GTO: Transformations (Volume 8) Review
Though her plans to see Onizuka fired outright might not have succeeded Miyabi's actions in the previous volume have left Onizuka in a tight spot, having promised the entire third year a trip to Okinawa out of his own pocket. Basing his generosity extending to eight million yen on a winning lottery ticket given to him by a friend, Onizuka failed to confirm the tickets value and instead assumed the jackpot prize. Subsequently he finds himself with 7 days in which to obtain the necessary funds or face an angry mob of students with the power to see him kicked out of Holy Forest Academy. His luck improves however as he wins a Mercedes Benz through a raffle, the street value for which is enough to pay for the trip but of course before he can make the sale Miyabi steps in with another of her underhanded schemes.
Once again proving she is willing to literally risk lives to meet her goals Miyabi ends up on the bad side of Urumi who reassures everyone of the terrible force she can reign down upon her enemies. Spanning the first two episodes featured here this storyline sees Onizuka enforce our understanding of his character further as the pride he takes in being a teacher takes centre stage, putting faith in the student of another like him and risking all in the process. Then in another sequence we see further confirmation of his characters motivations, only played out in a completely different light as he kicks into action hero mode to save Miyabi, crashing through the penthouse window of a luxury hotel and squeezing every ounce of tension out of the series rarely seen violent moments, while also slotting in a few choice laughs when appropriate.
Miyabi's reasons for not trusting teachers have so far hinged upon events we only know about through passing hints, based around a friend who was forced to leave following the actions of their former homeroom teacher. In the previous volume we began to delve into her life outside of school and the episodes on this disc finally reveal that her problem lies with trusting all adults, even her own parents. After taking centre stage for several episodes this darker aspect of the series plays out in the culmination of Miyabi's hatred towards the lack of responsibility adults take, and despite finding herself in serious danger she displays only minimal signs of coming around to Onizuka's way of thinking, suggesting there is plenty more to play out when the third year leave for there all expenses paid trip to Okinawa.
With a string of episodes now prepped thanks to the opportunities a school outing offers the writers take another timeout in between to bring a few characters of old back into the mix and deliver two episodes filled with comedy. Bringing this volume to a close is another chance to catch up with Tomoko, who crashes in on Onizuka as the world of the Yakuza are encroaching into hers while the final episode gives us another welcome opportunity to look into Murai's home life, and of course bring his young mother back into play for his friends and Onizuka to drool over. These episodic offerings are both a welcome light hearted distraction but also do well to round out some of the more appealing side characters including Onizuka's buddy in the police force and Julia (Murai's mom) whom we learn more about as Murai's paranoia surrounding her age goes into overdrive.
Lesson 32: The Law Of Probability
- As he continues working around the clock to earn enough cash to pay for the Okinawa trip Onizuka begs his friend at the garage for help, but feels snubbed when he is given a raffle ticket and sent on his way. Onizuka has the last laugh however as he wins and takes home a top of the line Mercedes Benz, which coincidentally is worth just enough to cover the trip. Before you can stop laughing at Uchiyamada's horror as he discovers Onizuka owns a superior vehicle to his precious Cresta, we find that Miyabi is on the warpath again and uses her contacts to set Onizuka up by using his faith in the student-teacher relationship to give away the car.
Lesson 33: Search And Rescue - Miyabi has gone one step too far in Urumi's mind so it is her turn to play a game, and when Urumi plays she does so for real. Onizuka might not approve of her methods but takes some pleasure in the opportunity he is given to play action hero in saving Miyabi from a terrible fate.
Lesson 34: Good Cop/Bad Cop
- Tomoko finds herself in trouble as her contract is on the verge of being sold to Yakuza, so Onizuka stirs up some trouble and they both go on the run, though not before joining up with Onizuka's buddy in the police force with whom the teacher shares an interesting dynamic. With a story that plays out like a Hollywood action movie, twisting and turning with unlikely plot devices there must be something more to all this?
Lesson 35: Wedding Bell Blues - Murai once again learns that his mother is considered to be quite the babe with men swooning over her at every opportunity they can get. Onizuka is no different but he shows concern for his student when Murai discovers that his mother could be planning to secretly marry an old balding gentlemen who shares a resemblance to a famous character from the Astro Boy series.
Featuring a fairly basic cover design with Onizuka in the "I Want You" Uncle Sam pose it looks alright, though I much prefer the volume 8 cover seen on numerous retail sites that was obviously dropped just prior to release. Inside you will find a double sided insert sporting a reproduction of the cover art on one side, and translation notes on the reverse which give you plenty of handy insights to the gags and references made throughout these four episodes.
Picture and Sound
Presented in the original full screen aspect ratio the video quality here is up to the series usual standards, looking good but never really great. The source prints are in great condition with no signs of dirt or white specks to report, while detail, black levels and colour reproduction are all to be commended. As with previous volumes in the series the only real letdown comes from the encoding which features some noticeable aliasing (creating a jagged line effect). Though this can be distracting the series does look pretty decent for the most part and will only really bother the pickier of you out there, or those with high end equipment which really shows these faults up.
There are no such complaints on the audio side of the disc, with both the original Japanese language track and English dub presented in crisp stereo offerings with clear dialogue and effective separation across the front sound stage. To accompany the Japanese track you will find a literal English translation while a separate signs only subtitle track is available to be used in conjunction with the dub.
Now the interview sessions with the creator have finished the bonus features section of GTO is beginning to look quite poor. The Outtakes reel contains more English Dub session goofs, the extended music video style trailer for the series first seen on Volume 7 is also present here while the Textless Opening/Close are once again present and accounted for. Notably the last two episodes on this volume introduced a new close animation, but for the extras section on this volume they have stuck with the close animation found on the first two episodes.
Rounding out the extras is a music video for Initial D and previews for several other series including Reign, Vampire Princess Miyu, Brigadoon and Real Bout High School.
The combination of the strong plotlines involving Miyabi with some great action set pieces and two often hilarious standalone episodes makes this one of the best volumes in a while, re-enforcing the fact GTO is a quality series that is best viewed in selected batches that can’t always be met by the way in which DVD volumes are split.