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GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Vol.2
Right-Left Manga
200 pages
Tohru Fujisawa
The gritty, hilarious adventures of aspiring teacher Eikichi Onizuka continue in the most recent volume of GTO. The artwork is fantastic, the storyline engrossing, and the characters more realistic than any TV drama I've ever seen in the States. Get into this series as quickly as you can!
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Vol.2
By Patrick King

The world doesn't seem as great as it used to be. Violence is erupting in many forms in places where peace formerly prevailed, whether between nations, neighbors, or classmates. Crime only seems to be increasing, and the most noticeable public response aimed at solve mounting conflicts has been to cast the blame on unrelated scapegoats rather than take responsibility for our own actions. Will banning violent games really end the rising trend in violence among youths? Only time will tell.

One of the best things about GTO is that it features a character whose primary concern is the solution to the problem, not the cause. Eikichi Onizuka is a man that simply would not understand the logic behind censorship. In fact, if Eikichi's exploits ever made it into a domestic video game, there's a good chance it would be banned as a vulgar and therefore corrupting influence on children. After all, the story stars a guy who initially decides to teach so that he can have better dating access to high school women. He's an ex-gang member, possesses a black belt in karate, and is an all-around bad mofo. He is just as likely to solve problems with his fists as with his brain, but whichever path he chooses, he usually gets his way.

In the previous volume, he tortured some of his students after they tried to frame him as a pedophile. Yet, despite all this, he is easily on his way to truly becoming a great teacher. By now, you're probably wondering how I could possibly make such a statement. Onizuka sounds more like one of the problems of society, not a potential instrument of its salvation. Beneath his rough exterior, Onizuka is one of the nicest guys you'd want to meet. Unlike many other less worthy people, Onizuka has realized his errors, and cleaned up his act.

Onizuka finished college, and despite fantasizing about the nubile women he might have access to in his classes, he is shocked when he discovers the callous attitude his fellow student teachers have toward their students. It becomes obvious that Eikichi has a knack for dealing with troublesome students, because he was once such a student himself. His familiarity with the variety of mistakes that students can make give him a unique and insightful perspective to guiding them as no other person can. He quickly becomes a very respectable character full of personality and depth.

When this volume opens, Eikichi is nearing the end of his time as a student teacher, and he feels he is ready to take on the real thing. He eagerly awaits the countless offers that doubtlessly will begin arriving at his doorstep any minute, believing the hiring process for teachers to be akin to the scouting professional sports teams participate in for new recruits.

Sadly, that's not the way it works.

Eikichi misses out on the teacher's exam, a test that is required for any teacher to work in a public school, as he feels that he has already proven his worth. Working the system is not one of Onizuka's strong points, and his heart nearly breaks as he thinks his chances of teaching were swept away because of a technicality. Luckily, his best friend, Ryuji, rekindles hope with a page out of the want ads for private schools. In this volume, Eikichi tries to get hired as a bona fide teacher, and encounters numerous obstacles along the way. If you've read this far, then you're probably already interested enough to actually go and get the manga, so I'll refrain from ruining the plot any more than I already may have.

Unlike some fantasy and science fiction comics, the attractiveness of this series rests not upon otherworldly gimmicks or visual special effects, but characters you can't help but care about. Every single person in GTO is a dynamic creation, a living breathing entity, despite being a comic book persona. The story moves along at a brisk pace with plenty of humor, and readers will quickly want Onizuka to succeed as a teacher, just as much as he himself does. When things go well for him, you feel happy. When something bad occurs, you empathize with him. Though Eikichi has a gritty appearance and questionable history, his inner purity shines through clearly. Sometimes it takes the help of his friends, or an unusual amount of luck, but for the most part, Onizuka is an admirable person.

The visuals for this manga are every bit as good as the plot. Every scene is sharp and detailed, with attention to vehicle designs that would make Kosuke Fujishima (of Oh My Goddess fame) proud. Everything is depicted realistically, save for the periodic exaggerated facial expressions we're treated to in order to better understand the emotions characters are experiencing. The characters in GTO actually look Japanese, sidestepping the traditional big eyes common to most other manga. It's an excellent style for the story, making this book as enjoyable to see as it is to read.

Technically, this is a very nice version of the manga. It is presented in its original, "unflipped" format, so it reads the same way the Japanese version does. It's one of TOKYOPOP's "Authentic Manga" titles, published in a smaller than average size, but at a lower price than other books (US$9.99). However, therein lies my one complaint. I realize that a bigger book goes hand in hand with a higher price, but some of the dialogue can be painfully small to read. For such a beautiful work, it's a shame to have to squint to read certain bits of it. There also isn't much in the way of extras (interviews, line art, etc.) included in this edition, which isn't necessarily expected, but always welcome. Overall, TOKYOPOP's done a commendable job of localizing this outstanding title, and I'm merely nitpicking because it's my job. ^_^

I believe this manga will appeal to a wide variety of fans of Japanese comics. I have a fairly broad range of interests, and thus may be somewhat biased, but I have seriously enjoyed GTO so far. I buy so much anime and manga, I've had to employ some discretion so that I have some money to live off of; at this point, I'm a freshly graduated but currently unemployed computer science major... Despite my current financial status, I ran out to purchase the GTO anime as soon as I finished reading the manga. So, in closing, I suppose my official position on this series is as follows: Buy it now; it's better than food!

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