The Live Action GTO Changed My Life

Whenever the question of “what your favourite television show” comes up, my head goes to one place. In 1998, the manga Great Teacher Onizuka otherwise known as GTO was adapted and released as a live action series. This manga was a smash hit detailing the hijinks of a former bike gang member – Onizuka Eikichi as he navigates his dream of 1. losing his v-card and 2. working as a high school teacher. In this series Onizuka is placed in a class of kids who want nothing more than to give their teachers a hard time and drive them into quitting. This series ran for 12 episodes between July and September and left a lasting legacy as its finale was the Kanto region’s 8th most watched broadcast of the year. It also cemented Takashi Sorimachi who portrayed Onizuka himself as a household name in Japan. For me though, it’s the series that changed my perspective on life and is something that I’ve mirrored throughout my years.

In 2022, this series would not fly. Onizuka is tempted into sexual thoughts with his female students, he threatens the youth, and is constantly breaking the law in order to further his agenda. From the perspective of someone who has never watched or read this series before, you must think I’m crazy. But remember, 1998 in Japan – shit was not as politically correct as it is now, and throughout the series characters are continuously being punished for making these poor decisions. But don’t let these small aspects of the show deter you from it.

Onizuka’s goal in this series is to become a great teacher. What this means is that he’s hellbent on doing the right thing for his students who at the beginning of the series are all out to get him. Before the story starts, the students of this class were done wrong by a past homeroom teacher and due to this, they have vowed to get rid of every new teacher that they got, meanwhile believing that all adults are evil. Even so, Onizuka believes in the good of these kids and will do anything for them to enjoy school and therefore their youth. He’ll hurt adults who threaten his kids’ safety, he’ll puts himself at the risk of being fired, and he’ll even get hurt – all for the sake of his kids.

When Onizuka was in high school, he was expelled. Although he is grateful for his relationships and experiences as a gang member, if he was ever given the chance to redo life, he would want to go back to school. Dating, studying with friends, and going to school events. As an adult, he understands how rewarding school can be for children and he wants nothing more than his students to enjoy their youth.

I have always believed that if you don’t have integrity – you have nothing. If you don’t honour your commitments to people, if you don’t stay strong in your values, and if you don’t believe in what you preach – you having nothing. Onizuka is someone with incredible amounts of integrity. His strengths don’t include cunning, money, or power but he doesn’t care. His strengths lies in his ability to back himself and his values. And it’s the values of standing up for the weak when they can’t help themselves, to support those when they are down, and to stay consistent with the person you believe you are.

It’s because of those values that have allowed me to be loyal to my friends, to cherish important memories, and to not take for granted the small things in life that make life good. Life isn’t about cheap relationships, lying for short term gains, and taking away from others. Life should be about enriching those around you, spreading as much positivity you can, and leaving places in a better spot than from when you first got there. Things that Onizuka consistently does for his community. It’s his values and actions that move the story along. It’s Takashi’s portrayal of the character that rallies the cast around him. If you ever wondered why I was so intense about my beliefs, the show is the reason.

I’ve watched this series more times than I can count and every time I find myself in tears over his attitude towards life and his friends. It’s a series that has made me value my relationships more than most and a reminder for what is most important in life. If we had more people like Onizuka in the real world, I can confidently say that there would be more to look forward to in the future. If you ever feel like you need a little motivation, I implore you to watch this series, as I find myself always going back to it when I’m feeling discouraged.

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