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GTO: 14 Days In Shonan Vol. 4
posted July 11, 2012

imageCreator: Toru Fujisawa
Publishing Information: Vertical, softcover, 200 pages, 2012, $10.95
Ordering Numbers: 1932234934 (ISBN10), 9781932234930 (ISBN13)

This is the latest volume in what I'm guessing is a kind of summer-movie companion/spin-off/side journey from a longer, comedy serial about a teacher whose inappropriate methods of violence and verbal thuggishness teach the kids a thing or two about being confident in one's self as well as whatever is in the lesson plan. Or something. Mark Thackeray as played by Adam Sandler, maybe. It's the kind of thing where as you read it you think, "Oh yeah, this probably had to exist." It makes you wish you had a percentage of it whether or not you actually enjoy the comic. I'm going to assume this volume is like a lot of the others in that it's largely comprised of set pieces and jokes about the very funny teacher character as he attempts to extricate children from certain dire situations of their own creation by being more violent and yet more heartfelt than the other, mostly neglectful parent figures in their lives. The detail work's pretty great. At one point our hero shows up for a street fight pulling along his IV stand, and the contrast between the absolute physical humiliation that device usually entails and the supreme confidence with which Onizuka pushes this device into the fight made me laugh. There's also that wonderful thing popular manga provides in terms of having enough space to see physical encounters all the way through, something that's pleasurable to watch and which only a few North American comics creators understand.

Is it any good? Hell, I don't know. I mean, if the goal of something like this is to entertain a bunch of people, it's already done that and I'm not sure my opinion really matters to the creators or its publishers. For me, something like this is a little better than okay. I'd nod if someone were to say they followed the series and say something like, "Yeah, I read one of those. That was cute." I'd watch one of the live-action versions if it were to come on my TV and I'll read any future books that show up in my mailbox. At the same time, I'm so far removed from the desire for formulaic comics that I can't imagine I'd seek any of the GTO books out. There's nothing of surpassing quality here that transcends its adherence to pretty traditional mores even as it tweaks at them with the lead's outlandish behavior, and the execution of the set pieces is more a reflection of sturdy choices than stand-up-and-notice skill. You also get two sex-informed jokes, one about exposed genitalia which is sort of funny and another that implies women being assaulted and being helpless because of that assault which really isn't. Anyway, I appreciate the desire to entertain here, even if a lot of it wasn't the kind of thing I find entertaining. Lunatics endear themselves to me just about anywhere they pop up.