced agendas. By the time he reaches his second assignment, Onizuka has a bit of a handle on what he is up against, but when he gets himself in trouble this time, his own doubts about his secret perversions make him question whether he has done what is being alleged. There is a well-balanced sense of humor and drama in this series so far, and the protagonist's complex personality has yet to be fully divulged.

The artwork is very interesting, contrasting simpler, more common designs with almost grotesque transformations as Onizuka expresses his rage. This adds an another layer of sophistication to the production, which I quite enjoyed. The pacing is excellent, building just the right amount of tension before something triggers a turnaround in direction. Both voice casts do a good job enacting their parts. All together this looks like a promising series, with little else out there to compare it to.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Video quality is excellent overall, with strong colors, deep blacks and little in the way of anomalies. There is some minor interlacing, and just a hint of rainbowing in a couple of places—surprising when the complexity of some of the line work is taken into consideration. A couple of specific shots look a little on the soft side, but clarity everywhere else is really good. Compression artifacts are only noticeable if you are way too close to the screen.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio is available for both Japanese and English dub tracks. Separation is good, with a few extreme pans, otherwise dialogue is center focused, clean and well defined. Frequency coverage is very good, filling out both high and low ends of the spectrum.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Initial D, Reign, and Real Bout High School, Vampire Princess Miyu
Packaging: Protect-O-Disc
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Japanese opening credits
  2. Onizuka - Gone Wild
Extras Review: The overall quality of the presentation is quite impressive. The menu designs are themed around the show, from the main menu that features an animated chalk drawing of Onizuka, to the schedules used for chapter selection. It is obvious a lot of care went into the planning here.

First here is the Japanese language opening which, while not creditless, gives a different perspective to the artwork and is pretty interesting. Next is a collection of nine sequences from the episodes included where Onizuka loses it, transforming into his vengeful alter ego.

A design gallery showcases a collection of character art.

Previews for Initial D, Reign, and Real Bout High School open the disc, but are also available for the menu along with a trailer for Vampire Princess Miyu. Subtitle options include none, sign translations only (for dub watchers) or full English.

The original eye catches that surrounded the commercial breaks are included as supplements on disc two. The insert is a two-sided ad for GTO and Real Bout High School.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

The adventures of Great Teacher Onizuki begin with volume one of GTO. With a distinctive style, great character development, and a unique story device, this stands out from the crowd as one to watch. The content, especially the humor, is definitely for a mature audience, more in tone than in substance. A solid all around release gets this series off to a good start. Recommended.


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