Ongoing Investigations: Case #219

301447 It was time for me to finish GTO: The Early Years since Vertical Inc was gracious enough to license volumes 11-15 to finish off the series after Tokyopop went belly up. The adventures of the Oni-Baku are mainly episodic so there was no burning need to see the conclusion to the grand narrative. Also the main plot point: Can Eikichi Onizuka and Ryuji Danma get laid is already known conclusion to anyone who ever read GTO. But that does not mean just because there in no huge meta-plot that these episode are any less worth reading.

The relationship between GTO: The Early Years and GTO always reminds me of Ranma ½ and Urusei Yatsura. GTO and Ranma were extremely popular in the U.S. so the American licensors took the next logical step and licensed the  earlier series in hope that they would have the same fanbase. But as both works are rougher works with a slightly older art style they were both generally ignored by anyone but the most die-hard devotees of the more popular series. That is a real shame because both GTO: The Early Years and Urusei Yatsura both have a unique charm that the latter series lacks. It is not that the new series are bad. The appeal is just slightly different. Maybe that is why the older series don’t sell as well.

It is fascinating to see how Tohru Fujisawa styled evolves over the course of the series. GTO: The Early Years starts off as a goofy and raunchy “teens tying to lose their virginity” comedy like one would see in the 80s. It then morphs into a yankee fighting series where the Oni-Baku have to fight increasingly hard cord punks. There is still some humor but it is mainly a fighting series. Then the series ends with a better mix of the first two styles of the series. None of the later arcs really feel like they have to choose which manga it wants to be.

But thankfully for the most part the manga brings those two hand together nicely. The crazy mayhem and the goofy comedy translation between each other seamlessly. In fact the last arc does a great job of mixing them like a wonderful peanut butter and chocolate combination. It really lays the groundwork for GTO which would use this formula in the last third of the series pretty much for the entire run of the series.

I really feel bad for Shinomi Fujisaki. She was just a key part of GTO: The Early Years near the end so her being nothing more than cameo in GTO is sort of sad. Ryuji and Nagisa’s storyline was pretty much over by the end of GTO: The Early Years. So them getting pretty much just an epilogue in GTO makes sense. But Shinomi feels downright neglected. Thankfully she gets her proper sendoff in Shonan 14 Days.

There are some stand out stories in these last 5 books. There is a surprisingly sensitive transexual love story from a series that is mostly dick jokes or people racing on bikes and punching people. There is a Kindaichi Case Files inspired murder mystery that I will write-up for the blog when I have a chance. There is a story about mega racists ex-marines, surfing, and drama that is pretty much as close to an American 80’s movie as you can get without be a direct adaptation. Also the story about the night vision goggles is simply inspired.

If you ever liked GTO but felt that GTO: The Early Years was a bit too different you might just want to go back and try the last 5 books from Vertical. Heck. If you just like comedy manga with a bit of action then you owe it to yourself to pick up these classics. GTO: The Early Years is about being young, stupid, and macho in the best possible way.


I can’t stop playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. I’ve been even more drawn into this world and its character than that of the first GBA Fire Emblem which has really shocked me.

A dark force has reemerged in the land and each nation holds a one of the sacred stones a means by which to stop it. At the beginning of the game, Eirika and Ephraim’s homeland is betrayed and invaded and their father the king is murdered. Eirika first sets out on a quest to find her brother. While you simultaneously get to play through some of the parts of Ephraim’s story as well. In this game, you are simply each character as opposed to being a wandering tactician.

There are a couple of added battle features in this game which give you the ability to grind somewhat. I am trying not to do it too often since one of the things I really liked about the first game was a reliance on only story-based combat to level your skills. It made it challenging but also kept it interesting all the time. But I have found it useful when characters have gained a new skill which starts at rank E or D.

I’m loving all the wandering royalty in this game! And I find myself more invested in the many relationship opportunities than I was in the first.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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Manga of the Month: GTO: The Early Years

GTO: The Early Years aka Shonan Junai Gumi (湘南純愛組!) by Tohru Fujisawa

Since I already did GTO: Shonan 14 Days as a Manga of the Month it is only natural that I recommend GTO: The Early Years as the companion piece. Shonan Junai Gumi is where Eikichi Onizuka’s adventure started. I always had a vague feeling there was a longer story that occurred before GTO when I first read the series. Characters make quick reference to old stories and grudges. Characters would pop on to the scene with minimal introduction. Ryuji Danma and Onziuka seemed to have had a tremendous amount of back story. But I did not think much about it and just assumed Tohru Fujisawa liked it hint at a greater story than he was telling. But when I learned that GTO was a sequel to an equally long manga called Shonan Junai Gumi it all made sense. So I was thrilled when Tokopop started releasing the original series and crushed when they closed up shop leaving the manga unfinished. Thankfully Vertical has licensed recused this series and is putting their own signature polish of the title.

Back before he was the greatest teacher in Japan Eikichi Onizuka was just a teenager with his friend Ryuji Danma and they both had a dream. To finally lose their virginity. It just so happens these two goofy teens are also the toughest delinquents in all of Japan. So the Oni-Baku has to fight all stripes of insane thugs, miscreants, yankees, criminals, and psychopaths to keep their reputation while trying to find love (or at least satisfy their lust) with some lucky ladies. They build quite a gang for themselves in the process.

It is great to get the end of the beginning of the Onizuka legacy when it seemed like this part of the story would not see a full licensed release in the US. While this part of the story is a bit cruder than later parts of Onizuka’s story it also has its own energy that is not present in the later iterations as well. The art and story telling is a bit less refined but I feel the humor is a bit ruder, the action a bit wilder, and the stakes a bit higher. As Tohru Fujisawa goes on in his career his work gets much more refined but he loses a bit of spontaneity in the process. This is the raw and uncut Onizuka. I would like to see this do well because then Vertical can go back and redo the old Tokoyopop versions of GTO: The Early Years and maybe even GTO itself. If you want more Onizuka there is the new Ino-Head Gargoyle that continues the GTO legacy with Saejima Toshiyuki who has been with the GTO franchise since Shonan Junai Gumi as well.

Onizuka Cram School

Since I talked a big game about how much I would love someone to license GTO Shonan 14 Days when I made it the manga of the month back in May it is only right that I put my money where my mouth is when it goes on sale at the Right Stuf this week. Vertical not only fulfilled my request to get the newest work by Tohru Fujisawa they also went back and picked up the remaining unpublished volumes of Shonan Junai Gumi (aka GTO: The Early Years) that Tokyopop was never able to release before they went under. Since they are on sale it is everyone’s duty to preorder these wonderful manga if they love comedy, action, drama, and/or yankees. Eikichi Onizuka is an iconic character of anime and manga that is always energetic in any iteration of his story. GTO: The Early Years is a delightful mixture of raunchy comedy and manly action that shows the origin of the greatest teacher in Japan. Shonan 14 Days is Tohru Fujisawa being on the top of his game continuing right back where he left off from GTO. Someone might tell you to pick up Tezuka or the Lychee Light Club. Those are all fine manga worth picking up but they are not the manly bible that is teachings of the Oni-Baku.

And if you need something to offset all that testosterone that you can pick up Twin Spica because that series does not get enough love.

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