GTO: Holy Forest (Volume 6) Review
"My name is Hiroshi Uchiyamada, I was born in Kanuma City in Tochiga in 1946. My current position is Vice Principal at the elite private school Holy Forest. As an educator, I have faced many problems including school violence, sexual conduct among the young, bullying, refusal to go to school. However, I am facing the biggest problem of career right now!
It is, ONIZUKA!!"
The words of Vice Principal Uchiyamada, a character sorely missed from the previous volume returns with a vengeance for the sixth volumes opening episode that see us introduced to his home life and in particular, his beautiful young daughter. The great thing about Uchiyamada is the character trait he shares with Onizuka, that of the over-active imagination which tends to get him in far more of a bind than anything Onizuka is doing could ever achieve. In this case when Onizuka becomes acquainted with Uchiyamada's daughter and is invited to tutor her by the Vice Principal's wife things get out of hand and by a unique turn of events see Uchiyamada risking scandal by streaking through the streets of Shibuya.
Much like the previous volume the episodes contained within take the form of a two-part story book ended by filler material, the first of which I have already described and ranks up there with any Uchiyamada orientated episode while the final episode of this volume sees Tomoko return to the cast for an extended visit as Onizuka strives to find her work and bolster the image she requires for her career as an 'idol' to succeed. Strictly speaking however the latter episode is the first in a two or more part story arc that will be completed in the next volume and refers back to numerous episodes in the earlier half of the series. Back on subject, these episodes work extremely well and offer the right mixture of light entertainment combined with dramatic sentiment while also furthering the character development of those they focus upon.
The two-part story arc played out in the midst of these episodes sees a new character invited to the shows developing numbers in the form of Nao Kadena. This busty maiden arrives at the Holy Forest Academy dressed unlike any teacher I have ever seen before and turns out to be the new school nurse. Due to her dazzling good looks a large number of the male students and of course Onizuka find themselves stricken with illness just so they can be around her, but with numerous extra-curricular activities surrounding Nao-chan's presence questions arise and a dark history not unlike Onizuka's own is revealed and comes with a surprisingly emotional punch line.
Providing a stark contrast to the other adult female lead Nao-chan (a method of addressing someone Nao prefers but is traditionally restricted for use with children) makes for an interesting character when put on screen with Fuyutsuki, as the two spark each other off with Nao-chan's appearance, outlook and chosen activities causing Fuyutsuki numerous moral dilemmas. The fact she provides Onizuka with ample opportunity to sniff around her (almost literally) is no doubt part of the problem given the feelings Fuyutsuki has for him, but is something that makes for great comedy especially given the situations that arise.
Lesson 24: Compromising Positions - Instructed to repaint one of the schools outer walls Onizuka employs the help of his students and envisages imagery that Uchiyamada does not approve, before Tomoko accidentally knocks a tin of paint over the enraged Vice Principal leaving him stained blood red. This only serves as the build up to an episode that sees Onizuka intrude on Uchiyamada's home life and threaten his daughter’s safety, at least in his eyes which leads to all manner of bizarre fantasies being projected onscreen. Bear costumes, streaking and an unexpected change of heart all follow before the end credits roll.
Lesson 25: Playing Doctor - GTO Style - While checking out the latest busty young idols with his fellow adolescents the real deal plants her assets in Onizuka’s face requesting directions to the principal’s office. Overcome with joy by the new addition to the faculty staff Onizuka is on a mission to discover Nao Kadena's secret, her measurements, but soon we discover there is more to the new nurse than originally thought.
Lesson 26: Onizuka Meets His Match - Threatened with the possibility she may be fired due to her extra curricular activities both inside and outside of the school Nao-chan reveals the true intentions behind her entrepreneurial skills. In between these revelations and the ones that follow the mood is lightened as we see Fukuroda sensei display his prowess in the perverted before receiving a rocket in the face while even Uchiyamada slips up and reveals a disturbing side to his personality.
Lesson 27: GTO - Agent To The Stars - Tomoko's attempts to become a future television star have not progressed much since we last touched on the subject. Realising this Onizuka takes it upon himself to oust her manager's authority and use his superior knowledge of what the lustful fans of idols really want to her advantage. After signing Tomoko up for repeated local commercials that result in near complete coverage of Japan we never quite know if this was a brilliantly executed plan or pure luck as a result of his attempts to secure enough free food to last him the next few months.
Once again the cover artwork is of a high standard utilising a picture of Onizuka looking sharp in a white suit while the insert features cultural references which add to our appreciation of the show (and in this case give us a good background on J-Idols).
Presented in the original Full Screen aspect ratio the transfer here like most aspects of the disc is on a par with previous volumes. The show has a soft look to it and this comes through on the DVD which offers good colour reproduction and solid black levels, while compression artefacts including line shimmering are kept to a minimum with edge enhancement wavering between hardly noticeable and quite obvious.
The original Japanese language track and optional English dub are present on the disc in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. In terms of raw audio quality both are very good and deliver crisp dialogue on a show that offers little in the way of music or elaborate sound effects. Optional English subtitles are provided offering a literal translation of the dialogue and text in an easy to read yellow font.
First up we have part 3 of the interview with GTO creator Tohru Fujisawa which proves to be the most interesting segment yet as it offers some worthwhile insight to the character of Onizuka and lasts for just over 13 minutes. New to this volume is the inclusion of a music video to promote Initial D, but other than that we are in standard extras mode with Outtakes from the English Dub recording sessions, the Textless Opening/Close animations and Previews for other titles rounding out the disc.
Though not particularly significant there is some progress being made here with selected characters either introduced or brought back in to play resulting in the quality entertainment we have come to expect from the series. However, despite offering plenty of laughs on a continuous basis I found myself hoping a more significant obstacle would arise so we can see Onizuka face up to a challenge beyond those seen in these almost completely filler style episodes as seen on both this and the previous volume. Fingers crossed things pick up in the next...