GTO 8Caught in Urumi’s blackmail scheme, Onizuka is forced to take his students out for an expensive meal. But, unable to pay for it, he decides to eat and run, turning his students into accomplices and getting hit by a car in the process! This unfortunate incident results in a happy reunion for Urumi and Tomoko, who haven’t seen each other since grade school. Things get ugly, though, as details of Urumi’s guarded past surface, and her classroom terrorism reaches an all time high. Onizuka counterattacks with a plan that involves a motorcycle, an unfinished bridge, and nerves of steel.

Tohru Fujisawa’s Great Teacher Onizuka (or simply GTO for short) was something of a legend in Japanese popular culture, being one of the highest rated shows with the most viewership for a single episode in the past. Of course, both the immensely popular live television and anime shows all kicked off from Tohru’s original manga, Great Teacher Onizuka, which won the prestigious Kodansha Manga Award in 1998 (and followed on from his previous work, Shonan Junai Gumi).

For those of you who don’t know anything about Great Teacher Onizuka at all, basically it tells the story of the young, virginal badass punk and former motorbike gang leader Eikichi Onizuka who enters the teaching profession in the hopes of picking up a woman as it seems that teachers have a distinct pulling power when it comes to the opposite sex. Dirty, foul-mouthed, seemingly invulnerable and one hell of a brawler, it turns out that what you would have least expected from Onizuka is the fact that he does actually have a certain morality, sense of justice and well doing deep within him – even if it is in a form that few others would ever recognize!

So dumped into the class with the worst record and a penchant for leading their teachers either into ruin or suicide, Eikichi slowly begins to win his troubled students over, all in his own particular and rather non conventional way to say the least. And as it happens, Onizuka also finds out that in the end he actually quite likes this teaching thing (even if it is just lowly life lessons) and so sets out to be the world’s greatest teacher ever! Long live Great Teacher Onizuka! :)

Volume 8 of GTO starts off with our hapless Onizuka firmly trapped in the genius troublemaker Urumi Kanzaki’s blackmail scheme, forcing him to essentially humiliate and bankrupt himself all in the same process. Of course, the problem with trying to control a badass like Onizuka is eventually that he’ll fight back, and fight back he does, only it is a problem indeed if his actions are going to lead to his students ending up on the wrong side of the law!

However, as Onizuka learns some hidden truths surrounding Kanzaki’s rebellious actions, her crusade escalates and he is forced to come up with one of his most drastic plans yet to try and curb this troubled girl! The only problem is, how do you deal with someone who isn’t even afraid to die?

And then of course, the unlucky vice-principal Hiroshi Uchiyamada is STILL trying his damndest to protect his beloved Toyota Cresta from the ravages of Onizuka, but at the same time is slowly but surely waking up to the reality that things may not quite be as hunky dory in his family and work life as what he might have thought they were!

While Volume 8 continues with all the great and irrelevant humour, life situations and drama from his previous issues, Tohru somehow misses the mark in creating an emotional link with the reader in this volume, and as such the powerful emotions that are invoked in both the anime and live action sequences don’t quite feel as captured in the manga format. Of course, a lot of people just read GTO for its non PC sequences and humour anyway, and in that respect volume 8 certainly doesn’t put a foot wrong. Simply put, it is funny, sometimes shocking and it does contain some hilarious and unbelievable scenarios all in one go. There is more than enough seriousness and lightheartedness in this volume that it finds the perfect balance which is always essential for a good read.

Visually, Tohru continues to fill all his panels with tons of everyday detail, often making use of photos which he then manipulates to give his background scenery a more realistic look. And while his characters are not always the most well proportioned or prettiest to look at, he does catch facial expressions (both normal and exaggerated) with a deft hand and some of the looks he comes up with are simply to die for! His line work is busy and in the end GTO makes for an interesting visual experience, that isn’t quite as polished as what a person would like to see, but is certainly so chock-a-block full of detail that you can’t simply skim over the pages without taking some time to admire the view.

Great Teacher Onizuka is one of my favourite anime series of all time, and it is great to see that the manga from which it originated from is as good a read. This series may be for the little more mature reader, but it is certainly guaranteed to give you more than a few good laughs while at the same time make you think just that little harder and in so doing, manages to sidestep that tag of just being ‘unimaginative fluff’ that it might have been slapped with. GTO might not be to everyone’s taste, but it is certainly one of those titles that you need to experience for yourself first, before making your mind completely up about it.

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