26 Dec / GTO: 14 Days in Shonan (vols. 3-9) by Tohru/Toru Fujisawa, translated by Ko Ransom
Okay, so don’t be too confused: the two slightly different phoneticized spellings of creator Tohru/Toru Fujisawa’s name both appear on the various volume covers seen here. That ‘o’-sound is a long vowel – as in Tōru (it’s とおる in Japanese) – but diacriticals can often get lost in translation, so be assured, you’ve come to the right series.
In whatever language you get to know the titular GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, you’ll be making quite the rambunctious, yet inspiring choice. Since you’re here mid-series, to find out why GTO is spending his two-week summer break in the resort town of Shonan, you’ll have to catch up with the first two volumes here.
Vacation spot that Shonan might be for most, our GTO is most definitely not getting much of a holiday. He’s instantly become the White Swan Children’s Home’s defacto third (and only male) parent – which means he will stop at nothing – never mind laws, police, uhhh … possible death – to keep the troubled teens safe, even if they’re hell-bent on harming themselves and others.
Nine volumes cover GTO Eikichi Onizuka’s 14 days during which he reunites a once-angry daughter with her father who completely reprioritizes his life to become an available parent, saves a son from murdering his neglectful mother’s brutally abusive boyfriend, stops a pair of thrown-away twin teens from arson and worse in spite of their Mafia backup, disbands the vengeful Oedipus Club, takes to the skies, and takes down the disgustingly corrupt mayor who sends a girl back to her mother to almost die of torture.
When Onizuka’s not fighting, bleeding, passing out, and doing that all over again and again, he’s got his own prurient hopes of finally losing his virginity with someone age appropriate (he’s 22) – some lines, though, he never ever approaches. His GTO antics get him in constant trouble but his superhuman successes on behalf of the kids always earn him immunity, not to mention the admiration, even adoration of his fellow White Swan family.
As improbably wild, goofy, illegal, and dangerous as the episodes are, what’s soberingly accurate amidst all the entertainment is the very real suffering children endure at the hands of their own parents. Far beyond neglect from a young age, too many sons and daughters of violent, selfish, damaged mothers and fathers, have somehow managed to survive. When they’re threatened yet again, GTO elects himself their savior, at least for the short time that he can be there. Out of empathetic recognition, his bond to them is instant – because his “parents were no good either. [He] understands wanting to kill them.” Ouch. Whatever his bad habits – and he’s got plenty – his tunnel-vision determination to protect the children with little concern for himself makes him indeed the Great Teacher Onizuka. He also manages leave quite a surprising legacy behind …
According to a publishing insider, GTO: Shonan is slotted to go out print. Surely such swashbuckling adventures shouldn’t get relegated to the remainder heaps, then disappear altogether?! That’s too disappointing to contemplate! For now, I’m suspending all doubts and believing in GTO’s determination to put children first. ’Tis always the season for that, right?
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2009, 2012 (United States)