GTO: The Test (Volume 4) Review
The first episode on this volume (4 of 10) wraps up the main story arc left open from the previous volume and sees Onizuka hospitalised for a brief period. Fret not though for he is soon back on his feet and more importantly, back to his old ways as he can be seen pulling a student out of their home in the middle of the night to fix his computer so he can grab the latest internet porn! Closing an action packed episode in this manner reminds us all of the happy-go-lucky nature of Onizuka and allows us a brief moment in which to catch our breath before a new story arc is opened up. As you might expect Onizuka is back to school with barely a mention of his injuries and just as soon as he arrives, so does a new problem via the introduction of a student who will prove to be one of the most interesting and capable adversaries that Onizuka will encounter.
Kanzaki Urumi is the new student in question, a girl who has been mysteriously absent for the entire time that Onizuka has taught class 3-4, but when her first encounter with Onizuka lands him in Jail and her return to school sees the entire faculty shake in terror, you just know there is something special about her. It would seem that Urumi is a star pupil of a calibre so high that she is excused from school on the condition that her name at least stays on their records, this gives her free reign to do whatever she pleases which results in what the other faculty members refer to as 'Classroom Terrorism'. As the episodes progress we see just what this term equates to, for if she is not carrying out some cruel prank on the teachers then she is diminishing their authority and self-confidence by correcting their teaching methods using her superior intelligence.
What makes Urumi such an intriguing character is that unlike the others who have tried and failed to oust Onizuka, Urumi comes across as someone who not only despises teachers, but also as someone who despises herself and for that very reason, her acts of 'Classroom Terrorism' go beyond anything you might expect. At first the acts she partakes in are a little cruel but devilishly funny, until an old face from the past resurrects the true hatred she carries within herself that brings with it an act of terrorism that could have cost people their lives. As is now the norm with Onizuka he is simply honest with Urumi, but due to her low value of life this leads to him chasing around after her in a more crazed manner than we have ever seen before. A further result of the love-hate relationship they begin to develop is of Onizuka becoming her 'Genie in the lamp' for an extended period of great humour. This eventually allows Onizuka to begin unravelling her past, which results in that unmistakeable mixture of drama and comedy that keeps the show on its toes and delivers great entertainment.
With the exception of Lesson 15 the remaining episodes on this disc are very much focused on the Urumi-Onizuka relationship. Seeing how this is one of the best written in the show so far I certainly had no complaints, in fact the only negative aspect of this was realising how the Urumi character is sorely missing from the live action drama alternative that is also based partially on the Manga (and is where the character originates from). Alongside the interesting storylines found within these episodes you will also find they offer solid character development, plenty of action and a quirky brand of laugh out loud comedy that is fast becoming a trademark of the show. Prime examples outside of the main plotlines come from Onizuka himself whose character traits are exploited to wonderful rapture and include his incurable lust for a girlfriend that results in him being constantly on the prowl, while his teaching methods and general behaviour in front of his students are what you would associate more with a college student than a teacher. All the while another regular, Vice Principal Uchiyamada, continues to relentlessly hover around Onizuka in an endless attempt to see him fired. Better yet is the welcome return of Uchiyamada's precious Cresta that despite receiving a crude Computer Graphics intro is ultimately destined for destruction, as it is the only fate the vehicle knows.
The quality of animation within the show maintains the fairly average standards seen so far, though as I become more accustomed to the look and design of the characters I find myself being more appreciative of the natural look and subdued colour schemes utilised that offer a break from the more typical bold styling of other, higher budget series. This style of animation also makes the 'Onizuka Gone Wild' sections of the show stand out as the director allows the artists to take things to the next level, which of course works very well as these sections involve Onizuka and other characters (often Uchiyamada) allowing their fantasies to be played out with vivid colour schemes and screeching voiceovers for that added effect. Finally, those of you who hold off the chapter skip button for the introductory and closing credit sequences will notice that from Lesson 18 onwards we are treated to new incarnations. As with the previous introduction the animation seen here utilises an interesting black and white colour scheme, though now this simple concept is mixed with the odd splash of colour that really makes things interesting and is a most welcome change as a result. The replacement end credits were not to my own personal taste and seem muddled when compared to the old sequence, though the new music featured in both of the new credit sequences is a good choice if not quite up to the standard of the previous efforts.
Lesson 15: The Great Sacrifice - Continuing from where lesson 14 left off we see Onizuka risk both his career by missing the exams and his life by going to the aid of the brat Teshigawara tutors, which leads to one of the more violent episodes as a brawl erupts leaving several parties injured. It's a given that all works out for the best but you will just have to watch to see the dramatic and comedic style that Onizuka pulls it all off in.
Lesson 16: Beauty + Brains = A Dangerous Mix - Basking in his new found fame Onizuka makes an ass out of himself on live television requesting all eligible females to write him so he can finally resign his bachelor status. After obsessing over his best friends girlfriends breasts for a good few minutes Onizuka finds himself confronted by a young girl who claims to have seen him on TV, she is everything he could have imagined and certainly gives him a wild ride, though it's not quite what he expected. A new student has arrived! Enter Kanzaki Urumi.
Lesson 17: Falling for the Great Onizuka - Urumi is terrorising the entire faculty with devastating and quite hilarious results, but Onizuka will not stand for it. Fortunately for the school, Vice Principal Uchiyamada steps into the fray to prevent Onizuka from delivering an extra-curricular lesson dressed as a Village People reject, but that does not stop him from following Urumi home, getting involved with the local Mafia and digging a grave for her on Mount Fuji!
Lesson 18: How to Dine and Dash - To make up for his attempts at burying her alive, Onizuka is playing the role of 'Genie in the lamp' for Urumi and soon runs up a monumental bill at the local Sushi House as the result of her requests. Onizuka's method of payment is not acceptable but fortunately Tomoko and her terrorised manager turn up to save the day, while they also bring a much missed character back to the show if only for a brief period. The relationship shown between Tomoko and Urumi is adorable to say the least, but just when it would appear that Urumi is settling down a face from her past resurrects old memories and causes her to go on a streak of terrorism that even Onizuka could not have prevented.
Lesson 19: Private Investigations - After Urumi's most extreme act leaves the school in need of some serious repairs Onizuka does some investigative work that just so happens to lead him to her elementary school teacher, a beautiful young lady who invites him into her home only for him to go on a panty raid! This act of debauchery aside, Onizuka learns where the hatred for teachers in Urumi stems from and sets about to giving her a special lesson that will end her destructive path once and for all.
Maintaining the same design as previous volumes in terms of packaging and menu system this fourth volume also continues with Tokyopop's most welcome inclusion of 'Cultural Notes' on the insert. For this disc regulars will notice a huge step up in the quantity of cultural references (as a result of the episodes having far more than on previous volumes) although with this comes the unfortunate lack of any explanation to the Eye Catches bonus feature as we have seen on the previous volumes.
Presented in the shows original 4:3 Full Frame Aspect Ratio this is another respectable effort from the team at Tokyopop, though as with the previous volume the encoding flaws are becoming more noticeable as my eyes adjust to the various glitches that occur. These include signs of unstable lines and the odd occasion of ghosting though I am pleased to say that the Edge Enhancement seen on previous volumes is kept to a bare minimum this time around. As we have come to expect every other aspect of the transfer is of a high quality, the print sourced is clean, colours are well defined with no signs of bleeding while detail is about as good as the shows original animation allows, all of which adds up to a pleasing viewing experience.
The shows original (and far superior) Japanese language dub is presented here in DD2.0 Stereo and provides us with another fine audio experience that while not testing your 5.1 setup to any great extent suits this dialogue driven show just fine. The optional English dub is also provided in DD2.0 stereo and offers the same overall audio experience to those who prefer the English dub option.
Accompanying the Japanese audio are a set of optional English subtitles presented using an easy to read yellow font with a thin black outline. The translation appears to be very good and as you might expect from a Region 1 offering there are no signs of spelling or grammatical errors to be found. A second subtitle track is available that only translates the written Japanese found within the show and is intended for use with the English Dub option.
For this release Tokyopop have added the first truly interesting bonus feature on a GTO DVD so far as we are presented with an interview with the creator of the GTO Manga, Tohru Fujisawa. Running for 11-minutes this interview is conducted in Japanese (with optional English subtitles) at a restaurant in Tokyo where the creator and interviewer settle down for a beer and a meal. Before the main course is served they take the opportunity to discuss Fujisawa's career beginnings and inspirations. GTO itself is not discussed in any great depth, but this is labelled as 'Part 1' so presumably more is set to come on forthcoming volumes of the series, and what is here still makes for entertaining and interesting viewing that is complimented by the relaxed nature of the proceedings.
The other bonus features present will be familiar to any GTO regulars though of course there are subtle differences to the previous volumes. The now standard inclusion of the Textless Opening and Ending sequences is different for the very first time as we are treated to the new versions as seen from Lesson 18 onwards. A Gone Wild IV section offers ten carefully selected moments of Onizuka madness via direct links to the clips while the GTO Eye Catches section includes eight brief advertising segments as seen on the original Japanese TV broadcasts. Rounding the GTO related bonus material off are four screens of Character Designs, while in the unrelated section you will find several Tokyopop previews including a trailer for their range of Manga graphic novel releases.
Almost twenty episodes in and I have yet to see any cracks in the GTO formula as the show continues to entertain while repeat viewings are a joy due to the short story arcs that are found within. The quality of these DVD releases from Tokyopop continues to please (there are just a few minor video quibbles) while the bonus material on this release suggests greater things are yet to come.