When I was reading the original manga of Great Teacher Onizuka I was left a bit cold by the overall premise of a former delinquent falling into a teaching job and teaching life lessons the best way he knew how. I did, however, have an idea that this might be something I would enjoy more when seeing it on the small screen with the voice and movements that were intended by the author. On the whole, I was right – at least for my sensibilities.
In making an anime version of Great Teacher Onizuka they have to slightly tone down some of the more sexual under and overtones of the manga. This is still undeniably crude in both content and, due to this being 20 years old, animation style – but it doesn’t feel too overdone compared to the manga. One storyline in particular goes from an attempted rape in the manga to an attempted kidnapping in the anime – the menace still remains, but it’s a horse of an entirely different colour.
The gags too feel fresher in the animated version. For example, there is an episode involving cursed chain letters where I was actually giggling as I watched, where the same story in the manga just completely washed over me. A lot of that is down to Onizuka’s voice actor (who appears to have been in everything at some point) who was able to give the boisterous yet vulnerable vocalisations needed to make Onizuka a lovable character.
Towards the end of the 43 episode run I did start to get a little bit restless though. A lot of the initial conflict of Onizuka winning over his students was gone, leaving a bunch of hi-jinks episodes until a really well done two-part finale. This is a series that works best when it remembers where its heart is, and when this is incorporated into the laughs – then Great Teacher Onizuka is a great watch.