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GTO Live Action 2012 Version First Impressions

Getting back into the swing of things after a long hiatus—there will be several new full-length reviews posted shortly as well.

Just finished watching the first episode of the (very) new live action GTO adaptation. Based on it, while the casting is pretty good—singer AKIRA is younger and has a better punk look as Onizuka than Sorimachi Takashi in the older live action adaptation—and the action is decent, it’s a definite step down. The writing isn’t quite as good, the acting is noticeably worse (some of the minor characters are particularly bad), the production values look a little lower, the plot makes even less sense, and it’s a lot sappier.  Also, it seems like about half the cast is a singer of some sort, but that’s sort of par for the course in J-dramas these days.  It might pick up, but normally if something starts out that badly it’s not a good sign.

I’m of course most interested in comparisons with the anime version. The previous live action adaptation made a lot of changes, but most of them were actually rather reasonable—they made it work as live action, and more or less made sense as a package so long as you didn’t try to compare it directly.

This one also makes a lot of changes, but they’re different, and in some ways it’s a lot closer to the original. Onizuka, for example, is a lot more obviously an idiot thug than the cooler, older, comparatively level-headed version in the other live action adaptation—much closer to the original, including the dyed hair. Both his buddies are also present this time, and cast well. We again upgrade the school to high school, which is fine since it makes casting easier and they were functionally high school students in the anime anyway. Onizuka starts out as much more of a loser, which is again closer to the original and I have no complaints about (though the cooler, somewhat wiser other live action version worked well enough).

The problem is that the plot is sort of a jumbled mix of elements from the manga/anime that don’t fit in context. The first episode combines the characters of Nanako Mizuki (the girl with dysfunctional parents in the pre-Holy Forest Academy intro plotline) and Anko (the girl bullying classmate Noboru at Holy Forest) and those two plotlines into a single story which is introduced and resolved, along with Onizuka (who starts as a groundskeeper in this version) getting hired, in the space of the episode.

I can accept character merging, but Onizuka’s whole sledgehammer act, and more or less all the human drama that comes out of that part of the story, doesn’t make any sense when he’s not a teacher. When, in fact, he’s just a random thug hired by the kid she was bullying so far as she knows.  That the writers apparently didn’t realize that when sticking lines and scenes from the original directly in does not speak well for their talent.  While it does make Anko a much more sympathetic character, it mostly neuters the bullying plotline of its impact, and the episode ends up having a lot of lengthy, blatantly sappy filler toward the end.

I’ll probably watch more of the show—Akemi complains endlessly about J-dramas, yet still watches them—but it certainly doesn’t start off on the right foot when it comes to what to lift from the manga and anime plot wise, even if it does a better job matching characters and with casting.

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