Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) is widely considered among dorama fans as one of the great Japanese Doramas of the 1990’s. It was a precursor to the many insprational teacher comedy-dorama shows that aired in the 2000’s. If you’ve seen and enjoyed shows like Gokusen and Dragon Zakura, but haven’t seen GTO yet, you will see that the original is superior to them all.
Onizuka-sensei showcases his teaching methods.
Onizuka Eikichi (Sorimachi Takashi, 反町隆史), aka Great Teacher Onizuka, is a former motorcycle gang leader with the dream of becoming a teacher. With a third-rate degree and a shady background, he hasn’t had much luck finding a school that will hire him until his friend tells him about a job opening at the Holy Forest Academy. He quickly makes a bad impression on everyone there by karate-kicking the Vice-Principal in the head. The director of the school is impressed by Onizuka’s passion and quickly hires him, of course. Unbeknownst to Onizuka-sensei, he’s been assigned to teach the problem class*, class 2-4. And aside from the school director, all the other teachers hate him and want him to get fired. One of his only allies is the beautiful Fuyutsuki Azusa (Matsushima Nanako, 松嶋菜々子, Sorimachi’s real wife), and even she is disgusted by his tactics half of the time. Now Onizuka-sensei must earn the trust of his students, one-by-one, while the odds are continually stacked against him**.
(*A problem class of Japanese students is about as problematic as a classroom filled with 24 well-mannered geniuses anywhere else in the world. Aside from the occasional attempts at seducing and/or blackmailing the teacher, nude photoshopping, prostitution, and raping.)
(**Replace a few names and places and that synopsis is identical to the plotline of Gokusen)
That's one way to welcome your new teacher to the school.
There are a few reasons that Great Teacher Onizuka is considered the classic that it is. First and foremost is the great performance of Sorimachi Takashi as Onizuka. Seriously, this guy is the coolest virginal, delinquent ex-gang member, wise, funny, inspirational, perverted character I’ve seen on TV. He may not be up there in the pantheon of the greatest TV guys ever like Agent Dale Cooper, Ron Swanson, Omar, Walter White, and Number 6, but he’s close. And none of those guys have a special condom that they’ve been saving for years until they meet the right woman.
Yes, this is gonna be cheesy, but they ARE too cool for school.
Speaking of the right woman, Matsushima Nanako is also great as Fuyutsuki-sensei, and she has a real natural chemistry with Sorimachi that shines through in their scenes together. She’s also gosh darn beautiful, and it was good to see that she could express some human emotions after watching her (required) robotic performance in Kaseifu no Mita. Also, the show is funny. Raunchy funny. While similar shows such as Gokusen*** take place in saccharine fantasy versions of the world, GTO exists in a more humorous and perverted world that perfectly matches the personality of the title character. It seems like every time that you see a TV or computer screen in the show there’s a porno video playing or a naked woman on the screen. Some might think that’s disturbing for a show about a, inspirational teacher and his students, but it’s all part of the silly mood of the show. Compared to the other teachers at the school****, he’s a saint.
(***Even though every episode and season of Gokusen plays out in the same way in the same dream world, I still love it.)
(****The other teachers are some of the shittiest people you can find. When they’re not busy being bad teachers, they’re beating up their students, trying to rape other teachers, and seducing their students. I hope actual teachers in Japan are better than that! Although they sound just like the NYC teachers I read about in the newspaper every day…)
Um, yeah. I don't think you want this guy to be teaching you math.
There’s also Special Episode of the show after the season ends, as well as a follow-up movie. They’re pretty much more of the same, but with Onizuka solving the problems of students and teachers alike at new schools. I recommend those as well once you’re done with the main series.
So, yeah, if you want to watch something funny, raunchy, and not politically correct at all, then give Great Teacher Onizuka a try. There’s a reason that so many shows have tried to imitate it over the last decade-plus. As good as they may (or may not) be, they haven’t been able to capture the complete package of comedy, drama, and inspiration as well as GTO did. I’ll leave you with Sorimachi’s delightfully cheesy GTO theme song, Poison. Enjoy.