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Great Teacher Onizuka

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Comedy-drama, School, Slice of Life



Ken Iizuka

Great Teacher Onizuka movie poster

Release date

Toru Fujisawa (manga), Brian OHara (script adaptation), Mitsuru Tanabe

Great Teacher Onizuka (グレート・ティーチャー・オニヅカ, Gurēto Tīchā Onizuka), officially abbreviated as GTO, is a Japanese shōnen manga written and illustrated by Tooru Fujisawa. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine from May 1997 to April 2002. The story focuses on 22-year-old ex-bōsōzoku member Eikichi Onizuka, who becomes a teacher at a private middle school, Holy Forest Academy, in Tokyo, Japan. It won the 1998 Kodansha Manga Award for shōnen and is a continuation of Tohru Fujisawa's other manga series Shonan Junai Gumi (lit. "Shōnan True Love Group") and Bad Company, both of which focus on the life of Onizuka before he becomes a teacher in Great Teacher Onizuka.


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Due to the popularity of the manga, several adaptations of GTO were established. These adaptations include a twelve-episode Japanese television drama running from July to September 1998; a live-action film directed by Masayuki Suzuki and released in December 1999; and a 43-episode anime television series aired in Japan by Fuji Television and Animax from June 1999 to September 2000. Both the anime and manga have been licensed in North America by Tokyopop. A second live action series aired in Japan during 2012, and two more in 2014.

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Eikichi Onizuka is a 22-year-old ex-gang member and a virgin. While peeping up girls' skirts at a local shopping mall, Onizuka meets a girl who agrees to go out on a date with him. Onizuka's attempt to sleep with her fails when her current "boyfriend", her teacher, shows up at the love hotel they are in and asks her to return to him. The teacher is old and unattractive, but has sufficient influence over her that she leaps from a second-story window and lands in his arms.

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Onizuka, upon seeing this display of a teacher's power over girls, decides to become a teacher himself. However, he earns his teaching degree, just barely, at a second-rate college. In his quest, he discovers two important things: he has a conscience and a sense of morality. This means taking advantage of impressionable schoolgirls is out of the question, but their unusually attractive mothers are a different matter. He enjoys teaching and, most of the time, he teaches life lessons rather than the routine schoolwork. He hates the systems of traditional education, especially when they have grown ignorant and condescending to students and their needs.

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With these realizations, he sets out to become the greatest teacher ever, using his own brand of philosophy and the ability to do nearly anything when under enough pressure. He is hired as a long-shot teacher by a privately operated school, in Kichijōji, to tame a class that has driven one teacher to a mysterious death, another to nervous breakdown, and one other to joining a cult. He embarks on a mission of self-discovery by breaking through to each student one-by-one, and helping each student to overcome their problems and learn to genuinely enjoy life. He uses methods that would be unorthodox, against the law, and also life-threatening, yet somehow, he manages to succeed to educate and open up his students.


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When writing GTO, Fujisawa was influenced by the writing style of Kouhei Tsuka. The series was originally intended to run for 10 volumes, however it was extended at the request of the publisher. Fujisawa began to run out of characters as a result. When faced with writing block he would write stories without Onizuka.

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Onizuka's first name, Eikichi, was taken from musician Eikichi Yazawa. When developing Onizuka's character for the series, Fujisawa sought to incorporate real character traits from Japanese gangs often referred to as "Yankees". Onizuka's look is modelled on such gang members and was not intended to convey an "American look". Onizuka acts tough and confident but is actually shy and lacking in confidence to follow through on some of his desires. He is a simple character that stands by his own reasoning and principles and has his own conscience. Fujisawa gave him the viewpoint that you should take responsibility for your actions, something he sees as important.

Onizuka's role in the school is to provide a bridge between the students and teachers. The character of Fuyutsuki reflects the point of view of the average teacher. Fujisawa highlights his own school experience where teachers were mostly focused only on a good performance record rather than the teaching itself. However he was able to take an interest in Mathematics because of the approach of his teacher. He used this experience to build the series.

Tatsuya Egawa has claimed that GTO plagiarized his debut manga, Be Free!.


The series was published in Weekly Shonen Magazine from 1997 until 2002. A total of 25 volumes were published between May 14, 1997 and April 15, 2002. The series was licensed in English by Tokopop and was one of Tokyopop's first releases in the "Authentic Manga" lineup of titles using the Japanese right to left reading style. In doing so the artwork remained unchanged from the original compared to previous publishing methods. The 25 English volumes were published between April 23, 2002 and August 9, 2005.

On 9 June 2009, a sequel to the GTO manga began releasing in Kodansha's Weekly Shōnen Magazine, under the title "GTO - Shonan 14 Days". North American publisher Vertical Inc began publishing "GTO: Shonan 14 Days" globally in English, as GTO: 14 Days in Shonan beginning January 2012 and has published all nine volumes. Vertical also continued and concluded the Shonan Junai Gumi manga series, from volume 11 onwards, as "GTO: The Early Years" in 2012.

A new manga series entitled GTO:Paradise Lost started in Young Magazine in April 2014. Kodansha Comics USA currently publish the manga in English in a digital format.


A 12-episode live-action Japanese television drama adaption directed by Masayuki Suzuki was broadcast from July 7, 1998 to September 22, 1998. The series starred Takashi Sorimachi as Onizuka and had an average audience share of 28.5% with the final episode recording a rate of 35.7%. The final episode was the 8th most watched broadcast in the Kantō region during 1998. Several changes were made for the live action adaption. For example, Fuyutsuki (Nanako Matsushima) is an eager teacher who supports Onizuka in the manga, whereas in the live action adaptation she initially dislikes Onizuka and wants to leave teaching to become an Air Hostess. A television special was broadcast on June 29, 1999. This was followed by a theatrical movie in January 2000. The film was successful at the box office grossing ¥1,320,000,000 becoming the 10th highest-grossing film of the year. The movie was released in North America by Tokyo Shock on July 26, 2005.

During 2012 it was announced that a new live action series would be broadcast in Japan. The series ran from July 3, 2012 until September 11, 2012. Originally Jin Akanishi was to play the role of Onizuka, however he was forced to withdraw by his management. Instead Akira of Japanese band Exile was selected to play Onizuka. An Autumn special was broadcast on October 2, 2012, followed by a New years special on January 2, 2013 and a Spring special on April 2, 2013.

On March 22, 2014 a 4-part mini series aired in Taiwan, before being broadcast in Japan at a later date. The mini series places Onizuka in a Taiwanese school as part of a training program and is a joint Japan/Taiwan co production that contains both Japanese and Mandarin Chinese dialogue. The series has been announced for English subtitled release via the Crunchyroll streaming service. A new series set in Japan aired from July to September 2014.


A 43 episode anime adaption was produced by Studio Pierrot and was broadcast from June 30, 1999 to September 24, 2000. It was directed by Noriyuki Abe and Horiyuki Ishido. Yoshiyuki Suga provided scripts, having also written scripts for the Live Action adaption.

Tokyopop licensed the series for release in North America and released it across 10 DVDs between March 22, 2002 and September 16, 2003. The series was re-released in a 7 disc box set by Eastern Star Studios on September 24, 2013. Crunchyroll began streaming the series in January 2015.


In Manga: The Complete Guide, Jason Thompson refers to the series as "Shameless, frequently sexist and totally hilarious". He adds "The rule of the manga is that every time Onizuka does something incredibly cool and heartwarming, he must immediately do something unbelievably retarded". He praises the series for staying fresh through imagery, detailed art and pop culture dialogue even though the formula repeats itself. Lastly he states that it "approaches true social satire." He gave the series four stars out of four.

In The Dorama Encyclopedia, Jonathan Clements and Motoko Tamamuro note that the subject and humorous approach to the series was well received by the teenage audience.

In The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy noted the use of computer cloud and water effects in the anime adaption. While appreciating the advantages of the anime adaption allowing for more violence, they call the first live action adaption the "quintessential GTO".


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