Otaku Corner: Great Teacher Onizuka

Great Teacher Onizuka inspires kids, otaku alike

In this issue’s Otaku Corner, we’re going to time travel back to the late ’90s/early 2000s to focus on an anime classic that is situated in a high school setting. Instead of having a student wishing for their romantic sempai to notice, the main character is an interesting fellow: A former motorcycle gang leader who barely graduates from a lesser-known university who tries his luck in teaching high schoolers. Who is this man? He’s Eikichi Onizuka also known as “GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka.”
Based on the manga of the same name by Tohru Fujisawa, the anime takes viewers along Onizuka’s journey from former gang biker to game-changing teacher. Onizuka applies at Holy Forest Academy expecting that he would be teaching high school female students who would fall in love with him. Instead, he’s assigned to Class O, consisting of troublemakers and blackmailers. After saving a Class O student from committing suicide twice, Onizuka uses his skills of tough love to reach out to the students. After noticing Onizuka’s brave actions, the school’s Chairwoman offers Onizuka the teaching position, provided he would have to live in a school storage room.
As the anime continues, Onizuka befriends the class-o students who tried to get him kicked out and joins him in various typical anime situations ranging from helping a female student get her big break in acting, to keeping a promise to pay for a school field trip to Okinawa. Onizuka pulls through with his promises while driving the school principal Hiroshi Uchiyamada crazy with either Onizuka’s crazy luck or his precious Cresta sedan being totaled by Onizuka nearly every episode. In the anime’s last episode, Onizuka uncovers a sinister plot by a corrupt teachers union to pin a former Holy Forest student’s suicide on a Class O student. Onizuka takes matters in his own hands by taking the blame, exposing the teachers union’s actions and flees to America where he continues teaching at a California high school while showing his new students how he does things.
Let me state this: Onizuka is a teacher I wish I had in high school. Knowing when to dish out discipline and support to at-risk kids is an artform. GTO accomplish this goal as an anime high school series by showing that teachers can be among those who are major influences in kids’ lives. Noriyuki Abe, known for his work on “Bleach,” keeps true to Fujisawa-san’s original work – showing how Onizuka adds tough love and teaches life lessons to students while mixing comedic elements. I felt invested with each episode, which provided life lessons and fun along the way.
Credit goes to Tokyopop and its CEO Stuart Levy for maintaining GTO’s originality and casting impressive English voice actors such as Steve Blum to play Onizuka, Wendee Lee as school director Sakurai, and Onizuka’s love interest, Azusa Fuyutsuki. Levy showed excellent wisdom with additional top names such as Tony Oliver, Richard Epcar, Michelle Ruff, and the late Robert Papenbrook to play voices of various characters. Papenbrook gets special recognition for his role as Principal Uchiyamada whose beloved Cresta sedan is always either totaled or stolen during encounters with Onizuka’s exploits. The music for GTO is top-notch with the first session opening theme performed by L’ Arc-en-Ciel and the second opening theme done by Porno Graffiti. After seeing the complete series of GTO, I’m now in the hunt to acquire the manga volumes, if I can still find them.
“Great Teacher Onizuka” is a definitely among anime’s greatest series. For GTO to convince a non-high school anime viewer like me to take another look at this genre, I was impressed. I have a piece of advice for inspiring teachers-to-be: Study hard and follow the way of Eikichi Onizuka. And, for those current and former teachers who give their best to their students: Thank you for all you do. We at GI salute you!

Brandon Beatty is associate editor of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #24: Street Fighter II V

Series: Street Fighter II V

Episodes: 1-29

Premise: Ryu and Ken are teenage martial artists looking for strong challenges in the world of Street Fighter. Along the way, they meet up with other characters from the fighting game series such as Fei Long, Guile, Chun-Li, Vega and Zangief and work together with their allies to take down the world-dominating M. Bison.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. It’s a great adaptation of the fighting game series with a few changes. If you know anything about the series, this will help fill in some blanks for the story if you’re missing some connections. Also, it’s a great starter anime.

Breakout character: Guile. The long-standing street fighter makes his grand entrance in Episode 2, where he completely demolishes Ken and Ryu in separate fights. Guile is shown to be one of the strongest fighters in the series as he should be.

Where it’s going?: There isn’t a second season since this covered all of the Street Fighter II games up to Super Turbo.

Top 5 on The Strip: Anime pop off edition

1. Avatar Aang vs. Fire Lord Ozai
Listen, we’d been anticipating the final fight between the Avatar and the Fire Lord just because it was built up and hyped for the entire run of the show. It didn’t disappoint, either. Aang finally mastering the Avatar state and absolutely obliterating Ozai’s bending abilities was epic. Specifically, seeing the Avatar state in a state of mastery for the first time is what did it for us.

 


2. Goku going super Saiyan for the first time
Goku reaching super Saiyan for the first time against Freiza was boss for so many reasons, chiefly because it was the end of a long-drawn out arc. But this was also ham because we’d been teased with it so many times in the first arc of Dragon Ball Z that you knew it was going to be beyond great when it finally did happen. Seeing Goku’s hair turn golden with rage for the first time and then demolishing Freiza was simply awesome.

 


3. Ichigo vs. Ulqiorra
Even though Bleach peaked with the Soul Society arc, seeing Ichigo achieve his Hollowfied form against Ulqiorra was one of the highlights of the entire Hueco Mundo arc. This signified that Ichigo wasn’t even in his final form, and he was suddenly more powerful than most of the boss characters that Aizen could throw his way. And the crazy part was, he STILL wasn’t done yet.

 


4. Midoriya reaches faux 100% One for All
My Hero Academia is great at pacing Midoriya’s steady increase in power and him reaching the faux 100 percent of One for All is a crucial development. Not only did he reach the max limit of his power with the quirk, but also he stayed in the state without adverse effects. That was only because of Eri’s quirk rewinding the damage, but it was fascinating to see what One for All could be capable of in the future.

 

5. Naruto turns into Nine Tails versus Pain
Naruto enthusiasts will point to this fight as the beginning of Naruto’s ridiculousness and a glimpse into his true potential as a Jinchuriki within the series. Pain was no joke and the fact that Naruto embraced the Nine-Tailed Fox’s ideology if only briefly meant that he was ready at all costs. He manifested all nine tails but was stopped by his late father. Imagine if had he manifested all nine and been allowed to keep manifesting them.

Anime Lounge #23: Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 1

Series: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Episodes: 1 to 20

Premise: The Avatar, a being who can channel the four elements – air, water, earth and fire – is missing, and the Fire Nation is dominating the world in their absence. Teenagers Katara and Sokka stumble upon the mythological teenage boy Aang, who had been thought lost 100 years earlier, and free him. He joins with the brother-and-sister duo to master the four elements and save their world from the Fire Nation’s tyrannical leader, Fire Lord Ozai. Along the way, they must dodge the Fire Nation’s crown prince Zuko, who struggles to regain his honor under pressure from his father.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. Avatar is stunning in its world building and investment in character depth. You’ll get hooked quickly on the mythology of the Avatar and how Aang will save the world.

Breakout character: Zuko. Though he struggles in a fruitless quest dealing with honor that he didn’t lose, you come to realize that the fire-bending master is not the true villain here.

Where it’s going?: Aang will learn to master all four elements and will struggle to save the world while dealing with the grief of losing his people. It’s a fascinating journey to see just how much all the characters will grow in bending and otherwise.

Otaku Corner: Outlaw Star Ep. 1-26

Outlaw Star shines among anime of early aughts

I’m paying homage to an anime series that has made a major impact on otaku culture as well helped in the renaissance of anime in America.

First, I’ll give a little background. Sunrise Beyond Inc. is well known for its globally acclaimed series Gundam. It has also helped contribute to and worked with Cartoon Network with its Toonami/Adult Swim blocks, presenting new classics such as The Big O, Cowboy Bebop and Inuyasha. But Sunrise brought a series to Cartoon Network that helped anime rebound in American pop culture. That series is Outlaw Star.

Licensed by Bandai Entertainment in 1999 and broadcasted on Cartoon Network in 2001 and 2002, Outlaw Star tells the story of Gene Starwind and best friend-business partner James “Jim” Hawking, who run a jack-of-all trades business on the planet Sentinel III. Their lives are changed forever when an outlaw named Hot Ice Hilda hires them as bodyguards while recovering a stolen spaceship — later known as the Outlaw Star — and its navigational system to find the “Galactic Layline,” a fabled place which holds immense treasure, knowledge, and power. Outlaw Star has some similarities to Cowboy Bebop in the theme of a Space Western type of anime. Early on, I was introduced to the main characters, but I learned later that the makeup of the cast would change. When Gene, Jim and Hilda reach the hiding place of the Outlaw Star, they’re attacked by the Kei pirates, who are after Hilda for stealing the ship. Hilda battles the pirates, stalling for Gene and Jim to escape with the ship and its navigation system named Melfina. Hilda dies, unfortunately, when she activates a hidden bomb that vaporizes her and the pirates.

The series continues with Gene and crew taking on various jobs to manage maintenance and gaining new crew members, such as assassin “Twilight” Suzuka and former Ctarl-Ctarl government officer Aisha ClanClan. In addition to the Kei pirates, Gene must deal with the bounty hunting MacDougall brothers and the scheming Professor Gwen Kahn while uncovering the mystery surrounding Melfina and the Galactic Layline. Gene and company are always looking to make money while spending it and sometimes laugh at the escapades they get into while trying to do so.

The character designs are very good, but the stars of the show are the actual ships designed by Juniya Ishigaki and Shoji Kawamori, who designed the Outlaw Star. The show’s main and ending themes begin with a strong masculine theme then change to a child-like lullaby and a slow pop song that can calm the most frustrated otaku. The voice dub cast is excellent with Bob Buchholz as Gene, Brianne Siddall as Jim, Emily Brown as Melfina, Lenore Zann as Aisha, and Wendee Lee as Suzuka. Outlaw Star also benefited from having Beau Billingslea as the narrator and Mary E. McGlynn as Hilda. Another voice actor that contributed was Barbra Goodson, known for her work on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as “Rita Repulsa,” as a guest voice. This series showed that Sunrise employed excellent voice actors with high quality designs and strong storytelling to bring a show that would have been overlooked to the forefront with enthusiastic fan support.

Outlaw Star is a show among the Toonami/Adult Swim lineup that kept the programing blocks alive in addition to reviving anime passion in America. Fortunately, you can find this classic series on the Funimation now and Hulu streaming services.

If anything, Outlaw Star teaches all otaku like me: Go forth, seek your fortune and do not fear failure.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #22: Horimiya Episodes 1-12

Series: Horimiya

Episodes: 1-12

Premise: An outgoing girl (Kyouko Hori) notices a shy boy (Izumi Miyamura) in her class and wonders why he doesn’t have any friends. At the same time, they meet outside of class when Miyamura looks completely different. Their friendship blossoms and eventually they confess to having feelings for each other. Where their relationship and that of their friends and acquaintances takes them is the meat of the story.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. Outstanding visuals and a mature story about the feelings of young people becoming adults makes for a compelling anime. The intro theme is also fantastic.

Breakout character: Izumi Miyamura. He goes from super shy guy to outrageously cute pierced and tattooed guy every day and settles somewhere in between. His glow up is amazing once he develops confidence.

Where it’s going?: The relationship between Hori and Miyamura intensifies, and it’s obvious this will lead to marriage down the line. The fun will be in getting there. There is a second season announced, so we will see more of their relationship progress over time.

Anime Lounge #21: Cowboy Bebop Episodes 1 – 12

Series: Cowboy Bebop

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: Space bounty hunter Spike Spiegel is always in search of his next target, and he finds unlikely helpers in retired cop Jet Black, the mysterious Faye Valentine and later legendary hacker Ed and the scientific genius pupper Ein. Spike must confront his past — running around in the mafia — in order to move forward with his future. How he does it to start leads to more questions than answers, ending with his first confrontation with former friend Vicious.

Is it worth watching?: YES. This is one of the god-tier anime that every new anime enthusiast should be required to watch. Production values, voice acting, cool characters and an awesome soundtrack … this anime has it all.

Breakout character: Faye Valentine. Yes, it could be all of the characters, but Faye definitely stands out. You want to know her deal, why she can’t remember anything and how she will ever get herself together. And then you find out later in the series, and it’s like, wow. The payoff for Faye is amazing, and you still want more.

Where it’s going?: Spike has to take on Vicious once again, reclaim his honor and handle unresolved business. He’s taking the crew along for the ride, and where they end up is the mystery.

Otaku Corner: Death Note Vol. 12

The Death Note saga comes to an end in Volume 12

Here we are, at last. The last volume of Death Note is here, and I could not be any happier to close the chapter on manga’s most self-righteous and sadistic character, Light Yagami. From the very beginning, he weaved a great web of deceit by utilizing a weapon of mass destruction. From test killing various criminals to intentionally killing international police officials (including this millennium’s Sherlock Holmes) and having the audacity to play God while wielding absolute power over every well-known police and security agency on Earth, Light has done it all. Rest assured, I will soldier though Mr. Yagami’s foolishness while doing this review.
After a successful attack on NHN studios, Mello and his partner, Matt, were able to capture Takada, bringing a slight interruption to Light’s and Near’s decisive battle set to take place in days. Mello, being clever, forces Takada to undress herself to remove any tracking devices, preventing her bodyguards and the police to find them. Mello cleverly places Takada’s outer clothes in a shipping box and leaves it at a package delivery company. Unknown to him, however, that Takada had a piece of the Death Note, a pen and a secret cell phone to contact Light.

Once Takada contacts Light, she tells him that she killed Mello, and Light fiendishly acts concerned in front of the task force members by asking where she was. At the same time, the news reports Matt’s death as he was shot by Takada’s bodyguards while attempting to fire smoke bombs at them. On the way to rescue Takada, Light uses a hidden piece of the Death Note to kill her after she calls Mikami to tell him to text her two days’ worth of criminals to kill. Near also tries to help with the search but is too late when the task forces find Mello and Takada dead after a fire, thanks to Light.
While Light and Near made their final adjustments for their last battle, NHN and other television stations begin to plead Kira to host his messages. On the day of the final showdown, Linder of the SPK drives Misa and Mogi, dropping the former at a deluxe hotel suite while driving to the meeting site. After arriving at the Yellow Box Warehouse and checking for wire taps and hidden camera, Light, Near and their allies met face to face. Near then asks everyone to wait 30 minutes for Mikami to show up and instructs everyone to act normal should he try to peep in on the meeting. Unknown to Mikami, Near has tampered with the real pages of the notebook. Once Light figured out that he was exposed as Kira, he first claims Near is setting him up and finally confesses that he is Kira.
As Light continued to bask in his “victory,” Near interrupts that he not only tampered with the Death Note Mikami had on him, but also he messed with the other one he kept in a bank deposit box. Light, still delirious, tried to kill Near with a hidden piece of the Death Note, but Matsuda shoots him multiple times. Light asks Ryuk to kill Near and the others with his Death Note. Ryuk refuses, stating that Light is near death because of his wounds; he would take Light’s life and did so without a second thought.
A year later, Matsuda and Ide talk about the case, and Matsuda stated that he believed that Near controlled Mikami. At that moment, Ide gets a call from Aizawa, who is now deputy superintendent of the NPA. Aizawa states that Near needs help investigating a drug syndicate’s deal in Japan occurring at the Yellow Box Warehouse. Once arriving, they join Mogi and the task force’s newest member, Yamamoto, joins the meeting with L. Meanwhile, a gathering of Kira worshippers convenes in a secluded area where their priestess (looking like Misa) place places a candle and prays for Kira’s return.
From beginning to end, Volume 12 of Death Note did not disappoint. All the writing and artwork surpassed previous editions, giving a great series a well-earned sendoff with hopes of continuation in the future. Ohba-san’s writing was spectacular in building suspense. Obata-san’s artwork was brilliant, keeping the suspense and action alive and allowing readers to see the aftermath of Kira’s (possible) demise. I am giving well-deserved praise to Viz Media’s Tesuichiro Miyaki for translation and adaptation that perfectly told the story, making this final volume — like the other English releases of Death Note — re-readable from beginning to end.
Death Note Volume 12 did not disappoint. I would like to thank you, Otaku Corner readers, for joining me through this series. One piece of advice: Be wary of shinigami and always leave out juicy apples for them.

Brandon Beatty is associate editor of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner: Death Note Vol. 11

The light at the end of the Death Note tunnel is clear

Light, Light, Light. I keep finding more reasons for confining Mr. Yagami to a high-level mental health facility than having him in ANY level of employment in public safety. Throughout the entire series reviewing this manga series, the question of “How can one justify killing innocent people in order to make a better world,” keeps popping back in my head, with no credible answers.

Volume 11 begins with Light, Misa and the task force headed back to Japan to avoid capture by Near, the SPK and Mello. Light’s return to Japan provides him breathing room to set up his plans in controlling the Kira investigation and control Mikami’s movements as Kira. However, Near correctly deduces Light’s escape to Japan and follows suit to capture Kira in his own domain, using Hal Linder as a potential member of Kiyomi Takada’s female security team. At the same time, Misa is asked by Yoshida Productions to perform at the annual New Year’s show. Once Near arrives in Japan, he contacts Light to inform him that he is also in Japan to lure Kira out of hiding. Both L’s decide to use that call to begin preparations for their final plans to battle each other.

Further in the story, Light continues to use Takada to his advantage by exchanging written notes to avoid detection by the task force and communicate with Mikami. Takada is OK with the plan, but she began her own plan to secure her position with Light by asking Misa to join her for a late dinner. At the dinner, Mogi and Linder are present, but Linder was ordered by Takada to stand by in case Misa got belligerent. For the sake of time, I’ll say that the dinner didn’t not go well. Meanwhile, another SPK agent named Gevanni starts his stake out of Mikami and has noticed that he has killed a subway passenger for harassing a female passenger without using the Death Note. Acting on Gevanni’s report, Near and Rester began the final stages of planning to capture Kira/Light.

At the New Year’s show, Takada announces that Misa has not yet arrived, forcing Light and the task force to search for her and Mogi. At that moment, Near contacts Light stating that he has taken Misa and Mogi into protective custody. Light, inwardly enraged, acts concerned in front of the task force by telling Misa and Mogi that they are free to leave at any time they want.

At the same time, Gevanni follows Mikami to a local gym and was able to touch the Death Note that was in Mikami’s brief bag. With Gevanni’s report, Near decides to make a replica Death Note and set the date, time and place for the final battle: a warehouse near Daikoku Wharf in Yokohama. On the day of their meeting, Takada arrives at NHN Studio for her news program when Matt arrives firing a smoke grenade at Takada. While the security team surrounds her, Mello, disguised as a motorcyclist worshipper of Kira, tells Linder to place Takada on the bike. When Takada is on the bike with Mello, Linder has two security units to follow them while the remaining security team goes after Matt. When Takada was out of danger, Mello ignored requests from the security detail to hand her over to them and escapes into a narrow alley with Takada as his prisoner.

This volume is a nice way to setup a climatic end for the series. Every detail from artwork to storyline was strong enough to create their own impact without losing plot focus. I applauded the chess-like moves that Light and Near employed with Swiss clock-like precision in each of their plans giving them flexibility in each situation. Also, the development for each character was not stale, especially for Misa, Takada, and Linder, who all got equal scene time in each chapter. I found the dinner scene with Misa and Takada hilarious when Misa tells Takada that she and Kira will be killed when he is captured, and Takada counters with host authority of the New Year’s show to prevent Misa’s engagement to Light. Also, Linder was featured in superb multitasking as a most trusted bodyguard while being a double agent and referee between Kira’s two suitors. Ohba-san and Obata-san again showed their mastery in creating a worthwhile series. Credit is also owed to Tetsuichiro Miyazi, who performed adaptation and translation duties.

This is it. The battle that we waited for, dear readers, is here. L’s heirs and Light Yagami fighting to the death, not for praise but intellectual superiority. As I ready myself to write the final review of Death Note, I cannot find any reason why I should not re-read this series or re-watch the anime. Do shinigami really exist? Only time will tell. I can offer this analysis, though: A battle of anime and manga’s most intriguing intellectuals will end, with ONLY one left standing.

Brandon Beatty is associate editor of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #20: My Hero Academia Season 1

Series: My Hero Academia

Episodes: 1 to 13

Premise: A young boy, Izuku Midoriya, from Japan lives in a world where at least 80 percent of society is born with some type of extra special ability, called quirks. Quirks are used by a segment of the population to fight crime, and Midoriya idolizes the world-famous All Might, the No. 1-ranked hero. After a chance encounter with his idol, quirkless Midoriya begins to train with All Might to gain his passed-down quirk One for All. Midoriya’s journey to becoming the No. 1 hero is chronicled as he joins U.A. High School and learns the true meaning of becoming a hero.

Is it worth watching?: YES. We love the X-Men, and My Hero Academia is basically an anime version of the Marvel staple. If you love super-powered antics, compelling heroes and villains and tight, deep writing, My Hero Academia is a phenomenal choice. It starts a little slow, but once it gets going, it gets GOOD.

Breakout character: Todoroki Shoto. In the first season, it’s all about the dual-natured boy who wields fire and ice as one quirk. He seems frosty at first but his introduction is nothing short of dazzling, and he quickly becomes a favorite because of his power and stoic expression. Iida Tenya and Midoriya are close in terms of engaging. You want to root for both characters as they grow. All the teachers are top-notch characters as well, but Shota Aizawa aka Eraserhead is our favorite. He stands out from the pack in terms of his cool but basic costume and the sheer strength of his quirk Erasure, which nullifies quirks within his vision range until he blinks.

Best episode: Episode 5: What I Can Do For Now. Midoriya has already entered Class 1A by passing the entrance exam, but now he’s in the big leagues and has to demonstrate what he knows about One For All. The cool thing about this episode is, while Midoriya knows he doesn’t have control over the quirk just yet, he doesn’t give up. In fact, he tries hard enough that Aizawa-san realizes that he’s trying to get the quirk together. Aizawa has enough foresight to realize that Midoriya doesn’t have control because he likely wasn’t born with it like the others in his class. Thus, he starts becoming suspicious but curious enough to allow Midoriya to continue in the class. This shows growth for all involved in just five episodes.

Where it’s going?: As Midoriya gets more comfortable with having the ultra-powerful One for All, look for the stakes to ramp up for Class 1A as they train to become heroes.