In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun… No, sorry, I don’t really know why I’m quoting Mary Poppins at you, it just sort of came to the front of my mind as I was typing. It’s not even what this article is about, so that makes it even more irrelevant than it already was. This time round, we’re looking at another manga that turned into an anime, and also a live action drama for Japanese television, but we’re going to try to stick to the first two incarnations. Well, actually just the anime. The manga isn’t licensed in English, for some reason I have yet to decipher. Which is a pity because it’s actually pretty hilarious and a fun read. The anime in question? The Gokusen, commonly known as just Gokusen.
Okay, so what is the overall plot? Well, Gokusen follows newly employed high school teacher Yamaguchi Kumiko at her first job, teaching the delinquents of Shirokin Academy, an all boys school. And, just her luck, she is put in a class filled with the worst of the delinquents at the school, who quickly nickname her Yankumi. It just happens to be very fortunate that the entire reason she got into teaching was to be the type of teacher who set out to help every student, even delinquents, so these students’ attempts to terrify her, and the trouble they get into, don’t faze her in the slightest. Of course, there’s her background to thank for that – being the 4th generation heir to one of the toughest Yakuza clans around does tend to leave it’s mark on a person. The manga follows her attempts to not let her background be found out at the school, even when one student – the smart and handsome Sawada Shin – figures it out. Cue many fights, humour, and did we mention fights?
It sounds a lot like the typical boys’ manga. Actually, Gokusen was serialised in a magazine called YOU, which was aimed primarily at females, meaning the fan-service that could have come from an Action Girl lead was kept at a strict minimum. Actually, fan-service in general was kept at a minimum. While the series was very female light in its characters, the female characters that did appear were wonderfully varied, and all shown to be brilliant and have qualities in each that made them ‘strong’ characters.
The mangaka – Kozueko Morimoto – grasped the important fact that it’s not how many of a type of character you have, but rather how you show them. Females are important to other females, and a chapter in the manga has middle school girls admiring the tough and cool Yankumi, who makes them inclined to want to come to the previously feared Shirokin. Speaking of, the students of Shirokin are, perhaps unusually for a manga aimed at the female audience, not pretty boys. Well, Shin is, but Shin is our ‘lead’ student. He’s brilliant in a school of less than average students, handsome, and everyone wants him. It’s just that he has absolutely no interested in anything. Until Yankumi shows up, that is, and starts making life a bit more … interesting for him.
The anime is, as far as I can tell, fairly faithful to the manga itself, adapting the first overall plot ‘arc’ within it’s 13 episodes. Yeah, this is a short anime, but it is very enjoyable. Obviously, certain factors are changed in order to make the anime plot be a self contained story in and of itself, but I will admit the last episode does make a person long for another season, if only due to one element revealed in it. Research shows that this element was carried through to fruition in the manga, and again was similarly discarded in the live action drama, so needless to say if you know what I’m on about – and no, I’m not going to spoil – see if you can hunt down the manga and check it out for yourself.
So long story short, would I recommend checking out Gokusen? Well, yes. I’m picky with my anime and manga, but this is one that I keep going back to, and keep grinning as I watch it. I think, if a show is continually able to make you smile, then it must be doing something right. Check out Gokusen, even if it’s only to call me mad. Just admire Yankumi, she deserves all the love.
Z McAspurren (~I say, feel your breeze~)