With time running out before graduation day arrives, Tsujido High School turns to an unorthodox teacher to use all their tricks to turn the school’s most incorrigible class around…hey wait, that sounds like an idea that might make for a hilarious manga series.
Story/Art: Toru Fujisawa
Translation/Adaptation: Ko Ransom
What They Say
Before the GTO made his mark on the Japanese educational scene, there was another legendary teacher from Shonan, and she could motivate her students in ways most school boards have never imagined. Using all of the assets at her disposal, Nao Kadena raises GPAs – and pulses – by teaching her Tsujido High kids the ABCs and much more with her Ts an A. Finally, a reason to go to school: Ms. Kanade’s unique brand of physical education.
Content: (please note that content portions of review may contain spoilers):
Ryuji is at his lowest point as he feels that his reputation is shattered to the point that he has nothing to lose and has decided to start a new gang and challenge the establishment in order to gain a new feared reputation apart from Onizuka. All his work at modifying his bike goes to waste though as a drop dead gorgeous beauty in a very skimpy mini skirt flags him down for a ride to Tsujido High and Ryuji’s other head overrides the one that wasn’t thinking all that well anyway and his plans to challenge the man vanishes as he suddenly would rather be with this woman. Things go really odd though when it turns out this bombshell named Nao Kadena is actually going to be teaching all of the lessons to the school’s most infamous class of incorrigible would be (and sometime actual) hooligans and she is ready to go to any lengths to get this class to graduate at the top of the school- and what better reward could there be for the hot bloodied guys than the prize of being able to do “that” with her?
Of course this prize offer and Kadena attracting all of the boys’ attention makes some quick and fast enemies with the class’s girls as, even though they may not have interest in the boys in the class, having someone take all the attention to herself doesn’t go over well at all. Kadena proves though that she is a match for both the hormone fueled girls as well as boys as she has set a plan in place to motivate them as well and her machinations seem to be playing off fantastically, though an early act of lashing out from a group of girls revels a large tattoo of the Virgin Mary on her back which does cause a few to pause as they wonder just who she might be connected to- well, those capable of actually thinking despite the blood rush ponder it, which of course rules Onizuka out. As he pursues her (and any info that may make her have to acquiesce to his wishes) he finds that her past has a lot of secrets in the closet and he may be matching up with someone more than a match for him and in way deep with people out of his league- and to top it off she just may know more about him than he imagines possible.
Assuming that he makes it out of this tangled situation that he has found himself in with Kadena, Onizuka may find himself back facing the issue that has been loaming over him for years and which has driven him to incredible desperation- his single situation and virgin status that comes with that. Desperation can cause people to do some pretty odd things that might be out of character, but what happens when a person who has incredibly few boundaries to pass becomes obsessed to a dangerous level? The answer isn’t going to be good for anyone of the opposite gender and his single minded drive may wind up giving Onizuka the kind of criminal record that is impossible to romanticize (as opposed to his already length list of actions he has committed and gotten away with).
When he is at his lowest point though and being used because of his desperation and the chances he is willing to take a miracle seems to appear in the form of a young and stunning woman named Misato Hazuki, but she seems to have a very dark past as the marks on her wrist hint at as well as the cavalier attitude with which she lives her life. Is Onizuka going to be able to turn this young woman’s life around and find himself love or is the secret she hides going to be one that may further send the youth into a tail spin? Regardless, with Onizuka around nothing ordinary is going to be in the offering and he is going to be taking yet another step forward that will lead him to eventually earning the title of “Great”…even if the road there may be one that has more than its share of twists, turns and bumps…though if any kind of actions that might also be described with those adjectives happen in bed Onizuka would likely not mind the journey.
One of the joys of this early series that lead to the introduction of Onizuka is seeing the character grow into becoming the one that audiences made a break out hit when the manga and anime hit the US shores and introduced a crude, crass and completely in the wrong job for the wrong reasons character who still, despite all of that, turned out to be exactly the right person in the right place in GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka). That series made reference to Onizuka’s past both as a youth gang member and also showed some glimpses of his friends that gave some hints of his origin but finally- though it has taken two separate companies to get here- this penultimate volume shows off perhaps one of the role models that spurs Onizuka unorthodox (and quite possible illegal at times, certainly ethically questionable) teaching style that manages to bring his hurt and defiant class together. In addition to learning this method of bribery to achieve an academic end, Onizuka also gains a lesson in insanity as Kadena shows a recklessness that may even surpass that seen from Onizuka to this point in his life that and which will become a hallmark of the youth once he gets a class of his own in a few years time.
In addition to this new aspect that helps shed light on the character in his teaching years, the second tale also allows for Onizuka to show off his often times incredible disparate actions and morals as one moment he is looking like he is about to rape someone to finally be rid of his cursed virginity (an action that in almost any other character would make them reviled, yet somehow his clumsy actions don’t manage to do that with him) while a short time later he refuses to sleep with a willing partner who treats sex as just a minor inconvenience of no meaning. It really is in these type of moments that Onizuka shows off just how it is that a character with few seemingly redeeming qualities on the surface can actually be almost a role model and pull off some of the fantastic transformations that he does through some encounters in this series as well as when he transitions to the Great Teacher sequel. With such an amazing character and an amazing supporting cast it becomes evident that though the series is close to an end it isn’t going to go out quietly or with just a whimper as long as Onizuka has anything to say about it, though the set up for the second story leaves the possibility for heartbreak to be in the offering to see the youth into the sunset of this chapter of his life.
With a finale waiting in the wings, GTO The Early Years 14 makes its case for showcasing its breakout lead Onizuka and giving him both some experiences that will transform him for his next stage in life but also provide one last chance for Onizuka to experience love, or perhaps just a chance just to lose his virginity which may be almost as valuable to Onizuka. With its new teacher and a possible love interest the series manages to delve into the excitement as well as pack a psychological twist that made GTO such a hit and which serves to really reward fans of that series, making this a book- if not series- that no fan of GTO should miss as it provides almost everything that they came to love in both series.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 17+
Released By: Vertical
Release Date: August 28th, 2012