GTO: Showbiz (Volume 7) Review
Following the efforts of Onizuka to place Tomoko in the public eye she finds herself thrust into an idol magazine competition to select the most promising new sensation of tomorrow. What this offers the viewer is another opportunity to catch up with the sugary sweet and affectionately named Toroko as she continues on the path to stardom through being her kind hearted self. Sure its fairly unlikely to work in the real world even with the occasional loopholes her management choose to exploit while the decision to photograph her in a pose more befitting Rei Ayanami of Evangelion fame (an Onizuka decision no less) continues with the titillation aspect of this plot line, but you cannot help but feel a genuine attachment to the character and her naturally goofy charm.
Tomoko's misadventures on the catwalk also prove to be the calm before the storm, as the remainder of this volume sees Miyabi return to the fray with only one purpose in mind, destroy Onizuka. As it has been quite some time since we last saw Miyabi the writers include a welcome re-introduction that reminds us it was her who brought in Urumi to overthrow Onizuka, but instead saw Urumi regain a lust for life and be, from Miyabi's point of view, absorbed into Onizuka's circle. Urumi also offers to jog our memory by reminding us just what it is about Onizuka that everyone loves, a mystery revolving around his lewd conduct and disregard for rules followed by the general disbelief created by the fact he is somehow a teacher, but his ability to put everyone else ahead of him is the overriding factor. Showing exactly why Miyabi originally brought her in, Urumi reveals she is still a strong and ruthless character when necessary as she laughs down at Miyabi's insistence that Urumi is a traitor to her cause. This once again touches on the mystery surrounding a 'friend' who belonged to their classes previous year, and is a subject yet to be explored any further.
An enraged Miyabi sets out to have Onizuka fired and decides to use the very reason he is loved against him. By appealing to his lewd nature and disregard for the role model society insists he play, Miyabi and her band of loyal servants lure him into a trap involving that very staple of Japanese culture, schoolgirl companions. By involving both students and faculty members in her scheme Miyabi very quickly reminds us of the deep seated hatred she carries toward her teachers, and the reappearance of this storyline suggests we may very well discover where this hatred stems from. Of course her scheme works stupendously well as Onizuka applies his favourite cologne to an area of the body not listed on the instructions, before running off to be photographed in compromising positions.
While GTO is off chasing after a student also affected by Miyabi's evil scheming Onizuka's band of merry men uncover the conspiracy and set about to obtain enough proof to clear him, but once again we see Onizuka show an impressive disregard to his own reputation by choosing to not name and shame. Harking back to his motives revealed earlier in the series we are seeing the Onizuka of old rise back to the fore as he fights his own battles without resorting to finger pointing, in an effort to both keep the fact a little girl tricked him out of public conscious, and to show his detractors the error in there ways.
What this results in is a fairly typical volume of Onizuka mayhem which despite treading old ground is somehow refreshing after two volumes of more episodic stories which have seen Onizuka apply his influence outside of the school. There are still instances where characters are being left out of the action, most prominently Fuyutsuki who barely features in these episodes while the latest addition to the line-up introduced in the prior volume, the voluptuous school nurse, is completely absent. Disappointing as this may be, such casualties are to be expected in a series of this length so we should at least be happy that the school president makes a welcome show of strength backing up Onizuka all the way, while his old buddies from their biker years put in some excellent, albeit fleeting comic relief.
Lesson 28: Whatever Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong - Taking part in the Glossy Photo Magazine contest to become Japan's next great idol Tomoko may have grown in confidence in front of the cameras but still finds that her clumsy ways can lead to trouble. Onizuka meanwhile is scheming with Tomoko's manager to get the vote to swing her way, even if it means enlisting his pals from the Japanese biker gangs to send in a postcard vote.
Lesson 29: Studies In High Finance - Miyabi returns as she puts her latest and most unrelenting scheme into action. Using one of Onizuka's fellow teachers against him through bribery Miyabi lures Onizuka into a fake school uniform bar, but not before she uses a fellow student as a scapegoat to collect money for the upcoming school trip and then slips the cash in to Onizuka's foolish hands.
Lesson 30: Money Talks, GTO Walks - Waking up in his boxers in the streets of Japan Onizuka remembers little of the night before, but soon finds he is about to be charged with embezzlement if he doesn't regain the 1 million yen he was tricked into spending. Worse still it looks as though Fujiyoshi, the student Miyabi setup to steal the money, has been overtaken with guilt and run off having left only a suicide note behind.
Lesson 31: Destination: Okinawa - Word has got out that Onizuka wasted the students school trip money so they want blood, and much to Vice Principal Uchiyamada's delight the school president decides the students should be the ones to decide on Onizuka's fate. Despite having proof that he was setup Onizuka chooses against revealing Miyabi and instead wins over the students by offering to take them to the seaside locales offered by Okinawa. Unfortunately Onizuka is basing these 8 million yen plans on his luck in the lottery...
The cover design here is very bright and colourful, showing Onizuka and Tomoko aboard his trusty Kawasaki looking very slick indeed. 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 excellent 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 in the first episode in particular has some quite 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.
The fourth and final part of the interview with creator Tohru Fujisawa headlines the bonus material. Running for ten-minutes the interviewee (who I presume is a product manager/translator working for Tokyopop) continues by asking Fujisawa questions on censorship in Japan and how it differs to that in America before going on to present Fujisawa with the American volumes of the GTO Manga and gauging his opinions on their work. As with previous volumes this is the only extra feature of any real interest, and even then it’s a little thin in terms of behind-the-scenes production details when split in to the ten-minute segments it has been.
Also present on the disc are textless opening/close animation sequences, a new "School's in Session" music video which is little more than an extended trailer, and outtakes from the English dub sessions. You will also find an Initial D music video and trailers for other series including Reign, Vampire Princess Miyu, Brigadoon and Real Bout High School.
Despite enjoying the break offered by the previous volumes and the change in series focus they offered, I was glad to see the reappearance of Miyabi and the return to GTO plotlines of old featured here. They not only suggest the build-up to the finale has already begun but provide a great deal of entertainment when combined with the high standards of comedy present.