I thought I was done with Great Teacher Onizuka. All throughout college, I plowed my way through the series, picking up volume after volume in order to sate my desire to see what Onizuka was up to next. The series was endlessly fun, and I found myself lost in it every time I bought a volume. The biggest caveat? By the time I was done with it, I was jonesing for the next volume, if only because it provided a great sense of escape and fun for someone who had a relatively sedate high school experience.
Finally, after graduating through college, I finished my collection and re-read everything. I said my goodbyes to Slo-Mo-Ko and the Vice Principal. The whole series currently sits neatly in a box, tucked away in a corner of my basement. I moved on from that phase of my life -- a pleasant one to be sure -- and decided to move on to other material.
All was well and good, until just the other day, when Vertical dropped the first volume of Great Teacher Onizuka: 14 Days in Shonan in my mailbox.
Part of me was worried about this volume. Sure, it was by the same creator, but he had taken 7 years off from GTO and now came back with this work. Would it stand on its own? Would some of the humor just come across as crass and boorish now that I was a number of years removed from reading GTO?
In typical Brad fashion, I put off reading it. For a little while, at least.
I caved to pressure, though, and cracked the volume open. And, suffice to say, the first chapter grabbed me almost immediately. It was the same Great Teacher Onizuka humor I remember, and most importantly, I reacted the same to it as I had when I was stuck in my college dorm on those long Syracuse winter nights.
The title serves as a filler arc of sorts to the main GTO storyline. Onizuka got himself onto a daytime variety show, and during their segment about what's the worst thing a teacher had done, he lets loose about some of the more extreme incidents that happened during the original series. Well, that doesn't fly with the general public, and so Onizuka has to go into hiding in order to escape the heat. So, he chooses his old stomping ground of Shonan.
Before long, Onizuka finds himself in trouble with the local Shonan officials for -- what else -- being accused of molestation. A guardian angel is on his side this time, as a young woman comes to his defense and gets the charges dropped. This beautiful buxom blonde just happens to be a friend of Azusa, inviting him back to her place. Wait for it -- she works at a home for troubled youth! Without giving Onizuka a moment to get accustomed to his surroundings, they're already abusing him.
Hmm, sounds familiar.
14 Days in Shonan is pretty damn good, but it has a glaring flaw: it feels as though Tohru Fujisawa is leaning on a crutch in certain parts. The obstacles teens attempt to throw in Onizuka's path feel familiar to what we've already seen in GTO, and the characters are repetitive at first glance. Sakurako is just like Slo-Mo-Ko. Katsuragi is akin to Miyabi. While it doesn't detract from the fun you'll have with this first volume, it does pop out at you. I can only hope that as the series progresses, it will flesh out those characters and situations in new and interesting ways. If not, the series may just amount to a trip down memory lane -- the opportunity for something really creative would be squandered.
But, I want to believe. I want to believe in Onizuka. I want to believe that this will be an amazing story. So I'll keep reading each volume, eagerly awaiting the next.
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