These days, our household entertainment program has added the TV dorama version of Great Teacher Onizuka to the rotation. This 2012 remake of a much older series, itself adapted from a popular manga/anime running in the late 90s, follows the adventure of a barely-reformed yanki/bosozoku type (the titular Onizuka) who, through great feats of suspension of disbelief, gets hired by a private high-school principal to teach a particularly difficult class. Difficult, in that the usual troubled, broken home, violent kids are the good ones: the bad ones are an assortment of sociopath damien-like monsters constantly plotting to get rid of the teaching staff through increasingly deadly means.
Like most Japanese TV fare, this one offers a mildly entertaining serialised story with mediocre acting, pathetically cheap production values and implausible plot reveals that would shame a Mexican telenovela. The point being: it is fairly simple Japanese and good language training when you are too tired to exercise the rest of your brain.
Of course, this would not be a Japanese drama, without its share of gratuitous sexual innuendoes, heavy on female objectification and wildly inappropriate1 behaviours by male characters. With the latter presented as light comic relief and therefore never worthy of onscreen reprimand, unlike whatever other amoral behaviours (stealing, loitering, failing to properly sort their rubbish…) the bad guys engage in. Lack of (Western) political correctness on Japanese TV is par for the course and somewhat refreshing (if you don’t think too much about what it says of Japanese society).
But GTO manages to go one step beyond, with a set-up involving teenage high-schoolers and a couple adult teachers: instead of the usual jokey sexual-harrasment gags so typical of office-based Japanese drama, you get jokey statutory-rape gags… like the time that teacher is caught with a half-naked student he has brought to his house or the one that mistakenly got a love-letter from one of the student and tries to grope her in a dark classroom2… Haha, good times.
Of course, this being a drama, the necessary tension and mid-hour plot fright is provided by cartoonish villains that conveniently pop up in the streets of Tokyo, driving ominous black rapist vans, cornering innocent girls behind bushes while conspicuously carrying large camcorder (1980s betamax, judging by the size) and snickering in loud kansai-ben about all the rapin’ and bad-behavin’ they are about to do.
Yes, Japanese dramas exist in a parallel universe where Tokyo is a scary Mad Max wasteland of lawlessness ruled by such ruthless gangsters that, by comparison, teenage-groping middle-aged teachers are mere comic relief barely worthy of a chuckle.
As a veteran consumer of mainstream Japanese entertainment, I do not even bat an eyelid when a female teacher opens up her blouse and directs her teenage pupil’s hand to her breast3 for a touch-and-tell about small-breast-size insecurities… But the whole “older teachers lusting after their 15 year-old pupils” comedy angle still leaves me somewhat baffled.