Monday, March 2, 2015

Things No One Cares About:Gokusen

I'm back after battles with myself and technology to write about more shows and books that no one really cares about. So to highlight me actually doing work outside actual obligations, I'll be looking at the interesting and original: Gokusen. Oh did I say interesting and original, I meant boring and uninspired. My apologies it's been a while, I may have forgot how words works. So here are words that you may enjoy or not.

Gokusen is often touted as the Josei equivalent of Great Teacher Onizuka, I.e a tough and crazy teacher helps those that people view as unteachable. Maybe the manga does live up to this comparison,however the anime can not hold a candle to it. It's part comedy that forgot to bring the jokes and part drama that forgot to bring the engaging characters. It can't decide what it wants to do and has a hard time committing to a plot line. Which may be for the best as the plots that do happen are awful and make little sense.

The story follows new teacher Kumiko Yamaguchi,the acting head of a Yakuza family. She's teaching the students that others have given up on while also keeping her Yakuza side a secret for reasons never clearly explained. The lack of explanation of really anything in the story till way too late makes it hard to get invested. Why she doesn't want people knowing about her life is not really explained till half way through the series and even then it's rather poorly explained. Up to then we're just supposed to take her word for it that it'll be bad if she is found out. Without a sense of the consequences that an action will have it kills all tension that could possibly be there. Though it's not like she is doing a good job of hiding it with here hammy acting attempts in the dub. I think the facade she is using is an attempt at a joke on the shows part but it's less so bad its good and just bad. The plot fares no better;trying to set events up and having anything interesting going on.

The bigger plot outside the duel life aspect is about a gang called Nekomata screwing with the other Yakuza families. You'll can be forgiven for not noticing this as the episodes seem busy just meandering around doing nothing but having bad jokes and nonsensical character changes. One episode has the main group of punks decide near the end that “hey lets go to the remedial class” because the teacher waited for them. It makes sense in a way but the lack of any clear or really any visible character development muddles what it's trying to say. The boys just seem to trust her despite none of them,bar the silent but cool guy, knows what she does for them. So once that main plot comes to fruition and the boys come to her rescue it has little impact emotionally. At this point she also lets her crazier side that she's been trying to hide come out in front of them. So either she forgot that that was a plot point or they just didn't care.

The characters themselves are all rather boring and remind me of better ones. Angel Densetsu managed to take stereotypical punks and make them into likable characters that rose above the usual one note archetype. This is sadly not the case here,with every boy being defined by two traits: one unique to them such as being fat or ugly and being decently moral. They seem to be moral less because they have deep reasons for it and more because the show feels characters like that sell better. They end up coming off as less likable and more morally superior despite being massive jerks.

Kumiko and her family of thugs fair somewhat better in that they are crazy thugs but fall prey to the same problems as the school kids. They fanatical devotional to Kumiko is rather funny, providing some of the shows sparse laughs. The family gets the lions share of the character development and if her students had even this level of back story then their loyalty would actually make sense. The thugs are still pretty one note overall so and what little development Kumiko gets is all over the place. Ranging from wanting to reel her class in to letting them run wild. With the aforementioned lack of explanation it makes her or really anyone hard to care about.

So much of more mediocre elements could be forgiven if the show was actually funny but it's just not. Most of the jokes range from tired slapstick and punchlines to the just plain bizarre. Kumiko has a dog who seems to be a pitbull version of Scooby-Doo that doesn't talk yet he gets lip syncs like he's talking. It makes little sense and like most every other joke is unfunny. Also the head of the Nekomata Group looks like a cat for some reason. Also before you start that email,I'm aware of the pun they are going for. However in-universe no one else has a look like this and you think it's something at least one of the characters would comment on. Nope, there is zero explanation and the design seems to be here for the stupid pun.

Gokusen lacks anything memorable or funny about it. Calling it bad would imply that it tried something besides trying to be a poor man's Great Teacher Onizuka. It's a boring show that can't be bothered to explain itself and just faffs around for 12 episodes. Maybe this is just a poor representation of the source material that was made as a cheap cash in or maybe the manga is awful as well. I don't know,but I do know that we should probably just let this one fade into darkness of the collective unconscious and never speak of it again.  

Till Next Time: Stay Postive

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