I mentioned a while ago that I wanted to start giving my casual thoughts on stuff that I read, watch or play. Not reviews, reviews make me feel stuffy and bored. Instead I want to try just letting go and writing up my feelings towards things. I recently re-read the manga GTO, or Great Teacher Onizuka. For those of you who haven’t read this series, it’s the sequel to an earlier manga which follows the titular Onizuka Eikichi as he leaves the gang life behind him to become a middle school teacher. What makes it funny is that he’s a complete scumbag on paper and he’s doing it to get laid with hot girls, but that’s really only the surface.

What makes Onizuka such a compelling hero is how his unorthadox insanity really shines a light on how shitty the Japanese school system is. All of the other teachers are preoccupied with their own lives, their paychecks and such to even view their students as individuals. Seeing Onizuka, this 22 year old goofy virgin who pulls insane stunts treat these kids as actual humans? Well, it’s an amazing experience. I first read this manga when I was in high school and it became an instant favorite of mine, and I really think every kid out there at that age needs to read GTO. It gives you more insight to those teachers that you hate at school. It has incredibly strong themes that challenge you, with even the most unlikeable of characters ultimately having a sympathetic reason as to why they are the way they are. If there’s a better manga that captures that youthful rebellion spirit of high school then I sure can’t think of it.

Onizuka is just such an amazing character. The comedy in this series is second to none practically, he’s not your average teacher. Onizuka has an IQ of 50 and it’s charming the insane bullshit he comes up with to teach his students. What makes him so hilarious is the EXTREME depths he goes to to teach those little shits- like how when three girls were bullying one kid to the brink of suicide Onizuka ties up the three girls and lets the bullied boy spank them and write on their asses so that he could blackmail them. And then there’s stuff like when he learns of his student’s neglectful homelife he goes and stages a fake terrorist siege/kidnapping just so the girl’s parents would pay attention to her. Onizuka has a lot in common with Sakata Gintoki, they’re both crazy, funny, perverted, but they have hearts of gold and get shit done like nobody else can. If you like Gintama I’d say this manga is a must read because they often share the same style of humor.

The rest of the cast is just as great as Onizuka, with the funniest definitely being the principle Uchiyamada. Putting it bluntly, there’s almost no reason why you should relate to Uchiyamada and his hilarious boring blue collar life of paying mortages, managing a failing marriage, being a pathetic dad to his daughter (who may even be born from his wife cheating on him), but holy crap Uchiyamada is just so endearing. He just wants to live this picturesque suburban fantasy where he has a loving family, a nice car, a good job, but instead he gets Onizuka demolishing his Toyota Cresta 5 times in a row unintentionally to the point where the insurance company refuses to replace it anymore. Something about seeing this guy, even if he can be pretty hateable, just have his dreams of an average life dashed over and over again is just endlessly entertaining. He loses his hair, he pisses blood, he snaps and tries to stab Onizuka, nothing ever goes right for him and it’s beautiful.

The students in this manga are very diverse and thanks to them the series covers a wide range of topics. Bullying, suicide, sexual abuse, rape, all of which are handled extremely delicately. I bring up Gintama again because just like Gintama it can seemlessly transition from hilarious to completely serious without dropping a beat. Very few series can do this effectively and its something I really love. I feel the only real negative if Tokyopop’s english translation really sucks to me. It shoehorns in too many American pop culture references and can be painfully unfunny sometimes- but it doesn’t actually dilute the series whatsoever. It’s just a nitpick for me to say fuck Tokyopop.

GTO has aged masterfully and it will forever go down as a classic in every sense of the word. It has a modern sequel that started in 2014, GTO Paradise Lost, which I will probably read when its finished. I’m looking forward to it.