GTO: 14 Days in Shonan vol. 1

Story and Art by Toru Fujisawa Published by Vertical - $10.95

So apparently there are 25 volumes that come before this one…

Luckily you don’t need to have read any of them to understand and enjoy this one!

“After guiding the infamous Tokyo Kissho Academy through a crash-course of his unique brand of life-lessons, a battered and bruised Eikichi Onizuka takes a well-deserved trip to his hometown of sorts, a typically quiet surfers paradise called Shonan. Unfortunately, with child neglect and abuse becoming a global phenomenon the self-proclaimed GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka) quickly finds himself back in the saddle for what he hopes is a painless two-week long field trip with some teens in need. And while Onizuka’s curriculum may not rely on the reading, writing and arithmetic that is common in most classrooms, he has more than a few good lessons in personal development, fisticuffs and fun to teach a new generation of trouble teens.”

I had never read a GTO comic before this, so the prospect of reading what amounts to a spin-off was a bit intimidating. Luckily the premise is pretty simple. There is a guy who is a teacher. He has unorthodox methods which infuriate the administration and are endearing to his students. Sounds a bit like my early teaching career!

14 Days in Shonan is melodrama at its finest. Everyone is a caricature, with emotions and drama ruling the day.  Challenges are made and accepted freely, and there are no real consequences for any actions.  And that’s ok!  14 Days is not meant to be taken seriously.  It is pure entertainment.

I liken this book to Columbo.  Anyone who has ever watched a Columbo episode knows that Columbo is going to solve the case.  the real pleasure comes from seeing how the bumbling detective puts it all together.  In GTO, the pleasure comes from watching Onizuka figure out how to “open the hearts” of the kids, and deal with the consequences when they fight back.

While the story may not be something to take seriously, the art definitely makes one sit up and take notice.  The figures are strong and confident, and the backgrounds are stunning.  Toru Fujisawa demonstrates wide-ranging skills, showing he is adept at action, comedy, and facial expressions.  It is no wonder his books have proved so popular.

There are currently six volumes published in Japan.  The first volume from Vertical is out now in the States, and the next volume is scheduled for release in March. Subsequent volumes are scheduled bi-monthly after that.  I will be back to check those out, as well as probably hunting down  the original GTO series.

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