What is there to say about Great Teacher Onizuka that hasn’t been said yet already? In terms of theoretical education, the guy sucks: as a former gang member, he hardly knows anything about the subjects he teaches. He’s a huge pervert and hothead and often acts before he thinks. Still, when it comes to understanding his students, he definitely is the greatest.
Basically, GTO is a social commentary aimed towards the hypocrisy of the modern education system: teachers that only care about their own position, students with excellent grades are overly protected, while the rest is ignored, putting the focus away from the well-being of the students. Onizuka is hired in one particular school and he tries to get rid of these problems in his own unique way: by putting himself on the same level as the students, and healing the different students one at a time. And I must say that the result is a wonderful series.
It’s a really well written series. The situations that Onizuka has to deal with are imaginative and varied, and the cast of characters is downright excellent. The different characters are endearing, and yet nearly all of them are flawed in some way. The fun in this series comes to seeing how each of them are dealing with these flaws.
The visuals in this series also look really good. This series aired when the distinctive anime art style of the second half of the nineties was about to be taken over by the modern CG art style, but it makes optimal use of its style to make the characters look normal and down to earth, yet very distinctive and unique. Especially Onizuka’s facial expressions are one of a kind.
The problems with this series are mostly small and insignificant. At times, it has some continuity issues: one episode a school building gets destroyed, in the next it magically healed itself, or at the end of one episode, a character tanned her skin way too much, while the next episode completely ignored it, and one particular character (the stalker one) gets written out of the show completely without any possible reason. Still, these are ere details over a show of 43 episodes.
In the end, my only real beef with this series is how its definite best parts are at the beginning of the series, rather than the end. The first twelve episodes are without a doubt the highlight of this series, when the classroom that Onizuka was in charge of was still unknown, and there was this whole air of mystery about what drove everyone to their actions. They’re incredibly addictive and I myself couldn’t stop watching because I just had to know what was going to happen next. Along the way, this effect is lost a bit when you get to know the cast a bit more, so that’s a bit of a pity.
Nevertheless, in the genre of high school-based series, this one still stands solid as one of the best ones of the genre. It really is the prime example of how such a series should be handled.