GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Vol. 1

By Toru Fujisawa. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Vertical.

In the beginning, there was Shonan Jun’ai Gumi, a 31-volume series about the adventures of two young delinquents in the Shonan area, and their amusing attempts to try to lose their virginity and change their ways. (Only one succeeded, and he’s not the star of this manga.) Then we had a 1-volume prequel, Bad Company, showing how Onizuka and Danma (the stars of SJG) first met in middle school. Following this came the most popular entry in the series, and the ones most North American fans know about, Great Teacher Onizuka. The ‘delinquent/gang leader becomes a teacher and teaches students to stand upright and be proud’ type of series is its own genre in Japan, but Onizuka took this to new heights of comedy, outrageousness and heartwarming.

When GTO ended in 2002, after 25 volumes, Fujisawa tried various other series that were unrelated to the Onizuka saga, for better or worse. (Some of them came over here via Tokyopop: Rose Hip Rose/Zero, Tokko…) There was even a series about a mysterious masked teacher that looked very much like GTO with the serial numbers filed off. But apparently it was impossible to stay away for too long, as in 2009 Fujisawa decided to take Onizuka back to his roots.

This 9-volume series is what’s awkwardly known as an ‘interquel’, which is to say it takes place entirely within the GTO series proper, during the time that Onizuka recovered from the gunshot wounds he received from insane stalker Teshigawara. Of course, mere bullets are not enough to stop our hero, whose ability to take fatal blows and still laugh is something you’re just going to have to accept. Unfortunately, after accidentally bragging about nearly killing one of his students on live television, Onizuka’s in a lot more trouble than usual, and he has to try to stay low. (This, by the way, gives the regular cast of GTO a chance to make a cameo, including Urumi, the aforementioned student who was almost killed. For those wondering about the bizarre translation ‘mate with me’ and ‘I want your seed’, no, that’s really how she talks.)

So Onizuka has to lay low for the next 2 weeks, and decides to go back to Shonan and hang around with his old gang members. This leads to another old GTO gag, where Onizuka brags about how his old gang are still brothers who’d make any sacrifice for each other, then finds reality is not so bright. Luckily, he’s taken in by a young woman who recognizes him; she’s a friend of his fellow teacher and not-quite-love-interest Fuyutsuki, and wonders if he can so something about the kids she has at her local boarding house…

And so we prepare for Onizuka to do what he did in GTO, only with a different group of kids. Let’s not mince words: there’s not a lot of originality here. But Kodansha didn’t approve a revival because they wanted to see something different. Onizuka changing the hearts and minds of troubled youngsters is what people want, and this series gives it to them. The beauty of GTO is the way that it combined comedic juvenile gags, gang violence, and heartwarming scenes to give an overall impression of “the world is not as unfair as you think it is”. And since he’s only got 9 volumes this time round, he makes an impression right away, winning over the eccentric and somewhat suicidal Sakurako and punching the lights out of her abusive father. Onizuka tends to believe in the powers of “I will change your mind with my fists if necessary”, and his defense of Sakurako (which earns the approval of her abused mother) is beautiful.

For those worried that they won’t understand the series without having read GTO or SJG, don’t worry about it. The GTO cast appear for about 6 pages and then are gone, and Onizuka’s type of teaching is pretty universal. There’s a few anachronisms (Onizuka draws Haruhi Suzumiya at one point, which is rather prescient given that GTO is supposed to take place in the late ’90s), but nothing game breaking. I will note that Onizuka can be crude, and talks a lot about finally getting laid. (It’s not going to happen.) And for those who hate cockroaches, a scene towards the end may freak you out. Otherwise, GTO: 14 Days in Shonan does exactly what we wanted it to do. Onizuka is back, and he’s redeeming the souls of rebellious teens through sheer force of personality – and sometimes just force. Welcome back.

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  1. Look, Onizuka will get laid. It’ll just happen in a dream. That’s really the only time it’ll happen^^


  1. […] Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic, recommends the first volume of the series GTO: 14 Days in Shonan. Sean Gaffney, at A Case for Suitable Treatment, also reviews the book. […]

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