11 Jul / GTO: 14 Days in Shonan (vols. 1-2) by Tohru Fujisawa, translated by Ko Ransom
Apparently, I’ve jumped way ahead and will need to go backwards sooner than later: GTO: 14 Days in Shonan is the sequel to the wildly successful original GTO which debuted in 1997 and quickly thereafter became a TV drama, live-action film, anime, and more. And the variations just keep multiplying.
Eikichi Onizuka – the titular GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka – escapes his hospital bed in order to appear on a talk show featuring teachers and the pranks they played when they themselves were students. Perhaps because he’s so young (a mere 22), or even more because he’s still so drugged from surviving a gunshot, Onizuka makes the mistake of glibly confessing to almost burying a student alive. Not surprisingly, that puts him in major trouble with the private middle school where his rather unconventional teaching methods make him a highly effective favorite with his students although not so much with the administration.
“Oh, well,” Onizuka muses. “I guess if I lie low for a couple of weeks their heads’ll be cooler by then.” With summer vacation in full swing, Onizuka heads to Shonan, a “surfers’ paradise” and “resort hotspot” outside Tokyo, where he knows “plenty of guys [he’s] been to hell and back with,” who he’s convinced will take him in. Wrong …
After multiple phone calls, Onizuka is still homeless. Luckily, he meets Ayame Shiratori who works at the White Swan Children’s Home for troubled teenagers, although only because one of her charges gets Onizuka almost arrested just as he’s arriving at the train station. Shiratori, who is serendipitously familiar with Onizuka’s reputation as the proverbial GTO, invites him to spend his two low-lying weeks at White Swan and help with the residents.
Onizuka meets his diverse new charges throughout Volume 1, although he makes fast enemies with the very same teen, Miki, with whom he had the initial train station scuffle. Miki, who also happens to be the daughter of local police brass, is determined to destroy him. Onizuka relies on all his charms and training to stay alive; he was quite the tough, unbeatable bike-riding teen himself back in the day. The tables turn, however, in volume 2, when Onizuka becomes Miki’s only hope for survival.
The first two volumes are already proving to be head-banging, fist-thumping, page-thrashing fun. Violence aside, Onizuka is a mushball of a caring teddy bear underneath his cigarettes, bleached blonde mop, chiseled muscles, and oh-so-goofy attitude. His zealous devotion to “keep knocking on the closed doors of each student’s heart” is surely admirable, if not a bit nuts. But that’s what keeps him trying … and us jaded readers reading. This young adult champion of outcast children with a blindly open heart will surely make you go thump-thump, sniff-sniff, as you quickly whip through all nine volumes.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2009, 2012 (United States)